Staunton, November 8 – The Russian authorities want to ensure that they will not be overthrown or replaced and consequently they naturally gravitate to and support that part of society that is equally opposed to change, “the Village,” not as a reality but “as a way of thought with its paternalism, traditionalism and xenophobia,” Denis Dragunsky argues.
The Moscow commentator says that what is going on now in Russia is first and foremost “a war of the village worldview and style of life against the urban, a war of the community against the personality, of tradition against innovation, of reaction against progress, of custom against law, of distinctiveness and closed up conditions against openness, and of mysticism and obscurantism against rationality” (gazeta.ru/comments/column/dragunsky/7874135.shtml).
“This is a war not in the sense in which classical peasant wars in Europe and Russia were but rather in a somewhat more abstract form in an ideological, values, and even institutional sense,” he argues.
But like earlier peasant wars, the current one, which has the support of the authorities, has two sides. On the one hand, it reflects “a just protest against the inhuman exploitation of the peasantry.” And on the other, “this is a protest against modernization as such, against urban life” in the name of the values of the village.
The kind of exploitation to which the peasantry was subject in earlier centuries ended “long ago,” Dragunsky continues, “but the hatred of the Village to the City remains. This hatred [in fact] shifted from the village to the city and infected many whose ancestors have already lived in urban areas for a long time.”
Thus, the Village war against urban values is not “about peasants as actual personalities” but rather about those who continue to hold onto the values of the village and see those values threatened by the city, even if they live in it.
To be sure, Dragunsky argues, “the Village and the peasant must be respected, but they shouldn’t be fetishized” as things that are the source of all values because they feed the rest of the population. In fact, in any particular country and certainly in Russia, they don’t feed the rest of the country: those who pump oil earn the money to buy food from abroad.
Moreover, the Moscow commentator points out, “the real village almost doesn’t remain in Russia.” But while it is passing, “the Village with a capital letter, that is village ideology and village traditionalism and reaction very much remain.” Indeed, they may become even stronger as those attached to these values feel them under threat.
The reason for the current rise of the Village against the city is not hard to identify, he says. Consider the following: “not one NATO soldier has arrested or killed a single Russian (Soviet) man, while officers of the Cheka-NKVD-MGB arrested millions and illegally shot no fewer than 800,000 of our fellow citizens.”
But “the overwhelming majority of compatriots hate and fear NATO – and trust (or as the sociologists say, ‘are more inclined to trust than not to trust’) our native repressive organs.” The key word here is “native,” Dragunsky says, and it is something that divides the village and village values from the city and urban ones.
“For the city, nothing is more curious, interesting or even desired than something new, unfamiliar or foreign. For the village on the contrary there is nothing more terrible and disgusting than something alien that is not ours. There are no victims which the village will not bear ‘in order that everything will be as it always was.’”
All the achievements of urban civilization in Russia have not been able to root out this “dark village worldview,” and it emerges when the authorities play to it in order to stress their irreplaceability and permanence, values that the Village likes but that urban residents are less attached to.
Without such support from the powers that be, “the peasant war ends with the victory of the city;” but with that support, Village values rapidly spread into the city and sometimes as now under the regime of Vladimir Putin overwhelm urban ones with all the ensuing negative consequences, Dragunsky writes.
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