Suspilne Culture is launching a project on how Russia affected the development of Ukraine. Russia's attempts to destroy Ukrainian identity have been going on for quite some time. Top historians are here to explain just how Russians have been trying to destroy all things Ukrainian for several centuries.
We will publish both English and Ukrainian translations of these texts. Russia's informational aggression has been a part of the daily discourse for a long time, but especially acute after 2014's Maidan. Now we need to spread awareness abroad to show just how much of a bad influence Russia has always been.
Kostiantyn Doroshenko, an art historian from Ukraine investigates where the concept "russian world" came from and explains its ties to religion and nazism.
Ukrainian version available here.
Scientific editing by Mykhailo Nazarenko.
Translated from Ukrainian by Ivan Korniienko.
The concept of "russkiy mir" (Russian world) became the basis for Putin's Russia expansionist politics. When security structures within Russia put their protege in power, they were well aware of how technologically and economically behind their country is. They didn't like the idea of cooperation with the west because of all the demands about human rights and other universal values.
Set against a drab background of economical earthquakes of the 90s which made all of the ex-USSR much poorer, devaluation of liberal and democratic values took center stage in Russia, soon to become government-level propaganda. The economy rose, propelled by the world's demand for Russian sources of energy; domestic market reforms, accompanied by rise of revanchist ideas, the cult of past greatness, and xenophobia in general, all of which are historically characteristic of Russia.
Even in the years of misery and poverty, Russian bravado was being fed by having nuclear weapons, while the improving economy kept building on the essence of the Russian state. Russian people paid for comfort in abandoning their rights and freedoms, choosing to practice rituals of national megalomania instead.
Moscow Methodology Group, a bunch of intellectuals who were deeply hurt by the loss of influencethe field of world humanitarianism are the ones who articulated the "Russian world" as an imperial project in the mid-nineties.
"Spreading philosophy is one of France's last competitive national exports nowadays. Because they are losing in the nuclear energy, car, and wine markets. But Foucault is still the most read French philosopher in American universities", said methodologist Petr Schedrovytsky, one of the fathers of the concept. He insisted that Russia has developed "very particular ways of thinking, radically different from what Habermas and modern French philosophers wrote".
Sometime around 1997, Schedrovytsky and co. offered their view of the "Russian world", declaring that "today Russia has the same amount of people who live inside the Russian federation as those who live outside of it". Everyone who spoke Russian was to be included in so-called "outer Russia", regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, and their own will. "Bilinguals were included too because otherwise, numbers wouldn't be so impressive". He notes, that Putin himself recognized this doctrine: "He started demanding that officials treat Russians abroad as potential citizens".
When Putin's reign began, such treatment came to life through propaganda, espionage, and diversions in Russia's neighboring countries. As a result – the war in Georgia, the annexation of Crimea, and the bloody gamble of "L/DNR", now complete with imperialistic aggression against Ukraine. "It's a way of adapting, adapting Russia as RF to globalization", explains Sheptytsky, – "small countries adapt by skipping globalisations, while large ones introduce themselves into the global space. They seek ways of adapting to the global world: via colonial conquest or via diaspores <...> Russians outside the RF are our immunity against globalization that's coming not in a year or two but 50 years. It will hit hard, much harder than anything we've seen in the last 15 years".
Today we see that the doctrine meant to save the imperial construct of Russia, in reality, leads to a complete disaster. Because it views "greatness" as something outside of economics, ethics, freedoms, and social motivations that are the basis of the Western philosophical thought. When the power of law and the law of power collide, "Russian world" is doomed because it's based on the latter, a primitive system. But its eradication is a matter of realized and coordinated international counter-effort.
Popular politology talks of how Russia's top heads are influenced by Alexander Dugin, a chauvinist militaristic ideologist of the Eurasian movement. In reality, the importance of this much-demonized character is much overblown. Putin is hyped up to be a great khan in Dugin's geopolitical fantasy, while his foreign policy is in no way drawn from sympathies to the Turkic and Asian world.
Putin knows himself to be China's weaker partner in face-off against the West. He remains true to Stalinist view of the empire, where the "great Russian nation" is the top dog. That's whom the first toast went to when Stalin celebrated victory in WW2, thus devaluing efforts of all other nationalities of USSR that fought nazism back to back. Still, "Russian world" has gotten enough of the irrationality that Dugin opposes the west's intellectualism with.
The Patriarch of Muscovy, Kyrylo, was tasked with voicing the "spiritual" part of the neocolonialist doctrine as well as presenting the term "Russian world" in 2009. "Russia, Ukraine, Belarus are the core of the Russian World today and Holy Lavrentiy of Chernihiv said so: «Russia, Ukraine, Belarus are the holy Rus». Such view of the Russian world is built into the modern name of our church. The church is called "Russian" not because of ethnic origins. It's supposed to show that Russian orthodox church shepherds the nations that accept Russian cultural and spiritual traditions as the basis of their identity or, at least, a part of it. That's why we consider Moldova a part of the Russian world" – said Kirill.
Using church as a tool and merging it with the state became a stepping stone in Kremlin's project to build its anti-world to stand off against the West. But they were condemned by Christian community too. Volos Academy of Theology Research in Greece published a declaration signed by more than 300 theologists from all around the world, including Russian. Declaring the "Russian world" heretical and violating basic tenets of orthodoxy.
To quote an excerpt: "Since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and started a proxy war in Ukrainian Donbas to the beginning of a full-scale war, Putin and patriarch Kyrylo have been using the ideology of «Russian World» as the main justification for the invasion. <..> It teaches us that the "Russian World" opposed the corrupt west, led by the USA and Western Europe, already defeated by "liberalism, globalization, christianophobia, gay rights", propagated throught gay parades and "belligerent secularism". Moscow Patriarchy and Putin himself oppose the West and Orthodoxes who have fallen into smut and schism (like the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and churches that support him); painting Putin & co as the true defenders of the orthodoxy that they present as traditional morality, rigorous and righteous respect toward Holy Rus <...> We cast aside the heresy of Russian world and contemptuous acts of Russian government like starting the war in Ukraine, caused by this wretched teaching that has no merit, endorsed by Russian orthodox church as deeply un-orthodox, un-Christian and disgusting to humanity".
But the Russian world isn't just heretical. It is neo-nazi: having no definite totalitarian leader, it mixes in chauvinistic, fascist, racist, and xenophobic ideas, mottos, concepts, and ends. It's the same as Hitler's national-socialist ideas: violent spread of empire justified by a special right and way.
To quote Vladyslav Surkov, tasked with embodying the doctrine: "What is Russian world? It's all the places where people speak Russian or respect Russian culture, where they see Russia's model of development as an alternative to their own, where they respect Putin, where they fear Russian weapons – that's our influence. It's any country that has hopes for Russia, for its protection <...> the idea of the Russian world is to be above barriers, to look beyond borders, and to own the world in the purest meaning of this word because Russian expansion isn't selfish... We're not a trade empire, not a selfish empire, we're an unprofitable empire – that's our main difference from the Anglo-Saxons". Pure violence and unprecedented insolence.
Russian world doesn't respect international law, sovereign states, or the will of the people, never mind the individuals who Muscovy considers their own. "Declaration of Russian identity" was created in 2014. It reads: "a Russian is a person who considers themself Russian, talks and thinks in Russian and recognizes Christian orthodoxy as the basis of spiritual culture and feels solidarity with the fate of the Russian people".
Today we see what's in store for Russian-speaking people who are not willing to recognize that symbol of faith and remain citizens of their own countries – we see it in Kharkiv, Mariupol, Chernihiv, Irpin and other Ukrainian cities devastated by Russian invasion. "Living under Russians means death", a friend from Kherson (occupied by the Russian world) messaged me.
Russia's war against Ukraine leaves no doubt that this doctrine is a threat to humanity. It must condemned by the world and outlawed as neo-nazi, totalitarian, and extremist.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Suspilne Culture.
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