Staunton, May 16 – In thinking about Russia’s future, most of the country’s opposition figures remain trapped in the old debate about whether Russia is fundamentally European or really Asiatic, but, one Moscow commentator argues, it is time to recognize that “the successful Russia of the future” can and must be a country like the United States.
In an article on the “Osobaya bukhva” portal yesterday, Roman Popkov says that those opposition figures “who consider themselves to be on the left” want a Eurosocialist Russia. Those on the right want a Thatcherite one. And those who don’t want to give themselves away talk “abstractly about Europe” (specletter.com/obcshestvo/2013-05-15/otkroju-vam-ameriku-pro-rossiju.html).
Thus, he adds, “Navalny loves to talk about Russia as Europe. Belkovsky calls the participants in the protest movement Russian Europeans. Pavel Pryanikov is a ‘Euro-socialist,’ and the national democrats are inspired with love for Estonia and Poland.” But all talk as if Russia must become European because they do not want it to be Asiatic, the only choice they acknowledge.
But in fact there is an alternative. Not the “’special Russian third war’” that Kurginyan and Dugin talk about, but rather the American, something that becomes obvious, Popkov argues, if one considers how different Russia is from European countries and how similar it is to the United States in some very important respects.
“I cannot imagine that Moscow will ever just as much in common with Makhachkala as Paris does with Orleans,” Popkov writes. But “I can imagine that Moscow could resemble a mixture of Washington and New York. It might be better to build another capital and let Moscow be New York, a city of businessmen, corporations, [and] theaters” and then “Makhchakala can be not Orleans but New Orleans,” an ethnically distinct place very different from the center.
It is difficult to imagine “Russia as a European country” given the nature of Europe today “in comparison with former times, a continent with few ambitions and not driven by any passionate goal. But it is not hard to imagine Russia as a second America, and consequently, “in contrast to the Petrine era, we need to open a window to the United States.”
Russian are far more similar to Americans than they are to Europeans, Popkov insists. Both are “people of a historic mission.” Both are “condemned to feel themselves Romans” in the classical sense. And while Americans may not know geography, they feel just as Russians do that their forces can dominate any country, go anywhere and do anything.
Both countries have “an enormous, complex social and economic geography.” Both have subjugated primitive peoples in the name of building a state. The only different is that Russian “pioneers went east and [American] pioneers went toward the sunset, but [the places they occupied] were equally wild and empty.”
Both Russians and Americans, Popkov says, “have a feeling of regionalism” and a sense of being “a single whole.” Both “have been involved in the construction of a civic, political nation which unites people of different national and racial origins in the framework of a single civilizational model under a common flag,” with the Americans having been somewhat more successful in this than the Russians.
And despite all the talk about Russian collectivism, both nations are individualistic in the extreme, albeit of a somewhat different kind. Because of the trauma of the country’s defeat in the Cold War, Russian individualism has become distorted and “mixed together with [a false and distorted] patriotism,” something that needs to be combatted if Russia is to move forward.
Properly understood, Russians are rugged individualists too, and while some remain mired in anger about defeat, “the greater part of Russians want their country to be great no less than do their counterparts in the United States.” That is something that the Russian opposition needs to recognize and act upon.
It is long past time to “replace the propaganda falsehoods of Putin with a real strategy of building a New Russia as a strong and free super power from ocean to ocean” rather than behave like a small European country or still worse an Asiatic despotism. That will require many things, including a Bill of Rights that enshrines “the right of the people to revolt against tyranny.”
And it is long past time, Popkov concludes, to “kill” the urge for revenge among Russians and to “create a symphony of healthy individualism, inalienable civic freedoms and faithfulness tot eh Motherland.” That is what real “sovereign democracy” looks like “so to speak according to the American model.”