Post-Soviet Long and Winding Roads – Literal and Figurative

posted 3 Oct 2017, 07:29 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 3 Oct 2017, 08:08 ]
3 October 2017

Viktor Kogan-Yasny is chair of the NGO Right to Life and Civic Dignity and is a political adviser to the Yabloko party

From time immemorial to the present day, in the lands of ancient Kiev, Moscow and Novgorod, in princedoms, empire, and nation states, there has always been an excessive need, on all occasions, to take complex, long and winding roads towards the attempted solution of political and social issues. This need has always strengthened conformism among the majority of the population and weakened the role of strategic and goal-oriented thinking. In all issues not directly related to the immediate task in hand, there arises a wish to journey off into vagueness, to do nothing, to shift responsibility to the authorities, to those with administrative power. Naturally, such a manner of thinking and behaving grew markedly stronger after the coming to power of the Bolsheviks. It is a manner of thinking hostile to all development. Its idea of “civilization” is standing still on the spot and looking around; not taking action. And we can see this wherever the Bolsheviks have been in power. In all these places we see this logic at work: the idea that civilization must be delivered from outside, and, if acceptable, put to use. 

In the Russian Federation such an approach became de rigueur, with the conscious adoption of policies of this kind. This quickly made the country an awkward, interfering, and also a dangerous neighbour, as well as being a disaster for the citizens of Russia themselves. At the time of the collapse of the USSR, the West had no idea about any of this. Only a few very perceptive sociologists and culturologists then living in the West (Nikita Struve, for example), to whose views no attention whatsoever was paid, were able to present an accurate picture of the situation: a situation that demanded the rapid introduction of Western-style civilisation into Russia, and other countries of the former USSR, the introduction of “civilised thinking,” while at the same time taking steps to preserve and develop the centuries-old culture of Russia. But nothing came of any of this: that civilisation, which constitutes the basis for the achievements of the West, was only adopted in the post-Soviet world to a very limited extent. The culture of the West turned out by-and-large to be ‘impractical’ for adoption, and was forgotten. To the delight of Russian bureaucrats, the country’s military and security elites, and it must be said the Western public, the model of openness, maximum freedom of contact and movement was rejected. The great ideas of the last years of the twentieth century, developed in the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, perished in the muddled, lazy and irresponsible swamp of contemporary Russia. 

… And today we see that the West, absorbed in its own moral problems, has little influence on the situation in neighbouring societies, societies that, in a civilizational sense, have frozen, in some cases at a stage they reached many decades ago. Nowadays the West only considers these countries a means to solve its own problems, or as a burden and a nuisance. But meanwhile, somewhere or other in Tambov, petrol continues to be mixed with water, just as it was twenty years ago, and local residents see nothing beyond the grinding monotony of daily life. And at the same time the political elites of the post-Soviet world operate primarily on the basis of two factors: war and fraud – the same principles on which oligarchical corporate clans function today. 

Those who try to put up serious resistance to all of this, and not merely for the purposes of self-advertisement, too often come to realise they are failing to achieve results, and their efforts promise little for the future. They find themselves facing significant risks to their own life, and very great personal stress, as well as an almost complete absence of attention and interest on the part of those who, in global terms, they think of as their strategic allies.