Staunton, May 17 – “Madness,” Aleksandr Tsipko says, “is [Russia’s] chief national privilege, its only national idea so far” and “without it we cannot live.” And while that has been true at many points in the country’s history, it has never been more obvious or more dangerous than right now.
In a lengthy essay for Nezavisimaya gazeta today, the sociologist and commentator argues that “the stronger the love of the Russian people for Putin and the more our president feels himself to be a tsar … the more the new ‘Crimea is Ours’ Russia displays open insanity” (ng.ru/ideas/2018-05-17/5_7226_madness.html).
This is the insanity of a government that threatens the West with new weapons even while it cannot support its own population, Tsipko says. It is the insanity of Duma deputies who celebrate the election of Donald Trump and thus ensure that the new US president will never have the chance to do anything good for Russia.
While it is true that regardless of the period of Russian history you examine “the passion for self-destruction … gains the upper hand” over good sense, it is certainly true that “the clearest example of this is the transition of Putin’s Russia of the first decade of this century to the era of ‘Crimea is Ours’ victories.”
“For us,” the Moscow commentator says, “freedom is above all the right to the unthinkable, the impossible, the absurd, the unnatural and the desruciton of conditions not only for development but for life in general.” Russia now behaves in such a way that the West is “in shock” because Moscow is undercutting its own development and even military security.
According to Tsipko, “Russians today are happy that Russia for the first time in history has become a country isolated from all others, that the ring of enemies of Russia is tightening with each day, and that forever has died the possibility of the reuninficaiton of the Great Russians, the Little Russians and the Belarusians.”
All nations go through peeriods of madness, the sociologist says; but “the distinguishing characteristic of our Russian insanity consists not only that it is permanent but also that it is given sacred meaning.” It has become “a national value,” evidence that Russia has something special to teach the world.
There is one sense in which this is correct, Tsipko says. He cites the observation of Petr Chaadayev who argued that “the meaning of Russian history consists in ‘giving the world some important lesson,’ to show it how people who are intelligent and have good sense should never under any circumstances act.”
Consequently, “if someone were to write a book about madness in the history of humanity, he would have to devote an entire chapter to the analysis of madness of Russians in the 20th century.” And he would soon recognize that “Russian madness of the post-commnist era is even more dangerous than the earlier version because it reflects “a dark death instinct.”
Tsipko gives an example views about the sovereignty of the RSFSR. That sovereignt arose “not only from the heritage of Russian history but also from the results of the May 9 victory. It marked the death of the Russian world. The present-day Russian Federation doesn’t have the moral right to be the legal successof of the USSR beccuase precisely it was the initiator of the murder of historical Russia.”
“But neither our people nor our politicians understand this. And clearly it is insanity to first do everything possible and impossible so that Crimea will become ‘not ours’ and after only a quarter of a century, these very same people kill the future of the country so that at a terrible price they get back what they in 1991 voluntarily threw into the ashheap of geopolitics.”
“Practically all current bright ‘Crimea is ours’ people, except for Aleksandr Prokhanov were supporters of the disintegration of the USSR; more than that, they made their political careers thanks to its collapse. Many current politicians and military figures ran from Gorbachev to Yeltsin” despite “the openly anti-Russian policy” of the latter which “destroyed the USSR.”
The liberals are to blame as well, he continues. “They were consistent in their struggle with what they called ‘the imperial heritage of Russia.’” But “they too bear direct responsibility for the insanity of the new Russian autocracy … [because] on the blood of the defenders of the parliament it was not possible to create anything besides a new variant of Russian autocracy.”
Thus, Tsipko concludes, “the break with good sense is characteristic not only for all Russian eras, each of which gives us examples of its own insanity but also for absolutely all political parties of Russia.” And thus “our tragedy is that neither our politicians nor out people can peacefully coexistence with good sense or the truth.”
Historically, he continues, “the stronger the traditional Russian autocracy and the more subservient the Russian people deifies its leader, the less the leader of the country thinks about the negative consequences of the decisions he takes and the less he is capable of controlling himself, the easier it is for him to act irrationally.”
According to Tsipko, “many say that without a super powerful state, there will not be any order or stability in Russia. I don’t know,” he says; “but one must see that in post-Crimea Russia, the autocracy of the ruler has crippled the souls of the people. Autocracy and a feeling of personal responsibility for the fate of one’s country are incompatible.”
Conversely, “the weaker Russian autocracy is, the more harmless Russian madness is in human terms … The de-humanization of today’s Russian man is manifested not only in that the values of freedom and truth have become alien to him but also in that – and this is especially horrific, the more the value of human life becomes alien as well.”
“It is impossible to combine good sense and today’s ‘While there is Putin, there will be Russia’ because behind this phrase is the conviction that Russia in and of itself is worth nothing and that you and your children are condemned to die after the inevitable death of Putin.” Tsipko says he has never before in his life “encountered such insanity among the people around” him.
Indeed, he says, “there is an essential difference between the fatalism and slavish abasement of the Soviet man and the fatalism of those who today consider what they should take into a bomb shelter in the case of the beginning of a third world war.” Soviet people had their limitations, but that was not one of them.
It is undoubtedly the case, Tsipko continues, that “the super-power of Putin has removed from t eh agenda the issue about the future of Russia. There remain only murky conversations about passing through the bottom of the crisis and about some breakthrough or other.”
If the current “by Russian standards all-powerful nature of Putin – compare the all-powerfulness of Putin with that of Stalin and you will understand what I’m talking about – further spiritual degradation awaits us,” the commentator says. And it will involve “fear of the truth, of having one’s own opinion ... [and] of apathy.”
Any revolution given Russia’s current state, Tsipko argues, would be disastrous “because we are not a consolidated nation like the Armenians who think about how a crisis will lead to the deaths of their fellow citizens.” Instead, Russians are more like Ukrainians and any Maidan “will inevitably lead to bloodshed, to revenge over those who had been in power, to the dividing up of property, and to a new edition of Russian anarchy.”
People must understand that in Russia then, “a revolution of the Armenian type would inevitably lead to the final disintegration of everything in the Russian Federation that remains from the USSR.” And as a result, as long as Putin remains in power, “there are no real paths for overcoming his power by means of the development of democracy.”
Instead, he says, such an effort would collapse into “a new edition of Russian autocracy” just as happened with Russian democracy in the 1990s. And that means there is no clear road forward that doesn’t lead the country into yet another dead end.