Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Anti-Western Nature of Russia

On Tuesday Fjordman wrote about Russia’s dire situation with respect to Islam, both inside and outside of its own borders. Later that day a native of Russia named Dimitri wrote me with his own take on the subject:

Hi Baron,

I don’t have an account to post at Gates of Vienna, but the subject is so interesting to me that I dare to send my comment directly to you, answering your email which you sent long ago. If you think it is worth publishing, please attach my comment to the blog.

So this is what I think about Russia.

Moscow soldiersI am originally from Russia and I have been always asking such questions of myself: what is the reason for the alienation of Russia from the West? This alienation is seen clearly on both sides. For example, the traditional criticism of the Russian Empire as a despotic regime is based on left-wing liberal opinions, originating from the French revolution, which Russia opposed.

On the other hand, a strong anti-Western sentiment in Russia started after the Russian socialist revolution in 1917. Thus, the first explanation is that socialists always hate each other. At the same time they are ready to embrace Muslims, if they think they can gain from it. Already Lenin, in one of his latest papers, suggested an alliance with Muslims against Europe, after he was disappointed with Europe’s failure to support revolution.

However, there is a much older anti-Western element in Russia, and it comes from eastern Christianity. Orthodox Christianity has always considered itself as the only true Christianity, never ever admitted its own mistakes, and blamed it all on the West (sounds familiar, eh?). It was always associated with the Empire rather than with Biblical tradition. For example, the Russian church does not recommend reading the Bible, because too much in it is about the Jews. Russians rather call themselves “orthodoxes” than Christians, which shows that they actually consider themselves to be a kind of special religion. Thus they miss another common issue with the West.

—Dimitri

[Nothing follows]

7 comments:

Titus Petronius said...

First of all, I disagree with Dimitri's characterization of Orthodox Christianity as anti-western and believes we have blamed our problems/mistakes on the west.

I'm sure that there are Russian Churches which teach improper doctrine, but no priest in their right mind would ever not recommend reading the Bible, condemn the Jews or teach the idea of our Church being sanctimoniuosly "special" to the detriment of others.

I would say that there are still priests in podunk cossack towns who condemn Jews (probably Greek priests, too). However the dominating issues that seperate the Orthodox Church from the west are:

1) The split of the Church; Rome went west, Constantinopol, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem went East. Politics ensued, wars, invasions, trade disputes, and viola'! Distinct seperation over the period of 1000 years.

2)The "Eastern" Church preaches a "mystic" practice, combined with physical disciplines and tradition, which is distinctly different from most Catholic&Protestant approches.

3) Xenophobia. Ever go to a Russian/Serbian/Greek Church and have a Swedish last name (me)? Most of it is centuries of nationalism ingrained into the people. Can't say it's good, but it's not the Church preaching this.

So, in short, show up to mass with a bowl of foul smelling vineager and beans for coffee hour and every little old Russian lady will love you (and introduce you to their daughters, heh).

Note: Moscow isn't a very good example of "good" Orthodox Christianity; it's like finding "good" Irish Catholics in S. Boston.

gun-totin-wacko said...

But isn't Russia's fear and hatred of the West also due to simple geography? I mean in the sense that the Russian heartland is on the borders of Europe, and the people of central Europe (primarily the Germans) have always coveted the space. With neighbors to the West that are (largely) hostile, no defensible borders on that side, AND the difference in religion, language, and culture, it seems to be a recipe for fear, hatred, mistrust, etc.

As for racism against foreigners, that would come from centuries of propaganda, not to mention the whole issue of The Great Patriotic War.

Marian - CZ said...

I think that gun-totin-wacko has a good point. The Russians are in big physical distance from the rest of Europe, and this together with the harsh climate in itself prevents them from intense contact with the neighbours. The forced isolation of the former communist regime didn't help either. Actually, the Soviet apparatchiks not only isolated the people from the West, but from the alleged "allies" like Poland or DDR, and they even exercised some control of intra-Soviet movement of their own people. Most peasants were not allowed to travel out of their region.

That is why Russia critically lacks the broad strata of "cosmopolitan" intelligentsia, who would have some knowledge of the outer world. And that is why the West is strange to them - and strangeness breeds suspicion. I doubt that more than 10 per cent of the Russian people has ever seen a foreign country, and even those people are concentrated in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Mikael said...

Religion have nothing to do with it. It's all about energy. Russia have developed into to the main supplier of energy (mostly natural gas)to Europe. Billions and billions of dollars are being invested in building new pipelines from Siberia to Europe, with more to come.

This gives the Kremlin a growing sense of power, a feeling the Russians haven't had since 1991. And the European leaders are getting equally uneasy. Which is why we are now seeing the EU more and more determent on developing "sustainable energy."

Sure, they'll spin this new policy around "Globol Worming", but make no mistake. Politicians are not always as stupid as they appear. (Machiavelli was not European by coincidence). They don't give a hoot about CO2, or religion for that matter. They want Europe out free the Russian stranglehold and the Putin and his cronies of course knows this. They have maybe 20 years, then they are history as a global power, and it scares the bejeezus out of them.

Unless they start evolving, 50 years from now, Russia will have as much economic clout on the world as DR Congo have today. (they'll still have nukes, but at that time, what country won't?)

Mikael said...

That should be"Freed from" the Russian stranglehold, not "out free".

gun-totin-wacko said...

Mikael is correct. Russia wants to control energy supplies to Europe, in order to have a bit of control there, and also, going back to what I said, to ensure that if anyone (read: Germany) gets too powerful and aggressive, then Russia can cut off their energy supplies.

And the Russians don't like the NATO expansion because it cuts off the buffer zone they like so much... Hard to trade space with an attacker when they are already close to your heartland.

I wish I knew what the solution could be.

Kafir_Kelbeh said...

I would say that, historically, Dmitri has it right. My only change in wording would be in the religious aspect: I would consider that just typical competition.

As a Russian language & history student, and as one who spent a good deal of time over there, Dmitri is spot-on in his assessment from the other aspects.

He never menioned economic - it's been a monarchy or a communist state from its inception, and is returning to what it knows. Economics doesn't play into squat when you barely earn what we spend on one meal at McDonald's.

Its people, those who are trying to survive & succeed despite all this, are amazing! They want a country like what we have, and I miss them dearly & wish their attempt at democracy had succeeded.

I appreciate all the comments here, but had to support Dmitri on this one. He does know his country better than we do. We get upset with outside opinion on this board (and others), yet we're quick to jump on the bandwagon with other countries. Just remember that, especially from a friend. :)

Thanks, all, to my CONSTRUCTIVE criticism! ;)