Friday, July 24, 2015

Apocalyptic Russian Nationalist Utopias of Today Closely Resemble Pre-1917 Antecedents

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 24 – In the last years of the Russian Empire, Russian conservatives composed numerous utopias in which “the Russian World defeated the West by establishing ‘Russian spirituality’ throughout the entire world and also numerous dystopias in which Russia was defeated, occupied, dismembered and destroyed.

            “Russia today finds itself in approximately the same situation as it did a century ago,” Pavel Pryannikov writes, having seen “the destruction of its imperial ambitions, the exhaustion of its former economic model and the growth in the stratum of the population oriented toward the West” (

            He like the other authors cited her viewed war not so much as a geopolitical issue but as having “an important symbolic dimension. They viewed war with Germany as an expression of the national self-consciousness of the Russian people which finally was able to throw off the foreign cultural yoke imposed on the country by Peter” and end deference to the West.
            At the dawn of the 20th century, writers in many countries were coming up with utopias and dystopias, but Russia’s crop was unique not only in that it obsessed with the occupation and disintegration of the country, something “fewer than two percent” of American political fantasies at that time did, Pryannikov says.
            But more important, the issues which animated Russian apocalyptic writing then continue to define it now and to affect the views of the country’s elite, something that also sets Russia apart and makes attention to these long-ago and apparently-forgotten writers more important than would otherwise be the case.

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