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LOOKING AHEAD

June 28, 2007 (the date of publication in Russian)

Yaroslav Butakov

A SAFE HAVEN FOR THE LAST EUROPEANS

Europe's decay, and the rising Russia's civilizational mission

"'What is Love? What is Creation? What is Passion? What is a Star?' – inquires the last human, stupidly winking. The Earth has shrunk, and the last human, pottering around, is making everything as subtle as he is. The last human lives longer than his great ancestors. 'We have discovered happiness', the last humans conclude, stupidly winking".

This excerpt from Friedrich Nietzsche sounds prophetic at the sight of the contemporary Western civilization, overwhelmed with confidence of having discovered an universal receipt of happiness for itself and the whole planet, believing there is no reason to move further on – unless probably towards an even higher degree of so-called tolerance, meaning, for most of the Europeans, nothing but dumb submission to imposed patterns of thinking and public behavior.

The way other cultures understand this universal “happiness of tolerance”, getting in touch with the West, was demonstrated in France during the famous massive unrest of November 2005, and that was not the only occasion. Still, the rising ferment of dissent from the "underdeveloped" cultures has not shaken the confidence of the well-to-do bourgeoisie in the exceptional salutarity of the way of life and the brainset he had chosen.

Many Russians who spent years of Western Europe, indicate a common feature of the society which they determine as “averaging of a person”. On the contrary to the basic principles of liberal ideology, the European way of life does not tolerate anything individual – both in law and in daily round. In practice, the proclaimed freedom of choice is replaced with a cult of obedient and leveling mediocrity – at home, at work, in political, cultural, or scientific activities.

Sergey Zubtsov, author of a popular essay "How to Survive in Western Europe", identifies this trend as a "triumph of European socialism". He refers not to the creative and innovative economic and social development which once made USSR a superpower but to the pattern of USSR's latest period of spiritual stagnation, acquiring a grotesque dimension in today's Europe.

"The Europe we know from classical books does not exist any longer, though elder Europeans are nostalgic of this past", emphasizes the author.

At the same time, the deeper the European civilization is sinking into cultural stagnation, the more perceivable is the ferment of dissatisfaction, emerging from the forces are longing for truth, progress, social justice, or at least amplitude. This ferment is represented with two polar different movements of antiglobalists and ultra-rightists. One more tendency is escapism. While in 1960-70s, hippies used to alienate to various exotic countries, supposedly unpolluted by the bourgeois culture, today's European youth more and more frequently seeks a place for cultural escape in Russia – not in major cities but in remotest areas, a few of them even deciding to stay there forever.

A citizen of Europe, still implicitly perceiving himself as a heir of the powerful spiritual tradition which his great civilization had once emerged from, is feeling too confined and stifling in the narrow bounds today imposed on its every member. The Russian "chaos", "bespredel" in all the meanings of infinitude, is attracting with its unsettledness, reminding the European of the young age of his own culture which is as pleasant as reminder of a person's own young age.

Already in the XVIII century, European painters, architects, physicians and industrialists, whose business was related to Russia, frequently got Russified, their descendants obtaining Russian nobility and making outstanding careers in science, culture, engineering, and military service. A lot of Russian noble families originate from natives of European countries. Other Europeans, obtaining Russian citizenship, were unable to integrate into the Russian community, even staying in Russia for years. Obviously, this difference was determined rather by personal characteristics. That was a kind of natural selection of persons who were more psychologically disposed for integration into the Russian social organism.

This historical evidence provides an additional argument for the fact that Russia may become a really attractive place for individually and creatively thinking European intellectuals only in case it refrains from dumb compliance to the contemporary West’s political and cultural patterns. Russians are frequently taught by liberal media that their country should be oriented towards the contemporary "Euronorm". Meanwhile, exactly this "Euronorm" does not satisfy a creative European mind.

Today's norms of European policy formally encourage immigration, this considered as an application of a "high civilized" approach. Meanwhile, even those immigrants who seek better social standards in Europe are reluctant to integrate themselves into a leveling surrogate culture of Big Macs and rock-drug-and-sex entertainment, which is incompatible with both secular and theological foundations of the cultures they represent.

A Big Mac on the background of the burning outskirts of Paris has become a typical and illuminative picture.

In Russia, where peoples of various beliefs and ethnic origin used to reside in their native lands, their cultural originality – despite assimilation and mutual penetration – persists for centuries, surprising and attracting foreigners. This coexistence of cultures once fascinated Knut Gamsun, one of the most insightful European authors, and was featured in his "Travel to the Fairy Land".

The population, residing in the realm of traditional culture, is friendly to guests and neighbors who don't intervene into their cultural life and don't try to enforce their supposedly universal patterns of behavior. This natural diversity, surviving for centuries until today, despite the early Soviet anti-religious campaigns, is a precious quality which could and should be appraised and nurtured, instead of trying to artificially remelt the multitude of peoples into a "single secular nation" – the practice which gave birth to the despair and hatred of Clichy sou Bois.

Conservation of the diversity of Russia’s ethnic and regional traditions should be considered as an organic part of the new Russian Project. It would perfectly tune in the traditions of old Europe.

In order to attract and inspire creative European minds for its best benefit, Russia should develop itself in a way essentially different from the Europe of today. Today's European liberal "fighters for tolerance" will never appreciate Russia, even it completely reproduces all the patterns of the supposedly advanced values of freedom of perversion and addiction as a surrogate substitute of civil rights. At the same time, Russia is likely to be well understood by those intellectuals and politicians who alienate themselves from the leveled consensus. Not accidentally, Russian cultural standards are better understood by such "deviant" European political figures as rightist Mean-Marie Le Pen and leftist Oscar Lafontaine. This understanding will never elevate to the quality of recognition in case Russia adopts the pattern of an Ersatz-Europe, a seconds look-alike which can be only bleaker than the dull original.

Instead, Russia should address its cultural essence in the process of implementation of the general project of its own, identified as the project of national revival. This project should be traditionalistic in its spirit, reification and rhetoric, reminding a thinking European about the most creative times of his own tradition, and absorbing the best achievements of other doctrines – including the doctrine of original socialism, appealing to justice, or more, to the ideal of the Statehood of Truth which existed in the Russian culture for centuries, and is well understood by European non-conformists.

Thus, the developing potential of the European culture is likely to shift from its center, where the tradition is being wiped out, to the periphery. This trend should be appraised and encouraged, with regard of Russia's adoration of the historical European tradition, its gratitude to the contribution in its own development in the XVII-XIX centuries, and responsibility for the great common cultural heritage – in the same way as the ancient culture, neglected by the Roman-Germanic community, was treasured and amplified by the tradition of Byzantium.


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