Friday, April 24, 2015

The West’s new ‘Cold War’ is with Dostoevsky’s Russia, not Stalin’s | C2C

“All great nations,” wrote Fyodor Dostoevsky in an 1873 letter to the future Emperor Alexander III, “have manifested themselves and their great powers…and have brought something, if only a single ray of light, into the world, precisely because they have remained themselves, proudly and undauntedly, always and presumptuously independent.”

The West firmly disagrees. Despite their stated commitment to multiculturalism, most Western states in fact believe that the whole world should be like them – secular, democratic, and capitalist. Consequently, they tend to interpret any attempt by Russia to be “presumptuously independent” as an aggressive act. As Russian foreign policy has become more assertive in the past decade, the result has been a crescendo of accusations that Russia has started a “new Cold War”.

Former U.S. National Security Agency spook John Schindler claims that Russia is aggressively promoting its agenda through “Orthodox jihad”, which “bears more than a little resemblance to Holy War in a Russian and Orthodox variant.” Schindler writes that Vladimir Putin, “has created and nurtured a virulent ideology, an explosive amalgam of xenophobia, Chekism and militant Orthodoxy which justifies the Kremlin’s actions and explains why the West must be opposed at all costs.”

New York Times columnist David Brooks agrees. Noting that in January 2014 the Kremlin distributed books by three late 19th/early 20th century Russian philosophers – Vladimir Solovyov, Nikolai Berdyaev, and Ivan Ilyin – to regional governors, Brooks argues that Russian foreign policy rests upon “a highly charged and assertive messianic ideology.”

In Soviet times this was true, but not today. Marxist universalism is probably best seen as a product of the ideology’s Western origins. In this sense it was something of an aberration in Russian history. Under Putin, Russia has turned back towards its native roots. It is true that Putin has become more conservative over the past decade, and his religious faith appears genuine. Nevertheless, the depiction of his ideology as aggressive and messianic is wide of the mark.

Dostoevsky’s call for independence came not out of a desire for power, but rather out of the conviction that it was the only way in which a nation could bring anything of value into the world, “if only a single ray of light”. The great novelist inherited much of the intellectual baggage of nineteenth century Slavophilism, which derived from German Romanticism, and took from Romanticism the idea that national diversity was desirable. Nations contributed to the universal good not by blindly copying others (in Russia’s case by copying the West), but by nurturing what was unique and best about their own culture. National independence was seen as advantageous for the common international good.

Complete story at - The West’s new ‘Cold War’ is with Dostoevsky’s Russia, not Stalin’s | C2CNewImage

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