Staunton, September 2 – With the Crimean Anschluss, a new “cultural type” has emerged, “Homo Crimeacus,” people who think “fundamentally differently than “’post-communist’ Russians” and who are pursuing a doomed effort to restore the “Homo Sovieticus” of the late USSR, according to Vladimir Pastukhov.
In an essay posted on Polit.ru today, the St. Antony’s scholar says that his status as an émigré initially made it difficult for him to recognize the change but then, after focusing upon it, he recognized that in this case as always, “the ‘new man’ is always ‘an archive collection,’ published with a new cover.”
“The self-satisfied Homo Crimeacus replaced the weak and feeble Homo Criticus” who had existed in the 1990s and 2000s. The Homo Criticus was “eternally dissatisfied with his existence” and alienated from anything beyond his immediate personal needs, largely content to “watch bandit television series and anti-corruption investigations.”
With a new energy, Homo Crimeacus has driven this cultural type out of Russian life just as rapidly as “Cro-Magnon man at one time drove out the Neanderthals,” Pastukhov says, noting that “the seizure of Crimea was no more than a trigger” for this. Kremlin propaganda played a role, but the real reasons were deeper.
The real “objective” forces causing this shift, he continues, include both domestic and foreign factors. Domestically, they include the criminal ways in which privatization was carried out; and internationally, they reflect an international system in which others can violate the rules but one in which “Russia in the best case was only allowed to be a spectator.”
Homo Crimeacus, Pastukhov says, has “turned out to be an unattractive creature … full of enthusiasm and suffering from social and political farsightedness as a result of which he doesn’t notice injustice and illegality nearby but only at a great distance typically no nearer than beyond the ocean.”
“On the other hand,” he says, “unlike Homo Criticus,” the new man conceives “surrounding reality exclusively in rose colors” even when his “other sensory organs show him that it is far from rosy. [Moreover,] he is not ashamed of his inborn criminality but on the contrary is proud of it.”
Such a social type is “aggressive” and “capable very quickly to occupy any free social and political niche and even to go beyond the limits of his natural milieu,” Pastukhov says. “He is a friend of paradoxes and he does not have any doubt that war is peace.” But at the same time, his very flexibility may mean that he will turn on his own leaders.
From one perspective, he appears to be a modified version of the Homo Sovieticus “who populated the territory of Russia and surrounding areas from the end of the 1950s to the end of the 1980s.” Like that predecessor, he has “a well-developed mythological consciousness” and “doesn’t engage in critical analysis” of what is going on.
But there is “one extremely essential difference” between the two, Pastukhov argues. “Homo Crimeacus is a secondary” and derivative phenomenon.
Homo Sovieticus, “as the product of the lengthy evolution of ‘Soviet civilization,’ was self-sufficient.” He knew who he was and he looked to the future. “Homo Crimeacus, like any other copy, dreams most of all of becoming the original” and thus “his view is turned to the past: he wants to become Homo Sovieticus.”
“Those who lived in the real USSR dreamed about communism. [But] for the present-day epigones of ‘the Soviet regime,’ the USSR is communism.” But there is one way in which the two are very similar: “their goals are unachievable: to fall into an invented future is just as impossible as to do the same thing into an invented past.”
Like its predecessor, Homo Crimeacus is divided into two groups: the passive and the active backers of “the imperial idea.” The majority are passive and content to watch. The active minority, “the ‘reconstructors,’ [however,] do not simply quietly believe in their ideal but try to achieve it … the rebirth of the USSR under the new sign ‘Great Russia.’”
“For a long time,” the St. Antony’s scholar says, “the Russian authorities took a wait and see position” about this.” That left those who wanted to return to the past with few choices. But when the regime itself “firmly stood on the position of ‘reconstructionism’ and shifted from words to deeds that star hour of Homo Crimeacus arrived.”
Many seem to think that “this is the beginning of a new era,” but in fact, Pastukhov argues, “it is its end.” “Post-communist social searching and historical creativity are finished. Doubts, torments, and discussions have been left behind. Culture, almost as Spengler described it, has become civilization, and its symbol has become a monumental Homo Crimeacus.”
Now, that new-old man will be elevated to a pedestal and will stay there until “the waters of history” erode the foundations of “the newly declared Eurasian empire. Then Homo Crimeacus will also become history and occupy an honored place in the pantheon of Russian illusions alongside its cultural prototype.”