For more than three centuries Russia’s first and foremost need has been a revolution.
Of course, its history was filled with the boiling rage of vengeful mobs and assassinations of kings. But all the cataclysms have been concluding simply by replacing one despot with another. The insignia and paraphernalia have been changing, but the principles of government have remained the same. Kings, general secretaries and presidents have inherited from each other the pleasurable right to execute or pardon millions. Some of the rulers painted their kingdoms in oil, others in watercolors. But the essence never changed.
A good earthquake is indifferent to the style of architecture. It demolishes Gothic with the same pleasure as modern. It effortlessly takes down whole nations. Sadly, revolution is not as omnivorous or omnipotent. It is acquainted with the bitter taste of Russia, and well remembers the times it choked on it and threw up, always leaving the job unfinished. Of course, it is always sneaking around, choosing the right moment for a new pounce.
So far, not one of these savage teardowns was able to rip apart the carcass of this dark empire. Yes, there have been quite spectacular attempts. But Russia has never experienced a true revolution.
After all, a revolution is not just a gag reflex of the country in the middle of freewheeling tyranny and thievery. It’s not the guillotine, nor the dungeons of the Cheka1 clogged up with corpses. Those are just piquant, but not necessary spices in the course of government reforms.
Revolution is an irrevocable change in the principles of life and governance. It is a painful yet necessary act of political hygiene that transforms both the nature of power and the people.
But in Russia the revolution has never happened. And it is not clear why.
It is foolish to suspect the orthodoxy. It has long ago run out of steam and turned into a bureaucratic show business. This is particularly evident in comparison with Islam, which regularly exhibits the feats of faith that spiteful critics call “terrorist attacks.” On this background, modern Russian Orthodoxy, with its snitching on the 148t h 2, looks very pale. Once upon a time, it did shine in religious fanaticism, pulling nostrils and burning alive entire families. But in the early twentieth century, the fever the faith has fallen to levels below freezing. This is the tragedy of not just the Orthodox church, but Christianity as a whole. The Popes and the patriarchs continue to play the old show, kissing beggars and washing feet. But note that any prostitute does the same for far less money.
The “great Russian culture” is not under suspicion either. Fortunately, it is one hundred percent secondary and a submissive copy of the European culture. The latter has never interfered with the triumphs of revolutions. The mythical Russian “identity” cannot prevent anything on principle. If it ever existed, it was abandoned as a senseless ballast long ago by Peter I.
The Secret Expedition, the Third Branch, the ChekaKGB3 do not need to be taken into account. They are incapable of blocking large political processes. Their problem is that they are not formed from complete fools. Therefore, in any serious situation, they are the first to run away.
1 Soviet Secret Police
2 Article 148 of Russian Criminal Code punishes “public acts expressing manifest disrespect for society and carried out with the goal of insulting the feelings of religious believers”
3 Names of secret police throughout Russian history
However, the mystery of the failure of all revolutions in Russia is a topic for a separate study. Today we may accept a simple fact that political evolution of the country has not taken place.
Of course, revolution is not a requirement. Alas, it signs a pass into the future. Above all else, the revolution washes off the corrupt traditions and bureaucratic carrion. Such deposits are accumulated on any sovereign construct, and Russia is an especially neglected case. It entered the twenty first century without experiencing a single revolution in all of its history. Its underlying mechanism has never been updated. It still rumbles, generating lies, fears and wars.
Naturally, Putin’s autocracy has automatically inherited both this mechanism and the centuriesold traditions. It could not have been free from them. Anyone who sees the basic evil in Putin personally is guided by funny ideas about “the role of the individual in history” and does not understand that “Napoleon” is not a characteristic of a specific individual, but merely the name of a lottery ticket, which could have been drawn by almost any person of the respective era.
Is it roughly the same story with Putin. He is just another puppet of Russia. And his strings are pulled by the same traditions that have not been updated for 300 years. Putin’s rule presents neither any original features, nor any of his personal fantasies. He only diligently follows the standard of Russian imperial administration. All his actions are a direct logical extension of Russia’s behavior over the centuries.
Correct are those who claim that “Putin is Russia”.
However, they miss the fact that the word “Russia” has many meanings. Including those that are frankly just ghastly and incompatible with the concepts of “civilization” or “modernity”. The Syrian antics, the annexation of Crimea, Donbass, the triumph of barbarism, the omnipotence of the secret police, these are the natural and inevitable sprouts stemming from the roots of Russian imperialism. And Putin is merely a good gardener; he prunes the bushes, waters the plans, and exterminates aphids. Anyone who admires Russia is obliged to admire Putin.
The dusty old Russian God got dragged into the light again. That is not surprising. After all, the brain of a Chekist is an easy prey for the priests. If the priests were not around, they for sure would have found some other filth. But they were there, ready and waiting, and so began the country’s forced return to Orthodoxy. The people again were pronounced “a chosen nation” and they immediately straightened up and assumed dignified poses. By the way, the notion of “chosen” has a direct practical sense. It is an excellent anesthetic. It makes one oblivious to even death: industrial, financial, scientific, etc.
Perhaps, Russia is incapable of another path. It cannot stop stealing, land grabbing, raping, rotting, savaging. Unfortunately, it is a doomed country. If it changes its governance principles, it will collapse. And if it keeps them, it will completely detach itself from civilization and die. The last tractorist will crush the last goose, and it’s finally game over. Everybody has to pay the price for avoiding revolution.
It is time to say goodbye to illusions. Intellectuals dreamed up “their” Russia. The real Russia gave them the opportunity to complement their dreams with the grease of labor camps. But they have not sobered up, and took an even stronger offence at reality, which does not resemble their dreams even the slightest.
This offense is so strong that today’s intellectuals do not see Putin’s secret gift to them. If they were to be hung from the lamp posts, they would have raised the gardener’s personal rating to 100%, and the national jubilation would exceed even the “Crimean degree.” But they are allowed to live and even congregate in tiny reservations for persons with the wrong way of thinking, like “Echo” and “Snob”. But most likely it is not a generosity, merely economizing on soap and ropes. As it turned out, dissidents are completely harmless. The population is indifferent to their intellectual tricks. The people are very busy. They licks their lips, remembering the sweetness of the polish on Stalin’s boots. They arrange themselves in the immortal phalanxes.
Of course, the Russian state has admirers. For example, the wise Kadyrov. But we should remember that he loves her for about a billion rubles a day. For that money even I would have loved Russia.
There appears to be no other fans of the Russian idea. It is becoming increasingly clear to Western pragmatists that the collapse of Russia would be a boon to civilization. Its contribution to the overall development of the world is infinitesimal compared to the problems it creates. It always smells of war and priests. The incessant references to its participation in World War II have become tiresome, and the declarations of the complete victory over fascism have become amusing. Fascism is alive and well, including in Russia. It has not lost its ability to infect every nation and control it as a puppet. Perhaps fascism is waiting for its moment of glory, and whose side Russia will take this time is, to put it mildly, not obvious.
Pragmatists and their nasty sobriety could be ignored. Unfortunately, it is they who decide who lives and who dies. The complacency with which the West is watching our gardener remains a mystery. Even the dust on the snuffbox4 has not been blown off.
However, this indulgence has an explanation. The antidote to the poison of today’s Russia has long been discovered. The poison is not dangerous. Its composition is known: despotism, the priests, the cult of war, theft, stultification, and so on. Attempts to export all these “traditional values” are easily identified and neutralized. But trapped within the state borders they will eventually poison the country. Russia’s problem will be solved by itself, and the world will sigh with relief. The important thing is that the composition of the poison does not change, and the autocracy mechanism does not add new, unknown details. Otherwise Russia will again disguise itself, pretending to be an unhappy but developing poor thing, yearning for progress and democracy. And when it gathers its strength, it will move on from a simple robbery of neighbors to more serious antics.
As for Putin, he is useful precisely because he is not prone to fantasies and innovations. He embroiders only along the old imperial canvas. He leads Russia to isolation and ruin so predictably, confidently and beautifully as no one else could. Following the logic of Western thought, there is no reason to interfere with his rule. To hell with the snuffbox!
However, we should not forget about the revolution. Maybe it will forget the old grudges and still take on Russia. One last time. Undoubtedly, it will make the future much more picturesque.
Alexander Nevzorov. English translation by Yelena Polyakova.