Staunton, August 4 – Liberal ideas destroyed the USSR in 1991, and it is no surprise that Moscow has now rejected them lest they destroy the Russian Federation, Grigory Gerasimov says. But it is currently struggling to figure out how to ensure that the traditional values shape rather than block development.
The Moscow historian says that after liberal ideas destroyed the USSR, “the Asian republics immediately turned away from the liberal project. A decade later, Russia did the same in order not to repeat the fate of the USSR. Those who continued the liberal experiment – Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova – didn’t achieve success (ng.ru/ideas/2021-08-04/7_8216_future.html).
“If it hadn’t been for the assistance of the European Union,” Gerasimov argues, the three Baltic republics would also have failed.”
According to the historian, “the 20th century showed that the path of liberal development was impossible for Russia because if adopted it would inevitably fall apart into several states” that would not have freedom, democracy or any future as developed countries.
Russia at present finds itself in an intermediate or transitional state, and its destination is unclear. “The majority of society does not want a return to communism, and a return to autocracy is also impossible. Therefore, traditional communist and Orthodox values about which so much is said hardly are needed for a future Russia.”
“The main problem of present-day Russian society and state is the lack of its own project and of clearly defined goals of development,” Gerasimov says. “Without these, any values which today seem important in the future will turn out to be obstacles to the development of society and the country.”
According to the historian, “traditional values are needed when society wants to return to its former state, but which past is it to return to? There isn’t one. And the liberal path of development is also closed. Under these conditions, a new project must be created; but most likely it will require other values” than traditional ones.
For Russia to survive competition with others and to flourish, it needs to adopt a policy designed to promote “accelerated scientific-technical, economic and innovative development. Without this, we simply will not be able to preserve our sovereignty.” Staying with the liberal one would mean keeping Russia subordinate to the West.
At present, the liberal West leads in creativity, but this does not necessarily have to remain the case. In the first half of the totalitarian USSR, it outpaced the West; only when the Soviet Union lost its drive and restricted inventive activities did the country stagnate and then die.
But in designing a goal for Russia, he continues, creativity must be an obligatory element if the Russian project is to be successful. Indeed, it would be a good thing for creativity as such to be defined as Russia’s goal. However, that is not enough because creativity without values can produce monsters.
What needs to be considered now is whether the traditional values those in the Kremlin are talking about will play a positive role and help guide creativity or destroy any possibility that Russia can creatively develop, Gerasimov says.
“On the one hand, in traditional values, there is no potential for development.” But “on the other, without having at least some values, there is a great danger that the pursuit of creativity alone will lead Russia off the rails. In the 20th century, Russia saw this happen several times. It can’t afford to have that happen again.
“Human reason cannot develop stable models of morality” because anything one reasonable person can suggest another reasonable person can reject if there is no larger framework. Religion has been used to limit that, but it no longer has enough influence to play that role in the future.
And that leaves Russia in a difficult position because few are certain which frameworks they should accept and which ones they should reject and what is the basis for this choice. Unless something in this regard can be worked out, there is a danger that “human reason, deprived of moral orientation” will lead the country into disasters rather than progress.