October 10th, 2017 – Fort Russ News –
– Op-ed by Padraig Joseph McGrath – “The Irish Crimean”
The wrong stuff? Russis’a ‘wanna-be’ new aristocracy was largely educated by the USSR’s socialist, technocratic and managerial revolution, and were never reared for noblesse oblige – so does this mean neo-Monarchists lack the historical and cultural perspective to succeed?
Sometimes a person will suggest a theory about something to me, and my initial reaction is “No, that doesn’t sound like it quite fits the situation. I don’t really see that happening out there in the world.”
But then, over the next week or two, their theory starts intermittently going around in my head, and I begin to see that it could make sense…. My attitude usually remains reserved, but I gradually see the theory as at least more plausible than I had initially given it credit for.
One such theory was suggested to me by a friend, Nikita, recently.
We were talking about this contemporary monarchist movement in Russia.
Nikita’s theory was this – what the advocates of this monarchist movement really want is not the restoration of the monarchy, but the restoration of the aristocracy.
But most of the aristocrats either emigrated or were wiped out during the revolutionary period, so it would be about creating a new aristocracy.
So a fringe-element among Russia’s former communist-era “nomenklatura” and their children would like to be anointed as a new aristocratic class. It’s not really about the Tsar or his family. It’s not really about Orthodoxy. It’s not even really about Russia. It’s just about “more privileges for us.”
Initially, when Nikita said that, it didn’t really chime with me, but now I see that it has at least some plausibility as an explanation for the Tsarist fetish of some contemporary upper middle-class Russians.
Still, the main reason why it didn’t really make at lot of sense to me initially is the same reason why I still have reservations about this theory – such ambitions would require these former communist-era “nomenklatura” and their children to have a completely unrealistic grip on the world. It would require them to simply not understand how a socially viable aristocracy would be constituted, or how aristocratic classes historically were constituted.
The aristocratic systems of every European country lasted for as long as they did not simply because the aristocracy had wealth, political power and social privileges – another key element was required. No aristocratic class has ever been able to rule through political, legal and economic power alone.
In addition, in order to maintain their position, they needed the normative recognition of the general population. During the medieval period, aristocrats were recognized by non-aristocrats as “special kinds of people,” as “natural superiors.”
This was why aristocrats were educated in a certain kind of way – they were given extensive education in the classics, in arts and letters, in aesthetics. They had to develop a certain kind of refinement and exquisite taste in order to be recognized as “special.”
Also, they had to play the role of guardians to the country’s intellectual, scientific, aesthetic and religious traditions through the patronage of intellectual work.
The former communist-era “nomenklatura” and their children who might like to become a newly constituted aristocratic class simply don’t have this kind of refinement or breeding. For a start, the vast majority of them are products of technocratic education – law, economics, etc…. They know how to make money, but they don’t know much else.
Yes, there are still classically educated people in Russia, but they’re not the ones with aristocratic ambitions…..
The ordinary Russian muzhik’s normative recognition would be required in order for a viable new aristocratic class to emerge – no aristocratic class anywhere has ever been able to rule through power alone.
The ordinary Russian muzhik might give his normative recognition to somebody who is classically educated enough to actually defend and continue the intellectual, scientific, aesthetic and religious traditions of his country, but he won’t give his normative recognition to a lawyer or a technocrat or a nomenklatura-turned-venture-capitalist.
Those people just don’t have the necessary refinement.
But maybe these former communist-era “nomenklatura” and their children just don’t understand that because precisely the factor which prevents them from having this refinement – namely, their technocratic educational backgrounds – is the reason why they just never learned enough history. They want to be a new aristocracy, and yet they don’t sufficiently understand how the aristocratic principle historically worked. They naively think that power alone would be enough…..
So, I’m still not sure how plausible this theory about wannabe-aristocrats is.
Is there really a class of former “nomenklatura,” or their offspring, who have such a shaky grip on history that they think power would be enough? Are there large numbers of upper middle-class Russians who are so unrealistic?
Padraig McGrath was born in the Republic of Ireland in 1973. He has lived in Britain, Germany and the Czech Republic, and has published journalism and commentary on social and philosophical issues for a number of media for 15 years. He moved to Simferopol, Crimea in December 2013, 3 months before Crimea’s re-unification with Russia, and still lives there.