Tuesday, December 8, 2015

‘Russian World’ Isn’t Propaganda; It’s Psychotherapy for Russians, Analyst Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 8 – “Under the conditions of the specific Russian culture of today, the ‘Russian world’ fulfills an important role,” Maksim Goryunov says. “The myth of the ‘Russian world’ helps people to hold out when they find themselves in complicated and unbearable circumstances.”

            The Russian analyst says that “if an individual who grows up in the Russian cultural climate is not able to make a career, keep a family or maintain a business … the myth about the ‘Russian world’ helps him to avoid throwing up his hands or turning to vodka” (forbes.ru/mneniya-column/tsennosti/306971-russkii-mir-kak-zashchita-ot-otchayaniya).

            And thus it is important to understand that “the ‘Russian world’ is not propaganda” and was not dreamed up in a Kremlin office. It existed long before pro-Kremlin talking heads mentioned it. It “exists now, and it will exist tomorrow when the hysteria [about it finally] settles down.”

            Goryunov devotes his article to explaining why this is so and how the myth of the “Russian world” works.  First of all, he says, “the ‘Russian world’ by accusing Jews/Caucasians/Asians for all their misfortunes removes the feeling of guilt for their own failures.”

            Guilt is a destructive emotion, and people run from it. The “Russian world” is one mechanism that helps them do so. If a Russian loses his job, he isn’t guilty. The Zionists or the Americans or someone else is. That isn’t so important; what matters is that the Russian himself or herself never is. And he or she doesn’t not have to face reality or take responsibility.

            But in this respect, “the ‘Russian world’ is like opium for the people about which Marx spoke, “an ideological opium” that may help people get through tough times but that through overuse strips them of the capacity for action, Goryunov suggests.

            A second way that the “Russian world” performs a psychotherapeutic function has to do with the victims it identifies. Sometimes, Russians talk about White Russian emigres who were driven into poverty abroad by the Zionists; more often, they talk about the Russian Cossacks who have suffered so much.

            “As a rule,” Goryunov writes, “Russian men who have suffered a major failure sooner or later join the Cossacks. A Russian Cossack is such an amoral government actor and holy thief who by his theft serves the fatherland and by his amorality God.”  Such people thus become romantic heroes precisely because they are driven to this by oppression.

            Not all Russians take refuge in the “Russian world,” of course. “If someone formed in a Russian milieu is in a situation where ‘everything is going well,’ he will not think about the ‘Russian world.’ More likely, he will with satisfaction laugh about it” – because he doesn’t need the kind of therapy it provides.

            That in turn means, the analyst says, that “even if tomorrow Russia was suddenly transformed and became normal, the ‘Russian world’ would not go anywhere. It would remain very much alive in the dregs of Russian society.” It would in short return to where it was two years ago, but it will last 200 years after Russia disappears “if of course it does disappear.”

            There is a “radical” cure for the “Russian world.” It consists of economic growth and a just distribution of incomes. “The richer Russian society will be, the less of the ‘Russian world’ there will be in it.” 

            Indeed, the connection between the myth of the “Russian world” and misfortune and a poor quality of life is much like the connection between those factors and tuberculosis.  And the cure is thus much the same.

            The myth is thus useful – it provides a reduction in “discomfort from failure” – but only temporarily.  Like any ideological opium, the ‘Russian world’ destroys if it is used for too long. It is sufficient to look at ‘professional Russians’ in order to understand how fatal it can be in large doses.”

            But even small doses can be dangerous under some circumstances. It can lead those who take it to avoid responsibility to meet their ends “in the Ukraine steppe or in the mountains between Syria and Turkey.”

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