Staunton, May 23 – Like the United States but unlike Russia west of the Urals, “Siberia is a melting pot of peoples, civilizations, and cultures,” the reflection of the enormous number of migration waves, some voluntary and some involuntary, that have passed through this enormous space and promoted the formation of a new identity, according to Pavel Levushkan.
Levushkan, a Lutheran pastor who was born and raised in Siberia but returned to Latvia after 2014 when conditions in Russia deteriorated to the point that he couldn’t function, makes these remarks in an interview given to Vadim Shtepa of the After Empire portal (afterempire.info/2018/05/22/levushkan/).
“This melting pot of peoples and cultures has created in Siberia a special atmosphere of openness and tolerance at least it was during [his] time there, when people didn’t ask what’s your origin or religious confession?” the pastor says. Siberians were tolerant to people of various ethnic groups and religious denominations.
“Now the situation has become worse as a result of the intensifying imperial unification, there has been a change in attitude including among Siberians. But it seems to me that this is temporary and will pass because Siberian tolerance and openness are historical phenomena connected with the difficult conditions that forced people to trust one another, cooperate and easily accept new arrivals.”
He continues: “In this sense, Siberia reminds [him] of the early period of the US and perhaps even of contemporary Europe when a multitude of cultures became one of the fundamental values of the European Union. Tolerance, openness and multiculturalism are the basis of a future Siberian identity.”
As to when Siberia will gain autonomy or independence, Lavushkan says, that is a question both for dialogue among the Siberian community itself and for talks between it and the rest of the world.” But he concludes that “for [him], it is perfectly evident that Siberia by its spirit is not a colony however the imperial rulers relate to it.”
“Siberia is a special element of the Russian cultural world. Not that ‘Russian world’ as a Kremlin political meme but of the Russian cultural world as an archipelago of various regional differences and regional variations,” the pastor continues. It is one such Russian island: there are others in Eastern Europe, Ukraine and elsewhere.
“If one recalls the already classical novel, The Island of Crimea,” Lavushkan says, he believes that “Siberia should be a similar civilizational ‘island,’ and not in any case be swallowed up by that crypto-fascist empire which is now being formed on the territory of [his] former motherland.”