Staunton, November 16 – Today, as every year since 1995, the world marks the International Day of Tolerance, a value shared by many peoples and cultures throughout history, Viktor Yerofeyev says. But unfortunately, it now divides the democratic world where it is a core value from authoritarian regimes like Russia which view it with suspicion and hostility.
There are very few states in the world which proclaim their opposition to tolerance, the Russian writer says. North Korea is one. But there are many more authoritarian ones that in fact promote intolerance while denying they are doing so (dw.com/ru/виктор-ерофеев-чужда-ли-россии-культура-толерантности/a-51252369).
Russia is among them, he continues, and is moving toward being among those states “which assert their national sovereign truth and do not really accept the values of tolerance.” In this, they place themselves at odds with the West and thus open the door to “a fundamental conflict of the two systems, something fraught with catastrophes up to and including global war.”
Historically, Yerofeyev says, tolerance has not been highly valued by Russians. “It is associated with weakness, ‘rotten’ compromises and the surrender of the position that ‘he who is not for us is against us.” Despite that, “many young people, the middle class, artists, scholars, and opposition groups share the principles of tolerance.”
What is especially disturbing is that intolerance of others is growing at the official level. “Even in Brezhnev’s Soviet Union, the official ideology was more restrained because in the West, from the point of view of Marxism, lived not only ideological enemies but also workers and peasants who were brothers in terms of mentality.”
The West has its problems with tolerance, of course; but they are different. There is the paradox of intolerance of intolerance, including arguments about its limits, and the danger that when it is insisted upon at all costs, it can become “repressive tolerance,” destroying the very values it is supposed to promote.
“In Moscow,” Yerofeyev concludes, “the Center for Tolerance at the European Museum promote free dialogues about tolerance. They are what is needed for the future of Russia. Indeed, tolerance by itself will become the symbol of changes when and if, God willing, they take place.”