Staunton, June 24 – Like members of all nation, Russians function on the basis of a mental map; but unlike some others, Vitaly Averyanov argues in a new book, the Russian mental map requires a clearly defined enemy. If the existence of such an enemy comes under question or is denied, the Russian nation and the Russian state are at risk.
That is what happened in the 1970s and 1980s when Russians were told they were part of a common European home with universal values, the Izborsky Club analyst says; and because many accepted that idea, the integrity of Russian identity and then of the USSR was undermined and in the latter case destroyed.
Aleksey Komorgortsev of the Russian Strategy Institute provides a close and sympathetic reading of Averyanov’s new book, The Mental Map and the National Myth (in Russian; Moscow: Rodina, 2021, 320 pp.), at russtrat.ru/comments/24-iyunya-2021-0010-4768). What follows here comes from this review rather than from the book itself.
According to Averyanov, “the patriotic community is not armed with an adequate mental map of the Russian people” and thus is not in a position to assess adequately how and why Russians respond to various incursions and threats to that map both within and from abroad. His book, he says, is intended to fill that gap.
The historian argues that “one of the causes of the continuing social lethargy’ and absence of initiative ‘from below’” is that the West has for a half century not presented itself as the enemy of Russia and as a result, Russians have not seen the West as the threat it is precisely because it acts as an enemy but denies that it is doing so.
Russian leaders often ignore this, both the author and his reviewer insist, because they view such things as cultural rather than political. But Averyanov says that culture is politics and that Russian elites must recognize and act on that fact if they are to prevent the demise of Russians and Russia as a result of the wolf in sheep’s clothing approach of the West.