With reference to the Third Commandment, the original text reads as follows: “Thou shalt not take the name of Yahweh (thy God) in vain (saw), because Yahweh does not let go unpunished those who use His Name in vain”.In ancient times the Name was not a simple sign. The Name indicated the Substance of the person named forever, thus identifying him/her among the Many others.
It also separated him/her from Evil or, in any case, from the Indistinct.
It is also worth noting that, apart from the Decalogue of the burning bush, Yahweh is named only in a passage of Exodus (23:1), reading as follows “Thou shalt not utter a false report” (sema saw).
False oath was evidence that you should not “swear by a false god” (see Psalm 24:4; Hosea 10).
You should not call Him, He is always everywhere. If you call Him, it means you do not really believe in Him.
Again in the Leviticus, Yahweh stated “Thou shall not swear on my Name deceitfully”.
The Truth of the One is reflected naturally on the objective truth of the things about which men speak.
Furthermore saw is a word used by many prophets of Israel against the worship of idols.
Probably saw was originally the word used to identify the “evil magic”, which therefore had nothing to do with the evocation of God, the Lord of Good, who drove the evil out of the Pardes, the place where, in the End Times, the “second Adam” would return to Truth and Grace.
Based on “The Golden Legend” (Legenda Aurea) by the blessed Jacobus da Varagine – a collection of the legendary lives of the greatest Saints of the medieval Church, which was to revolutionize the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola – Piero della Francesca painted the “Legend of the True Cross” in the Basilica of San Francesco in Arezzo.
According to the tradition of Jacobus da Varagine, Adam asked his son Seth to go to the Garden, the Pardes, to get the oil of mercy to pass away serenely and attain Eternal Life.
Archangel Michael gave to Seth a twig of the Tree of Life, which Solomon found again while he had to build the First Temple.
The King of Israel did not manage to use the tree, which opposed and resisted his workers.
An initiatory theme, also considering to what extent the construction of the Temple and the search for the “password” count in the “primitive scene” of modern Freemasonry.
Furthermore the wooden beam on which Jesus Christ was crucified was buried by a Jew named Judah, who was later thrown into a pit by the Mother of Constantine to make him confess.
Finally workers decided to place the wood on a river, so as to make it a walkway – another obvious symbol.
After the Battle of the Milvian Bridge against Maxentius – in which the Holy Cross appeared together with the well-known message in hoc signo vinces – Constantine sent his mother to Jerusalem to search for the True Cross. St. Helena determined which cross was the true Cross of Christ by laying the wood on the coffin of a dead man, who was instantly brought back to life.
Here there is also the wisdom of Saint Paul, using and overthrowing the Pharisaic and later Cabbalist tradition: certainly, “cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”, but this is precisely the reason why – as Saint Paul said in his Letter to the Galatians (3:13), “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” – in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith”.
This is what St. Paul said about “wood” and its infinite paradox.
Those who walk away will move close, those who come close will be pushed away.
A paradox of Faith that is inconceivable in Islam.
That is the paradox the Islamic theological world has not solved at all, namely the relationship between Evil and Faith.
In fact, if God is the One who orders, commands and decides everything, why does He commands evil and make it win over holiness?
Once again it is Job’s problem. Satan asked: “Doth Job fear God for nought?” (Job 1:9), but Job’s rebellion – which, in fact, creates modern civilization, is targeted against an anthropomorphic God, an Entity that is the projection of our fears and universal desires.
As Psalm 126:3 reads: “The Lord has done great things for us…”, but this must not be shown and His rationale is never the same as men’s.
Therefore, in Islamic theology, there is no way out of the separation between Good and Evil – just think of the absolute uniqueness and, hence, total unknowability of Allah that creates and destroys worlds we do not even know were possible.
Hence Evil is ubiquitous and, above all, unintelligible for human beings, who always interpret it incorrectly or, anyway, in an earthly way.
We revert once again to Job, who encountered the Face of God just when he opposed Him and precisely when God was openly an enemy to him – “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5).
“Do you believe in Me because I am powerful and simply because I am?”
Here is the great theological, political and sapiential limes breaking the continuity between Islam and the other monotheistic religions.
Once again this is the deep theological sense of contemporary jihad.
I can convince God I am right – I only need to interpret His words literally.
Not even the Quran has this logic.
Furthermore, also in Islam, the primary theological problem is the link between Faith and works, as in the Reformation.
Here the link is between Iman and Islam, namely inner faith and exterior practice.
In this case, however, it is the Prophet himself who, in the struggle against the Kharijites – the usual purist sect arising after any religious reform – theorized, in the Dicta, that also a conversion for evident fear was fine.
Hence we revert to jihad, the acceptance of any form of formal adaptation to the rule of the Sacred, which is never the Sacred.
“Have you opened His chest to see whether all that He was saying was true?” asked the Prophet Muhammad ironically. In the case of contemporary jihad, based on Islamic law, it is precisely the “holy war” that creates many problems.
As in the tradition of the True Cross, jihad is a war that must brought us back to the initial peace.
In fact, according to the Quran, imbalance is the natural trait of the visible world – and this imbalance is precisely represented by war, initial and legal violence.
Hence, the true translation of God’s warning on the Sinai – probably near the current wonderful St. Catherine’s Monastery – is more or less the following: “Do not use the Name of God bending it to your will and whim.”
This does not mean never name it, as is the case with the medieval esoteric sects, or to consider it an objective presence in everyday life – another anti-unitary heresy.
Job, however, could afford it, because he was looking for Him and loved Him, even in the fight against Him, but we certainly not.
In the transcendent original Tradition, Jehovah means “ever greater” – in fact, God is immeasurable because He always grows, while we cannot do other than stand still.
Just think about the revealing metaphor of yeast …
If we look at the traditions of monotheistic religions, born after the first rebellion of Abraham against his father’s idols, we realize that, in any case, Faiths and, above all, ethno-cultural identities must always be preserved.
Copts (10% of the Egyptian population) and, in Jordan and in the Palestinian Territories, the Syrian Christians spread across Turkey, Jordan and the Lebanon, not to mention the Syrian Orthodox Churches and the Syrian Catholic ones, as well as Maronites, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Armenians.
Then Shiites – almost always believing in the Twelfth Imam, as in Iran – even though the Houthis in Yemen and in other Persian Gulf areas are supported by Iran, without theological preconceived ideas, in many regions of the Middle East.
There are also the Zaydis, again in Shiite areas, the Ishmaelites – linked to Agha Khan – as well as the Druids, heirs of Pythagoras, and many others.
Without the map of the religions in the Persian Gulf, nothing can be understood about its policy.
And it is worth reiterating that the sword jihad is a substantial anomaly, which – in fact – rooted itself into the Iraqi-Syrian system when it was convenient for Saudi Arabia and its allies.
As we previously said, identity is a primary criterion.
While there are currently global authorities capable of interpreting, selecting and reforming this huge melting pot of creeds, beliefs and ideas, we certainly cannot avoid thinking of the Catholic Church and the Slavic and Greek Orthodox.
Obviously we can no longer change the past, even though those who do so by profession are called “historians”, but today we can certainly create the present which can build a new future.
There is no need to cry over spilled milk – as Baudelaire said, “One can only forget about time by making use of it”.
Hence currently the real challenge will be freedom of religion and freedom of belief and opinion, in a world in which finally the present is free to build the future.
Obviously after the victory of Assad, as well as of Syrians and Russians in Syria.
Currently this is the real challenge and this holds true for Cardinal Parolin, who will pay a visit to Russia next August to speak with Patriarch Kirill and President Putin.
The correct strategic logic of Cardinal Parolin and Pope Francis is one only: to eliminate any pseudo-controversy with Islam and accept the support of Russia and its religious institutions to recreate the natural pluralistic equilibrium of Christian, Orthodox, Shiite and Sunni communities, as well as of many other faiths which, for the Church of Rome, must be rescued also – and above all – with the support of the Slavic and Greek Orthodox Church.
As early as 2013, Russia had already guaranteed its citizenship to 50,000 Christians in Qalamoun, and in August 2013 the Russian Church had donated 300,000 US dollars to the Patriarchate of Antioch.
The void left by France – ever more naively “secular” – has also left huge room for the Russian orthodoxy in the Greater Middle East.
In Syria 80% of Catholics and, however, Christians, were destroyed in their homes and in their cities.
This is the real acid test for evaluating ecumenism and, above all, the ability to defend Faith.
And today defending creeds also regards the passionate protection of the freedom of religion, the freedom from fear – which is always a bad advisor – and the freedom from the will of leaders.
No more subornation of the poor; enough with the offense to the “little ones”.
Sinite Parvulos …
This, too, must be a point of contact between Cardinal Parolin and his Russian counterparts, including Putin.
Hence it is here – and not in the baroque issue of the Holy Sites – which we can place the new relationship – that we hope will be very effective – between the brilliant Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Patriarch Kirill but, above all, with Vladimir Vladimirovic Putin.
However, let us revert to the Holy Theology that Cardinal Parolin knows better than me and many others.
Who is holy? The answer is simple and can be found in Leviticus 17-26, “You shall be holy, because I, the Lord, am holy who make you holy”.
While interpreting the Covenant between God and men, Jesus simply highlights what the Jews believe without thinking about it: but it is Incarnation which makes the Law effective (also in the legal sense) – and once again there is a contrast with Islamic theology.
If only a cultivated and wise dialogue between the Catholic theology and the Jewish theology could currently be achieved!
Much of the Middle East daily political problems would be solved in a moment.
The Son made flesh creates a filial relationship with the believers, namely he keeps and pursues the “royal law” (James 2:8), which is also the “perfect law that gives freedom” (James 1:25) – hence it is precisely Jesus who almost literarily fills the space of the future and hence the sense and meaning of the present.
Here, in a still new wisdom-based context for the two Churches, the East and the West, there will certainly be room for an initiatory and sapiential world, which has so far been able only to ensure pluralism – certainly a very noble aim which, however, from now on shall speak in re and not only about profane and pluralistic rules.
Therefore we must thank Cardinal Parolin, who will certainly be able to provide excellent theological, political and strategic substance to a relationship with the Patriarchate of Moscow that could become the true and only peace process in Syria and in the rest of the Middle East.
The other side of the Olympics
The world Olympic movement has always been based on the principles of equal and impartial attitude towards athletes – representatives of all states of the world. The Olympic Games were designed to stop wars and political strife, to unite representatives of all countries of the International Olympic Committee. One of the main Olympic principles was peacekeeping – the opportunity for the strongest athletes to meet under national flags for a peaceful competition. We seem to be losing all this today. Since the days of Nazi Germany, the Olympic Games have become a weapon of propaganda, and during the Cold War, political squabbles from terrorist attacks, protests and boycotts unfolded around them. However, now, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) forced the Russian team to abandon the national flag and anthem, the entire political background of the current Olympic Games has become especially visible.
In ancient Greece, military operations were stopped for the period of the Olympic Games. Peaceful competitions, the cult of sports, the cult of beauty and the spirit of ancient competitions had priority. As the founder of modern Olympics, Baron de Coubertin, wanted to revive all this! But the proud fathers of Athens or Baron de Coubertin could hardly have imagined that in modern days noble sports would turn into an instrument of a political game. Earlier, there were boycotts because of the Cold War, provocations in the stands, racism… Now we have strange doping scandals. As a result, the Tokyo Olympics, at the suggestion of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), have become institutions that also operate on the basis of political interests.
As a reminder, since 2014, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has been investigating the massive use of doping by Russian athletes. They were stripped of their medals and removed from the competition. In Russia itself, where they love sports and root for their athletes, this was perceived as a planned attack on Russian sports. Moreover, for example, Russian biathlon fans are convinced that half of European athletes in this discipline use anti-asthma drugs that expand the lungs “for medical reasons”.
However, that the suspension of Russian athletes is not based on scientific facts is confirmed by the statement of the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time, Ole Einar Bjorndalen.
Bjorndalen, 47, an eight-time Olympic biathlon champion, stated in 2017,that more compelling evidence than scratch marks supposedly found on sample bottles of some Russian athletes if they are to be implicated in the ongoing doping scandal.
“I hope that we will be able to see some evidence for what they [Russian athletes] are being punished, and that it it’s not that there are some marks on the bottles, because then I will be terribly afraid of giving samples,” Bjorndalen, said, as cited by the Norwegian News Agency (NTB).
The very idea that one can be found guilty of doping violations without being tested positive has stoked fears among the athletes as they now worry they can be punished virtually under any pretext, Bjorndalen said.
“We skiers are beginning to feel uncertain when we are being tested that there are some scratches on sample bottles for which they can punish us,” he said.
Anyone who violates the doping regulations should be punished, and severely, so that the strong message is sent, that fair play is the basis of the Olympic Games. But to punish the whole country, and which is superpower in sport(Russia is always among the few countries with the most medals won), on the basis of unreliable evidence, is absolutely unacceptable.
Therefore, in response to a well-thought-out decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in the days of the Olympics rallies, the Russians launched the not quite tolerant hashtag #wewillROCyou (according to the permitted name of the Russian team – Russian Olympic Committee). The anger of ordinary Russian citizens is reasonable if we keep in mind that never in history has any country been deprived of its flag and anthem.
So we have to ask ourselves, all of us who love sports but also basic human rights, is it right to try to humiliate a country of 147 million inhabitants? Especially having in mind how much that country has provided to the world in the field of sports, culture, science. The answer is self-imposed – the injustice towards Russian athletes and Russia must be corrected.
Russian Foreign Ministry sees elements of show in “Navalny poisoning”
Russian Foreign Ministry’s press secretary Maria Zakharova has yet again dwelled with her usual sarcasm on last year’s reports about “Russia’s top opposition leader” and “the deadly Novichok”. Zakharova made the comments with her hallmark sense of humour over her Telegram channel following newly released reports on the results of an inquiry into the “poisoning of Navalny”, which appeared in the course of the 97th session of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in July.
On August 20 last year, Russia’s public activist and campaigner Alexei Navalny had to be taken off his flight at Omsk and was delivered to hospital in a grave condition. Well before the final diagnosis he was flown to a Berlin hospital and there he was diagnosed with Novichok poisoning. Later on, he revealed the results of his own investigation which established the involvement in the poisoning of a group of FSB agents. The story has become the butt of a joke in Russia. Russians want to know why Novichok has not killed anyone so far and why Russian special services are unable to carry out a simple elimination operation.
Giving rise to more jokes was the publication of “an inquiry into the poisoning of Alexei Navalny” which the Russian side obtained from a report on the activities of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in implementation of its core document – the 2020-2021 Convention. Part 1.41 of the report, which was published after the session, says that “on August 20, 2020, at the request of Germany, the Secretariat dispatched a group of experts who were to render technical assistance in connection with reports about the poisoning of the Russian activist”. But August 20 was the very day of the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, who suddenly felt ill on board of the plane and who told the passengers about the poisoning himself. At about 6 a.m. (4.00 CET) Moscow time the plane with Navalny on board made an emergency landing at Omsk. The news got into the media by midday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron were in meeting at the time. At 18.30 CET they give a press conference signaling the need to conduct an inquiry. On the same day the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons received a request from Germany and reacted. However, for an international organization that adheres to specific procedures a reaction that quick is impossible for technical reasons. Unless all this has been planned before, which is what Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova points out.
Russian representatives prepared for the 97th session of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons far better than the Germans. That’s why when asked why the draft report contains the date August 20 the German side first said that it was a misprint and then “recalled” that on that day chancellor Merkel turned to the Organization with a request. In any case, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons must secure a preliminary approval from its Secretariat before it can send any experts for conducting an inquiry. Interestingly, the Organization could not explain the confusion over the dates and procedures.
This situation enabled the Russian Foreign Ministry to ‘’strike a new blow’’, accusing the United States, Britain and a number of European countries of regularly breaching the Chemical Weapons Convention. Simultaneously, many Russian media reminded their subscribers that Navalny was hospitalized after two days of noisy parties and visits to the sauna. The lifestyle of “Russia’s top opposition campaigner” causes a lot of criticism, as the anti-corruption activist lives a lavish life, which is unaffordable to most Russians and alienates potential supporters.
Zakharova’s harsh and sarcastic statements, made via her Telegram channel and picked up by the Russian media, de facto demonstrate that Moscow views the entire “poisoning” story as poorly fabricated and will not accept whatever results the West’s inquiry may present. We can see that the “Navalny case” does have a lot of flaws and that the Kremlin had clearly pointed them out. Even the ardent opponents to the Russian government refrain from mentioning “poisoning”, saying that “Alexei” went over the line and that the story about “the Novichok-soaked underpants” sounds implausible.
Russia and the West: Are Values the Problem?
The National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation approved by the President of Russia will go down in history as a document that sharpened the issue of the country’s traditional spiritual and moral values. Values were also featured in in its predecessor, Strategy 2015. However, Strategy 2021 has new accents. The source of the threat is the “Westernisation” of culture. Russian values, according to the document, are being attacked by the United States and its allies, transnational corporations, as well as foreign non-profit, non-governmental, religious, extremist and terrorist organisations. If earlier terrorism and extremism, in one way or another, were separated from the “Western” theme, now they are considered threats of the same order. The transition of confrontation with the West to the realm of values is a new stage in Russian strategic thinking. Earlier such a confrontation was perceived more in terms of material categories (defence, economics), but now it has clearly shifted to an ideological level. Why did this transition take place? What problems will Russia face in the new paradigm, and what are the strengths and weaknesses of this approach?
Let’s start with the premises. Russian foreign policy has been deviating from the value dimension for quite a long time. A certain surge occurred in the early 1990s with the idea that Russia’s values were converging with those of the West. But by the second half of the 1990s, there was a clear departure from liberal idealism towards pragmatic realism. In the early 2000s, realism finally took root in Russian doctrines. We viewed security and foreign policy in terms of specific material threats. On this basis, interaction with external forces, including the West, was built. The realism of Russian thinking was determined, on the one hand, by fatigue from the excessive ideologisation of Soviet foreign policy, and, on the other hand, by quick disappointment in political rapprochement with the West and the understanding that declarations of common values do not necessarily mean avoiding competition.
Western foreign policy, on the other hand, retained its ideological burden. Russia quickly returned to the ranks of the “significant others”. That is, it again became a reference point against which the Western identity was built. New residents of the “Western House” from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe played a role here. For them, the formation of a new identity was a particularly important task, and opposing the former “empire” was a convenient political technology. This process began long before the events in Crimea in 2014. Voices about Russian authoritarianism, expansionism, etc. began to be heard back in the early 2000s, paradoxically adjacent to statements about the inevitable extinction of the once-mighty power. Identity games have also become a political technology in the post-Soviet space. The notorious “colour revolutions” unfolded, among other things, on the basis of the opposition’s concept of “modern West vs. backward Russia”.
In Russia itself, positioning the West as a “significant other” was initially the lot of the opposition. In the 1990s, both the left and the right built their election campaigns on it. The former exploited nostalgia for Soviet times, the latter exploited the demand for “geopolitical” revenge. In the 2000s, such a narrative partly moved to the level of state policy, although it did not reach the level of open opposition between value models. The process accelerated after 2014, but even then, the value component of the Russian approach to the West was noticeably less significant in comparison with the narratives of individual Western countries and organisations. In 2021, the value load of Russian strategic thinking approached the Western one. What used to sound veiled and had remained between the lines is now called by its proper names. At the same time, the core values proposed by the new Strategy will face several conceptual problems.
The first problem is related to the fact that the values that are proclaimed in the Strategy: Russian spiritual and moral guidelines as opposed to “Westernisation”, are either of Western origin, or, at least, are not alien to the West. Among them, the document notes life, dignity, human rights and freedoms, patriotism, citizenship, service to the Fatherland, high moral ideals, a strong family, creative work, the priority of the spiritual over the material, humanism, mercy, collectivism, mutual assistance and mutual respect, historical memory and the continuity of generations.
Rights and freedoms are the values of the Enlightenment, the cradle of which is Western Europe. The same goes for patriotism and citizenship. The English Revolution, the French Revolution, and then a series of other revolutions in Europe opened the way for them. The revolutions in Russia itself also took place under the same slogans, although the Russian imperial government managed to organically integrate patriotism into its system of values. Life and dignity are rather universal values and are certainly shared by many in North America and Europe. In the West, it is difficult to find a society that would abandon the high moral ideals and values of the family, in spite of several waves of “sexual revolution” and emancipation. Creative labour is at the core of Western economic ethics. Here is the combination of the spiritual and the material. To regard the capitalist West as an adherent of the primacy of the material would be an exaggeration. Suffice it to recall the Protestant ethics and the “spirit of capitalism”, or the high religiosity in a number of societies. Inglehart’s large-scale studies have shown that the choice between conditionally spiritual and conditionally material priorities changes cyclically. That is, one generation can be driven by materialists, the next idealists, and the next materialists once again.
Humanism is a Western concept. By and large, it underlies liberal political theory with its assumption of the creative nature of man and human life as the highest value. Mercy, mutual assistance and mutual respect are universal values. The same goes for justice. Moreover, it is in Western political thought that the theory of justice has been the subject of reflection for centuries and even millennia — from Plato’s just state to John Rawls’s theory of justice. Finally, collectivism is also present in the Western value matrix. Here are both ideas of the common good and theories of the political community. Within the West itself, there are societies that are more “collectivist”, or conversely, more “individualistic”.
The second problem is related to the fact that the West itself is extremely heterogeneous. It consists of many ways and cultures. Yes, there is a common narrative promoted by security organisations (NATO), those promoting economic and political integration (the EU), and individual nation states. But under this surface there is a great degree of variety, which simply cannot be reduced to a common denominator. Conservative Poland, with its restrained attitude towards migrants, high religiosity and the prohibition of abortions, coexists with a multicultural Germany, which has much wider boundaries of tolerance. Within Italy, there are at least two subcultures: of the North and South. Moreover, they differ radically in the peculiarities of the organization of society, in labour ethics, and in electoral preferences. The United States is also distinguished by its significant level of diversity, even though it is often mistakenly regarded as a kind of homogeneous organism, transmitting values of the same order abroad. Internal differences are sometimes colossal. What are the informal rifts between the North and the South that have been preserved since the Civil War? In America, we will also find polar views on the theme of sexual minorities, which Russian critics love. Those of tolerant California will be very different, for example, from those of “the Cotton Belt”. The occasional murder of members of sexual minorities is a part of American life. They can happen anywhere. You can recall the historical experience. The well-known McCarthyism of the 1950s coexisted with the activities of John Peurifoy, the Deputy Undersecretary of State for Administration. He “exposed” the “homosexual underground” in his department, firing 91 employees. True, at that time, representatives of minorities were also considered to be clandestine communists.
In short, by declaring that the West is a force that promotes “broad views of life”, we can find, to put it mildly, misunderstandings among large segments of the population in Western countries who hold completely opposite views. Any generalisation here requires careful calculation and elaboration.
Finally, the third problematic aspect is the specificity of the Russian society itself. Since at least the 17th century, we have been under the powerful cultural and civilisational influence of the West. Moreover, the openness to such influence was a deliberate decision of the political elites. The Westernisation of Russia began at the top and was actively promoted by the Russian leaders with certain fluctuations for more than three centuries. We tried to borrow the core of the Western experience — the rationalisation of key political institutions, their transformation into a smoothly working efficient machine. Here we are primarily talking about the army, bureaucracy and instruments of disciplinary power. Without this borrowing, Russia, apparently, would have suffered the same fate as China in the 19th century, which was literally torn to pieces by more advanced opponents. Instead, the modernisation of the army and the political apparatus in accordance with Western models brought Russia the status of a great power.
Throughout the 19th century, battles between Westernisers and Slavophiles were fought in Russia. Both camps were not satisfied with the half-heartedness of modernisation and relations with the West. The Slavophiles, as you know, called for “returning to the roots”, believing that borrowing only distorted and disfigured the Russian historical path. The Westernisers, on the contrary, urged to complete the process, not to be limited by the army and the apparatus of coercion, and to modernise all social and political institutions.
The revolution of 1917 and the victory of Soviet power can hardly be considered a victory for the Westernisers or Slavophiles. But the form of Westernisation which is familiar to us has been preserved and even intensified. Socialist (communist) ideology itself was of Western origin. Yes, the Russian Marxists have made their notable and original contributions to it. But the basic principles remained those of Enlightenment and rationalism — that is, Western. Here is the belief in the creativity of man (anthropological optimism and humanism), and emancipation in all spheres, including, incidentally, family and sexual relations, and the primacy of human rights and freedoms. Of course, it all turned out a little differently. In fact, the usual imperial model of modernisation was reproduced: the development of the army, the apparatus of disciplinary power, as well as all the industrial and scientific potential necessary for a modernisation breakthrough. At the same time came the preservation and sharp strengthening of the space of non-freedom. The mixture of modernisation of the institutions of coercion with the mass character of modernisation according to the Western model, among other things, gave rise to specific forms of totalitarian being set up within society, which, however, became softer over time. The eternal half-heartedness of our Westernisation, its exaggeration in some areas, and sublimation in others, became one of the reasons for the collapse of the Soviet state.
Is the dispute between conventional Westernisers and Slavophiles relevant now? Unlikely so. In the nineteenth century, Russia really did have a cultural base of bearers of “traditional” values. We are talking about the village and large masses of people who were not involved in modern forms of organisation of the economy and society. The deepest rupture and at the same time the inextricable connection between them and the elite of the time is perfectly described in classical Russian literature. However, in the twentieth century, this base was largely destroyed. The Soviet modernisation project melted agrarian Russia into an industrial and urbanised country with a completely different way of life. Religious institutions were simply trampled underfoot. In terms of secularisation, we are far ahead of the West.
In terms of urbanisation and lifestyle, late Soviet and post-Soviet Russia were and are a Western society with all its attendant problems. Society has lost its traditional landmarks.
Our family institution is a typical Western model with a small number of children and a high divorce rate. Moreover, this trend was entrenched back in the 1960s. The collapse of the USSR and the collapse of the economy only exacerbated all the typical problems of an urban and modernised society. There is a high level of murders and suicides, alcoholism, and the atomisation of society.
In other words, it is difficult for us to offer the world and ourselves an alternative to “traditional culture”, since during the 20th century its social base was lost as a result of unprecedented modernisation. It made it possible to achieve large-scale results and turn the Soviet Union into a superpower. But it also had a price. In comparison with Russia, the countries of, for example, the Middle East region have had a much more significant potential for constructing a “traditional” identity, if only because of the decisive role of religion in political public life. Is all of Russia ready for such an experience? Obviously not, especially given the fact that our country itself is rather heterogeneous. The post-Soviet period has intensified this heterogeneity. The outstripping modernisation of large cities was accompanied by an equally tangible demodernisation in a number of regions and segments of Russian society. Moreover, the experience of modernisation and demodernisation is intricately intertwined.
Does it mean that tradition in such a society is generally impossible? Of course not. But this is a different type of tradition. A tradition based on patriotism, citizenship and the preservation of historical memory is not much different in structure from similar patterns in many Western countries. This means that the opposition to the West here will also be very notional.
Whether we like it or not, our ties with the West are not going anywhere. Political contradictions and a military threat will force us, at least, to take into account the Western experience of organising the army, industry and science.
Value impulses from various Western countries will come to us even if we strictly censor information and the public space. In Russian society, social groups persist with a demand for the modernisation of the economy, institutions and society, including those which reflect the Western model. The fact that such groups are a minority is unlikely to be directly correlated with their influence. The Russian elite itself is Westernised. There are also numerous cadres in economics, science and other critical areas that cannot exist in a closed society. Cleansing these spheres and even mass repressions will not solve the problem in principle, because these spheres themselves work or should work in the frame of reference of a modern, modernised society.
Finally, the most important thing. Values alone do not prevent political conflicts from arising. The peoples of Russia and Ukraine, for example, are close in terms of their respective value spheres. But politically Moscow and Kiev are opponents. There are a lot of similar examples. The modern West is literally built on bones. For several centuries, wars between members of the “united Christian community” have been an almost-daily routine in international relations. The long-lasting peace of the last 76 years is historically an anomalous exception. One should not be afraid of values as such, but of political conflicts that can exploit these values. Russia needs modernisation, which, in turn, is impossible without interaction with Western societies. Just like 300 years ago, borrowing foreign experience and combining it with one’s own vision and strategic objectives can become the key to the country’s survival.
From our partner RIAC
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Small island nations across the world are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis, and their problems have been accentuated...
Delta variant, a warning the COVID-19 virus is getting ‘fitter and faster’
Cases and deaths resulting from COVID-19 continue to climb worldwide, mostly fuelled by the highly transmissible Delta variant, which has...
Investing in Key Sectors to Help Nigeriens Recover From the Health and Security Crises
The Covid-19 pandemic crisis and the security situation continue to undermine the Nigerien economy, wiping out years of hard-won gains...
Ensuring a More Inclusive Future for Indonesia through Digital Technologies
While Indonesia has one of the fastest growing digital economies in South East Asia, action is needed to ensure that...
Russia and China: Geopolitical Rivals and Competitors in Africa
The growth of neo-colonial tendencies, the current geopolitical developments and the scramble for its resources by external countries in Africa:...
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