One of the fundamental weaknesses of liberal Russian thought and behavior, Irina Birna says, is Russian liberals are always ready to criticize the current regime but defend the basis of that regime as such, refusing to see the links between the two and thus manifesting “a latent imperialism.”
They do not recognize the reality that a liberal Russia might be possible if it were finally shorn of its imperial possessions, something that was not completed in 1917 or 1991, but that a liberal Russia with those possessions still inside its borders could never exist. In more lapidary language than she uses, a liberal Russian empire is a contradiction in terms.
The criticism of the current Russia regime by liberals is “rational,” the Moscow commentator says. “It is the result of the scholarly, professional or social activity of the individual, the experience of confrontation with reality, and an analysis of the state of those spheres of activity close to him.”
But “the support of the regime” in the form of its existence as defender of the Russian state “is instinctive: it is the result of education, training, and the formation of the personality in an atmosphere of all-penetrating imperialism, patriotism, ‘national’ pride, ‘Orthodoxy’ and other things” said to bind the individual to that country.
[quote]“The entire history of Russia is a bloody path of incorporating territories and a no less bloody process of holding on to them,” she says. “And those ‘democrats,’ ‘liberals,’ and ‘opposition figures’ who do not understand this yet and continue to call for ‘the preservation’ of the country, the return to the traditions of ‘real’ Russia, ‘killed’ supposedly by the Bolsheviks are calling for a continuation of this path.”[/quote]
Such people fail to understand that criticizing Stalin while defending the empire is to fall in the trap of defending Stalin’s purposes because he spent his entire career working to promote and defend the empire that Russian liberals implicitly or not so implicitly – Birna discusses four examples of such an approach – are promoting and defending it as well.
[quote]“It is time to understand,” she says, that a Russia run as a prison, including the Russian people, cannot rise to the levels of civilized countries. It will remain on its “traditional, military-political path of being a permanent threat to the occupation of neighboring territories, the enslavement of their peoples, and the blackmail of another war anywhere on the planet.”[/quote]
“The number of victims of this or that era is a function of the state of the Power in a specific historical reality: if in one era, it is sufficient to slit the throats of several thousand Bashkirs, in another, it may have to destroy 70 to 80 million people, and then again can limit itself to the Kursk and Beslan.” But the underlying impulses do not change.
Unless and until Russian liberals – and not just them alone – understand that reality, all too many of them will in fact be defending and promoting, on the one hand, the very system they think they are attacking, on the other. That reality may please the powers that be; but it will not promote the values the liberals say they follow.
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