Staunton, September 19 – Putin’s promotion of a “special path” for Russia not only is setting his country on the path to isolation and decay but also triggering a new clash of civilizations in Europe by shifting “the civilizational border” in Europe westward away from its borders, according to Yevgeny Ikhlov.
In a 3,000-word essay on the Vestnik Civitas portal, the Moscow commentator argues that Russia had moved away from the idea of a special path in 1991 but now has moved back, a reversal of a trend that gave hope that Russia could revive and now guarantees that it will fall further and further behind the West.
There is plenty of evidence for that conclusion in the history of many countries and not just Russia, Ikhlov continues. Countries which have pursued a “special path” have sought “to preserve as much as possible anti-democratic and in essence feudal, medieval-theocratic or totalitarian political and social components even when they pursued modernization.”
“The most grandiose variant of the realization of ‘a special path’ [in Russian history] was bolshevism,” he argues. Its “civilizational model – neo-Byzantine” lasted almost 70 years. Then, 23 years ago, Russia appeared finally to break out of that, but over the last six months, it has returned to such an idea albeit one with some modifications.
As late as the start of this year, Ikhlov says, he had “the illusion that the baton of Russian civilization would be seized by ‘daughter’ Ukraine. Unfortunately, the de facto Ukrainian-Russian war has most probably for a very long time made Ukrainian culture closed to interaction with Russian culture.”
“Exactly the same thing happened with Prague in the 1920s,” Ikhlov continues, “when Czech nationalism destroyed the unique German-Czech-Jewish synthesis of the times of the Dual Monarchy, and it could not become the successor of Vienna as a bearer of the glorious ‘Danube’ cultural system.”
But Russia has proved incapable of overcoming its own past or of developing a successor civilization and thus is likely to “repeat the fate of Byzantium” being entirely subsumed by another empire as Byzantium was or suffering the fate of the Khalifate and being divided step by step between two or more.
And that civilizational demise is likely to come relatively quickly, Ikhlov says. “Peter I extended the existence of Russia as a civilization-empire for 200 years … Stalin extended it for 50 to 50 years … and Putin for 15 years, because “under any other Yeltsin successor would have begun the gradual confederalization of the Russian Federation.”
“Present-day Russia,” he notes, “which on August 20-21, 1991, defeated the communist Soviet Union … over the course of several years outlived a being of being a young nation and with song returned to Soviet-imperial suffering. In Russia, no one wants to recognize that it is not a thousand-year-old land but a young republic 23 years from its birth.
If one reflects upon it, Ikhlov continues, “this is just as strange as if present-day Austrians felt themselves still to be residents of the Habsburg empire, from which ‘traitors’ had taken away 90 percent of the land, and constantly dreamed about the return of ‘their cities’ Budapest, Zagreb, Prague and Cracow.”
“But the Austrians understand that their revolution in October 1918 was directed against the Danubian empire just as were the uprisings at that time of the Hungarians and the Czechs. But ‘the imperial Russians’” have not made that kind of mental or better civilizational change from empire to nation.
Now, they overwhelmingly “hate those liberal ‘national traitors’ who still remain true to the revolutionary idea of the Russian civic nation of the heroic era of 1990-1993.” As a result, “the socio-cultural border between the Europe of the nations and Eurasia of empires” passes between those who want to be nations and those who want an empire.
That is reflected in Russian propaganda now, Ikhlov says, “because a separate national identity is the main evidence of a crime for an imperialist just as freedom of thought is the main evidence of a crime for a clerical.”