Monday, November 10, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Donbas Highlights Russia’s ‘Flight from Freedom,’ Sociologist Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, November 10 – The fighting in the Donbas is a clash between two types of nationalism, civic Ukrainian nationalism of a Western type and “a unique crusade” against that kind of nationalism that is powered by a Russian “flight from freedom” Erich Fromm described in his classic 1941 book on the rise of fascism in Europe.


            That is the conclusion of sociologist Denis Sokolov who pointedly notes that the pro-Moscow insurgents are conducted “a unique crusade against Ukrainian civic nationalism” and indeed against the possibility of civic nationalism in Russia itself (


            However paradoxical this may seem, Sokolov continues, the crusade of the pro-Moscow militants in the Donbas represents “their attempt with arms in their hand to find vertical lifts in the stratified political system of Russia,” something that they do not feel they can achieve any other way.


            Thus, this conflict “not only is accelerating the process of the formation of the national identity of Ukrainians,” the sociologist says. It also “can stimulate the change of elites and political institutions in the entire post-Soviet space,” including the Russian Federation as well.

And because of what the pro-Moscow forces represent, this is truly disturbing.


            Many of the pro-Moscow forces “do not conceal but even stress their links with the Russian special services,” thus giving “a sacral meaning to their actions” and making it “part of an ideology, a hybrid phantom of the Orthodox Third Rome and the USSR: the security service in Luhansk even calls itself the NKVD.”


            For both sides then, the conflict is both a fatherland war and a civil war because each side is divided, Sokolov says.  But at the same time, Sokolov says, “something completely new is taking place, and a new stratum is rapidly being formed.” That stratum consists of those who have fled, not so much physically as from freedom itself.


            According to Sokolov, that “flight from freedom” is in many respects the same one that Erich Fromm described in his 1941 book of that title about the way in which Nazism came to power in Germany. In all too many ways, not only the pro-Moscow fighters in the Donbas but the Russian political landscape as a whole now represents a “Russian ‘flight from freedom.’”


            As Sokolov notes, “Fromm writes about the collapse of the middle class, the growth of the role of monopolies and the political mobilization of the lower ranks of the middle class: their role [in the case of the Russians in the Donbas] is being playe dyb bureaucrats from the executive power, deputies of all levels, and siloviki.”


            Moreover, again as Fromm noted, among the Russian forces in Ukraine, “external and internal enemies have been defined, and ‘the flight from freedom’ has begun.” How far this process will go in Russia itself remains to be seen, but how far it can go is being shown now among the pro-Moscow forces in the Donbas.



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