Monday, June 9, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Russia is ‘Part of Europe But Will Never Be Part of the West,’ St. Petersburg Psychoanalyst Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 9 – “Russia is part of Europe but it never will be part of the West,” a psychological pattern that has remained “unchanged” over the course of the last 500 to  600 years and one whose continuity leads to the modification of any system it has adopted to fit the Russian mentality, according to a St. Petersburg psychoanalyst.

            While that sometimes has had less than positive consequences, Mikhail Reshetnikov, rector of the East European Institute for Psychoanalysis, says, it has also means that “rebirth has always taken place” when this civilizational island is surrounded “approximately like now” by the limitless ocean (

                Speaking at a press conference on “Russian Identity and the Crisis of Civilizations” at the conclusion of the 7th St. Petersbur Summit of Psychologists last week, Reshetnikov argued that “every people is the fruit of an evolved mentality and has its own goals,” which he calls “the chosen goal of a specific people.”
            The Russian variant of this involves several things historically, the psychoanalyst says.  “Above all, it [includes] Russian historical pride,” the idea sometimes realized and sometimes not that Russia could play the leading role in the world after the opening of the space provided by the collapse of Byzantium in the 15th century.

            When Russia was unable to realize this role, he continues, it adopted as compensation “such myths” as “the special Russian social,” “the special Russian character,” and “the indestructible Russian spirit.”  After 1917, these myths were simply transferred by substituting the word “Soviet” for the word “Russian.”

            Another “chosen goal” in the Russian mentality is reflected in the fact that “the Russian state always expanded: to the north, to the west, to the south and to the east.” That was combined with the notion of “a certain messianic role for Russia with regard to all neighboring nations and to people within the state.”

            “In the Soviet period,” Reshetnikov said, “this was transformed into the assertion that ‘we are bringing light to the entire world.’” Throughout this messianism has been not based on a Russian national idea but rather on “the super-national idea of the priority of Russian culture over the others.”

            “Everyone had to know Russian writers,” he continued, because”except for Chingiz Aitmatov and a couple of others, you can’t name writers from the borderlands of Russia.”

            Another “distinctive aspect of the Russian people,” he said, is that “unlike other countries”—and he said that he says this with regret – Russians ‘are not colonizers. We occupy territory but people continue to speak Uzbek, Armenian, Ukrainian and so on.” Wherever the French went, they imposed French.

            A third characteristic of the Russian mentality is “a focus on the first person of the state,” an assumption that he rather than the people will make the decisions and exercise power.  That was true before under the tsars, under the Soviets and now.  “The democratic freedom which people received after1991 was nonsense,” he said.

                Russia became “a state of the free poor, and we are reaping the results.” And this is complicated by the fact, Reshetnikov says, that the Russian state was never about protecting the citizenry but only about protecting the state.  “This also is our tradition.”

            “All western models which Russia took offer as a result have been transformed by the force of our mentality,” he said. “Social democracy was transformed into bolshevism,” and “borrowed democracy became democratism” and thus took on”a negative shading.”

            Russia’s special situation reflects the fact that “we were never the Scandinavian north, the Muslim south, the west or the east ... We always were an island of civilization, and in this is an enormous hope or rebirth.”  Russia is in a position to do so now, and as it does, Russia as “a young nation” doesn’t need aging Europe. Let it rot in peace.”

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