Staunton, July 19 – Whether Russia is part of Europe or not is almost an eternal question in Russia, with some insisting that Russia is part and parcel of Europe and others just as convinced that it is completely separate, Denis Dragunsky says. But in fact, the entire direction is an example of “a false problem.’
In an essay in the current tissue of Vestnik Yevropy, the Russian commentator says it is that because neither component is completely homogeneous and so those making the comparison often compare the wrong aspects and thus conclude that Russia is or is not Europe (magazines.gorky.media/vestnik/2021/56/rossiya-i-evropa-kak-lozhnaya-problema.html).
Many in the West and especially in Eastern Europe define Europe in terms of EU membership and thus insist that Russia is not Europe because it isn’t and never will be. But certainly Norway are European even though they aren’t in the EU either. And Britain was in the EU but now isn’t. Does that mean it isn’t European or has ceased to be?
Is the proper dividing line or basis of comparison political and legal values? That isn’t clear. In the 1990s, Russia wanted to be part of Europe and worked to institutionalize the values it viewed as European but then it turned away. And the same thing has happened with countries on the other side of the line.
Russia is part of Europe in terms of high culture, but is that sufficient? Again, the answer isn’t clear. And there is a further complication: a German professor can speak with his Russian counterpart far easier than either can speak with a peasant or worker of their own nationality. Does the commonality of the faculty members make Russia Europe or not?
But there is a deeper sense in which the issue of whether Russia “belongs” to Europe is a false problem. Those who debate the issue rarely define either part or specify which aspects are the more important and which are least. Thus, the answers they offer reflect political judgments more than anything else.
According to Dragunsky, “the problem ‘Russia and Europe’ contains in itself both characteristics of a false problem.” On the one hand, neither can exist without the other; and on the other, they are so varied in themselves that defining either or both, something required for any comparison is virtually impossible.
But what is important to remember, the commentator continues, is that such “false problems never arise by accident.” They are the product of the combination of attraction and repulsion that draws the two together and pushes them apart. And thus they are insoluble in principle.
“Europe fears Russia, its size, resources, military might and so on,” Dragunsky continues. “Russia envies Europe, its high standard of living, beauty, cultural wealth and all the rest of things like that. And the situation is complicated by the fact that Europe, in the opinion o f Russia has betrayed its white and Christian identity; while Russia in the opinion of Europe has rooted itself in the past century, the century of empires.”
“Russia and Europe are thus an erotic pair, and between them constantly arises the issue of love and/or respect.” But specifying that they are part of some larger whole or completely separate is precluded as a result because in important respects they are both.