Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Like Other Fundamentalists, Russians Reject the Modern World and Foolishly Assume They can Outlast It, Martynov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 8 – Surrounded by a world going through radical changes, Russians in contrast like fundamentalist Muslims have a clear idea of themselves, one “based on the idea of the denial of any change” for themselves, Kirill Martynov says. As the result, most see the Putin era “golden age” and are nostalgic for the Brezhnev era which also promised no change.

            The political editor of Novaya gazeta notes that “human psychology resists change and people are typically conservatives.” That makes opting out of periods of rapid change attractive, but it also means that “you can’t influence the course of history” and when it intersects with your life, the result is “painful and disastrous” (

            As sociologists of religion point out, Martynov continues, “fundamentalist religious communities,” be they Orthodox Jews, conservative Christians, or new movements in Islam, also refuse to participate in modernity and “emphasize their differences with it even though they emerged as a reaction” to precisely these changes.

            One can see that in Moscow where non-religious immigrant workers turn to Islam “because this is often the only way they can defend their human dignity in a corrupt and xenophobic environment where they have to work to earn their living.”  And one can see it in Afghanistan where the fundamentalist Taliban have won precisely because they reject the modern world.

            “If you think there is any fundamental difference between someone who advocates stability and order, who is interested in the opinions of Vladimir Solovyev on a variety of issues and who generally supports the Putin government, on the one hand, and a native of Central Asia who goes to Friday prayers at the cathedral mosque in Moscow, you are mistaken.”

            Both these groups, the Russians and the new Muslims reject change because they do not want to live with uncertainty.  And because they reject the rest of the world, they posit that the rest of the world is their enemy which wants to destroy them.  Often this appears to be a successful political strategy in many countries, not just Russia and Afghanistan.

            But it only works for so long, only “until everything collapses” under the pressure of the very changes that prompted the rejection of change and until “everything collapses” – and a new “time of nostalgia” for a lost golden age comes again.

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