The radical rejection of revolutionism by the Russian intellectual class has led to a glorification of state restoration
January 23, 2023
  • Alexei Makarkin

    First vice-president, Center for Political Technologies 
Alexei Makarkin elaborates on the thesis of Yuri Saprykin about the sources of the “inclination toward evil” in modern Russia and suggests to look for them in the cultural processes of an earlier time.
The original text in Russian appeared on the Telegram channel Bunin & Co January 10, 2023 and is republished here with the author’s permission.

Yuri Saprykin's "Revising evil,” published last month in Kommersant Weekend and republished on Russia.Post, attempts to answer the question of where the “inclination toward evil” in modern Russia came from – why light and darkness, the elves and orcs have changed places. The frustration of the 1990s, which spurred rapid growth in anti-Western sentiment (primarily among a large part of the intellectual class, which then broadcast it further), of course, played a key role in this process. A certain part of the reading public began to identify themselves with the orcs, despising the “civilized world,” and to reject the values of that world, which began to look aggressive and hostile.

But the problem can be analyzed a little deeper. The origins of such sentiment can be found in the late 1980s, when a reassessment of values took place in the country, which affected precisely the intellectual class. The Soviet propaganda machine was so discredited in this milieu that everything associated with the Soviet project, directly or indirectly, triggered a categorical rejection and thus a desire to wholesale trade in one set of ideas for another. The rather fair view that the Bolsheviks coming to power was a tragedy also contributed to the fact that revolutionaries (and progressives broadly) and conservatives changed places for part of the intellectual class. Any revolutionism, or even a conciliatory attitude toward it, began to be considered a path to chaos or despotism, or both (in that order).

The early-nineteenth-century statesmen Alexei Arakcheev and Alexander von Benckendorff, whom the communist ideology stigmatized as reactionaries, became heroes – not only for reforming the artillery and liberating Holland, but broadly for their loyalty to the throne and fatherland and rejection of sedition. The Decembrists, who were considered heroes under the Soviet regime for their uprising against the government in 1825, became rebels who encroached on state power, put the country on the brink of collapse and even thoughtlessly inspired Alexander Herzen. Herzen, a passionate critic of the Russian monarchy, in turn, also evolved into a purely negative character – a rebel, an agent of the Rothschilds and an accomplice of Polish separatists. And so on until February 1917, when, according to the post-Soviet discourse, the Masons (generals along with liberals and businessmen) stabbed the victorious empire in the back, and from there it is not far from the October Revolution. These arguments were borrowed from the extreme right of the White emigration.

The same is true in world history.
"Since in Soviet textbooks the Northerners in the U.S. Civil War were heroes, now it is ‘long live the South’ out of Gone with the Wind (without the skepticism of Rhett Butler and with the glorification of the Confederacy)."
The Northerners are seen not as supporters of progress, but as despicable businessmen and carpetbaggers. Meanwhile, Giordano Bruno is regarded as a heretic who embarrassed simple, innocent believers, while the inquisitor who handed him over to the secular authorities to be sent to the stake was, on the contrary, a God-fearing man, sincerely striving to protect the flock from a heresy that could prevent them from going to heaven (at the end of the 1980s a religious revival began in Russia and such arguments began to be taken seriously). And so on.

And then, when many expectations did not materialize and frustration set in, the restorers of the state became heroes. At first it was Stalin, the generalissimus with marshal’s epaulettes, followed by Beria, the marshal in pince-nez who curated the Soviet atomic bomb project (especially since Stalin and Beria ordered many more revolutionaries to be shot than the tsarist regime did – this was considered a crime in Soviet times, but is now regarded as a credit). And from there it takes just one more step to identify yourself with the orcs.
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