April 9 marked the 25th anniversary of the Tbilisi carnage that had far-reaching consequences. The Tbilisi tragedy was a forerunner of the bloody attempts to crush national renaissance in the Baltic republics and Baku. And what is now going on in Ukraine is continuation of the same Russian imperial reaction to any aspiration for national independence. Next on the line is the demand that Mikhail Gorbachev be convicted for ruining the USSR, although he tried as hard as he could to keep it in place – by means of entrenching tools and tanks.
Still, it is a thing of the past. We must remember this, but we should never be guided at present by this experience only. We will just fail. The proof of this is quite a large number of comments by well-known Soviet dissidents in the Web. The experience of these people is limited – they do not know much about the present day. They used to live and work in a totally different situation, in the era of mature and updating totalitarianism. Now it is the era of a new totalitarian model being conceived. It is impossible to change anything and influence the course of events. They admit this honestly. And I will add that this process is not confined to Russia and its nearest neighbors.
Like it or not, life will go along the lines drawn by the criminal world and under the conditions it will set. This applies to the entire world, not only to the Russians and Ukrainians. Europe will have to adjust to this very soon. This is going to stay – another attempt to build a world in the spirit of Ninth Symphony has failed. Underworld songs have got the upper hand. All people will not become brothers but will divide into the Mob and the dupes. The force that can stop this is not in sight. And, what is more, nobody wishes to become aware of the newness and danger of what is going on.
It is most harmful now for the world in general and the Russians in particular to say that not all are like this, there are Russians and Russians, the authorities are a race apart, and, after all, the Russian people are victims of the zombie box.
Firstly, it is a lie. Never before have the authorities and the people been rallied as closely as now. War legends should not be taken at face value either. What caught the eyes of many in June 1941 were long lines – not at draft centers but in saving banks, where people came to close their accounts.
Secondly, the only thing that can pull the nation out of this condition is a shock, particularly a message that self-estimates greatly differ from estimates made by other people, especially those who stand next to and look like you. This changes the picture of the world, which is in fact a shock.
So you’d better not drool over this populace. Whoever supports the authorities is an accomplice in their crimes. The Russian people have only one spiritual linchpin, alias messianic idea, alias Putin’s plan: the whole world must become Russian or perish.
This aspiration has been variously disguised as autocracy, as sovereign democracy, as clericalism, as Eurasianism, or as occult patriotism. The tide of mass culture has swept off all this chaff. It is only the beginning. If not Putin then someone else will lead Russia to world domination to the rapturous roar of the Russian people or, in case of failure, destroy humankind. And there is no force in sight so far that can stop the Russians.
Putin’s hands are itching to push the button. This applies not only to him but to the whole Russian nation. Given the current Russian identity, the Russians have no alternative. This identity has at last broken loose in its barbaric image, without any cultural mediators. Contrary to all expectations, this happened thanks to cutting-edge communication technologies which, incidentally, bring forth nothing value-related. They only identify and catalyze deep-seated civilizational and cultural trends. And now a non-barbaric identity is being fitted in with the outer ideological shape, while the latter adapts to the former. Such is the project of a basic national policy in culture.
The authors of the basic cultural policy proceed from the postulate that Russia is not Europe. But it is an apophatic definition of God: God is not… The logic of the authors will lead them to “Russia is a blank spot” and “the Russians are not humans.” But this is a true Russian identity.
The nation is a mediator between an individual and humankind. But if an ethnic community is based on the negation of unity with bearers of the civilization-forming culture, it is national suicidality which is at first spiritual and cultural and then physical. It is this suicidality that permeates Hitler’s testament, the last document of National Socialism, and, after all, the entire National Socialism.
You recall Hitler against your will because, as there appear documents that deny the European nature of Russian culture and emphasize the existence of a mythical Russian civilization, there is a discernible trend towards rehabilitation (partial so far) of Hitler. It looks strange at first glance against the backdrop of screams about Ukrainian fascists and collaborationism of Ukrainian nationalists. But this was expected even a few years ago.
In 2009 I presumed that Putin would eventually rehabilitate General Vlasov, even though there are other candidates. For example, it would be far more logical to make a hero of totalitarian Russia out of Bronislav Kaminski notorious for his cruelty during the suppression of the Warsaw uprising (incidentally, betrayed by Stalin). He could be a great hero, given the current Polonophobia. As for Vlasov and Bandera, Archbishop Mark of Berlin, Germany, and Great Britain put in a good word for them five years ago. (It is the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia which collaborated with the Nazi regime.)
“Your Grace, what do you think is the fundamental difference between the followers of Vlasov and Bandera?”
“The Vlasov movement was exclusively aimed at liberation from a Godless government, whereas all kinds of Ukrainian movements aimed to tear Little Russia away from Great Russia.”
No comments – except that I just timidly let myself presume that Vlasov might be rehabilitated, but it all ended up with Hitler being praised as a great gatherer of German lands and the German world known as Sublime German Reich. I am not going to analyze this historical ignorance, for it is an expected and customary thing in all the follies of the current Russian leadership. There is nobody to enlighten there, nor is there a reason why. Besides, this would distract us from a sadder to-pic – behavior of the educated public.
In Mikhail Romm’s documentary film Ordinary Fascism, the chapter “The Other Germany” was a complete failure. Yet we must take into account that the author had a limited choice – he was to show, above all, the Communists and hush up their share of blame for the coming of Hitler to power. He was not allowed to mention the Social Democrats, the ideologically unreliable emigres, and plotters among the military and diplomats. This was permitted a little later, in the film Liberation.
But even now that you can mention anybody, you cannot escape the conclusion Aleksandr Galkin once made in German Nazism – it is the racial factor that lay behind attitude to the regime. There were extremely few ethnic Germans among the oppositionists. There was no “other Germany” in fact. It remains to be seen what will occur in Russia. So far, there is a complete unity of the people, the authorities, and the intelligentsia. It is not dangerous to be a dissenter – it is funny. No self-sacrificingness, no romanticism… For this reason, we can more and more hear Bulat Okudzhava’s old song with new lyrics:
Let us not be rude,
Let us only hear each other,
For only thus we can preserve
Our sacred souls.
Let us not darken them
With fascism or antifascism.
Why should we notice
The shame of our fatherland?
Let us live, pandering to murderers,
The more so that life is so short.
A principle-based poison in today’s Russia is not heroism but an oddity, the destiny of a loser, a freak, and a fool. But this situation did not emerge yesterday or today. And the blame for what is going on lies not only with those who sign letters in support of Putin or deliver bombastic speeches about his grandeur even in a private gathering. The people who professionally study the development of society have been creating for many years the “cult” of agenda, forgetting that this word means not only “a list of items to be discussed at a meeting” but also “forced circumstances.” “Thinker” has become a synonym to “time server.” Adherence to principles has been viewed as foolishness and determination and consistency as bad manners and loutishness.
In other words, the Russian social thought has been interpreting any values as just an instrument to influence and manipulate people. As a result, everybody has seen that the current political regime is the bearer of certain values, while those who are trying to oppose it do not seem to have done so.
It is very important to understand this. The understanding of what is going on should begin with the recognition that the new world order is being imposed not by fools, psychos, or the shallow-minded but by purposeful and self-confident people who adhere to firm principles and values – like Nazis or communists. It is no mere chance that I mention both. The grandson of Molotov and ideologist of the Russian world says the Russians are descendants of the Aryan tribes that came down from the Carpathians. In Novosibirsk, a communist is allowed to be the mayor. I said 15 years ago that a new Molotov-Ribbentrop-style pact might be concluded for domestic consumption. This seems to have happened – with participation of the direct descendant of one of the two who signed the original pact.
Dmitry Shusharin is a Moscow-based historian and political journalist