Confessions of a recovering Russian liberal

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Denis Gutsko

October 28, 2015

Zakhar Prilepin, Facebook

Translated by Kristina Rus

Writer Denis Gutsko, with whom we used to argue a lot (Dennis used to be the absolute liberal forever) very calmly, in his friendly manner, with sadness – about the loss of illusions:

– For me what is happening in Ukraine, remains a source of pain, anxiety, fears and disappointments. I stopped writing about it, because I have nothing new to say. And everything that I said and wrote, boils down to outrage regarding the position of our liberal intelligentsia. It missed the opportunity to become the third force, taking a position based not on the choice of the side according to the principle “the enemy of my enemy”, as it happened (the enemy of the liberal intelligentsia – clearly, is the Russian government, in any form, if not to take into account Yeltsin’s feudalism), and based on immutable moral and ethical standards. 

I don’t understand why the same people who criticize the militia for what they do, are silent with regard to the Ukrainian punishers. Think it quite reasonable to use that word since they arrived to restore order. Our liberal community has quietly accepted the fact that the forces that restore order, were not only regular units, but battalions “Donbass” and “Azov”, which consisted of people totally “deranged” on nationalistic grounds. 

For some reason, when our skinheads come out on Manezhka in Moscow with their xenophobic program for Russia, it invokes – and rightly – outrage of the liberal community. And when in Kiev they are shouting “Hang the Moscovite” – this is just a childish expression. They mourn about the “heavenly hundred”, but about the unarmed soldiers of “Berkut” who were beaten and burned – silence.

 In Tbilisi, many years ago, during Gamsakhurdia, I’ve seen the same. Someone wrote me on Facebook that I am stuck in my childhood, constantly remembering Georgia. But for me, it’s different – it’s our liberal intellectuals who are stuck in their childish admiration of the West, the rejection of any Russian government in all its manifestations. Refusing to grow to understand that “any power is disgusting, as the hands of bradobrey”. 

I myself do not like much – corruption, oligarchy, and the concrete vertical of power, which stifles any initiative on the ground. But it’s a different conversation.

In short, our liberal society ought to act according to the precepts of Batko Makhno – to beat the reds until they are white, and beat the whites until they are red.

And in the case of Donbass to reduce everything to the machinations of “bloody GB” [state security services] – is stupid, blind and unjust. 

Yes, since the 1990s Russia has gained the ability to lead geopolitical games. Those cruel and cynical geopolitical games. But she only returned to the club which it once left. Why the silence about the USA who play the same, no less cynical and cruel? 

Ukraine and the whole Ukrainian story was important to me because it is a complete cognitive dissonance. I’ve always considered myself a part of liberal environment. I’m from there. But when all this happened, I realized that there, among those who insisted that “my freedom begins where yours begins” – infantilism, double standards, irresponsibility, cultural Darwinism: if you’re “European”, you are a priori right. 

It turned out that all these well-educated, well-read, well-rounded people, but with a terminally narrow perception of the world for me – are strangers. As for many in Russia. And it’s a sad story. The story of how the liberal Russian intelligentsia exchanged a historic role for the rose-colored glasses and a lounge chair with views of the idealized West.

Kristina Rus: This is just an illustration of how the situation in Ukraine has consolidated Russian society and strengthened Russian resolve, marginalizing liberal opposition and bolstering Putin’s standings.

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