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  What is the real Russia‘s face?

Vadim Volovoj, Doctor in Political Sciences
2007 05 14

The answer to this question could be found in trying to understand the current policy of Russian authorities. We could also try to reveal the real face of Russia, i.e. the face not depending on the political conjuncture. The latter option would answer the question on whether the Russian authorities are adequate to the nature of Russia.

From the Mongol-Tartarian to the Russian Federation

There is a Russian saying: scratch the Russian, and you‘ll find a Tartar.  Another factor of formation of the Russian nature is Byzantium – namely here the concept of Russia as the third Rome was born. The Russians have taken the following from the Byzantines:

The feeling of empire and religious messianism. For Russia the process of „land accumulation“ is more important than an ordinary development of power. The Mongols were concerned about the economic benefit of the occupied lands, whereas the Russians repeated the Byzantines, who spared no money for messianism based on religion. After the fall of Byzantium the Russians decided that they have to prolong the sacred civilization mission and to protect the orthodoxy from the Western Catholicism. The Russians assumed that it was God who asked the Russians to become the Third Rome.

Confrontation with the West. Neither Byzantium, nor the Mongols were in good relationship with the Western world. The Russians had taken over this antipathy to Western civilization, i.e. they did not want to be the same of the Western nations.

A tendency to centralized power is an important aspect of the historic Russian identity. In this case traditions of Moscow Duchy and KievRussia confronted. The latter could be considered a historical example of liberal system; however, according to Muscovites, liberalism of Kiev weakened solidarity and destroyed the state. Therefore solidarity is a very important aspect, requiring at the same time strong centralized power.

Another important aspect of the Russian identity is personification of power – it is a constituent part of the Russian thinking. A sovereign for the Russians have always been not only an official but the father of nations and peoples. You have to obey him unconditionally; therefore the Russians are so tolerant to the authoritarian power.  However, the sovereign is fully responsible for the country: in  case of major achievements the honor goes to a sovereign; when country faces problems – it is a sovereign who is blamed for that, but not his vassals.

Thus, the historically developed Russian civilization-religious messianism, the spatial-imperial thinking and tendency to a personified centralized power form the real face of Russia.

It is assumed that history of Russia is a coherent process with small deviations.  One of such deviations is decision of Peter 1st to europize Russia and change the principles of belief. The Russians have taken over novelties as much as they could do that, but they did not become the Europeans. In terms of religion, orthodoxy still prevails in Russia.

Another deviation is the experiment with the Soviet Union. The key problem of the USSR was that its imperial practice was based on the communist ideology, due to which the state collapsed. Today the Russians remember the immensity of the USSR and critically evaluate communism, which has not become a national-imperial idea.

The period of democracy of B.Yelcin should also be mentioned. The then Russia had as much democracy as it could manage, and the country became open to the world. However, the efforts to europize Russia have also fallen flat. Or maybe the above truth about the Kiev‘s Russia had worked: the more liberalism – the less order.

Putin‘s Russia

Before his presidency V. Putin was an average intelligence officer, later – an ordinary official. Having come to power, he tried to offer the Russians the idea of „a normal state“, based on technocratic power. This worked only for a certain period, until normalization of functioning of economy. However, the idea of „a normal“ state does not fit for Russia, since then it would be not Russia as a messianistic imperial state, but a national state. And this is hardly imaginable, since the Russians in Russia are everywhere and nowhere (there is no compact ethnic Russian core). Recently a concept of „sovereign democracy“ appeared, however it does not comply with the Russian historical tradition as well, since has an ideologic (democratic) shade.

They say that the Kremlin is going to raise A. Dugin‘s Neo-Eurasianism as a national idea.  This should be done in secrecy, since Neo-Euroasianism is an especially confronting concept, based on geopolicy.

V.Putin in his speech in Munich criticized the West and praised Russia.  This corresponded to the Russian imperial moods, as well as geo-energy policy of the Kremlin. Finally V. Putin started to act as a patron-defender of the nation (communication with people, especially with children, visits in churches etc.)

However, it is questionable whether the current Russian elite actually is pro-imperial and messianistic.  It is assumed that all the traditional ideas, characteristic of the historic nature of a Russian, are raised by the elite in order not to lose support of „the fools“ (the Russian nation). Actually, for the new hosts of the Kremlin Russia is one big Gazprom, i.e. a corporation which much bring profit.

The relationship of Russia and Lithuania should also be evaluated within the above context. One could ask what is the business of the turned off pipeline „Druzhba“ or why economically motivated subjects reject the idea of occupation of Lithuania (leaving aside the issue of competence)? Occupation is not acknowledged because it is necessary that „the fools“ could see that Great Russia is not going to cringe before a small Lithuania.


The real (national) face of Russia is imperial and messianistic. The key idea of the Russian identity is habitation of many nations in the big state. This is not ideology, but a vision predetermined by the nature. The Russians themselves cannot understand why this is not acceptable to others.

It is assumed that the imperialism of the current policy of Moscow is only illusory and has no in-depth traditional meaning. For the new elite of the Kremlin, Russia is not an empire, but a big company; and on the basis of that the elite considers all the problems with the external world.

Lithuania has no room in the imperial family of the Russian nation, moreover in the corporate family (according to Ralf Dahrendoff, „the end of Europe is where Russia begins“). It is not clear only whether the nature of the Russians is a background of their happy future or their eternal tragedy.

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