Sunday, January 8, 2023

For Five Years, Riga-Based Harbin Portal has Sought to Keep Russian Conservatism Alive

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 7 – After the tragic events of 2014, Dimitry Savvin says, many people felt there was “almost nothing left of authentic and historical Russian conservatism.” But in an effort to light a candle rather than curse the darkness, he and others like him created the Harbin internet portal based in Riga but having writers from Russia and around the world.

            “Harbin” has now marked its fifth birthday, a long time in the émigré world, and Savvin, its editor in chief, now offers a commentary about what he and others like him feared after the Crimean Anschluss and what they thought they could achieve by such an effort – and in fact have (

            Five years ago, he writes, it was obvious that “the last islands of White Intransigence which had existed in the emigration were dissolving into the swamp of National-Bolshevik ‘patriotism’ and ideas about ‘the ingathering of Russian lands.’ And those who didn’t fall into that swamp fell into the other extreme merging with liberal and even left liberal milieux.”

            In Russia itself, Savvin notes, “the situation was even worse: Russian nationalism which had appeared to have begun to escape the intellectual and mental quagmire of late-Soviet ‘national patriotism’ fell back into it after an interval of 20 years. The cult of May 9, illiterate conspiracy theories and sectarianism began to be called ‘Russian conservatism.’”

            Those who came together to launch “Harbin” knew they couldn’t “stop this collapse.” But they felt that they could “create an alternative to it,” by launching a completely independent sit beholden to no one and dedicated to the proposition that the Soviet and neo-Soviet state are “the main enemies of the Russian people.”

            The “Harbin” community, Savvin writes, committed itself moreover “not just to ‘the preservation of the conservative tradition” but to its development and to defending the idea that no conservative Russian worldview is possible without a true understanding of Orthodox Christian ideas.


            How much have we achieved? he asks rhetorically. Less than we hoped but more than we might have. And so the authors of the “Harbin” portal will continue to work, confident in Jesus’ teaching that “some seeds will surely fall into good ground and bring forth fruit a hundredfold.”

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