Sunday, June 21, 2020

Patrushev’s Talk about Uniqueness of Russian Culture Recalls Senghor’s about Négritude and May have Same Result, Gallyamov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 19 – Nikolay Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian Security Council who apparently has decided to serve as the chief ideologist of the Putin regime, says in his latest article that Russia is unique because of its spirituality, something other nations do not have and that leaves them all fundamentally alike, Abbas Gallyamov says.

            This view, the former Putin speechwriter and current commentator says, reflects Patrushev’s fundamental ignorance about the world. Despite that, however, his views may be instructive about why various national leaders have said the same thing and what happened to them when they did (

            Just how similar Patrushev’s ideas about Russia are to ideas others have about their nations can easily be seen if one replaces in his article the word “Russia” with the word “Africa.”  If one does that, Patrushev’s words are almost identical to those written more than half a century ago by Leopold Senghor, the first president of Senegal and an advocate of Négritude.

            Négritude, Gallyamov says, is “the conviction that the true center of morality in the world is hardly Russia but Black Africa.”  Like Patrushev and others who speak of Russia’s unique spiritual standing of Russia, Senghor and his allies opposed Africa to the rationalism and individualism of Europeans.”

            In an entirely natural way, just like Russian advocates of an analogous view of their country, “the Africans were very proud of their distinctiveness from the rest of humanity. ‘Pride in one’s race,’ Senghor wrote, ‘is the first demand of Négritude.”

Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian writer and Nobelist, such expressions of pride reflect not strength but weakness and reflects the way in which those who make them are on the defensive. Galllyamov says that is very true: “Instead of simply living and creating, the ideology of ‘national pride’ forces the nation that adopts it to eternally trying to prove something to others.”

Having drawn attention to this parallel between now official Russian discourse and Négritude, the commentator continues, he has come to the conclusion that the powers that be in Russia “really have something to learn from their African colleagues” whose attachment to that idea did not end well.

In 1964, Kwame Nkrumah, the once popular president of Ghana, in response to his declining ratings which were brought about by corruption, economic decline and foreign policy adventures, decided to tighten the screws and amend the country’s constitution by “a specially organized referendum.”

Given his control of the situation in his country, Nkrumah received the vote he wanted: 96.5 percent of the voters took part; and 99.91 percent voted in favor of his amendments.  Unfortunately, for him, a year and a half later, he was overthrown by a military coup which “rapidly grew into mass street celebrations.”

Nkrumah spent the remainder of his life in neighboring Guinea expecting to be called back, but no such appeal ever came.

Joking aside, Gallyamov says, “all those ideals which the supporters of Négritude and Russian propagandists are trying to set themselves up against Europe,” even though both were “part of European heritage.” But even more, Europeans like Rousseau and the German romantics had already shown the way with their criticisms of Enlightenment rationalism 200 years earlier.

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