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An anti-Putin journalist gets her throat slashed by an intruder forcing his way into one of the last bastions of “free, independent journalism” in Russia.

As if that wasn’t enough, it came on the background of a recent Russian TV geopolitical drama series called “The Sleepers” – sort of a Russian analogue of “The Americans” – about CIA attempts to foment a color revolution in Russia, which was prominently featured on leading TV station Channel 1 and evidently enjoyed official support thanks to its “patriotic” themes. In particular, one scene featured the murder of a female liberal journalist by getting her throat cut, as part of a terrorist campaign against the pro-Western opposition that is orchestrated by the CIA as a false flag to discredit the Kremlin.

So not only was this a picture seemingly perfectly made for Western cameras, but it was also one further accentuated by the paranoia fuel provided by this dark example of fiction seeping into reality.

Predictably, the Russian liberal crowd wasted no time in rushing off to blame the Kremlin, Putinists, Channel 1, and Russians in general.

navalny-on-stabbing

Alexey Navalny: Nothing is clear yet. But they have already concluded: No politics, nothing to do with journalism. How interesting. First thing RIA and Interfax rush to tell us is that this is hooliganism, personal motives, and has no relation to journalism.

orlova-on-stabbing

Karina Orlova (Russia correspondent for The National Interest; also affiliated with Echo of Moscow): Everyone who doesn’t consider himself to be the lowest worm must name Minaev (the author of the scenario) a bastard, must name Ernst a bastard, must name the director Bykov a bastard, must name every actor in this series a bastard, and must stop communicating with them, greeting them, being friends with them, doing selfies with them. Any of my friends who are also friends with Minaev or any of the others, go fuck yourselves, you bitches, unFriend me immediately. And those of you who complained about the [liberal campaign of] smears against Bykov, please get the fuck out of here too.

dzyadko-on-stabbing

Tikhon Dzyadko (a well-known name in the narrow circles of the Russian liberal opposition): There are many psychos amongst Echo of Moscow’s listeners. If they learn from TV that Echo is an enemy, then they will draw their knives. You shitheads from Channel 1 – you are responsible for this.

Well, the least you could say was that he got the “many psychos amongst Echo of Moscow’s listeners” part right.

boris-grits

The man who stabbed Tatyana Felgenhayer, a liberal journalist at Echo of Moscow, was literally a mentally ill Jew, Israeli resident, and anti-Putin Ukraine supporter who believes she was telepathically hacking his brainwaves. Or, in other words, as many Russians joked, your representative Echo of Moscow listener (just substitute Putin for Tatyana Felgenhauer).

No, seriously, the perpetrator, Boris Grits, has been posting all about it on his blog since 2015. Here is his last post on the matter: https://bgrits68.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/diary/

Today I was finally convinced that hackers are working for this Felgengauer bitch.

For the last couple of days she started to look for a way to control my heart. She was trying to find a way to control and stop my breathing for a long time now. However, yesterday morning I woke up with a feeling of a steel ring around my heart. And this morning I had a feeling of heavy cold in my heart.

Due to this situation, now that she has transitioned from using me to satisfy her sexual desires to threatening my life, I have turned to a famous Moscow psychic, Mikhail Perepelitsin; I have known him for over 30 years, from my childhood days, when he treated me for nephritis.

I’ve asked him to have a look at this person, the person who follows me with such ruthless persistence and cruelty. Mikhail Lvovich asked me to send a photo of the person. And guess what happened at the exact moment I’ve tried to download her photo of the Internet? It broke. It worked fine before that, but I had to restart my mobile phone (I only have Internet access through my phone) several times to make it work again.

Now I’m not surprised that she instantly knows what I say and write, she watches me constantly.

Apart from giving us his Very Valuable Thoughts on how to contain Russia in Syria and the Ukraine, most of Grits’ blog is him whining about his failure to get an academic position at an Israeli university, despite having completed a postdoc at U.C. Davis and the University of Tel Aviv. This may have been the cause of his mental health problems.

Or Mossad (j/k).

boris-grits-jews-literally-did-this

What’s even funnier is that not only was Grits literally a “psycho Echo of Moscow listener,” he even had direct contacts with that clique.

Earlier this year, Grits had written to one Natalia Barschevskaya, asking her to provide him with legal advice (presumably to do with his failure to find academic employment). Accorging to her Twitter, Barschevskaya is a liberal socialite residing in “Moscow, London, and the entire world,” most of whose posts seem to be devoted to pouring dirt on Russia. Grits mentioned to her that he bathed her when she was 5-6 years old at a beach on the Black Sea. Back in 2014, Barschevskaya had written of a “romantic meeting” with Alexey Venediktov, the scandalous Jewish chief editor of Echo of Moscow, which suggests she revolves in that world.

The victim, Tatyana Felgenhauer, is herself an ethnic Russian, being the adoptive daughter of Pavel Felgenhauer, the military analyst who has predicted twelve of Russia’s past zero military defeats.

tl;dr version: It’s like a Jewish anecdote.

What happened: Schizo Jew suffering from paranoid delusions about Jews tries to murder the Russian adoptive daughter of a Jew at an anti-Putin media outlet headed by a Jew and financed by Gazprom.

Whom Russian liberals believe to be responsible: Putler, Channel 1, and Russian fascist scum in general.

 
• Category: Humor • Tags: Jews, Russia, Russian Media 
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Nossik was an Jewish-Russian journalist who perhaps more than anyone else shaped the contours of the Russian Internet. Apart from having a hand in starting up a huge percentage of the online news leviathans that still dominate the sphere, as an outspoken political personality he was also one of the most popular bloggers in his own right (dolboeb).

He has died at the age of 51, apparently after a vodka binge at a friend’s dacha.

prosvirnin-with-nossik Nossik heyday was “before my time” (he was becoming a name on Fidonet political discussions in Israel about Russia in the early 1990s; I started blogging in 2008). So I am not exactly qualified to write a balanced obituary about him, nor am I particularly interested in doing that. Instead, I will just write describe a few vignettes from his late life that I think tie in with my own blog’s themes.

But first, to set the political scene, Nossik’s fundamental convictions were “liberal” (see caveats) and pro-Western. Really, mostly the latter. For instance, in 2010 he attacked Assange for recklessly spilling American secrets and cooperating with the “Holocaust denier” Israel Shamir in Russia.

That said, this did not stop him from maintaining productive relations with media personalities in both the pro-Kremlin camp (e.g. Maksim Kononenko, Konstantin Rykov) and Russian nationalists (e.g. Sputnik i Pogrom’s Egor Prosvirnin, see right).

At the end of the day he was a Jewish/Zionist nationalist. He was rarely seen without with yarmulke, and was always very explicit about how his concern for Israel took precendence over the more… universalistic ideals that he at times claimed to profess.

For instance, here is a transcript of his interview with the liberal Gazprom-funded Echo of Moscow in October 2015, where a conversation about Russian misdeeds in Syria between the handshakeworthy crowd took a bit of an unexpected turn:

Nosik: What is Russia doing [in Syria]? It’s killing women, children, old people.
Interviewer: And you support this?
Nosik: Sure. They’re Syrians.
Interviewer: But they’re people.
Nosik: No, they’re Syrians.
Interviewer: So Syrians aren’t people?
Nosik: In what sense? They present a danger to Israel.
Interviewer: And women and children and old people too?
Nosik: I don’t care, if they present a danger to Israel.
Interviewer: But what danger can women and children and old people constitute?
Nosik: Women? They give birth to Syrian soldiers. If they are bombed, they won’t give birth to Syrian soldiers. And thank God!

L means Learn calm, moderate nationalism from the Jews,” sarcastically commented Sputnik i Pogrom.

He immediately followed it up with a blog post where he called on Syria to be wiped from the face of the Earth.

Now this wouldn’t have led to any consequences in Western countries, where hate speech laws only really applies to criticism against Jews, Muslims, and various sexual minorites. However, retrograde as Article 282 – Russia’s prime hate speech law – might be, it does at least tend to be applied more consistently. For instance, back in the 2000s, the Russian “journalist” Boris Stomakhin served a term for encouraging terrorism against ethnic Russians (Western human rights outfits such as the Committee to Protect Journalism predictably labeled him a victim of Putler’s regime). This is, incidentally, a state of affairs that European institutions are very, very sad about, repeatedly calling on Russia to make Article 282 less “politicized.” That is, only have it apply to nationalists, as in Europe, and as was the intention of the mostly Jewish “liberals” and “human rights activists” who had pushed it through the Duma in the first place.

Anyhow, the Jewish nationalist Nossik must have failed to take this specificity of Russian law into account, and was charged with Article 282 in 2016. (That said, in all fairness, I should point out that Nossik himself was not a hypocrite about this – he has been criticizing Article 282 for more than a decade on his blog). Unlike many other less prominent people, he escaped the two year jail sentence recommended by the prosecutor, and got off with a 500,000 ruble fine (lowered to 300,000 rubles on appeal).

Which for him was pocket change anyway. This morning, I was amused to see one of the “thought leaders” in Russian transhumanism criticize Nossik on Facebook because he had apparently paid the man $10,000 in 2010 to propagandize radical life extension, but Nossik just took the money and promptly forgot all about it. (Amusingly, $10,000 would have been just sufficient to pay off the original fine at today’s exchange rate).

The lesson to be drawn from this? “And now Anton Nossik has died. What more can I say? He should have done more for life extension.” I would also add: Goys should always put contracts to paper.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Jews, Russian Media 
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This month the SF Bay Area based rationality organization LessWrong has released the latest survey of its members, or rather of its “diaspora,” since the site itself has gone mostly dormant with many of their members now congregating at Scott Alexander’s blog and Yudkowsky’s various offshoots).

Although some critics disparage Less Wrong as a clique of depressed autists – a stereotype considerably affirmed by its own surveys – it also hosts a concentration of highly motivated and intelligent people, many of whom are involved in cutting edge pursuits (artificial intelligence, transhumanism, effective altruism) and, one suspects, will on average achieve more and contribute more to technological and scientific progress than even the typical person of a similar IQ. As such, that makes LWs an interesting object of sociological study.

Less Wrong Demographics 2016: International

Taking into account only people who gave concrete answers to the question of nationality, 54% of LWs listed their primary country as the United States, while fully three quarters belonged to the Anglosphere (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand). The biggest non-Anglo communities were in Germany, Russia, Poland, France, Sweden, and Israel.

Below are all the countries which hosted more than 1% of the global LW community as gauged by the 2016 survey.

Country Share of Global LW Population
United States 54.1%
United Kingdom 7.8%
Canada 6.0%
Australia 5.9%
Germany 3.5%
Russia 2.3%
Poland 1.7%
France 1.4%
Sweden 1.3%
Israel 1.2%
Netherlands 1.1%
Denmark 1.1%
New Zealand 1.1%
India 1.1%
Finland 1.0%
Others 9.6%

In per capita terms, as you might have guessed, this is in ethnic terms a primarily Anglo, Judaic, and Nordic community. It has a modest presence in East-Central Europe, which begins to fade as you go into Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and Latin America, and vanishes almost entirely in high IQ East Asia (even in rich, developed countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan which all have strong contacts with the SF Bay Area, the epicenter of the global LW community).

map-lesswrong-global-demographics-2016

In geographic terms, the Hajnal Line can as usual be discerned but it is shifted substantially east into Eastern Europe. Possibly this is because many LWs have a programming background, and Eastern Europe has no shortage of good programmers.

Less Wrong Demographics 2016: United States

Considering only the US, non-Hispanic Whites are substantially overrepresented relative to their share of the US population, while Hispanics and especially Blacks are very much underrepresented.

LessWrong Race (USA, 2016) %share %USpopulation Overrepresentation
White (non-Hispanic) 87.3% 62.1% 1.41
Middle Eastern 0.6% 2.5% 0.22
Hispanic 2.3% 16.9% 0.14
Black 0.4% 12.6% 0.03
Asian (Indian subcontinent) 1.9% 1.3% 1.52
Asian (East Asian) 3.5% 4.3% 0.81
Other 4.1% 9.1% 0.45

East Asians are underrepresented, though they converge with (non Jewish) Whites when Fillipinos – of whom there are almost as many as Chinese in the US – are removed from the East Asian category. However, considering that Less Wrong has its epicenter in the SF Bay Area, which is now a quarter Asian, and it becomes fair to say that relative to the population that Less Wrong typically draws upon – technically inclined, high IQ, Californian, SF Bay Area – and the East Asian underrepresentation becomes very, very substantial (though it is impossible to quantify this precisely since this survey had no information on where precisely in the US respodents came from).

In so doing, this underrepresentation provides yet another hint towards alternative explanations for the “bamboo ceiling” that have nothing to do with structural oppression and more to do with things like whether you have the curiosity to browse through Yudkowsky’s sequences in your free time.

LessWrong Race (USA, 2016) %share %USpopulation Overrepresentation
White (non-Hispanic) 76.7% 62.1% 1.23
Middle Eastern 0.3% 2.5% 0.13
Hispanic 1.9% 16.9% 0.11
Black 0.4% 12.6% 0.03
Asian (Indian subcontinent) 1.9% 1.3% 1.52
Asian (East Asian) 3.5% 4.3% 0.81
Jews 11.9% 2.0% 5.97
Other 3.3% 9.1% 0.37

When the figures are adjusted to count people who identify as Jews as a separate ethnicity, that dramatically lowers White overrepresentation and basically converges Middle Easterners with Hispanics. Asians from the Indian subcontinent overtake them, though not when adjusted for their greater demographic presence (not to mention intelligence and presence in the tech world) in the SF Bay Area.

lesswrong-racial-demographics-usa-2016

Meanwhile, the Jews themselves come to account for a larger share of the Less Wrong population than all the other non-White minorities combined.

lesswrong-racial-demographics-usa-2016-overrepresentation

There are six times as many Jews in Less Wrong as their share of the US population. Apart from their off cited intelligence, there are also relatively more Jews in the SF Bay Area than the average for the US, at around 3% of the population. Furthermore, considering that both of the most prominent “gurus” of Less Wrong, Eliezer Yudkowsky and Scott Alexander, are Jews, this is perhaps not all that surprising.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Jews, Rationality, San Francisco 
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With results for all its precincts now in, it emerges that Brighton Beach (aka “Little Odessa”) voted 84.1% for Trump – his sixth highest result in all of NY’s ~300 neighborhoods.

brighton-beach-4-trump

The also heavily Sovok Jewish neighborhood of Seagate-Coney Island voted 81.4% for Trump.

(The big gray area on the map above is a single neighbood and only had 8 votes in total, which were evenly split between Trump and Cruz).

Commentator SFG writes:

As you theorized: Brighton goes for Trump (mostly), evangelical ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Orthodox Jews for Cruz. The richies in Manhattan go for Kasich. You can actually see the less upscale precincts east of Third Avenue going for Trump, whereas the superrich between Third and Fifth go for Kasich.

Cruz did pretty poorly outside of Orthodox Jews, which isn’t surprising when you insult the city.

These are huge outliers even relative to Trump’s outstanding performance in NY as a whole; as I write this, 96% of the votes have been counted and Trump is set to end up at 60% and with almost all of its delegates.

new-york-4-trump

The only major region in NY state which Trump didn’t win was Manhattan which went for Kasich.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Donald Trump, Jews, United States, US Elections 2016 
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sovok-jews-for-trump

The Atlantic’s Olga Khazan reveals that Russian-American Jews strongly support Trump.

“I don’t like big government,” Sundeyeva said. She made two circles with her thumbs and forefingers and pressed them against each other so they touched, like binoculars. This Venn diagram represents the interests of people and government, she said. “They don’t have very much in common.”

Today, she’s not a registered Republican, but like many of the readers of her newspaper, she said she’s starting to lean toward supporting Donald Trump for president. The other self-styled outsider in the race, though, holds no appeal for her. The only Bern she and many other Russians here are feeling is the one in the banya.

Although American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal, spearheading socially progressive initiatives like gay marriage and reliably voting for the Democrats, this absolutely does not apply to Russian-American Jews.

Actually that entire Atlantic article pretty much confirms everything I wrote in my popular 2012 article The 5 Types of Russian American, in which I called this particular demographic group “Sovok Jews” – an ironic reference to their retention of conservative Soviet habits while flip-flopping 180 degrees from the Communist internationalism espoused by their grandparents under the early USSR to the libertarian and Israeli Firster outlooks they harbor today.

Furthermore, the USSR’s early philo-Semitism reversed from later Stalinism on, with rhetoric about “rootless cosmopolitanism” and “anti-Zionism” even as the US became highly pro-Israel. In a neat ideological reversal, Soviet Jews in America whose parents had sung Communism’s praises turned to libertarianism and neoconservatism, and in the 2000’s, most became hardcore anti-Putinists. …

Yet while they harbor little love for Russia, Jewish Russian-Americans continue to speak Russian among themselves, play durak and eat borscht, and recite Radio Yerevan jokes. They remain stuck in the Soviet attitudes and tastes that they brought with them to American shores; arguably, far more so than ethnic Russians (who have co-evolved with post-Soviet Russia).

Back to The Atlantic article:

Menaker and Sundeyeva are part of a small circle—indeed, they know each other. Like with any immigrant group, the political views of Russians in the United States range widely. Ilya Strebulaev, a Russian-American and a finance professor at Stanford, said the left-leaning Russians he knows outnumber the right-leaning ones.

That is correct. Moreover, I would point out that as an academic, the type of Russians Ilya Strebulaev knows would be mostly fellow Egghead Emigres: The academics who fled Russia in the 1990s when scientific funding collapsed. Most of them are moderates, with little interest in and no talent for politics – I suspect Bernie Sanders would come first and Donald Trump second amongst them – which in practice puts them well to the left of Sovok Jews:

While they are now almost uniformly well-off, the Egghead Emigre lacks the Sovok Jew’s entrepreneurial drive, and as such there are very few truly rich among them. But on second thought this ain’t that surprising. Academia is a very safe environment (in terms of employment) and guarantees a reliable cash flow and career progression but it won’t make you a millionaire. The truly entrepreneurial Soviet academics have long since abandoned academia and made big bucks in the business world. …

As you may have deduced, the Egghead Emigre shares many similarities with the Sovok Jew. Nonetheless, many of them still retain a few patriotic vestiges; and politically, they are considerably to the left, with social democratic, socialist, and even Communist leanings being common (whereas Sovok Jews are right-leaning, ironically, unlike purely American Jews who tend to be more leftist). Though not many are still much interested in Russian politics, those who are typically vote for Prokhorov/Yabloko or the Communist Party.

Back to The Atlantic article:

Still, some researchers have found that Russian Jews tend to be both less religious than their American counterparts and more conservative. According to preliminary data from a survey being conducted by Sam Kliger, director of Russian-Jewish Community Affairs at the American Jewish Committee, between 60 and 70 percent of Russian-speaking Jews will vote Republican in this election. About that same percentage of American Jews backed Barack Obama in 2012.

With the exception of the LARPier elements of the White Russians, all Russian-Americans are strongly secular.

This is one of the main reasons why most Sovok Jews have no great enthusiasm for Ted Cruz, even though he positively fawns over Israel.

Many of them are torn between Cruz and Trump. “Cruz, I like that he’s conservative,” said Shkolnikov. “But what is not appealing to me is that he sounds like he’s preaching all the time. Maybe it’s because I’m Jewish, but I don’t like when Christians are preaching too much.”

About Trump, she says, “I don’t like his personality, but I like all his ideas.” …

“He’s a successful businessman,” he said. “He’ll be able to work with people. Plus, a guy who’s not a politician won’t be able to promulgate big government for its own sake.”

But Trump makes up with his entrepreneurial charisma, and any shortage of enthusiasm he might exude as regards support for Israel, he mores than makes up with his surfeit of opposition towards Islam and general ‘Murica! can-do attitude relative to the other candidates.

I would note here that Sovok Jews are highly nationalistic. I wouldn’t even call most of them neocons. Of course neoconservatism for all intents and purposes is Jewish nationalism, but its adherents hide it behind nauseous rhetoric about American exceptionalism and the necessity of spreading democratic values to every last mudhole on the planet. First generation Sovok Jews – at least, those who don’t go into politics or journalism – don’t care for appearances and are much more honest about their outright hate for Palestinians, Hezbollah, Iran, Islam, and anyone and everyone else that threatens Israel.

(For context: In Israel, this Sovok Jew demographic votes for the ultranationalist but not particularly religious Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman).

Of course Trump does have his risks.

It escalated until Wolfson rose up out of his seat, shouting. “Do you really want Trump to be your president? He’s going to sell you! He will sell you tomorrow to the Arabs!”

After all maybe the anime-obsessed Alt Righters waxing rhapsodically on Twitter about how Trump will drive out the (((merchants))) are correct after all? /s

Others at the party seemed more conflicted, particularly when it came to abortion, which was widespread and normalized in the Soviet Union. “We have become successful and comfortable within capitalism,” said Gina Budman. “On the other hand, I really am adamantly pro-choice. And I would love to see education that is less expensive. I am for gay rights.”

They are lured, though, by the GOP’s more vociferous support for Israel, a country where many Russian Jews have friends and relatives. For some, this was a source of hesitation about Trump, the Republican front-runner, who said he’d be “sort of a neutral guy” on Israel.

Hard choices, hard choices…

FWIW, my own personal observations (n = ~10) bear all this out.

A couple of weeks ago I was meeting with a Jewish Russian and his Putin’s Expat (Russian) Russian wife. Although they had some major political differences – essentially, she is a pro-Putin Russian nationalist, while he is an anti-Putin Jewish nationalist (which I suspect causes no shortage of friction between them) – they were both conservatives and strong Trump supporters and both said they’d vote for Hillary out of spite if the Republicans were to cheat Trump out of the nomination.

Apart from his foreign policy positions they like most other main classes of Russian-Americans also really like his forthright style:

But their views provide insight into the rise of Trump, a phenomenon that has bewildered many liberals. Several of the guests said they appreciate Trump’s tendency to “say what people are thinking”—a definite plus in a culture not exactly known for being timid.

“We are so tired of not being able to say what we want,” Sundeyeva said. “[Trump] says politically incorrect things.”

But the children of Sovok Jews are becoming SJWs:

Several people at Menaker’s house lamented that their adult children are turning out to be more liberal than they are. (“Our children are all brainwashed already,” Menaker said.)

As I pointed out in my article on Russian-Americans, the offspring of Sovok Jews – secular like their parents, but far more liberal – are converging with the American Jewish mainstream.

But as the USSR is dead, this Soviet identity has no future; the children of Sovok Jews tend to undergo complete Americanization.

The one child of Sovok Jews whom I know quite well emigrated from Belarus at an early age and is a socialist who has been involved with Occupy Wall Street and has spent a good part of his time these past few months designing a slick website purporting to demolish “corporate media lies” about Bernie Sanders.

 
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According to neocon John Podhoretz, anyway:

podhoretz-no-jewish-russophile

Though I suppose you can expect nothing less from someone who is essentially a walking anti-Semitic stereotype.

podhoretz-jews-win

 

Incidentally, if you’re on Twitter, the subject of Podhoretz’s wrath @JewRussophile is well worth following for Syria and geopolitical updates.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Jews 
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This claim, funnily enough, comes not from some nutty Russian nationalist but the Jerusalem Post, citing a Russian Jew commenting in the wake of Russian oppositionist Boris Nemtsov’s murder.

The murder hit Russia’s sizable Jewish intelligentsia particularly hard because “nearly all the leaders of the liberal opposition are either fully Jewish or have Jewish background,” said Michael Edelstein, a lecturer at Moscow State University and a writer for the Jewish monthly magazine L’chaim. “His murder is the low point in a process that started about two years ago which has left the Jewish intelligentsia and its milieu feeling more uneasy than ever before in post-communist Russia.”

The reason this came to my attention was because it was trumpeted by American identitarian Kevin MacDonald, writing at the Occidental Observer. I can understand why he would be interested in highlighting this as it would tie in quite neatly with the main body of his work, which advances the thesis that Jews have consciously worked to undermine European ethnic solidarity as part of a group evolutionary strategy of Zionism for me, cosmopolitanism for thee.

Sidestepping that particular debate – in short, I am extremely skeptical, at least insofar as there is any kind of largescale organization behind it – this statement is clearly false as it pertains to the Russian (nonsystemic) opposition.

The real figure is not more than 25% at the very most, and probably more like 15% (perhaps slightly higher amongst prominent liberal journalists, but still nowhere near a majority). A reliable list of the most prominent oppositioners in Russia could be obtained from the answers to a poll asking participants of the December 24th, 2012 Meeting for Fair Elections which of the speakers they trusted most. They are listed below in order of their approval rating amongst the Russian opposition protesters (naturally they are completely unrepresentative of the country at large), together with their Semitic status derived from my observations of Russian politics, my jewdar, and some quick Wikipedia-ing. The “Internet” at large is unreliable; you even find crazy Neo-Nazis claiming that Putin himself is Jewish.

Approval (%) Jew?
Leonid Parfenov 41 No
Alexey Navalny 36 No
Boris Akunin 35 ½-Jew
Yury Shevchuk 33 No
Grigory Yavlinsky 27 No
Vladimir Ryzhkov 18 No
Mikhail Prokhorov 15 ¼-Jew
Evgenia Chirikova 14 No
Alexey Kudrin 13 No
Boris Nemtsov 13 ½-Jew
Gennady Gudkov 11 No
Ilya Yashin 11 No
Sergey Mironov 8 No
Sergey Udaltsov 8 No
Mikhail Kasyanov 7 No
Sergey Mitrokhin 7 No
Ilya Ponomarev 4 No

That’s a total of one and one-quarter Jews out of 16 opposition leaders, or not more than 8%. In fairness, the list leaves out two more very prominent oppositioners, the oligarch-in-exile Mikhail Khodorkovsky and former world chess champion turned street agitator Gary Kasparov, both of them half-Jewish through the father’s line, which would make for two and one-quarter Jews out of 18 opposition leaders. (If you go down that route, then surely Vladimir Milov and some other ethnic Russian oppositioners absent at that particular protest would have to be added too, but I will refrain from doing that just to demonstrate that even under very generous assumptions Jews constitute nowhere near a majority). That would bring the Jewish share of opposition leaders up to 13%. Counting Jews based upon maternal identity yields three Jews: Akunin, Nemtsov, and perhaps Prokhorov, whose maternal grandmother was Jewish. That’s still less than 17%. By far the most prominent Russian oppositionist today, the self-appointed crusader against corruption Alexey Navalny, is not Jewish; he is in fact half-Ukrainian, while Grigory Yavlinsky is fully so. Does this mean Russia’s opposition movement is led by a Jewish-Ukrainian cabal?

Now 15% is still a high number relative to the Jewish population share of less than 1%. But Jewish Exceptionalism of this sort is observed virtually everywhere (including the US, as prolifically documented by writers like Amy Chua and Steve Sailer) and throughout all domains of political, economic, and intellectual life. Bear in mind that in the politically neutral zone that is the Russian economy – neutral in comparison with opposition street politics, at any rate – Jews constitute 21% of Russia’s billionaires. These overrepresentations in economics and opposition politics are all readily explaineble by the relative cognitive preponderance at the far right (har) of the bell curve conferred by virtue of the 110-115 mean Ashkenazi IQ.

Jews who claim that the Russian opposition is led by their coethnics aren’t “letting the mask slip” or anything of that sort, they are merely indulging in some ethnic narcissism–as does anyone who buys into such claims without at least first examining the evidence.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Boris Nemtsov, Jews, Russian Jews 
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I do swear this is my last post on Auschwitz this year. But the followup to Putin’s disinvitation is too juicy to resist writing about.

Following in the Polish footsteps, Ukrainian PM Arseny Yatsenyuk has literally claimed that it was the Ukrainians, in particular soldiers from Zhytomyr and Lvov, who liberated Auschwitz. Here is a translation, with my own highlights:

“Today is the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. 70 years ago, fighters from Zhytomyr and Lvov, as part of the First Ukrainian Front, liberated from the Nazis one of the most horrific camps, Auschwitz, where millions of our brothers-Jews were tortured,” Yatsenyuk said, emphasizing that it was an important history lesson.

He also expressed his sorrow for victims of the Holocaust – millions of Jews and Ukrainians, who “became victims of Nazism and Stalinism.”

“Once again, we note the valor of the Ukrainian soldiers who freed Auschwitz and fought against Nazism,” Yatsenyuk added.

Note that this comes only a few weeks after Yatsenyuk claimed that he “would not allow the Russians to go through Ukraine and Germany, as they did in World War II,” a historical perversion that is insulting not only towards Russians and the vast majority of Ukrainians outside the most nationalist/historically collaborationist far western provinces, but also to the German audience to whom he was so evidently (and unsuccessfully) trying to suck up to.

Truly cringeworthy stuff.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRx30_eM1Kc

In response to these repeated Polish and Kiev regime antics, the Russian Defense Ministry unearthed archives with the precise ethnic composition of the 60th Army soldiers who liberated Auschwitz. Of its nearly 90,000 soldiers, there were 42,000 Russians, 38,000 Ukrainians, and numerous other nationalities. Overrepresented as they were on the Ukrainian Front, it must in these circumstances be emphasized that Ukrainians constituted neither a majority nor even a plurality amongst the liberators of Auschwitz.

Ethnic composition of the 60th Army, liberators of Auschwitz
Russians 42398
Ukrainians 38041
Belorussians 1210
Tatars 1088
Jews 1073
Kazakhs 708
Uzbeks 838
Georgians 555
Armenians 546
Poles 439
Mordvins 393
Chuvash 379
Azeris 304
Tajiks 178
Bashkirs 172
Turkmen 139
Kyrgyz 126
Moldovans 106
Udmurts 100
Mari 97
Ossetians 80
Dagestani peoples 55
Buryats 49
Komi 46
Kabardins and Balkars 31
Czechs and Slovaks 29
Greeks 25
Latvians 12
Estonians 11
Kalmyks 11
Finns 8
Bulgarians 7
Chinese 7
Komi-Permyaks 7
Chechens and Ingush 5
Lithuanians 4
Yugoslavians 1
Other peoples 203
TOTAL 89469

Why does Yatsenyuk insist on pulling stunt after rhetorical stunt like this? Okay, sure, for a Ukrainian of the Maidanist persuasion, sticking it to Russia and Russians is explainable in today’s circumstances. But insodoing, he not only insults largely Russia-friendly third parties (e.g. Belorussians, Kazakhs, Jews outside the Beltway) but also millions of his citizens, not only in Crimea and the Donbass, but in Odessa, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, and even Kiev. In a 2010 poll, the percentage of Ukrainians (87%) who consider Victory Day on May 9th as a celebration that belongs to everyone was only marginally lower than amongst Russians (91%). At a time when the Donbass is in open revolt, and widespread dissatisfaction wracks the big south-eastern industrial cities of putative Novorossiya – regions where the memory of the Great Patriotic War is hallowed – this cannot be considered in the least wise.

For a long time I have thought of Yatsenyuk as probably the most nationalistic and ideological of the big Maidan players. (Poroshenko is an oligarch and cofounder of the Party of Regions, and Tymoshenko’s primary concern has always been with her wallet; she became a billionaire as a Ukrainian bureaucrat). His mansion is very modest by high-ranking ex-Soviet politician standards. Then I stumbled across this treasure trove of his speeches from just two years ago, whose titles speak for themselves: “You can’t criticize Putin”; “The US dollar is just paper and a financial pyramid”; “Ukrainization was coercive”; “I have no ideology”; “I allow [the idea of] a confederation with Russia”; “Why isn’t NATO buying our airplanes?” So it’s evidently not “svidomy” ideological zealotry at play here either…

So I really don’t know. What do you think?

PS. Somewhat on-topic, here is Julia Ioffe’s (part of the Masha Gessen circle, with whom Sailer readers should be loosely familiar) take on the affair:

Putin visited a Jewish museum [AK: A museum that Putin had personally contributed to building] on the anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation and said: “Of course, the main burden was borne in the fight against fascism by the Russian people, 70% of the Red Army’s soldiers and officers – were Russians. And Russians constituted most of the victims on the altar of Victory.”

And they say that Putin isn’t an anti-Semite.

In his actual address, as opposed to Ioffe’s cherrypickings, Putin followed this up with an ode to the role of the Jewish people in World War II, noting that more than 500,000 of them fought in the Red Army and more than 40,000 as part of partisan units, that nearly every third of them went to the front as a volunteer, and that 200,000 died in battle.

However, so far as Julia Ioffe is concerned, talking about non-Jewish, and in particular Russian, contributions to the Allied victory is anti-Semitic.

Why should you pay attention to the deranged ramblings of this Sovok Jew, you might ask? Why, because soon, you’ll be seeing a lot more of her. Come this February, she is happy to announce that she will be joining the New York Times as a contributing writer.

A most formidable addition to its talent pool – feel free to send her your felicitations!

 
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Battle of the hacks! In response to Alexei Pankin calling him an anti-Semite in The Moscow Times, Oleg Kashin pens a tongue in cheek response telling him to imagine a kitten dying every time he abuses an overworn cliche.

On the Horrors of Anti-Semitism

In which Oleg Kashin gives some advice to the politologists.

The editors asked me to reply to a columnist in the English-language Moscow Times who accused Svobodnaya Pressa of – wow, wow! – anti-Semitism. I don’t even know how to object to this dear fellow – I love the way he holds that pipe in his mouth in his avatar; as for the rest of his remarks, I will only recycle what one of my friends has already noted: The Jewish question in Russia ended when those standard (which is to say, fascist) ads for apartment rentals marked “For Slavs only” started to encompass Jews, together with Russians, Ukrainians, and Belorussians. This was unimaginable even back in 1990 – you know, the era of Pamyat, and all that. Today – be my guest! Even the lumpenproles, ready at take part in some ethnic cleansing at the first opportunity, no longer consider Jews to be foreigners. In reality, it’s stupid to ponder on the differences between Ivan and Abram when Dagestan is in the foreground; those differences are negligible.

If there was any “social thought” whatsoever in the Russian Federation, beyond what we see at Svobodnaya Pressa and at one and a half other sites, there would have long been a flood of books, lectures, exhibitions, and films meditating upon the end of Russian anti-Semitism. But social thought, sucking away on his pipe, prefers to flog 20-year old stereotypes, whose authenticity somewhat resembles Intourist stories about bears and balalaikas.

Every time I have to speak before some foreign audience – well, not even “some” audience, but one that is prepared, and interested in Russian affairs – I am forced to answer questions about the threat of a Communist comeback in my country, about Moscow’s repressive policies towards the Chechen people, and even about the possibility that Russia could try to reconquer the Baltic countries. Patiently answering these questions (“No, ladies and gentlemen, the Communist Party is part of the political system”; “Excuse me, but Mr. Kadyrov himself represses whomsoever he wants”; “If they attack Europe, they will have nowhere to keep their money”), I can see despondency in the eyes of my interlocutors – they do not believe me, because the word of some unknown Russian can’t outweigh the terabytes of nonsense issued by all these veterans of the Valdai Clubs and Pugwash Conferences from both sides of their mutually beloved Iron Curtain.

Though it’s too late to do anything about Alexander Rahr or Nikolai Zlobin, I would however like to give some friendly politological advice to their less famous colleagues, who are easier to recognize by pipe than by name. Friends, next time you’re about to reproduce your typical analytical klyukva – imagine that a little kitten dies somewhere in Russia. Imagine that the kitten dies because he simply can’t bear to watch how credulous English-language readers are fed tales of Russia’s unreadiness for democracy, the popularity of “Ethnic Slurs” among the Russian opposition, and similar bears and balalaikas. Don’t think about about visitor views, reposts, and honorariums – think of the kittens. Maybe this will seem like an unserious argument to you, but it is surely – for all that – a more serious one than what you’re scribbling.

Mazel tov, friends!

(Republished from Russian Spectrum by permission of author or representative)
 
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As today seems to be the day of cool visualizations on this blog, so on this note I’d like to highlight a really cool way of analyzing the influence of various people (philosophers, coding languages, etc) on history.

One of the basic strategies is to feed the information in Wikipedia info-boxes into a computer program called gephi that creates graphs of influence. The more connections a particular node has the bigger it appears, and distinct groupings of objects have the same color. I won’t reproduce the images here because they are typically so big (>10MB) but they are quite fascinating so here is a list of links to the relevant posts.

  • Graphing the history of philosophy by Simon Raper. Note how the the algorithm successfully manages to recognize distinct schools just by analyzing the number of connections within them. The biggest nodes are those of Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx and Schopenhauer which is broadly consistent with general informed opinion on the greatest voices in Western philosophy.
  • Following up on the The Graph of Ideas by Griff’s Graphs (who is also the author of all subsequent graphs linked to here). It goes beyond the above by also including authors (including sci-fi/fantasy) and comedians. We get an idea of the most influential authors – Hemingway, Kafka, Dostoevsky, Faulkner, Borges, Nabokov, Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft; though the Big 7 philosophers both within philosophy and overall.
  • This was followed up by a Graph of Ideas 2.0 in which nodes were sized not by direct influence but by the total number of other nodes with which they were connected with (so, theoretically, an obscure ancient Greek philosopher with just one connection to Plato would also have access to Plato’s entire network). This results in a pretty meaningless graph in which the influence of ancient philosophers is over-weighed.
  • Graph of Mathematicians isn’t very useful because too many outright philosophers creep up and achieve prominent (Bertrand Russell? Avicenna?). There is no clearly dominant grouping.
  • The Graph of Programming Languages is more interesting; Haskell, Java, C dominate, followed by a dozen or so of the likes of Algol-68, C++, Fortran, Perl, Python, Lua, Ruby, Smalltalk, Pascal, and Lisp. I do not have the background to assess if this is an accurate representation of reality, though I’ve never heard of Haskell, and would have guessed Fortran and Lisp would be higher.
  • The Graph of Sports Teams.
  • The Graph of Beer though they don’t really influence each other all that much.
  • The Graph of Human Diseases is apparently dominated by colon cancer, breast cancer, leukemia, and deafness.

There is clearly a lot of scope to continue building on these graphs, especially involving ideas (philosophers, politicians, economists, sociologists, authors, etc) though finding or building the requisite databases is a time-consuming endeavour. Interesting patterns will also emerge. For instance, now that I think of it, the most influential person in history is Jesus Christ, and Karl Marx is surely in the top ten. Amazing really how deep Jewish over-achievement goes even on the biggest historical scale.

Another interesting project would be to build a graph of influence in the blogosphere perhaps based on some combination of blogroll connections and visitor numbers. This will of course be a very computationally demanding project given that there are something like 100 million blogs in existence today.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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The reason that some go on about Jewish financial dominance is that because in some sense it actually exists (although unlike the anti-Semites/ZOG’ers I see no evidence that it is achieved with under-handed, coordinated, or conscious methods on the part of Jews as a group). The blogger race/history/evolution notes recently compiled two tables analyzing the ethnicity of the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans. The first two columns describe their share of the Forbes 400 list in 1987 and 2010, while the third calculates their total wealth as a share of everyone on that list.

n% (1987) n% (2010) wealth% (2010)
Northwestern European 72 50.5 55.8
Jewish 23 36 35.4
Italian 2.25 4.25 2.6
East Asian 0.25 2.0 1.6
Middle Eastern 1.5 2.0 1.6
Greek 0.5 1.75 1.2
Eastern European 0.25 1.75 0.8
South Asian 0.0 1.0 0.4
Hispanic 0.25 0.5 0.2
Black 0.0 0.25 0.2

Immediately striking of course is the presence of American Jews, who constitute more than a third of The 0.0001% by both wealth and number. We know of course that there is a correlation between intelligence and income though it’s not overly strong (about 0.3). An IQ of 120 or at most 130 is typically assumed to be the cutoff point at which additional gains in intelligence cease to have much of an effect on earning power.

Of the US’ 6mn Jews, assuming an average IQ of 115 (other estimates, including Lynn’s, say 110) and SD of 15 there are about 1mn with an IQ of 130 or more. Of the US’ c. 150mn Northwest Europeans, assuming an average IQ of 100, there are about 3.5mn with an IQ of 130 or more. The “natural” ratio of NW European billionaires to Jewish is something like 3:1 or 4:1 (even using the higher estimates of Jewish IQ) whereas in reality it’s actually 14:10.

That said, this does not seem to be specific as such. Other diasporic peoples from the Med also do in excess of what their share of the high-IQ US population would seem to indicate. For instance, Greek Americans constitute about 0.5%-1% of the US population, but constitute 1.75% of the Forbes 400; Middle Easterners (Arabs and Iranians) constitute slightly more than 0.5% of the US population but also constitute 1.75% of the Forbes 400. It should be noted that the vast majority of Middle Easterners in the US are Arab Americans who in turn are Christians from the Levant, who have traditionally constituted market dominant minorities in the Near East along with Jews and Greeks. (Indeed, their reputation for trade and commerce goes back to Biblical times, i.e. Phoenicians).

It should also be noted that Greeks have an IQ of about 95 and Lebanon/Syria/Egypt of slightly more than 80. Although granted, the figures would be far higher for Arab Americans because of greater exposure to the Flynn Effect, and because they are Christian and as such, having lived under Christian laws, are unlikely to have had a long history of intensive consanguineous marriage as with the Muslims there. These caveats aside, it is still very likely that Greek Americans and Arab Americans have IQ’s lower than those of NW European Americans and as such their shares of the Forbes 400 is almost as impressive (if far less notably) in its way as that of the Jews.

Anyway, the pattern is clear. The share of billionaires by their ethnic groups appears to correlate very well with its share of the total high-IQ American population. The three major (upwards) outliers are Jews, Greek Americans, and Middle Easterners i.e. Christian Arab Americans. One wonders what it is about their culture (or genetic heritage? – they are all fairly close to each other on genetic maps) that make them outperform indigenous ethnic groups relative to their own average IQ’s and share of the population.

PS. From an earlier post, telling, Israelis and Greeks are some of the most materialistic peoples in the world in terms of considering wealth to be of importance. That might also be a factor why they produce more billionaires than one would expect them to.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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Via The Audacious Epigone: IQ scores by US ethnic groups. It is not very useful I think in theoretical or practical applications but it is interesting as a showcase of why IQ is more than just genetic inheritance, incorporating also Flynn, sampling issues, sense of popular identity, selection bias, etc.

Wordsum is basically a vocab test of 10 words (example). While one might not expect such a quick and simple test to accurately reflect IQ it actually does – the correlation between Wordsum scores and IQ is about 0.71. Respondents got to choose the one or two ethnic groups to which they belong. (See table below)

By and large, the results are as we would expect:

(1) Many of the Russians (about 50%) are, of course, Ashkenazi Jews. Explained.

(2) At first puzzling is the fact that Germans score considerably below the Irish, Mediterraneans (Italians, Greeks, French) and Slavics (Poles, Czechs). This is an inversion of European PISA results in which native Germans got 105 compared to France’s 101, Poland’s 100, Italy’s 98, Greece’s 96, etc. There are two reasons for this I think:

(a) As Ron Unz correctly points out, all other things equal rural people almost always score worse than urban people. Maybe rural life just isn’t as mentally stimulating. Almost certainly there exist strong dysgenic processes (every generation it is the brightest people who leave the farm). But this effect probably isn’t that strong as there are very few Americans still living on the farm today.

(b) As I think hbd chick pointed out, some lineages are more prestigious than others. The Irish and Italians, in particular, are cool. In practice almost everyone in American cities is mixed to some extent. So even if someone is primarily Germanic, he might pass himself off as a Latino or Irishman. So the higher scores of most Italians, Greeks, Irish, Swedes, Norwegians, Hungarians, etc., etc., may well reflect the Germanic substrate more than anything else.

(c) The Germans who came to America mostly came from the northern parts (e.g. the hamburger originated in… Hamburg). And various studies indicate that just as Germany is a genetically diverse nation by European standards so there are significant IQ differentials by regions. Generally speaking, the south is cleverer than the north.

So, we have three major factors: The regional specifics of German immigration to the US; the greater relative prestige of “exotic” ethnic groups together with the “melting pot” culture of American cities; their greater share of the rural population. They may explain why ethnic German IQ in the US is fairly low relative to other European population groups.

Ancestry IQ
Russian 105.2
Austrian 104.5
Swiss 103.6
Danish 102.6
English/Welsh 102.4
Norwegian 102.1
Hungarian 101.6
Scottish 101.5
Swedish 101.3
Czech 100.4
Italian 100.4
French 100.0
Irish 99.7
Polish 99.7
Greek 99.0
French Canadian 98.7
German 98.5
Other Canadian 96.2
Dutch 95.9
(White) “American” 94.2
Spanish 92.4
Native American 91.2
African 89.9
Puerto Rican 89.9
“American” 88.7
Mexican 87.7

(3) The Dutch are especially low, though I suppose that this could be partly accounted for by the fact that a substantial number of them are Pennsylvania Dutch, i.e. Amish. They reject modern technology. Presumably, the Flynn Effect isn’t strong in them.

(4) The Spanish are presumably a mix of real Spaniards (with IQ’s typical of the other Med nations – around 98) and Mexicans (who have an IQ somewhere in the mid to high 80′s, as a result of Amerindian admixture as well as some degree of under-development). They are thus exactly where one would expect them to be.

(5) White “Americans” are typically Scotch-Irish in the Deep South. Here there is an element of self-selection bias because they are people who either forgot or don’t care about their ethnic origins. I.e., rednecks.

(6) Africans score a respectable (by US black standards) 89. Probably because African immigrants tend to be far above the African average. They are also those people who didn’t answer “American”. Of the “Americans”, more than half are black. Since the white “American” average is 94, and the “American” average 89, that means that the black “American” average should be something like 85.

I don’t know how many black “Americans” and “Africans” there were relative to each other but at a minimum we can say that the average for this group is in the 85-89 range. This is exactly coincident with all other conventional estimates.

(7) The Swiss scores are not surprising. They are a very intelligent people. The Austrians might be something of an outlier as I imagine their sample size is quite low. Also the dumber Austrians may have identified themselves as Germans.

(8) All the other ethnic groups appear to be more or less where we would expect them to be based on the performance of their original home countries.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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While writing this post on Da Russophile about why Russians do not (for the most part) hate Jews – a post that will also be of interest to AKarlin readers – I came across very interesting historical data on literacy and educational accomplishment by ethnic groups in the USSR.

Per 100 people of respective nationality
Literacy Rate among…
ages 9-49 50 and older
Jews 85,0 90,0 62,5
Germans 78,5 79,1 74,4
Russians 58,0 64,3 27,9
Ukrainians 53,4 59,2 22,2
Georgians 50,3 57,0 24,7
Belorussians 47,6 54,2 16,1
Koreans 45,1 50,6 20,6
Armenians 42,9 47,5 20,4
Tatars 41,7 46,4 19,0
Kazakhs 9,1 9,9 5,3
Uzbeks 4,8 5,2 3,3
Chechens 3,4 3,6 2,6
Tajiks 3,0 3,0 3,0
USSR average 51,1 56,6 24,5

This table shows the literacy rate among different groups from the 1926 First All-Union Census. Coming less than a decade after the Revolution this table is of course a reflection of the Tsarist education system, not of the Soviet one. Apart from puncturing one Communist myth, that the Tsarist regime didn’t do anything for people’s literacy and that it was all a Soviet achievement, it also demonstrates that Jews had the highest literacy rate of all the peoples in the Empire.

Per 1,000 people of respective nationality
With higher education With high school diploma Literacy rate
Jews 57,1 268,1 943
Georgians 14,3 129,8 825
Armenians 10,9 106,8 790
Russians 6,2 81,4 834
Ukrainians 5,3 82,1 843
Germans 5,2 69,7 935
Belorussians 4,7 71,0 780
Koreans 4,3 75,6 727
Tatars 2,2 50,3 779
Kazakhs 0,9 21,7 618
Uzbeks 0,7 15,1 635
Tajiks 0,5 12,0 676
Chechens 0,3 7,6 428
USSR average 6,4 77,8 812

The above from the 1939 Soviet Census. Jews are way, way ahead in educational attainment.

Per 1,000 people of respective nationality
With higher education With apprenticeship No education
Jews 561 174 12
Koreans 249 210 42
Georgians 195 202 29
Armenians 163 178 34
Russians 138 201 60
Kazakhs 119 158 62
Ukrainians 108 177 73
Belorussians 107 170 79
Uzbeks 90 123 63
Tatars 92 164 73
Tajiks 79 91 66
Chechens 61 111 137
Germans 57 167 84
USSR average 125 182 64

From the 1989 Soviet Census. Jews maintain a massive lead in educational attainment despite supposed rampant anti-Semitism.

BTWNotice however that Germans are bottom of the barrel, below even Chechens and Tajiks in tertiary attainment. Now that is clearly a group that is being discriminated against as German IQ is typically a couple of points above that of ethnic Russians, so their rate of tertiary attainment should be at least equal if not higher.

So how to resolve these paradoxes – that Jews were “held back” from Russian schools and universities, but at the same time somehow maintained educational qualifications well in excess of the Soviet and Russian averages?

I think the answer is quite simple; both are true.

Ashkenazi Jews (such as lived in the USSR) are typically recorded to have a mean IQ about one S.D. above the white European norm. So all things equal they will perform much better than ethnic Russians. What the imperial Russian government did in fact do was a form of pro-indigenous majority affirmative action.

In 1887, the quotas placed on the number of Jews allowed into secondary and higher education were tightened down to 10% within the Pale, 5% outside the Pale, except Moscow and Saint Petersburg, held at 3%. It was possible to evade this restrictions upon secondary education by combining private tuition with examination as an “outside student”. Accordingly, within the Pale such outside pupils were almost entirely young Jews.

This 10% quota broadly correlated with the actual percentage of Jews in the Pale of Settlement.

It all makes complete sense.

The differential between Jews and Russians with a higher education was recorded at more than 10x in 1939. This was reduced to 4x by 1989. Two possible explanations:

(1) The 1920′s were a philo-Semitic period and AFAIK quotas on Jews entering universities weren’t present during this period. I do not know if there were formal quotas against Jews in the later, “anti-Zionist” period of Soviet history but it IS anecdotally known that barriers to entry into many institutions were higher than for other Soviet citizens. Certainly this played a major role in setting Soviet Jews against the regime. This is the well-known version which stresses Russian anti-Semitism.

(2) The other explanation is that by 1989 when more than half of Jews had higher education the percentage of Jews who could access it even based on pure meritocracy had been maxed out. Let’s crudely assume a mean IQ of 100 for Russians and 115 for Jews with an S.D. of 15. This means that 16% of Russians and 50% of Jews will have an IQ of 115 or above. Let’s say that this is the part of the population that had access to a higher education in the Soviet era (this makes sense: The system was, for the most part, meritocratic, and standards for entry where far higher than today when higher education is far more accessible). According to our stats, the actual higher education achievement figures in 1989 were 14% for Russians and 56% for Jews, i.e. Jewish access to education was actually higher than what you would get by assuming reasonable mean IQ’s and no anti-Semitic discrimination. Of course even slight differences in the actual mean IQ levels (e.g. a Russian mean IQ of 97, not 100 – as may be more realistic) will have substantial impacts but they would not cardinally change the overall picture.

My preliminary conclusion is that anti-Semitic discrimination at least in terms of higher education was negligible at least as indicated by this simple thought experiment. A more detailed model would be preferable but I do not see how it could invalidate any of this.

Russia has long been presented as a seething bastion of anti-Semitism.

To the contrary, an objective look at it through measurable impacts finds that at worst what existed was a system of pro-indigenous affirmative action. It is loosely comparable to official AA in American college admissions, however in the US case it is geared to aid NAM’s. Nonetheless as Blacks are about one S.D. below whites even fairly drastic interventions do not much impact on white admissions. The effect on Jews, who are in turn one S.D. above whites – or two S.D.’s above Blacks – is of course all but negligible. So although pro-NAM’s-AA in the US does disadvantage Jews it does so to a far lesser extent than did pro-non-Jew AA in the USSR.

A better comparison might be with Asian-Americans, who are (slightly) discriminated against in favor of whites in the US. For the USSR, replace Asian-Americans with Jews. Of course Asian-Americans will rarely improve their lot by going back to China or Korea, unlike Soviet Jews emigrating to Israel or Silicon Valley; hence, they are quiescent, and largely satisfied with the American regime.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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From what I generally knew of contemporary Eastern European attitudes towards Jews (in two words “not good”) I expected that the Russian public’s attitude towards Israel would be decidely frosty, if not outright hostile… But what seems noteworthy to me is not the downward blip in 2006 but the generally high level of Russian support for Israel over the past 9 years and the generally small number of Russians who will outright say they relate poorly towards it (the balance being made up by people who said they have a hard time answering).Mark Adomanis.

There are several reasons as far as I can see, some of them obvious, some of them not so obvious because they are clouded over by noxious PC fumes.

* There are now simply a lot fewer Jews in Russia. There were 1.4mn in 1989 in the USSR, and 550,000 in the RSFSR; as of 2010, only 158,000. Jews typically occupy positions in the economy, culture, etc. out of all proportion to their population size. This is typically ascribed to conspiracies whereas in fact it is a simple function of their IQ’s which are about one S.D. above the white European average. This typically causes resentment in places where Jews settle with a few major exceptions like the Anglo-Saxon world. In fact much of Tsarist and Soviet “discrimination” against Jews was (in modern US terms) an affirmative action plan for the indigenous population.

* While Jews in the late Soviet era were heavily associated with dissidence, a function of their relative exclusion from mainstream politics, now they range all over the spectrum. While a majority are still probably more liberal than not you now have Jews like the TV games star and Stalinist blogger Anatoly Wasserman not to mention Zhirinovsky (aka Eidelstein) who is a half-Jew as well as the head of the biggest nationalist party.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6eZd1x3M0g]

* Migrants from the South Caucasus who are seen as more criminalized and dependent on welfare (“Stop feeding the Caucasus!”) – and not mistakenly so, regardless of what the PC brigade wants to claim – are far more of a everyday concern than ZOG conspiracies. For a typical Muscovite there is simply far more reason to fear the Chechen who will beat up his nerdy son in school than the besuited Jewish IT professional who would hire him.

* While the USSR supported the Arabs, today’s Russia balances between them. There is military cooperation between Russia and Israel, e.g. on drones, and there exists a visa-free travel regime between them. Something on which the EU not to even mention the US has long dragged its feet on.

* Critically Israel does not criticize Russia for HR abuses, illiberalism, etc. as most Western countries love doing. This makes sense because Israel is hardly a very liberal state itself and besides it is not in its interests to make additional enemies if it can possibly help it. Even on a site like Inosmi where commentators tend to be pretty nationalist Israel does not get bad rap. Whenever “Gayropean” do-gooders sail a “freedom flotilla” to Israel, the good people of Inosmi sympathize with the Israelis, and wish Russia could retaliate in similarly uncompromising fashion against foreign liberal interventionists who undermine its sovereignty.

* As Mark Adomanis correctly noticed, both Russia and Israel have problems with Islamist terrorists. Who happen to be supported by liberal forces abroad.

* Jews and Israelis are seen as distinct. Jews are the rootless cosmopolitans, more loyal to their in-group than their country of residence. Israelis on the other hand are a nation of blood and soil.

* According to (Russian Jewish-American) historian Yuri Slezkine the history of the 20th century is one of peoples around the world “becoming Jewish” in terms of values. This has been especially true in post-Soviet Russia. Case in point: While most of the oligarchs were Jewish, most Russians would still rather emulate than dispossess them. Among Europeans, Russians and Israelis are the two peoples who most agree that “it is important to be rich, have money and expensive things.” This is no longer a picture of peasant, honest Russians vs. urban, mercantile Jews as it was a century ago. There are no longer any irreducible value differences between the two peoples. (The same of course cannot be said for urban Russians vs. clannish Chechens, Avars, etc., from the mountains).

Hope that goes some way to explaining things.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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In my nearly 20 years experience as a Russian living in the West, I have found that almost all my fellows can be reduced to five basic types: 1) The White Russian; 2) The Sovok Jew; 3) The Egghead Emigre; 4) Natasha Gold-Digger; 5) Putin’s Expat.

My background and qualifications to write on this topic? My dad is an academic who moved to the UK with his family in 1994, i.e. an Egghead Emigre. Later on, I moved to California. Much of the Russian community in the Bay Area (though not Sacramento!) are in fact Russian Jews, who are culturally distinct from Russians, albeit the boundaries are blurred and there’s lots of intermingling though Russian cultural events. Topping off the cake, I have some White Russian ancestors, and am familiar with many of them as well as more recent expats via my hobby of Russia punditry.

I hope this guide will entertain American and Russian (and Jewish) readers interested in what happens when their cultures interact and fuse, as well as those very Russian Americans who will doubtless see traces of themselves in at least one of the five main archetypes.

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Arrived in: 1917-1920′s, 1945
Social origins: Clerks, Tsarist officials, aristocrats, White Army officers, philosophers.
Culturally related to: Earlier Orthodox Slavic migrants from the Russian Empire who came from 1880-1914, though White Russians proper are more sophisticated than them as they tended to be high class whereas former were peasants.
Political sympathies (US): Moderate conservatism
Political sympathies (Russia): Putin, Prokhorov

No, I’m not talking about Jeff Lebowski’s favorite cocktail. The White Russians (or “White emigres”) are the officers, officials, and intellectuals who fled their country after the Russian Revolution. Prominent examples included Zworykin (TV), Sikorsky (helicopters), and Nabokov (writer). They did not necessarily come to the US straight away: Many came via the great European cities, like Berlin, or Paris, where in the 1920′s, old White Army officers sat around dinghy bars, drowning their sorrows in drink and spending what remained of their money on cockroach racing. Some took more roundabout ways. One girl I know originated from Russian exiles in Harbin, Manchuria (mother’s side) and Brazil (father’s side) who met up and stayed in the US.

White Russians tend to be well-assimilated into US society, and many of the younger generations no longer speak Russian. However, many of them retain a positive affinity with traditional Russian culture – even if it tends to the gauzy and superficial, an attitude that transitions into “kvas patriotism” when taken to an extreme (kind of like Plastic Paddies). The quintessential White Russian comes from an upper-middle class family, holds moderately conservative views, and goes to the occasional Orthodox service and Russian cultural event featuring zakuski, vodka, and traditional singing and dancing.

To the extent they have detailed opinions on Russian politics, they tend to respect Putin, seeing him as a conservative restorer. Needless to say, they never support the Communists – though the antipathy does not extent to Red Army victories or space race triumphs, of which they are proud. Solzhenitsyn is their spiritual figurehead. Many however are partial to liberal forces such as Yabloko and Prokhorov; especially those who are no longer Russophones, and have to rely on Western coverage of Russia. A few kvas patriots go well beyond the call of duty to their Motherland, “telling it like it is on Trans-Dniester” and exposing “court appointed Russia friendlys.”

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Arrived in: 1970′s-early 1990′s
Culturally related to: The early wave of Jewish emigration from Tsarist Russia, which included Ayn Rand.
Social origins: Normal Jewish families, with smattering of colorful dissidents and black marketeers/organized crime; also many pretend Jews.
Political sympathies (US): Republicans, neocons, libertarianism
Political sympathies (Russia): Prokhorov, Russian liberals

The Sovok Jew is a very complex figure. At home with American capitalism, he nonetheless continues to strongly identify with Soviet mannerisms (but don’t tell that to his face).

The modern Russian diaspora began in the 1970′s, when many Soviet Jews began to leave for Israel and the US. It accelerated in the late 1980′s, when the Soviet government eased emigration controls (prior to that the US had sanctioned the USSR for limiting Jewish emigration with the Jackson-Vanik amendment; bizarrely, it remains in effect to this day).

Leveraging their intelligence and entrepreneurial talent, many became very rich in the IT (California) and finance (East Coast) sectors. The ultimate example is, of course, Google founder Sergey Brin, who once opined that Russia is “Nigeria with snow.” He is the rule, not the exception. Most Sovok Jews have very poor impressions of Russia, and like to tell funny anecdotes about ethnic Russians’ stupidity and incompetence:

Ivan: What if we have to fight China? They have more than a billion people!
Pyotr: We’ll win with quality over quantity, just like the Jews with the Arabs.
Ivan: But do we have enough Jews?

The above joke courtesy of a Silicon Valley bigwig. He must have assumed I’m Jewish, given my surname. (Reality: I’m not a Jew culturally, though I’ve calculated I’m about 10% Ashkenazi Jewish at the genetic level).

Two further important points must be made. First, while they’re very successful on average, far from all Soviet Jews made the American dream: While many are millionaires, the vast majority still consists of shop assistants, office plankton, and the driving instructor I hired for a refresher lesson prior to my California driving exam. The less successful they are in America, the fonder their recollections of Soviet life. Their biggest enclave, Brighton Beach (“Little Odessa”), used to be a dump; and was the original spawning ground of the so-called “Russian Mafia” abroad, as popularized by Yuri Orlov, the gunrunner antihero from Lord of War.

Second, despite that many famous Soviet dissidents were Jewish (e.g. Brodsky, Dovlatov, – and satirized by the fictional e-persona Lev Sharansky), not to mention their appreciation for capitalism, most Russian Jews regard the USSR in a far more positive light than Russia itself. (Of course, there are exceptions, e.g. Lozansky, and I believe the DR commentator Lazy Glossophiliac). This might sound surprising at first, but one needs to bear in mind that Jews did very well in the early USSR: As Jewish Russian-American author Yuri Slezkine argues in The Jewish Century, the three major homelands of the Jews in the 20th century were the US, Israel, and the USSR, while the traditional Russia of icons and cockroaches was not a homeland, but a pogrom-land.

Furthermore, the USSR’s early philo-Semitism reversed from later Stalinism on, with rhetoric about “rootless cosmopolitanism” and “anti-Zionism” even as the US became highly pro-Israel. In a neat ideological reversal, Soviet Jews in America whose parents had sung Communism’s praises turned to libertarianism and neoconservatism, and in the 2000′s, most became hardcore anti-Putinists.

A controversial assertion, perhaps… But one need only drop a few names: Anne Applebaum (Putin stole my wallet), Miriam Elder (Putin stole my drycleaning ticket), Julia Ioffe (I hate objectivity), Masha Gessen (Putin has no face), Anna Nemtsova (Russian dudes suck)*… Or recall the blood-curdling and frankly threatening responses I got from one Irina Worthey (“Ira Birman”) when trolling a pro-Khodorkovsky Facebook group with inconvenient questions about his actual democratic credentials. Or consider that Prokhorov got 90% of the votes at Palo Alto.

Yet while they harbor little love for Russia, Jewish Russian-Americans continue to speak Russian among themselves, play durak and eat borscht, and recite Radio Yerevan jokes. They remain stuck in the Soviet attitudes and tastes that they brought with them to American shores; arguably, far more so than ethnic Russians (who have co-evolved with post-Soviet Russia). But as the USSR is dead, this Soviet identity has no future; the children of Sovok Jews tend to undergo complete Americanization.

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Arrived in: 1990′s
Social origins: Academia.
Political sympathies (US): No real pattern.
Political sympathies (Russia): Communists, liberals; but increasingly, some have learned to stop worrying and love Putin.

The third major group are the Egghead Emigres – those Russians, who left during the 1990′s “brain drain”, when the Russian state lost its ability to even pay salaries regularly. There are Jews among them (e.g. Andre Geim, recent winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics), as well as other nationalities, but most of them are ethnic Russians. They cluster around university towns; if there’s a campus, chances are there are a few Russians around. As an in-joke among them goes: “What’s an American university?”, “It’s a place where Russian physicists lecture to Chinese students.”

Though one would think that these Russian academics are entrepreneurial go-getters – after all, they were willing to gamble on a new life abroad, right? – most are actually risk-averse and ultimately limited in their horizons. They are highly intelligent, but their ineptness at office politics limits their chances for promotion – as in companies, so within universities – where far less accomplished but socially savvier native bosses leech off their work. While they are now almost uniformly well-off, the Egghead Emigre lacks the Sovok Jew’s entrepreneurial drive, and as such there are very few truly rich among them. But on second thought this ain’t that surprising. Academia is a very safe environment (in terms of employment) and guarantees a reliable cash flow and career progression but it won’t make you a millionaire. The truly entrepreneurial Soviet academics have long since abandoned academia and made big bucks in the business world.

Many Egghead Emigres seem to be stuck in the 1990′s when it comes to their perceptions of Russia, with which they have very bad associations; after all, they ended up leaving the country back then. They feel genuinely betrayed by the Russian state – which for a time didn’t even pay them their salaries – and at the same time, many also became big fans of their adopted countries. I suspect this is in large part born of their need to justify their own emigration to themselves. After all, many of them still have Sovok mindsets, in which emigration and betrayal are near synonyms; but is it still betrayal to betray a country that betrayed you?

Consequently, some even view any “defense” of Russia, no matter how justified, as a personal attack on themselves and respond ferociously. Furthermore, and logically, the more successful they are in the West, the more anti-Russian they tend to be; whereas many of the least successful Egghead Emigres have already gone back to Russia.

Their views on the Soviet Union are mixed: While most admire it for its educational system, they also criticize it for its politicized idiocies and censorship. Nonetheless, their overall impression of the USSR is far higher than that of Russia; at least in the former, they were paid salaries and socially respected.

There’s also a generational aspect. Whereas the migrant “fathers” tended to indulge in Russia-bashing (out of a genuine sense of betrayal; overcompensating need to justify their emigration; etc), and embraced all aspects of Westernization with the fanaticism of the new convert, the effect of emigration was sometimes quite different on their “sons”. A few followed in the footsteps of the “fathers”; some (perhaps most) are largely indifferent to Russia, and have blended into the socio-cultural mainstream of Anglo-Saxon society; and others appreciate Russia to an extent that the “fathers” find puzzling, annoying, or even intolerable.

As you may have deduced, the Egghead Emigre shares many similarities with the Sovok Jew. Nonetheless, many of them still retain a few patriotic vestiges; and politically, they are considerably to the left, with social democratic, socialist, and even Communist leanings being common (whereas Sovok Jews are right-leaning, ironically, unlike purely American Jews who tend to be more leftist). Though not many are still much interested in Russian politics, those who are typically vote for Prokhorov/Yabloko or the Communist Party. That said, it should be noted that in recent years, opinion about the old homeland has improved, especially as Russia recovered under Putin, and once again started paying researchers decent salaries and courting the Egghead Emigres with generous packages on condition they return. But thus far very few of them have taken up those offers.

***

Arrived in: From early 1990′s
Social origins: Ordinary families
Political sympathies (US): Year 0: Adventurous, naive, wants marriage to nice American guy; Year 2: Wants American betaboy’s nice money
Political sympathies (Russia): ?

Natasha Gold-Digger is the most (in)famous type of Russian American, her image having thoroughly permeated pop culture (e.g. films such as The Russian Bride, Marina Lewycka’s A Short History of Tractors in Ukraine). In practice however, Natasha isn’t only the rarest of the five major types of Russian American; frequently, she is not actually Russian, but Ukrainian or Moldovan.

A common delusion that feeds the “mail order brides” industry is that Russian women are less feminist than their over-entitled Western counterparts, eternally thankful for the opportunity to escape poor, barbaric Russia with its alcoholic Beastmen, and hotter to boot. Sounds like a good deal, no?

But while traditional gender roles are indeed far more prevalent in Russia than in the US or Britain, this does not extend into family relations – Russia’s divorce rate is over 50%, which is only slightly lower than in the US. Furthermore, the type of American man who actually orders a bride online is typically someone who does not have the social skills to compete for America’s admittedly much narrower pool of non-obese women. These Russian brides – strong and adventurous almost by definition, as per their choice to emigrate – don’t respect, let alone supplicate, to these Yankee betaboys.

The customer doesn’t get what he thought he signed up for, as his Russian wife gets her residency papers, empties his bank account, wins alimony for any children they had together, and dumps him to ride the alpha cock carousel. The embittered husbands then go on to vent their resentments to anyone who would listen and many who would not. But they have only their own loser selves to blame.

***

Arrived in: 2000′s
Social origins: Students, businesspeople, rich elites, yuppies
Culturally related to: The expats of all political persuasions who whirled about Europe in the time of Tsarism
Political sympathies (US): Democrat, anti-war, Ron Paul
Political sympathies (Russia): All over – Putin, Prokhorov, Communists

They might not support Putin – though many do. Take the student at Stanford University, son of a senior manager at a Russian tech company; or the Russian financier working working in New York – more likely than not, both would vote for Prokhorov, and maybe even participate in a picket of the Russian Embassy as part of a protest for free elections or the freeing of Pussy Riot. But in a sense they are all Putin’s children, as is the Russian middle class from whence it comes; a middle class that only began to develop beyond a narrow circle of oligarchs during the 2000′s.

In this sense, Russia has become a “normal country”, as this class of global expats – typically consisting of young, upwardly mobile and ambitious people – is common to all developed countries; and just as in Russia, they too tend to have specific political preferences (the US – Democrats; France – Sarkozy/UMP). And unlike previous waves of emigration, which encompassed all the four types of Russian American that I already covered, most of “Putin’s expats” will eventually go back once they finish their course of study or gain work experience in a Western country.

Paradoxically, spending a lot of time in the West does not make these expats significantly more liberal or anti-Putin; even the reverse, if anything. On closer analysis this is not surprising. Even when in Russia, they already have access to what Western “free journalists” write about their country – if not in the English-language original, then translation websites like Inosmi. When spending time in the West, many realize their own country isn’t that bad in comparison; and that typical American perceptions of Russia tend to be irredeemably skewed (“Is it always cold in Russia?”, “Do you drink vodka everyday?”, “What do you think about your dictator Putin?”). Consequently, even someone who may be relatively liberal in Russia not infrequently ends up defending many aspects of Russian politics and society that he otherwise hates when in the West.

In the future, Sovok Jews will almost all Americanize, as will a majority of Egghead Emigres and their progeny. Those Russian-Americans who survive as distinct social communities will be primarily the White Russians (largely through the Orthodox Church), as well as increasing numbers of Putin’s Expats who will continue traipsing across America and the globe even after their namesake retreats into history. And if Russia becomes a developed country, it is easy to imagine that more Russian Americans will become Putin’s Expats… or even, just Russians.

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russian-american-poll

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* One thing that really stands out is that it is female Jews who dislike Russia more than anything, at least among Western journalists. As this post has already pushed well beyond all respectable limits of political correctness, I might as well go the full nine yards and outline my theory of why that is the case. In my view, the reasons are ultimately psycho-sexual. Male Jews nowadays have it good in Russia, with many Slavic girls attracted to their wealth, intelligence and impeccable charm (if not their looks). But the position of Jewesses is the inverse. They find it hard to compete with those same Slavic chicks who tend to be both hotter and much more feminine than them; nor, like Jewish guys, can they compensate with intelligence, since it is considered far less important for women. This state of affairs leads to sexual frustration and permanent singledom (pump and dump affairs don’t count of course), which in turn gives rise to the angry radical feminism and lesbianism that oozes out of this piece by Anna Nemtsova bemoaning Russia’s “useless bachelors”. Such attitudes further increase male aversion to them, thus reinforcing their vicious cycle of singledom. And the resulting frustration indelibly seeps into their work…

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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The Economist lies about Russia, it has beef with France, and in general it is far more useful as a barometer of Anglo-Saxon elite opinion than as a good source of objective information on the real world. Nonetheless, it does have the occasional gold nugget, and even one gold vein – its Daily Charts blog.

After all, one can rarely argue with cold, raw statistics, and opinion polls.

Above is a chart from early April about the importance Europeans attach to being rich. It’s funny the extent to which it confirms almost every relevant stereotype in the book (in general, the act of stereotyping is very much maligned, but that’s for another post). Russians and Ukrainian gold-diggers, oligarchs, mafia. Israel – Jews LOL. Greeks have a reputation for being a very mercantile people. Czechs are individualists, so it makes sense that they’re high up there too.

At the other end of the scale, you have the Scandinavian countries that operate under the self-effacing principles of Jante Law, and the French with their rich anti-capitalist intellectual traditions and love for existentialist philosophy. In the middle we have quintessentially bourgeois nations such as the UK, and Germany – they love themselves some money, but Protestantism has long encouraged them to be low-key about it.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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Just in case you thought the correlation between human capital and economic development was an artifice of the post-socialist world, here is a similar graph (R2=0.4273) for all the world’s countries that have participated in the Math and Science portions of the PISA or TIMMS (8th grade) international standardized student assessments.

education-economy-global-1

The methodology is the same as described in the previous post. As you can see, the relation is every bit as strong at the global level. However, you may point to a few outliers. How to explain them?

Corruption, institutions and “governance”, “ease of business” indicators, etc. are all next to useless; in fact, it has even been found that some corruption is better for growth than no corrupt at all (though there is a critical point of extreme corruption at which it becomes deeply harmful).

But these are minor technical discussions. As far as I can see, there are only three major factors that explain why some countries diverge from the close correlation (R2=0.8393) between human capital and economic development observed in normal countries with a long history of capitalist development: (1) Major exporters and mineral exporters, relative to their total GDP; (2) Countries with a legacy of socialism and central planning; and (3) Countries with small populations that are also major financial, tax haven, or tourism centers.

education-economy-global-3

As you can see from the graph below, the conventional countries would form a nice best fit exponential curve (R2=0.8393). So would the countries with socialist legacies (R2=0.4908), albeit with greater dispersion and at a systemically lower level than the normal capitalist ones – especially once you remove those among them with substantial resource endowments. The same in reverse applies considering those countries that have managed to occupy niches in tourism, providing tax havens, and above all in financial services (R2=0.6014) – they do systemically better than the normal capitalist countries. The only countries to defy this iron correlation between are those whose oil production enables their populations to live off the rents from it (R2=0.0002); but these Rich Oilmen countries are very few in number, and concentrated in the Gulf.

The Capitalist Normals

The Capitalist Normals (blue) have long histories of capitalist development, and while some – like Australia or Argentina – may have large primary resource endowments, they cannot be said to dominate the economy. They have a very close correlation (at least by social science standards) between levels of human capital and economic development. The developed countries in this band occupy the global technological frontier. As usual, the outliers tend to be exceptions that prove the rule, so I’ll focus on them.

Argentina does slightly better than its PISA scores might otherwise indicate, but here there may be a few explanations: (1) Older Argentinians are far better educated than their counterparts in most of the rest of Latin America; (2) Low school-leaver human capital may be in part compensated by having the continent’s highest tertiary enrollment ratio.

UPDATE: The Argentina outlier is solved. According to Steve Sailer, Argentina’s low score is thanks to the scrupulousness of its school administrators, who – unlike most other countries – took the effort to track down the truants and drop-outs, who constituted 39% of its school-age population. Without this effect, Argentina’s score would have been about 40 points higher, i.e. above Mexico, and similar to Chile and Bulgaria, that is to say right where it should be. Sailer also makes the observation that since truancy tends to be more prevalent in poorer countries – a factor that is only rare adjusted for in the PISA tests – the gap in the human capital of older schoolchildren between the high-scoring developed world and the low-scoring developing world are, if anything, even higher than recorded in these tests.

Syria and Jordan both do a bit worse than their potential. Perhaps the influx of poor Palestinian refugees depresses Jordanian per capita wealth, while Syria is hampered by an extremely statist economy.

Israel is a major positive outlier. One explanation is that there is a lot of math and scientific aptitude diversity within Israel, with Arabs and Sephardi Jews performing badly and Ashkenazi Jews doing much better and perhaps a great deal of variation within the higher-IQ Ashkenazi group in particular; however, this is not borne out in the statistics, with the standard deviation for Israeli scores no higher than in many other countries. So why is it richer than, say, Turkey? No idea. Maybe because of US financial help, which is not inconsiderable. Maybe because the entrepreneurial Jew stereotype is correct even if the clever Jew stereotype isn’t.

Greece is a minor positive outlier, but their debt crisis is cutting it down to where it should be; as with Ireland a few years ago (it used to be an outlier in 2007 but is no longer). I guess the invisible hand has a sense of justice.

The United States is the most significant positive outlier, getting almost $10,000 more GDP than would be warranted by its human capital levels, which are comparable to Sweden or Australia. One major factor is surely that Americans simply work much longer than Europeans; their productivity levels, output per hour worked is, in fact, virtually equal to that of Germans or Swedes. It also helps that it has plentiful land per capita with the world’s best natural riverine transport system – and useful land, not permafrost like in much of Russia or Canada – and controls the world’s reserve currency.

Korea is a major negative outlier, one of the world’s cleverest countries but one that hasn’t yet even fully caught up with Italy. However its case – as is, to a lesser extent, that of Finland and Taiwan – is explainable by the simple fact that for them, “convergence” isn’t a finished process; they continue to grow relatively rapidly by already-developed country standards, they do not have any debt or fiscal crises, and they can expect to continue moving in the direction of ultra-rich countries like Switzerland and Singapore in the next decades. That said, Japan – also a minor negative outlier – indicates there may be diminishing returns to ever more impressively educated populaces.

It is important to emphasize, also, which countries in this category are NOT outliers: Brazil, Mexico (despite a substantial oil endowment), Indonesia, India, and Turkey. Also South Africa, which is not in this database, but can be inferred to have very low human capital based on its still prevalent illiteracy and very low TIMMS (4th grade) results. Now Brazil and India are regarded in the Davos press as superior to Russia, and in the long-term superior to China also (by virtue, so their argue, of their democracy and “demographic dividends”); the other nations cited here have all at one time or another been suggested as replacements for Russia in the BRIC’s.

If we are however to regard human capital as the main determinant of the natural level of economic development, and the “potential gap” between the two to be the most reliable determinant of future growth prospects, then the best BRIC by far is China, followed by Russia; to the contrary, India and Brazil (and any prospective BRIC’s members) are unremarkable.

The Red Tigers

The Red Tigers (green) are countries with major legacies of socialism and often central planning. It is interesting to observe that countries where reforms started earlier (e.g. ex-Yugoslavia, East Central Europe) and where markets played a greater role under socialism are much closer to the “equilibrium level” indicated by their levels of human capital. That said, despite their relative affluence, their “potential gaps” are still substantial; for instance, the Czech Republic and Poland have human capital basically equivalent to that of Germany or the US, but are still up to twice as poor in terms of GDP (PPP) per capita. This implies that this group will continue converging to advanced developed countries in the years ahead.

Practically all outliers in this group are negative, and were already covered in the previous post. But to recap:

China is the mother of all outliers, and no doubt a very significant one – it has 1.3 billion people living at lower middle income levels (although a few provinces remain distinctly Third World) but their high-school students now outperform the US and most of the EU. In my opinion this is the result of a very special situation.

The Maoist state suppressed economic growth to a degree unprecedented in virtually any other state in the socialist camp; it also started from a very, very low base. But despite its ruinous economic views, its social policies – including basic education – were implemented far better than in almost any other low income country, and that on top of (a) their reverence for scholarship that only had its equivalent in the Protestant emphasis on literacy and (b) the observed high IQ of Chinese overseas communities which may have a genetic component. This means that when China introduced market reforms, the “potential gap” between its human capital and existing level of economic development was vast to a degree probably unprecedented anywhere else in the world and in all history. Hence thirty years’ worth of 10% GDP growth that shows no sign of stopping (in fact, China’s relative performance exceeds that of any other Asian tiger in their stage of rapid development). And barring a major and unexpected discontinuity is should NOT stop until China reaches the level of per capita wealth Korea, Taiwan, or even Switzerland.

One minor caveat is that rapid development means that this “potential gap”, while vast, may no longer be quite as vast as indicated by the graph. Note that according to some estimates, China’s PPP GDP is now larger than America’s, which would give a GDP (PPP) per capita of $10,000-$12,000 or so.

Armenia, and to a lesser extent Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, are negative outliers. Their cases are clear; they suffered from destructive wars in the 1990′s, and in Armenia’s case it remains surrounded by neighbors from hell.

The ex-Soviet countries without oil, such as Ukraine and Moldova, tend to be deeply negative outliers. One reason is that they reformed slowly (while the Soviet-era system crumbled about them), and late; and have suffered from particularly incompetent and avaricious governance; as I argued in a prior post, Ukraine never left the period of “anarchic stasis” that characterized Russia in the 1990′s. However, Ukraine’s perspectives aren’t looking good, at least in the short-term. Perhaps it’s because corruption, etc. are still so high that – while they normally don’t have much of an effect – reach such critical levels that they significantly stymie growth; an alternate, and more benign, explanation is that Ukraine’s GDP (PPP) is underestimated – it was not adjusted upwards like Russia’s in the recent OECD and World Bank recalculation of relative prices – meaning that Ukrainians already live better than the statistics indicate, their “potential gap” is smaller, and thus understandably there is less room for fast GDP growth.

Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Russia are curious creatures in that in their case, the resource windfall boon works against the socialist legacy curse. This means that, despite that they are ex-Soviet – i.e., the economy was more deeply distorted and reforms started later than in much of the rest of the socialist camp – they are nonetheless on the upper part of the human capital and economic development curve, along with countries like the Czech Republic or Romania, and are not outliers like Ukraine or even Latvia.

At this point I would also like to demolish the myth of Georgia as a shining beacon of unimpeded economic progress in the Caucasus. It will not transform into Switzerland or Singapore, or even Estonia, any time soon, i.e. the next few decades. Its human capital is very low and it is already fairly close to the maximum economic potential enabled by it; this may be an achievement on Saakashvili’s part, who massively – one might say recklessly – liberalized the Georgian economy, which caused (or accompanied) a big growth spurt in the mid to late 2000′s. But it is unsustainable, first because Georgia is now far nearer the limits imposed by its low level of human capital; second, because if anything human capital has declined under Saakashvili (e.g. tertiary enrollment has nearly halved as university fees exploded, making post-school study much less affordable for ordinary Georgians).

The Oilmen

The Oilmen (red) are those very lucky countries with lots of oil and small populations. It is almost always oil; the sole exception in my sample is Botswana (diamonds and minerals).

Unlike either the Capitalist Normals or the Red Tigers, there is no correlation between levels of human capital and economic development among the Oil Guzzlers. That is because the oil production per capita effect, which relies on geological luck of the draw, overpowers all others. That said, they could be divided into a few distinct groupings.

(1) The Rich Oilmen. Qatar, Kuwait, and the UAE, and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Oman, are all fabulously rich thanks almost exclusively to their resource endowments. Their human capital is unimpressive and would not otherwise come anywhere near supporting their oil-enabled luxurious lifestyles. Their attempts at diversification are to be lauded, e.g. finance and tourism in Dubai, or journalism in Qatar, but these efforts are critically reliant on attracting foreign specialists with (oil) money so they are not sustainable.

(2) The Casual Oilmen. Norway and Russia benefit greatly from their oil windfalls; for a start, they largely rule out fiscal worries. Benefiting from uninterrupted capitalist development, Norway has transformed itself into one of the world’s wealthiest nations; even if it didn’t have oil, it would still be as rich as Sweden. Russia will probably never reach Norway’s level because the latter has far more oil per capita; nonetheless, it has a decent manufacturing base (e.g. capable of making stuff like GLONASS and advanced fighters) and a moderately growing economy that has no reason not to converge to Italy by 2020 and perhaps Sweden by 2025 or 2030. Tight supply and growing demand means that it is very unlikely that oil prices will fall and remain low in the foreseeable future, but even on the off chance that they do, Sergey Zhuravlev has calculated that the effects on Russia’s economy are going to be modest in the medium-term and negligible in the long-term.

(3) The Poor Oilmen. Oil is likewise of help for plugging budget holes to Algeria, Kazakhstan, Iran, Venezuela, Mexico, and Azerbaijan. However, unlike the case for the Rich Oilmen, their populations are too numerous to live off in sumptuous comfort off the rents; oil production per capita is too low. This means they can’t fly off into the stratosphere like the Rich Oilmen. They need non-oil based growth to become rich. But unlike the Casual Oilmen they are unlikely to achieve much of that because their human capital levels are very modest. If there is an oil crash, past experience – e.g., Venezuela in the 1980′s and 1990′s – suggests that they will be in for many years of stagnation and fiscal crises.

The Bankster Nations

The Bankster Nations (crosses) tend to be small countries which have managed to become major financial, tax haven, or tourism centers. Their GDP (PPP) per capita tends to be higher than the level suggested by their human capital, but not to anywhere near the same extent as the Rich Oilmen.

Liechtenstein is the biggest outlier in my database; its human capital is respectable, but its GDP (PPP) per capita at $141,000 is literally off the chart. No wonder when their population is a mere 30,000 souls. Luxembourg, Singapore, and Hong Kong have all carved themselves out very profitable niches as financial centers serving neighboring economies that are much bigger but also more regulated. Macao is Asia’s gambling center (and unofficial a conduit for Chinese money laundering). Cyprus serves a similar money laundering and reinvestment function for Russian nouveux riches, to the extent that the Russian government recently bailed out the island. Mauritius is a tax haven, and is also – along with Malta and Trinidad & Tobago – a popular vacation spot.

Switzerland is an entire nation that has devoted itself to financial services (including the more shady, secretive ones) as well as other very high added-value stuff like precision engineering and pharmaceuticals. And it has become extremely rich.

Without exception all these places are doing better or far better than the average Capitalist Normal country. That said, even here there is a definite correlation between human capital and GDP (PPP) per capita. These activities may require less hard work and scruples than is typical for other industries but they still require brains – especially for the high-end finance stuff. Not so surprising then that it is the highest human capital countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Switzerland that have become so prominent in it.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Anatoly Karlin @ www.DaRussophile.com
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Russia’s Sisyphean Loop

The Eternal Return to the Future?

In this article I attempt to explain Russia’s historical cycles of failed Westernization and to project its future socio-political trajectory. First, I note the nature of and linkages between Russia’s geography, cultural traditions and imperial cycles. Second, using a ‘Belief Matrix’ model and drawing on historical observations, I accumulate evidence that Russia is caught in a ‘Sisyphean Loop’ in which all its attempts to Westernize – for a panoply of economic, cultural, and political reasons – merely end returning it to its imperial Eurasian past-and-future. In this century, there are three possible ‘steady state’ outcomes: either the Loop will continue as Russia returns to authoritarian stagnation or even succumbs to ‘totalitarian reversion’, or it will break – resulting in Russia’s entwinement within a ‘liberty cycle’ in which it finally manages to anchor liberal values onto its population.

I. The Curse of Geography

Russia’s physical geography can be characterized in three words – big, cold, and flat. This unique combination has left an indelible mark on the national character and the nature of the Russian state that cannot be ignored in any work on its political economy [1]. Let’s consider the deleterious effects of each of them in turn.

The early Rus’ state emerged in the coldest region to ever produce a settled population, a problem compounded by its post-16th century eastern expansion into Eurasia. Growing seasons are short, late spring droughts are recurrent and grain yields are low. This made Russian agriculture outside the southern Black Earth regions, where the cold is mitigated by exception soil fertility, unproductive and barely sufficient for population subsistence. Peasants throughout the world have traditionally viewed merchants with suspicion, since capitalism’s profit motive undermined the egalitarian village social relations and support mechanisms [2] necessary to guarantee community survival in a Malthusian world predating modern economic growth. The especially precarious nature of Russian peasant life further amplified these psychological attributes, making Russia deeply averse to the development of capitalist enterprise, with its emphasis on individual initiative and steady capital accumulation [3].

The resultant low per capita surpluses and the difficulties of taxation rendered old Russia incapable of supporting an extensive institutional superstructure. Instead, it assumed the form of a “patrimonial state” based on absolutist rule, capable of concentrating scarce resources to fulfill crucial national tasks such as defense, “defensive modernization”, and the provision of food security. Even though industrialization and fossil energy reserves have somewhat mitigated the economic effects of the severe cold in Russia, the costs remain substantial: the construction and maintenance of infrastructure is far more expensive than in temperate regions, and the Soviet legacy of large population centers in deepest Siberia and the High Arctic necessitate subsidized energy flows to avert humanitarian catastrophe.

These climatic problems are compounded by Eurasia’s huge, unconnected landmass, a feature noted as early as the 18th century by Adam Smith [4]. The low population density, relative lack of navigable rivers and distance from the seas starved Russia of capital, necessitating coercive state intervention in economic development. Though it is true that in the post-agrarian age the railways, telegraphs, telephones, radio, TV, and the Internet mitigated these factors, Russia continues to incur great costs on road and railway maintenance and the opportunity costs of missing out on the cargo freighter revolution of globalized late industrialism.

Furthermore, not only was Russia in a perpetual natural state of economic backwardness, but it was also surrounded by foreboding plains dominated by Asiatic horsemen to the east and Teutonic, Scandinavian and Polish encroachers to the west. This induced an acute sense of insecurity, at times overspilling into paranoia, in its rulers. Russia was impelled to expand from its Muscovite heartlands to suborn weak border regions (Ukraine, Poland, Central Asia, etc) and seize and hold natural buffers against powerful neighbors (the Caucasus, the Carpathians, etc). As Catherine the Great pithily put it, “I have no way to defend my borders except to extend them”. However, the initial economic gains of conquest were worn down as Moscow was forced to maintain strong standing armies on every potential front, administer the new lands and fund an extensive internal security apparatus, all of which constituted a constant drain on scarce resources and the productive labor pool.

The reasoning behind Catherine the Great's claim, "I have no way to defend my borders except to extend them".

[The Kremlin's view of the world - its strategic rear secured by the frozen Barents Sea, it feels “natural” to expand up to the Tien Shan, the Iranian border, the Caucasus, the Carpathians, and as far down the North European Plain as possible. Source: Stratfor].

Adding these factors together, it becomes clear why imperial overstretch, economic inefficiency and primitive consumer markets are features, not bugs, of any Eurasian empire. Although industrial, technological, and fossil energy sources have mitigated the curse of Russia’s geography during the last century, they were reinforced in the other direction by the Soviet physical legacy of “city-forming enterprises”, industrial “gigantism”, remote population centers, a metastasized military-industrial complex and “structural militarization”[5].

Much has been written on how developing nations can get locked into ‘dependency’ relations with the advanced ‘core’, in which a misguided focus on comparative advantage (bananas, oil, etc) contributes to the growth of strong structural and institutional barriers in the developing nation towards long-term, industrial growth – the only sure path to sustainable wealth [6]. It has also been pointed out that the only nations to have successfully ‘caught up’ with the original ‘leading’ industrial economy, Britain, were those which developed their indigenous manufacturing capabilities with active, large-scale state involvement (e.g. Germany, Japan, the Asian NIC’s)[7].

Not only does Russia suffer from the classic problem of economic backwardness (along with its associated tendency to develop unhealthy dependency relations), but its economy is further burdened by the aforementioned cold climate, huge landmass, poor riverine connections, strategic vulnerability, and a Soviet physical legacy which (somewhat) worked in the context of central planning, but which is a liability now that the Eurasian economic space has been opened up. In its open condition, the Russian economy is structurally uncompetitive on the world stage, relative to Europe, the US, and China; because manufacturing is inherently loss-making on the Eurasian plains, it is much more economically ‘efficient’ to just ship out Russia’s mineral resources to fuel manufacturing in warmer, coastal regions such as the Rhineland or the Pearl River Delta. No more than 20mn Russians are needed to service the pipelines and grow fat from the proceeds. The other 120mn are free to eke out a subsistence living on Russia’s marginal lands, or die out (as indeed many did during the post-Soviet era of neo-liberal reforms [8]).

Hence, it is hard to escape the conclusion that to achieve real, long-term economic growth and political sovereignty, as opposed to transitory commodity-bubble booms and political dependency, Russia needs to implement a degree of economic autarky – protective barriers, state backing of sunrise industries, buying (or stealing) of key industrial technologies, etc. True, this will doom it to eternal backwardness relative to the developed West. But so will openness – and at a far steeper social and political price, as will be demonstrated below.

II. Clash of Beliefs

Despite all the superficial similarities, Russia is most certainly not America. The US has a temperate climate, no significant external threats, abundant land, and excellent navigable river systems and sea ports on both coasts, all of which enabled its long legacy of free-wheeling capitalist development. Though the individual European nations tend to be strategically insecure and heavily-populated, entailing a more state-centered pattern of development, the continent’s geographical endowments – fertile river valleys, easy access to the sea and differentiated climatic zones – made it highly favorable for the development of commerce and capital accumulation [9].

These differences in starting conditions manifested themselves in lower growth rates for Russia relative to Europe. Although their absolute differences were infinitesimal and overwhelmed by the “noise” of annual climate / harvest variability and longer-term Malthusian cycles [10], this nonetheless led to a growing development gap between the two civilizations on a millennial timescale [11]. Russia’s historical backwardness was already evident by the 15th century in the contrast between the achievements of Renaissance Europe, which was by then building up the foundations of the modern world – the printing press, mechanical clocks, caravels, etc – while medieval Muscovy, the precursor to the Russian Empire, was only beginning to emerge from its long Tatar-Mongol night. Thus, the Russian state’s first interactions with a self-confident, more advanced, and frequently predatory Europe, set the template for the next five hundred years of its tortuous relations with the West. This relationship made it into a “torn nation”, to use Samuel Huntington’s term from the Clash of Civilization – forever torn between succumbing to Western civilization and returning to its Eurasian legacy.

This takes us to the crux of the problem. Russia’s seemingly-permanent backwardness ignited a prolonged debate between groups that would come to be known as its “Westernizers” and “Slavophiles” / “Eurasianists”. One of the current and most influential iterations of the former is the argument set forth in Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man, which in the heady, triumphalist days of 1992 proclaimed, “What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government”.

First, this is backed by the empirical evidence. According to the Polity IV database, the number of countries qualifying as democracies rose from around a dozen before World War One, to more than ninety by 2008 [12]. Second, Fukuyama noted the increasing influence of the “Mechanism” of natural science on societies, which emphasizes the primacy of rationalism and the desirability of optimal socio-economic arrangements. Third, he appropriated the Hegelian master-slave dialectic to argue that liberal democracy is the system best geared towards managing the conflicting thymias[13] of both “isothymiacs” – whose desire for equality is satisfied by classical liberalism and rule of law; and “megalothymiacs” – whose desire for power over others is satisfied through capital accumulation and the thrills of democratic politics. The theory goes that as nations embrace the scientific method and industrialize – whether to enjoy the fruits of consumerism, or only just to preserve their political sovereignty – the likelihood of their convergence to liberal democracy and integration into the “international community” approaches one.

These theories of secular progress have developed in an uneasy conjunction with the “civilizational school”, which believes that free markets and liberal democracy are specific features of Western civilization, i.e. of the Latino-Germanic peoples, and therefore cannot easily take root in other societies. One of the most powerful arguments against wholesale Westernization was made by Nikolai Trubetzkoy in Europe and Man, published in 1920 amidst the postwar disillusionment and revolutionary turbulence of those years. He states that the idea of world progress, with European civilization naturally at its forefront, is nothing more than a baseless assumption of European cosmopolitanism (which is itself merely a euphemism for “egocentric” “pan-Latino-Germanic chauvinism”). This is because “the scientific nature of the proof is illusory”, since to “reconstruct the evolutionary scheme, we must know its beginning and end points, and to ascertain its beginning and end points, we must reconstruct the evolutionary scheme”. Through a deft combination of psychological and philosophical arguments, he comes to the conclusion that all cultures – including “savages” – are essentially equal and should be evaluated on their own merits. Though cultural relativism is well-known today, at least on liberal university campuses, such ideas were ground-breaking at the time [14].

Following his reflections on the non-universality of Western culture, Trubetzkoy asks whether it is possible for a non-European culture to a) completely assimilate with it and b) whether doing so is desirable. To do so, he draws on the work of the French sociologist Gabriel Tarde, who argued that all cultures are defined by “the uninterrupted emergence of new cultural assets” (legal codes, political structures, scientific ideas, artistic styles, etc). All cultural assets are either “inventions” – a product of the indigenous culture, or “propagations” – imports from another culture. The former is much easier to assimilate because it is an organic product of the society in question, whereas the latter is copied from another society and whose transplantation will result in a clash with older pre-existing values, resulting in a long and bitter duel logique for supremacy.

When a culture like Russia tries to Westernize, the result is cultural schizophrenia. A good half of its inventions – those stemming from its “old Russian” side – will now be rejected out of hand for not conforming to the dominant European paradigm. Because of its “cultural dependency” on Europe, paralyzing social clefts develop across classes and generations – for instance, during the 18th century “trivial, demeaning aping of Europe”, when the French-speaking upper classes were often unable to even understand their Russophone serfs. (Furthermore, “[Russia] must accept without protest everything that genuine Romano-Germans create and consider valuable, even if it conflicts with its national psychology and is poorly understood”. This basically defines Russia’s unsuccessful attempts to create a Western style free-market economy in the early 1990’s, which was carried out by ideologues and hijacked by insiders).

The resultant internal weaknesses and wastage of ideological energy on internal debates and conflicts cement a permanent cultural lag behind Europe. This breeds a burning inferiority complex within Russians, and causes Europeans to look down upon Russians, whom they criticize for either a) not Europeanizing far enough – for Russia’s indigenous cultural assets can never be fully extirpated, absent a full “anthropological merger” with the Romano-German world, or b) deceitfully repressing their “true nature” under a European veneer [15]. This further reinforces Russians’ disillusionment with the West.

The failure of Westernization, growing social tensions, and simmering ressentiment against the West, occasionally reach a critical point in which Russia attempts to “leap” the gap separating it from the West, as happened during the Bolshevik Revolution (leapfrogging from feudalism to socialism) or the 1990′s (from socialism to market fundamentalism) – i.e., to whatever utopian end-of-history the West appears to be moving towards at the time. However, these leaps are extremely enervating and result in long periods of stagnation as Russian society sets about resolving the contradictions opened up by its Sisyphean attempts to catch up to the West.

III. The Belief Matrix

One way to understand changes in a society’s belief systems is to graphically represent it within a Belief Matrix, as shown below for a ‘Sisyphean loop’ (encounter with the West).

The horizontal axis represents the degree of society’s faith in its own indigenous culture, which can be (roughly) proxied by measures such as demographic health, social solidarity, levels of social trust, the crime rate, and faith in the future. The rightmost part represents a state of “sobornost” (соборность) – a catch-all term for a deep sense of internal peace and unity between races, religions, sexes, etc, within a society, or in the words of the Russian philosopher Nikolai Lossky, “the combination of freedom and unity of many persons on the basis of their common love for the same absolute values”[16]. An example of such a period in Russian history could be the Khrushchev thaw (1956-64), which saw the ebbing of the class war and Stalinist repressions, rapid industrial growth, and symbolic achievements in space; but before the onset of the Brezhnev stagnation, with its drunkenness, corruption and cynicism, which dimmed the lights of faith in a bright socialist future.

Its opposite is another untranslatable Russian word, poshlost (пошлость), which according to different commentators is a kind of “petty evil or self-satisfied vulgarity”[17], “triviality, vulgarity, sexual promiscuity, and a lack of spirituality”[18], “not only the obviously trashy but mainly the falsely important, the falsely beautiful, the falsely clever, the falsely attractive”[19], and “corny trash, vulgar clichés, Philistinism in all its phases, imitations of imitations, bogus profundities, crude, moronic and dishonest pseudo-literature”[20]. This is another good catch-all term for categorizing declining cultures that have, or believe they have lost, their faith in themselves, prominent 20th century examples being Weimar Germany and 1990’s Russia.

The vertical axis of the Belief Matrix represents a society’s degree of belief in Rationalism, that is, Enlightenment values such as liberalism, the rule of law, the scientific method, etc, or what Samuel Huntington ethnocentrically labels as the “Idea of the West”. Several caveats must be added. Rationalism does not necessarily imply democracy, for as thinkers from Aristotle to de Tocqueville pointed out, democracy has a tendency to degenerate into an (irrational) tyranny of the majority. However, some democracy, or at least some degree of popular consent, is needed to sustain a rational society, i.e. for ‘liberal democracy’ to become so ‘embedded’ as to be accepted as an integral part of the national culture, as it is in countries like France or the US.

That is much harder than it sounds. The scientific method is alien and unfamiliar to the peasant mind filled with images of rain gods and trickster demons. The rule of law cannot sit well in human societies based on on communal coercion, “big man” rule and sacrificial scapegoating. As pointed out in Part I, rational market forces are anathema in subsistence societies. Thus, reconciling sobornost with rationalism, or ironing out the internal contradiction inherent in ‘liberal democracy’, is a long and tortuous process that necessitates the development of economic surpluses, and consequently of a culture of tolerance and an argumentative tradition, for its fulfillment. The only nations that managed to fully accomplish this in their pre-industrial phase were Great Britain and the US. However, once a society resolves these contradictions it enters a powerful liberty loop, which ensures the long-term survival of liberal democracy within its territories, at least in the absence of very severe exogenous shocks. Finally, it should be emphasized that the “Idea of the West” is only an absolute ideal to which humans can only aspire to, but never reach unity with; as such, it should not be conflated with individual “Western countries” (France, the US, etc), which are composed of humans and hence frequently, understandably, and inevitably fail to fully live up to their Rationalist ideal.

This explains the frequent Russian, Muslim, Third World, etc, accusations of double standards and hypocrisy [21] on the part of the “West”, which presents itself as a universal, end-of-history civilization, but in reality often acts in ways to further its cultural and economic hegemony. Though part of the critique is accurate and justified, another part veers into being a Romantic reaction against the West, which Gustav Pauli tried to define as “irrationalism, the mystic welding together of subject and object, the tendency to intermingle the arts, the longing for the far-away and the strange, the feeling for the infinite and the continuity of historic development”[22] – much like postmodernism, it is very hard to define Romanticism, for (rational) definition is contrary to its very spirit!

I have designated this over-reaction in Russia’s context as Russian mysticism (Romanticism) or skeptical Russophilia[23], noting that their adherents share a common belief in the non-universality of the Western project and in Russia’s unique civilizational identity and destiny – be it of a Slavophile, Eurasianist, or some other hue. Contrary to the ‘Western Russophobe’-imposed definition of a ‘Russophile’ as someone who uncritically praises Russia and its government, their defining trait is a simple acceptance of Russia for what it is; for unlike the case for (rational) Western civilization, resolving its own contradictions is not part of Russia’s historical mission – and one could add that attempts to do so on the part of its elites have led to usually led to tragic results. The essence of Russian Romanticism can be summed in just four lines by the famous Russian poet Fyodor Tyutchev.

Умом Россию не понять, | You can’t understand Russia with intellect,
Аршином общим не измерить: | You can’t measure her with a common scale,
У ней особенная стать — | She has a special kind of grace,
В Россию можно только верить. | You can only believe in Russia.

This anti-Western reaction can sometimes spiral out of control, transcending its aesthetic, mystical origins into the realm of ‘metapolitics’[24]. The intersection between sobornost and mysticism is the dark region where totalitarianisms arise and democides are unleashed, as their spiritually tortured societies attempt to go back to an imagined past using the most modern tools – as Goebbels himself said, “National Socialism has understood how to take the soulless framework of technology and fill it with the rhythm and hot impulses of our time”. Speaking of which, the prime example of this during the 20th century is German Nazism, which ‘scorns personal freedom and objectivity and all universal, unnational values as being the “superficial” civilization of the sunny Mediterranean, in contrast with the “deeper” Kultur of northern fogs, that misty metapolitics, that “queer mixture of mysticism and brutality”’[25]. A modern example would be the Islamists using modern technology (bombs, airplanes, etc) and modern ideology (Islamized ‘Third Worldism’) to recreate their vision of a pure, idyllic imagined past [26].

In conclusion, there are four utterly distinct socio-psychological states on the Belief Matrix. First, at the bottom right (rationalism / sobornost), we have stable societies where liberalism enjoys a substantial degree of popular consensus, locking them into self-perpetuating ‘liberty cycles’. Second, at the bottom left (rationalism / poshlost), we have peoples with minimal internal social solidarity and a rational mindset, which one could call “diasporic[27] (in that it is typical amongst “diaspora peoples” like the Jews, Armenians, the Chinese ‘bamboo network’ in East Asia, etc). The diaspora mentality cannot be sustained within a non-diasporic society, for a society cannot be a parasite on itself indefinitely; it will have to move upwards, towards a state of “barbarism”, whose essence is a principled stand for pure parasitism – the top-left of the Belief Matrix (mysticism / poshlost), which is a form of nihilism. Yet this too is an unstable state, since it needs to feed off a functioning civilization for its material and cultural survival (i.e. one with a certain degree of sobornost), hence it will eventually come to an end – either when it is crushed by the civilizations it necessarily stands in opposition to, or when it conquers them itself but whose demise likewise eliminates the rents the barbarians had previously relied upon to sustain their civilization, thus forcing them into generating their own productive capabilities. Fourth, the region of the top-right (mysticism / sobornost) is the aforementioned realm of metapolitics, of the “charismatic authority”[28], of high “passionarity”[29], of the national will, of totalitarian despotism.

IV. The Sisyphean Loop

We are all prisoners of the belief matrix and its laws, even the ‘post-historical’ Europeans [30] entrenched within transnational liberalism. As such, it is imperative to understand these laws, especially as they apply to cultures in an uneasy relationship with the West. I will now try to put together a general model of how traditional cultures react to the Western challenge, before applying it to Russia’s five hundred year history of alternating acceptance and rejection of the West in Parts V-VII. I will be referring to the ‘Sisyphean Loop’ chart in Part III throughout.

As attested to by numerous chronicles, first contact with Westerners by less advanced civilizations typically results in a certain fascination with the strange, new Westerners, as well as a determination to catch up – especially to acquire the Western military-industrial technologies to defend against Western predation. (There are many exceptions, of course; for instance, 19th century China believed the Europeans had nothing to teach them, and retreated in on itself to its cost. But in the long-term, the reality of Chinese stagnation and its exploitation by Western powers – including by a Western-armed Japan – eventually forced a tectonic shift). The two cleanest examples of countries repeatedly opting for ‘defensive modernization’ are Japan during the Tokugawa and Meiji eras, and successive incarnations of the Russian Empire under Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Alexander II, Stalin, Putin?

Many indigenous traditions are seen as incompatible with modernization and are rejected by the ruling elites – and as noted in Part II, since a Westernizing nation “borrows its evaluation of culture from the Romano-Germans”, it must then “accept without protest everything that genuine Romano-Germans create and consider valuable, even if it conflicts with its national psychology and is poorly understood”[31]. This creates internal tensions, conflicts, and unrest within society. There occurs a growing gap between the Westernizing elites and the traditional mass of society, a theme that typically comes to dominate vast swathes of its culture and literature, a classic sign of poshlost. Society moves to the bottom- left of the belief matrix, embracing Rationalism (synonymous with Westernization) at the expense of faith in itself. Social trust erodes, there is more internal strife, and society takes on a “diasporic” mentality – the debasing feeling of being a foreigner in one’s own land.

The cosmopolitan elites come to be seen as foreign leeches on indigenous soil, decadent and degenerate, by the common folks – many of whom retain, let us remind ourselves, peasant mentalities valuing egalitarian collectivism, and many of whom are now being uprooted from the soil to swelling cities, made literate and capable of reading agitprop, and made mobile by the new railways, as happened in the last decades of Tsarism (in modern times a similar role may be played by the spread of electronic social networking technologies [32]). Furthermore, these grievances tend to have more than a grain of truth, as the elites do tend to slavishly follow foreign manners (e.g. see the French-speaking Tsarist aristocracy, many of whom could not even understand their Russophone serfs) and exploit the indigenous population in the name of Western-associated ‘modernization’, forcing the country into a humiliating ‘dependency’ relationship with the already-developed core.

Over time these problems begin to discredit further Westernization, especially once the easiest (and ostensibly most useful) task of military modernization is completed. The people and the elites lose faith in the West – the former because they associate it with degeneracy and corruption (e.g. the Russian workers and peasants most aware of it: because of the development of the national railway system during late Tsarism, even a peasant from a rural backwater could now observe the parasitic decadence of the Court); the latter because of the shallow nationalism born of reinvigorated military, economic and cultural strength accruing from a limited modernization. Intellectually, there is a gradual movement back towards embracing indigenous culture, like the late Tsarist intelligentsia’s (narodniki) fad towards Slavophilia, with its (rather risible) idolization of Russian peasant life.

But now one of two things happens. A part of the elite realizes that their decadence is politically dangerous (a large gap between the masses and the elites presages revolution), and tries to move back towards indigenous traditions – back to the people, so to speak. This is opposed by another part of the elite that has gotten used to its perks and privileges, despite the spiritual anomie in which they are stuck because of this. The ruling elites become disunited and weak; the masses are increasingly disillusioned with the whole system; new ideologues appear, preaching about total rejection of the West (e.g. the Bolsheviks) and a return to an imagined past of purity and virtue, i.e. to tradition (e.g. amongst whom there were many admirers of Russian peasant communal traditions; non-Russian examples would be fascist movements or the radical Islamists who overthrew the Iranian Shah).

There appears a crisis, further straining divisions in the government and polarizing society in general (e.g. World War One). Eventually the government is forced to reform, but alas and alack, as per de Tocqueville, the most dangerous moment for a bad government is when it begins to reform. By reversing course and showing weakness, it delegitimizes itself in the face of crisis; furthermore, it frequently becomes more democratic just when the people (and newly-enfranchised electorate) are becoming more hardline, and extremists (the Bolsheviks in 1918, the Iranian Islamists in 1979, etc) are waiting in the wings. The extremists moderate their positions to win over the people and consolidate their control; after that they unleash terror, taking their captive nation into the far-top fringes of uncompromising rejection of Rationalism and anti-Western reaction.

On the other hand, if the elite remains united; if the crisis is not that severe; if the people retain a firm belief in Rationalism and the Idea of the West and are unswayed by the extremists, then a more moderate outcome can be expected – a reversion back to the past, the state of stasis (“traditional authority”), yet having assimilated some elements of the Idea of the West during its loop so that society is now “better” and perhaps “fairer” than before (by the yardstick of more Westernized states). They remain in this inert state until another shock (e.g. defeat in war by a more Westernized nation, or recognition of weakness) forces them to act, restarting the loop.

Why do I call this a Sisyphean loop? Because while it lasts, this basically explains a tortured nation’s attempts to catch up with “the West” (roll the rock to the top of the mountain), but never managing it (the rock keeps going back downhill). This is very pronounced in Russia – its entire history since gunpowder Muscovy has been one of quixotic attempts to catch up to and surpass the West, yet which all too often ended in catastrophes wrought of messianic delusions, followed by prolonged periods of frustration, stagnation, and collapse.

V. The Rise, Fall, and Rise of the Russian Empire

The hand of the Muscovite Leviathan lay heavy on a people always near the edge of subsistence, creating strong centrifugal forces that further reinforced the state’s natural penchant for coercive centralization and intensive legitimization (the main instruments in these endeavours being the Army, the bureaucracy, and the Church). This resulted in Russia oscillating between two equilibrium states – 1) a centralized autocracy attempting to consolidate state power over the Eurasian vastness – “Empire”, and 2) a natural state of illiberal, anarchic stasis – “Chaos”.

This is how this imperial cycle works. Following Russia’s cyclical collapses (the Mongol conquest, The Time of Troubles, the Civil War and the post-Soviet transition), in which the state withers away and foreign powers and their Russian proxies move in to take advantage of the Eurasian vacuum (the Poles during the ‘Time of Troubles’, the Civil War era interventions, Western ‘financial advisors’ during the 1990’s), there eventually emerges a messianic “white rider” who heavy-handedly drives out the usurpers, and restores order and national morale (the 15th- and early 16th-century princes of Muscovy, Peter the Great, Lenin). Putin is the current white rider, intimately cognizant of Russia’s weakness from his intelligence background and determined to once again play state-driven catch-up to the West.

However, this is rarely successful – these developments are stymied by the baleful economic and social effects of Westernization on Russia (see Part II). Disappointed by slow and stunted progress, the white rider “realizes that the challenges ahead are more formidable than he first believed and that his (relative) idealism is more a hindrance than an asset”[33]. Into this society riven by internal divisions and disillusionment (poshlost) – in steps the ‘dark rider’, who unburdens himself of the white rider’s moral restraints in an all-out drive to fulfil the state’s goals through strict internal controls, subjugation of the economy and military expansionism – he recreates the Empire, driving Russia to the (metapolitical) top-right of the Belief Matrix. The most famous examples are Stalin and Ivan Grozny in his later years.

This empire-building is accompanied by intense efforts at state legitimization (the “Third Rome”, the socialist future, etc – i.e., reincarnations of the mystical, messianic Russian ‘national idea’) and state coercion (from oprichnina to OGPU). Yet the people tend to go along willingly with this project, because of unfavorable memories of the era of collapse and disintegration, and their perception that this regime, though harsh, is a necessary and ‘national’ one. In his visit to the 1930’s USSR, John Scott noted that Stalin himself was regarded as a kind of beneficent Tsar, a father of the nation, and a competent ‘captain of state’ like the propaganda posters portrayed him [34]; the regime enjoyed popular support and Stalinist industrialization was fuelled not only by fear, but by immense enthusiasm and fervor too. The war correspondent Alexander Werth noted similar sentiments in 1941, e.g. Stalin was viewed as a paternal bashka (thinker)[35].

After the dark rider dies, his ‘charismatic authority’ is replaced by more traditional and bureaucratic institutions, i.e. a more rational order. However, his legacies and achievements – sobornost, autarky, sovereignty, i.e. the Empire – linger on, and continue legitimizing the regime. For the Empire is, at root, a social preservation mechanism to allow Russians to enjoy the benefits of sustained socio-political complexity – internal peace, a degree of security from foreign marauders, a large contiguous market space permitting economies of scale and autonomous economic development, and the aesthetic trappings of imperial splendor.

However, cursed with a geography highly unfavorable for settled life (let alone civilization), imperial overstretch, economic backwardness and primitive consumer markets are features, not bugs, of any Eurasian empire (see Part I). Furthermore, the dark rider also sows the seeds of destruction by overextending his realm, which eventually ushers in a period of stagnation and increasing socio-economic strains. Russia’s imperial cycles are basically a permanent struggle against dissolution. Sometimes, the costs of maintaining the imperial superstructure exceed the benefits, by which point a systemic shock could unravel the entire system – a good example would be Kerensky’s Russia in 1917, which collapsed once its coercive (military) and legitimizing (the Church) power was destroyed by defeats, defections, and Bolshevik propaganda.

Half-hearted attempts of the ancien régime at reform fail and the country slides from decline into a new collapse, thus closing the cycle. Though crises are generally rarer in Russia than in most European countries, once they occur – given the amount of stress holding the system together – they tend to be extremely catastrophic. Even as newly-empowered ideologues set about fulfilling their dreams of leapfrogging the West from within the collapsed shell of state, the real Russia outside the Kremlin crumbles reverts back to its natural state – the natural state, an anarchic state of stasis, decentralized Chaos; abandoning its cities, laws, and other accoutrements of civilization for the primeval mysticism of its endless plains, dark forests and Slavic skies.

VI. Patterns of the Past

In this and the next chapter, I will be putting together the above observations on Russia’s geographic-climatic idiosyncrasies, the derived cultural traditions, its special path along the Belief Matrix, and its imperial cycles, trying to link them together and apply them to its past. There appear to me to be several ‘Sisyphean Loops’ in the history of the post-Tatar Russian state, periodic ‘waves’ in which it actively tried to reconcile rationalization with its indigenous traditions – most intense under the rule of Ivan IV (‘the Terrible’), Peter the Great, Lenin and Stalin, and Yeltsin and Putin (though also identifiable under Catherine the Great, and Alexander II and Alexander III).

Thunderstorms over the Third Rome

First off, the reason I put apostrophes around Ivan IV’s epithet – in Russian, it is “Grozny”, an adjective formed from the Russian word “гроза” – “thunderstorm”. Not necessarily cruel and unjust; more appropriate translation are ‘fear-inspiring’, ‘mighty’, ‘superhuman’, ‘sublime’; an unpredictable force of nature that can bring the rains that save the harvest, or kill and destroy everything in its path.

Following Ivan IV’s recognition as ‘Tsar of All Russia’ in 1547, he proceeded to build a diverse, Eurasian empire – and thus cementing Russia’s conception of itself as an Empire ever since. Though criticized for his ‘repressions’, including the violent suppression of the Novgorod insurrection [36], most of the ‘evidence’[37] for his ‘tyranny’ comes from Andrei Kurbsky, the first Russian ‘dissident’ and traitor who turned to Poland-Lithuania in 1564. Actual historical records record only 4,000-5,000 executions under his reign, most of them recidivists who betrayed Ivan Grozny a second time; furthermore, in any case the numbers pale besides the violence seen in Western Europe at the time (e.g. St. Bartholomew’s Massacre in France with 5,000-30,000 dead, and Henry VIII’s anti-vagrant laws that resulted in the execution of 72,000 peasants misappropriated of their lands).

Ivan Grozny made a series of far-reaching reforms, some of which were surprisingly advanced for their time – e.g. the introduction of elected juries from the lower ranks, local self-government, medical quarantines for combating plague, a standing military (strel’tsy), and rationalizing reforms of the Church, the law code, tax collection, the bureaucracy (formation of permanent chanceries, or prikazy, in 1553), nobles’ service obligations (the 1553 ‘decree on service’), and the convocation of zemskie sobory (‘land assemblies’) drawn from merchants and artisans to build consensus for state modernization policies.

Many of the reforms were based on those prevailing in the Ottoman Porte, in particular those concerned with the military structure, tax collection, and noble obligations. However, the attempt to copy the Ottoman system of land division (private, clerical, state, and ‘sovereign’) – known as the institution of oprichnina (1565-1572), meant to create a personal fiefdom subject to Ivan’s direct rule in order to extirpate treason and reduce boyar power – backfired. The black-cowled, sinister oprichniki, riding on black steeds with a broom and dog’s head to “sniff out and sweep away treason”, were more interested in personal enrichment and settling personal vendettas than in pursuing their task of consolidating Ivan Grozny’s power. They proved powerless to defend Moscow against a devastating raid from the Crimean Khanate in 1571, and were disbanded soon after – but not before inflicting severe damage on the Muscovite heartlands. By now Ivan’s transition from a white rider to dark rider was complete, as he steadily slipped into mental insanity, and Russia was wracked by famines and depopulation, and an unsuccessful war with Livonia. Following his death, Russia would slip into deep stagnation (in which state predation would be displaced by boyar predation) and within two decades, the ‘Time of Troubles’, an era of conspiratorial politics and internal strife (poshlost), depopulation, and foreign (Polish) intervention. Much of the 17th century was spent in recuperation from the depopulation and weakening of the state during the late 16th century; although pointedly, it was during this time, relatively free from Malthusian stress and predatory state alike, that Russians enjoyed some of the highest per capita surpluses and consumption in their pre-industrial history [38].

The reign of Ivan IV, ‘the Terrible’, set the template for all of Russia’s consequent ‘defensive modernizations’. Realizing Russia’s backwardness upon coming to power, the white rider, or strongman saviour, begins to rapidly implement a revolution from above involving centralization, social mobilization, and technical and cultural borrowings from abroad, i.e. an embrace of Rationalism. Yet eventually it is noticed that results aren’t progressing as fast as they ought to and need to, and the white rider is replaced by a much stricter dark rider, who rules with an iron fist and possesses an overinflated perception of Russia’s capability to assimilate his changes and reforms. The pursuit of modernization takes on a mystical, quasi-spiritual hue.

Ivan Grozny is special in that in his case, both riders were the same person; it’s just that under the pressures of sabotage and treason from his boyars, he metamorphosed from being a white rider to a dark rider. Under his later rule, efforts at legitimization, coercion, mobilization, etc, were pushed to such extremes that they of themselves critically undermined Russian power. Furthermore, Russia’s rising power and expansionism brought it into conflict with Poland-Lithuania to the west, which sought to check its advances, attempted to block Muscovy’s technological imports from Western Europe [39], and allied itself with the Crimean Khanate to the south (an Ottoman protectorate) – a move that could be seen as a precursor of Britain’s and American’s strategies of ‘containment’. This illustrates a recurring theme of Russian expansionism mentioned in Part I – there are always limits to imperial growth in the form of mounting resistance from bordering Powers, which impinges on the Empire’s economic base. Just as it Russia’s neighbours made it difficult for it to acquire modern gunpowder weapons, so the US during the Cold War would try its best to restrict exports of advanced technologies to the Soviet Empire.

And so it went for more than three hundred years more of Tsarism, during which time Russia suffered from a dependency relation with Europe, both economically (grain exports for luxuries) and culturally (a Francophone, ‘foreign’ elite). Ironically, the single greatest attempt to break out into modernity through mobilization and centralization (despotism?), pursued under Peter the Great, had its greatest impact on the reinforcement of (development-inhibiting) serfdom. The aristocracy soon wriggled out of its state service obligations after Peter’s death, but retained despotic power over their serfs until 1861, using their surpluses to fund lavish lifestyles devoted to the ‘trivial, demeaning aping of Europe’, as characterized by Trubetzkoy (see Part II). A renewed state-led industrialization campaign from the 1880’s would eventually generate the massive reaction – both Western and anti-Western, rational and irrational – known as the Bolshevik Revolution. It is to this event and its consequences that we now turn.

“The Third International is not an International, but the Russian national idea”

Late Tsarist Russia was a highly polarized, divided and turbulent society, as noted in Part IV. Peasants were drifting into rapidly expanding, unsanitary industrial cities riven by inequality. The railways and the spread of literacy – contrary to later Soviet propaganda, already well advanced [40] by that time – gave Russians unprecedented mobility and access to new, radical ideas and a glimpse of the aristocracy’s (and foreigners’) la dolce vita. In its last decade, Tsarist Russia was wracked by constant labor unrest in the factories and political violence, which were harshly suppressed. The workers, aware of and seduced by the consumption habits of Europeans [41] and their elites, demanded a bigger piece of the consumption pie, as did a younger, more ambitious segment of rural society. This conflicted with the state’s need for rapid industrial development, which by now it was taking seriously [42] – high tariff rates on manufactured goods, state involvement, the railways, and a cheap, suppressed labor force contributed to the late Empire’s rapid industrial expansion. But for all that, it should be noted that the Tsar retained the support of the vast majority of people, the extremist elements like the Bolsheviks were regarded as traitorous internationalists, and Russia’s growing power bolstered national self-confidence. At the genesis of modern total war in 1914, the Russian Empire was waxing, not waning; indeed, fearful projections of its future strength were an important factor in Germany’s decision to cross the Rubicon into Belgium.

The war exposed the Empire’s underlying weaknesses, as the initial outburst of patriotic euphoria degenerated into pessimism and anger. The war effort was prosecuted incompetently and an ill-supplied and demoralized Russian Army met defeat after defeat at the hands of the Germans. The privileged elite refused to share the war burden with the workers, alienating them through their ostentatious splendor – manifested above all in the Tsar, whose German wife, English lifestyle, and tolerance of the dissolute Rasputin discredited him in the eyes of the people. These transgressions were made to seem all the more egregious due to the Tsarist regime’s war propaganda, which only served to reinforce Russia’s sense of national consciousness. By 1917, the railway system was breaking down, and along with it food supplies to the cities and the front.

Following the collapse of the three-hundred year old Romanov dynasty in early 1917 and the cessation of political repression under the weak Provisional Government, the socialist-revolutionary movement sensed its historical moment. The radicalization of the urban workers, the discrediting of the old order, and the Bolsheviks’ skilful representation of themselves as the solution to the people’s problems (Land, Bread, Peace), laid the groundwork for the October Revolution of 1917. Utilizing their control of Russia’s main urban centers, instilling iron discipline in their followers, strangling the early Revolutionary freedoms in their cradle, and portraying the White forces as being corrupt and in cahoots with dark foreign forces (i.e., playing on the nationalism which they had rejected in their older, theoretical days), the Bolsheviks won the Civil War and set about building Communism – ‘Soviet power plus electrification of the country’, in Lenin’s memorable phrase. This was in essence another Russian attempt to ‘leap ahead’ of the West, similar to that attempted by Ivan Grozny, Peter the Great and even the late Tsars; yet married to industrialism, far more radical and ‘total’ in its scope and ambitions. Incubated within this apparent, radical Westernization – for Marxism was developed by a German in London, and had its antecedents in the Western dialectical tradition – was a profound resurrection of the mystical and sublime element of Russian history (e.g. the spiritual rehabilitation of Eurasia symbolized by the return of the capital to Moscow from Petrograd).

After the radicalism, insecurity and terrors of the Civil War period, the 1920’s saw a significant liberalization and social modernization – the fruits of the latest Western Rationalism. Abortion was legalized in 1920 and divorce laws were reformed. Austere ‘war communism’ was replaced with the New Economic Policy, which grudgingly granted the right to make private profit. There was more freedom in the arts, typified by the Russian avant-garde movement, which reached its peak in the 1920’s before being forcibly displaced by ‘socialist realism’ from 1932. This was part of a general return to ‘tradition’ spearheaded by Stalin, who pushed the idea of ‘socialism in one country’ in opposition to Trotsky’s internationalist concept of ‘permanent revolution’ and Bukharin and Kamenev’s social-democratic leanings. These old Bolsheviks were to be later condemned as heretics, and extirpated during the Stalinist ‘show trials’ of the mid-to-late 1930’s along with their ideas as Russia drifted back towards a socially-conservative, neo-imperialist state based on mobilization, militarization, and messianic fervor. As the Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev put it in his 1937 book The Origin of Russian Communism, “the Third Rome, Russia managed to bring about the Third International, on which were imprinted many of the features of the Third Rome… The Third International is not an International, but the Russian national idea”; the Soviet state represented a transformation of the “ideas of Ivan the Terrible, a new form of the old hypertrophied state of Russian history…Russian Communism is more traditional than people usually think, and is nothing more than a transformation and distortion of the old Russian messianic idea”. That said, the social revolution nonetheless irrevocably changed Russia: as Slavoj Žižek noted, for all their arbitrariness, ‘terror and misery’, nonetheless socialism “opened up a certain space, the space of utopian expectations which, among other things, enabled us to measure the failure of the really existing Socialism itself”[43]. In other words, Russia’s inevitable failure to fully assimilate this latest Western propagation (see Part II) would in time psychologically contribute to the late Soviet disillusionment and collapse because it opened up a space for its own refutation; just as previous radical ‘revolutions from above’ overseen by strongmen like Ivan Grozny and Peter the Great ended up undermining the Empire.

As noted in Part V, for all the privations (repressions, economic coercion, etc) forced on the Russian people as the Empire was built up during the 1930-1950’s – and defended at phenomenal cost during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45) – the regime retained a great degree of support throughout. Sometimes the regime went too far in its paranoia and ended up undermining itself, as during 1936-37 when the repressions spiraled out of control and became of themselves the greatest source of ‘sabotage’ in the Soviet economy. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that the USSR could have withstood an assault by the Wehrmacht, supported by the industrial potential of most of Europe, if it hadn’t been for Stalin’s foresight and ruthlessness in industrializing the Urals, expanding Soviet borders west, centralizing state operations, and preparing wartime industrial relocation plans.

For if the USSR had lost the Great Patriotic War, this would have resulted in the partial extermination, Siberian exile and helotization of the Slavic and Jewish populations of eastern Europe, as envisaged under Generalplan Ost, Nazi Germany’s genocidal scheme for conquering Lebensraum in the East. This partly explains why Russians today hold such conflicted and contradictory views on Stalin, the despotic Messiah who led and ruled them like the God of the Old Testament – according to a February 2006 opinion poll, 47% of the population are positive, whereas 29% are negative [44]. During the postwar decades, Victory was the greatest single legitimization of the Soviet regime, and even today, it cleanses away the other manifold sins of Stalin’s regime in the minds of many of Russia’s citizens – attesting to its lasting power as Russia’s national myth.

After the poshlost of the 1920’s to the early Stalinist period, in which Russia moved in an upwards arc along the left side of the Belief Matrix, after 1938 – and especially after the spiritual boost of Victory in 1945 – Soviet Russia returned to a state of sobornost at the top-right position of the Belief Matrix, underpinned by sovereignty and autarky, i.e. all the classical elements of the idealized Russian Empire. Prior to Stalin’s death in 1953, the groundwork was being laid for what could have been a new purge directed against ‘rootless cosmopolitans’, a euphemism for Soviet Jews, with the ‘Doctors’ Plot’ (1952) to poison Soviet leaders serving as a pretext: hundreds were already arrested by early 1953. This would have been the culmination of a steady process under Stalin in which ‘diasporic’ elements (Rationalism – poshlost) were expunged in favor of Russia’s older imperial identities (mysticism – sobornost). Examples of this process include the purges of the avant-garde artists and the old Bolsheviks; the deportations of minorities; the crushing of ‘national’ movements in direct contravention of Lenin’s liberal attitudes towards nationalities; the gradual rehabilitation of Tsarist-era ranks, symbols and old national heroes like Alexander Nevsky during the war, whose socialist credentials were highly questionable; the wartime reversal of course on Russian nationalism and the Orthodox Church, etc. There is even a story, perhaps apocryphal, that after the end of the Second World War a group of exiled Russian nobles wrote to Stalin, congratulating him on his recreation of a great Empire and offering him their services in return for clemency. He didn’t reply, of course – the Red Tsar did not tolerate heresy, even when recanted.

The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Empire

The Soviet Empire reached its greatest degree of sobornost during Khrushev’s reign (1956-64). The Stalinist repressions were condemned and political prisoners in the Gulag – many of whom had wept on hearing of Stalin’s death – were released. There was a degree of liberalization and even a work as controversial as Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was published and avidly debated. Meanwhile, there was strong economic growth, this time including in the consumption sector, as Stalin’s emphasis on the military-industrial complex was relaxed.

However, after the Khrushev thaw (ottepel’) there set in a period of stagnation (zastoi) and renewed authoritarianism, this time of a milder, rational-bureaucratic character. After 1965, the USSR came to be afflicted by a metastasizing alcoholism epidemic, and after a half-century of rapid improvement, Russian mortality rates peaked and began their long slide down. This was most pronounced amongst middle-aged men, though uniquely for industrialized countries, the phenomenon even manifested itself amongst infants from the 1970’s-early 1980’s. This gray authoritarianism was accompanied by a growth in corruption and ‘structural militarization’, in which an ever growing percentage of Soviet industrial output was diverted from the consumption and social sphere into the military sector – by the 1980’s, the military-industrial complex accounted for up to 30% of Soviet GDP [45].

Belief in socialism moved metamorphosed from pure idealism to an ironic skepticism lubricated by vodka. Structural factors strangled economic growth – the demographic transition (declining industrial workforce growth as the effects of the Stalinist fertility transition and the end of large-scale urbanization made themselves felt); limits to growth in the form of flat-lining raw resource extraction (e.g. peak oil in 1987) and the fulfillment of ‘heavy industrialization’; aging machinery (need more investment to maintain the same level of growth); the aforementioned ‘structural militarization’; the growing complexity of the late-industrial economy (the numbers of goods produced explodes and central planning becomes increasingly unviable); and the associated massive expansion of the bureaucracy (e.g. the percentage of the population who were Party members increased from 1% under Stalin to 15% by the 1980’s). There appeared an incipient rejection of Soviet tradition in favor of the West, especially amongst liberal youth, as well as growing disillusionment on the part of the dominant class – the workers. Realizing the dire straits the country was in by the mid-1980’s, the Soviet leadership under Gorbachev embarked on an increasingly radical program of economic (uskoreniye, perestroika), social (anti-alcohol campaign) and political (glasnost, demokratizatsiya) reforms.

Contrary to popular belief, Soviet collapse was not inevitable since the system itself was fundamentally stable, albeit stagnant [46]; the underlying reason was lay not in its failed consumer economy, hypertrophied defense sector or general nastiness, but rather Gorbachev’s abortion of central planning and economic coercion – the system of benefits and punishments for economic performance that was the linchpin of the Soviet economy. (Though, granted, worker unrest and stagnation may have tipped Gorbachev’s hand). In the absence of evolved market mechanisms, this simply led to ruinous insider plunder, asset stripping and managerial misappropriation, all under the label of “liberalization”. Russia’s physical production system remained intact, but retreated to a much lower level of output as barter arrangements replaced central planning and the huge military resource stocks were sold off.

In principle, the Soviet economy could have been reformed if the dictator (Gorbachev) had cracked down hard on the corruption that was debilitating the USSR, undertaken efficiency and organizational improvements that had previously been discarded because of concerns over upsetting entrenched interests and labor unrest, forcefully halted and started to reverse the structural militarization of the Soviet economy (e.g. by transferring capital and R&D assets to the civilian industrial base), etc. However, perhaps the collapse really was inevitable, if the system itself was simply too myopic to imagine its own demise, and / or if a reversion to coercion could not have been made to work by the late 1980’s – a valid point because this might measure may not have won support from a nomenklatura class terrified of a return to Stalinist terror.

Whatever the answer to these questions, this debate is now entirely academic. Costs exceeded benefits; the burden of complexity became too great to bear. The Soviet state, bereft of its most powerful tool (economic coercion) yet still burdened by immense obligations (welfare and warfare), unraveled under the strain. It left behind what could be called, for all practical purposes, a void, for the development of a functioning capitalism and its legal and regulatory norms needs both time and stability – neither of which Russia had. By the early 1990’s, the Empire crumbled and Russia had again reverted to its second equilibrium position – a Hobbesian ‘natural state’ of anarchic stasis [47], or ‘Chaos’.

VII. Reading Russia Right

There are currently three major schools of thought on Russia’s post-Soviet socio-political development, which can be characterized as a) “authoritarian reversion” (a promising transition in the 1990′s that was checked and reversed by dark Kremlin forces – siloviks, chekists, etc), b) ‘convergence’ (a rough but secular convergence to Western liberal democracy) and c) the cynicism of Andrew Wilson’s ‘virtual politics’. Though b) predominated during the 1990′s, under Putin’s tenure a) became the conventional wisdom.

Though each has varying degrees of truth, they all nonetheless have major weaknesses: a) does not account for the fact that the transition period was hardly liberal or democratic, and that the scope of the Kremlin’s authoritarianism is arguably overstated [48], b) the divergence from the West has become too great – both rhetorically and in practice, and c) assumes the elite is entirely post-ideological, concerned with only power and money. The “Sisyphean Loop” model attempts to integrate these divergent worldviews into a coherent whole.

Russia’s loop is a Sisyphean one, because though at times it strives towards the bottom-right of the Belief Matrix – i.e. ‘convergence’ with the ‘rationalist’ West, it never manages to permanently settle there because of the shocks that have always disturbed it from its position there. Being a hostage to its history, it cannot end it. Throughout the stagnation under Brezhnev and Gorbachev’s reforms, society became progressively more pro-Western; however, faith in Soviet-Russian culture remained strong too, held together by decades of socialist propaganda and some real achievements. However, during the early 1990′s, as the magnitude of the Soviet failure to build a fair and prosperous society became painfully clear and the country descended into a black hole of corruption, there was a wholesale rejection of Soviet-Russian culture – society moved left towards poshlost. The period was characterized by insider plunder, rising inequality and grinding poverty, the failed First Chechen War, plummeting indexes on nearly every socio-economic measure that the government still took the trouble to collect, an ossified military reliant on brutal impressments to fill its ranks, and a near-collapsed state that lost effective control of three vital functions – legitimate violence, tax collection and monetary emissions [49].

Some of the key reasons the transition was much harder in Russia than in east-central Europe were its aforementioned geographic disadvantages, cultural proclivities and burdensome Soviet legacy (see Part I). As pointed out in Part VI, after the end of economic coercion, with no market mechanisms or rule of law in place, output collapsed. Russia’s structural disadvantages in manufacturing contributed to its 1990’s deindustrialization, which was much more severe even than the 40%+ peak-to-nadir fall in GDP (1989-1998), for the post-Soviet elites found it much more convenient to sell Russia’s mineral resources abroad, using the proceeds to enrich themselves and import the needed consumer goods from Europe and China. Despite Yeltsin’s authoritarian efforts to implement market fundamentalism with tanks on a recalcitrant Duma in 1993 [50], Russia became a rent-seeking oligopoly in economic depression instead of the globalized, laissez-faire economy dreamed of by the neoliberal ideologues in the Kremlin.

No country can remain in a state of collapse indefinitely; towards the end of the 1990′s, the state began to reassert control. The tipping point came in 1998, when the financial crash cemented Russia’s disillusionment with the West and new faces from the security services [51] were brought into Russian politics, determined to clean up and restore its power. This change of course was reinforced by Russians’ angry reactions to NATO’s bombing of Serbia, which was felt to be unjust and grotesquely insensitive to Russian feelings. This marked the beginning of a long-term decline in Russians’ perceptions of the US – for better or worse, the champion of the “Idea of the West’. The human face of this shift was the accession of Putin the white rider to the Russian Presidency at the dawn of the new millennium – a strongman who restores peace and order to the Russian lands (as presented by his supporters). Russia began to move up along its Belief Matrix, away from the West, as the siloviki consolidated their power and Kremlin rhetoric became less ‘Western’ and more ‘national’ (the critics would add an ‘ist’).

Following a short dip back towards the West during the early 2000′s, when Putin cooperated with the US in the war on terror and introduced some liberal reforms (e.g. the 13% flat tax), the YUKOS Affair and increasing centralization moved Russia further away from the West, into the top-left nether regions where there is no belief in either the indigenous culture or the West. The political culture of the Russian elites transitioned from being ‘diasporic’ to ‘barbaric’, as the terms were defined in Part III. The YUKOS Affair – in Western rhetoric, a heavy-handed and corrupt clampdown on free enterprise and political participation; in Kremlin rhetoric, a necessary defense against an attempted hijacking of the state by the latter-day boyars – was the seminal moment in the break between Russia and the West. In its immediate aftermath, the US launched an information war against Russia and pushed aggressively with ‘color revolutions’ into its Near Abroad; whereas in the 1990’s Western expansionism had been aimed at stabilizing the Eurasian vacuum, now its aim was to reconstruct a cordon sanitaire around Russia to preempt the Empire’s reemergence. Russia retaliated by intensifying its efforts in the economic and intelligence penetration of Ukraine and the Baltics, Caucasus, and Central Asia. Though direct talk of it remains muted, the old strategy of active containment has resurfaced in the last five years.

Facing humiliation from Russophobe rhetoric in the West and feeling increasingly under ideological and territorial siege, the impetus to once again gather up the Russian lands and recreate the Empire has been rapidly resurfacing. On the Belief Matrix, the moral anomie or ‘barbarism’ of the top-left is an unstable state, for almost all people have an overriding need to believe in some higher ideal; once again stimulated by the Russian inferiority complex and perceived Western arrogance, or ‘Russophobia’, from 2006 Russia undoubtedly began to move to the right of the matrix at an accelerating pace, towards sobornost.

Thus we see how all three of the interpretations given at the start of this chapter – a) ‘authoritarian reversion’, b) ‘convergence’, and c) ‘virtual politics’, are to some extent accurate [52]. The concept of ‘convergence’ was popular during the late USSR and early 1990’s, when Russia was at the bottom of the Belief Matrix – its then subscription to Rationalism was taken to mean that Westernization would be inevitable, though some voiced doubts that the psychological collapse (poshlost) brought on by the post-Soviet ‘Time of Troubles’ would undermine the stability of any such transition. The doubters were proven correct, and their concept of an ‘authoritarian reversion’ fueled by popular disillusionment and the ‘traditional’ Russian craving for a strong hand gained ground amongst Russia-watchers, who found their evidence in Putinism’s alleged slide into ‘dark’ authoritarian from the rosy, ‘democratic’ Yeltsin years. This viewpoint manifested itself in lurid book titles like ‘Kremlin Rising’, ‘The New Cold War’, and ‘Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State’ and dominated – and continues to dominate – the Western journalistic and political discourse on Russia. This is regretful, since this viewpoint lacks nuance and tends to favor hyperbole over dispassionate analysis [53].

In an incisive but unfortunately little-known study [54], Andrew Wilson argues that the defining theme of Putin’s Russia isn’t authoritarianism as such, but the preeminence of electoral and media manipulation to conceal a mild, non-ideological, and extremely corrupt authoritarianism beneath a veneer of pluralistic politics. This model of ‘virtual politics’ has a great explanatory potential for the post-Soviet period of poshlost, when Russia was indeed governed by a ‘historyless’ elite; however, arguably, with the creeping return of sobornost and the ideal of the Empire as guiding lights of Russia’s foreign and domestic policies, the era of ‘virtual politics’ is waning and is about to be replaced with something different. This is the topic of Part VIII, which concludes this essay.

VIII. Return to the Future?

Since 2006, there has arguably been a discontinuity in Russia’s national life, akin to what happened in 1998; though as yet little recognized, it will come to dominate its analysis within a few years. Russia has begun to return to the Empire.

First, the state took a much more proactive role in economic and social development. National Priority Projects were launched to improve housing, healthcare and education. Subsidies to agriculture were increased, and in 2008 the grain harvest returned to its Soviet-era highs [55]. A high profile initiative to develop nanotechnology was launched in 2007. It pursued industrial policies designed to attract foreign manufacturing and hi-tech companies, with noticeable effects – for instance, automobile production increased from 1.2mn units in 2000 to 1.8mn units in 2008 [56]. As noted before, a degree of ‘autarky’ coupled with state intervention is a vital prerequisite to real economic development in Russia (to a greater extent than is the case in already-developed nations and / or countries with more favorable geographies), with its concomitants in the form of increased national morale and political independence. This is a return to Russia’s traditional mode of development, in which the state harnessed its surpluses – grain during late Tsarism, oil during the late Soviet era – to support the development of strategic industries. As Russia acquires globally competitive industries – an entirely feasible prospect given its strengths in general education and some specialized sectors like defense, aerospace, and nuclear power – the state may gradually loosen its reins. Though it can hardly hope to ever fully converge with the richest Western nations due to its embedded disadvantages, given that it no longer suffers from the Soviet-era inefficiencies of central planning and excessive militarization, it can reach an asymptote relative to the West substantially higher than its previous 1970’s peak.

Second, there has been a substantial improvement in social morale, as attested to by the demographic statistics and opinion polls. Whereas in the late 1990′s and early 2000′s Russia was losing around 750,000 people a year, today the decline has almost stabilized due to an increase in the average fertility rate (the average number of children a woman is expected to have) from 1.30 in 2006 to 1.49 in 2008 (and still rising in 2009 despite the economic crisis)[57], as well as substantial reductions in the (still abnormally high) middle-aged mortality rate. Furthermore, despite the big reduction in the size of the cohort of women of child-bearing age projected for the 2010’s as a result of the 1990’s fertility collapse, there are strong indicators that this positive trend may continue[58] into the future based on the strong evidence that Russia’s post-Soviet fertility collapse was caused by “transition shock” rather than a “values realignment” to low-fertility middle-European norms. From the other end, the mortality crisis is being attacked by a renewal of the anti-alcohol campaign after a twenty year hiatus. During the 2000-2008 period, state statistics indicate that mortality from alcohol poisonings, suicide and murder have nearly halved, though they all remain very high by international standards. Perhaps not coincidentally, Levada polls indicate that for the first time since measurements began in the Yeltsin period, from late 2006 more people were confident in tomorrow than were not. All this indicates that a sense of sobornost is being slowly restored.

Third, Russia’s actions in the post-Soviet space, particularly towards Ukraine [59], may imply that it intends, at the least, to restore an econo-political bloc in the region, probably through organizations like EurAsEC and the CSTO. Since more Ukrainians would prefer to join those groups than either the EU or NATO [60] and considering that President Yushenko’s approval ratings hover in the single digits (he is the most pro-Western major political figure in Ukraine) and the nation’s overall disillusionment with the perceived Chaos and poshlost of their democracy (support for which fell from 72% in 1989 to 30% today [61]), this should not be a major hurdle. Russia is likewise reinforcing its influence in Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kirgizstan through a mixture of economic penetration, pipeline politics, and military bases. This foreign policy is stridently independent of the West and contributes not insignificantly to Putin’s consistently high approval ratings, which have been north of 60% ever since he launched the Second Chechen War in 1999. It is not a Western liberal democracy, but Surkov’s description, “sovereign democracy”, appears to be an apt moniker. The main idea being, of course, that Russia is politically sovereign from the West, no longer tied down in the international arena by its economic dependence and internal weaknesses.

[Gallup polls showing attitudes towards Eurasian unity in the post-Soviet space. In all countries except Azerbaijan, the median average wants at least an economic union across Eurasia. This indicates that Russia will not find it unduly hard to rebuild the Empire. Source: Gallup.]

These three trends – autarky, sobornost and sovereignty – are synergistic. Recreating an empire or something resembling one is (‘sovereignty’), apart from its inherent effect in reinforcing Russia’s geopolitical power, also complementary to the return of economic autarky (creates a larger economic space with opportunities for economies of scale) and sobornost (because the Russian national identity remains inextricably linked up with empire since the 16th century – as of today, 47% of Russians believe it is ‘natural’ for Russia to have an empire, up from 37% in 1989 [62]). Likewise, a self-contained economic system (‘autarky’) increases the Empire’s freedom of action on the international stage and encourages a national (‘sovereignty’), as opposed to internationalist or diasporic, mentality (‘sobornost’). The state of sobornost underpins the fundamental unity and spiritual strength of the Empire. The analysis outlined above indicates that Russia is returning to its future rather than the end of history, a future-and-past characterized by a strong, centralizing state coordinating, if not outright controlling, the direction of development – for it is fundamentally the state guarantees all three factors that underpin the Empire, which also explains the importance of gosudarstvennost and derzhavnost in Russian history.

Following the South Ossetian War of 2008, the already popular belief that the West was a hostile power was reinforced – even the once very pro-Western intelligentsia is beginning to reject the West [63]. It is also interesting to consider that the most “anti-Western” segment of the Russian population are university-educated Muscovite men [64], i.e. the future elites; similar attitudes have filtered through to Russia’s schoolchildren [65]. The 2008-2009 economic crisis probably spells the end of the oligarchs as a class: many have lost their fortunes and become financially beholden to the cash-rich Russian state – as copper magnate Iskander Makhmudov said, “The oligarchs now have mixed fortunes, but we will all end up being soldiers of Putin one day”[66]. The banking system is being consolidated, Russian corporate dependence on Western credit has been severed (because the Western credit system has broken), and Russia’s decision to seek WTO admission in tandem with Kazakhstan and Belarus [67] indicates it places a higher priority on forming a regional economic bloc than on global economic integration.

What next? History is a guide. A fundamental feature of autarkies is that to increase their strategic self-sufficiency, they need to expand their domain – much as the Bolsheviks created the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which in turn expanded it to COMECON (the idea being that a group of nations ‘liberated’ from domination by global capital is better off sticking together to preserve their new-found sovereignty). They have to expand territorially in order to acquire access to all the vital building blocks of an industrial economy and to be able to hold its own against other economic bloc. Applying this to the reemerging Russian Empire, it is very likely that within the next decade (East) Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan will again become integrated with Russia, on a spectrum of possibilities ranging from an EU-like structure to a unitary state-empire. Netting in the latter two presents no problem, given that they are already tightly integrated with Russia.

Under normal circumstances, Ukraine presents a much harder to nut to crack; however, it should be borne in mind that Ukraine’s project of Westernization – which happened to encapsulate its bid for real independence from Eurasia – has failed on almost all criteria. Its current GD, taking into account the recent 20-25% collapse during the crisis, 30-40% lower than it was in the late USSR! (Russia’s is around 0-10% lower, but it is not faced with a fiscal or political crisis). Damningly, opinion polls indicate that Putin and Medvedev are by far the most popular politicians in Ukraine. The essence of the Ukrainian Question will not be whether it chooses Russia or the West; it will be whether Ukraine will remain a united state that gets drawn back into Russia’s orbit, or whether there will be a ‘Great Split’ between its Ukrainian-speaking west and its Russophone east, with the latter fully integrating into Russia and the former becoming an independent state.

Reintegration with Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan will create a state with 210 million souls and will significantly increase the economic and military-industrial power at Moscow’s disposal by at least 50%. One has to keep in mind that Eurasia’s industrial base was meant to be unified when it was constructed during the Soviet era, and as such the gains accruing from reintegration will be more than just the sum of its parts. One of Russia’s geopolitical priorities is to thwart an independent energy corridor for the proposed Nabucco oil pipeline and to link up with its ally Armenia, so it will no doubt continue pressuring a weakened Georgia to return into its orbit.

Whether Russia will choose to expand in Central Asia is more questionable. On the one hand, they have respectable energy reserves (especially gas), constitute demographic reservoirs amidst graying Slavdom, and are geopolitically important. There are few problems with radical Islam and on the whole they appreciate Russian culture. On the other hand, they will present a development burden and outside powers will oppose any overt Russian reassertion in Central Asia – although it should be noted that both Chinese and US influence is far weaker in the region than Russia’s.

Forking Paths

There are now four distinct ‘paths’ Russia could take in the next few years – ‘sovereign democratization’, ‘totalitarian reversion’, ‘return to the natural state’, and ‘liberalization’. The only (near) certainty is change; for all its apparent move back towards sobornost and the trappings of the Empire, this belies the fact that Russia today is still in an unsteady and undecided state, and as such its future is far from preordained. Let’s look at them in turn.

In ‘sovereign democratization’, Russia will retain its current geopolitical status, ‘indigenize’ or ‘assimilate’ Western liberal democracy, and will successfully develop an advanced economy, which it will gradually open as it acquires globally competitive industries. This viewpoint is argued by Nicolai Petro [68], who claims that Putin consolidated the Russian state during his first eight years, and that the second part of the ‘Putin Plan’ is to develop liberal institutions and an active civil society. State corruption will be greatly reduced – President Medvedev has already openly spoken out against ‘legal nihilism’, and perhaps the recent allied initiative on the part of Surkov, head of the GRU-related clan, and the civiliki clan, to investigate strategic companies linked to Sechin’s FSB-related clan for corruption and mismanagement is the opening shot of a coming purge. In this vision, Russia will be a prosperous, liberal, and patriotic nation by 2020 at the bottom-right of the Belief Matrix, comfortably entwined within the ‘liberty cycle’ much like France or even the US (see Part II), and the centerpiece of a Eurasian economic union. This viewpoint would also be argued by Vlad Sobell, who believes that this “new ‘USSR’ has shed its totalitarian and imperial character and is building genuine democracy à la russe”. This is the ‘optimistic variant’, and is predicated on the survival of globalization and the continuation of Russia’s economic and demographic resurgence.

In contrast, a ‘return to the natural state’ will see the reinforcement of Russia’s current authoritarian and neo-feudal features, and continuing economic nationalism, silovik cronyism, and resource dependency. A powerful Tsar will dole out transitional rent-gathering rights unto his boyars, in return for their political loyalty and tax payments. This ‘Muscovite model’ is socially unjust, Pareto inefficient, and ineffective at either generating economic prosperity or sustaining resource mobilization. This outcome is made more likely if Russia enters a renewed spiral of demographic and economic decline; the people will demand a strong hand at the helm, but one steeped in conservatism and unwilling to undertake any risky reforms. In this form, the Empire is more likely to take the form of a unitary state based on the political integration of Belarus, East Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Russia, as well as the strengthening of its military presence in the Caucasus and Central Asia, rather than a Eurasian economic and security union as in the previous scenario. It will be underpinned by the resumption of large-scale, fifth-generation rearmament, with which the Empire will effective control and project power over the entirety of the post-Soviet space and perhaps even into East-Central Europe. The Empire will be undermined by foreign-backed dissident and national liberation movements, and subjected to a more vigorous encirclement and containment strategy by the United States. The result will be a zastoi on the model of Brezhnev’s USSR. This is the ‘middle variant’ projected by most ‘Western Russophobes’[69], who perceive that Russia is run by a gang of kleptocratic neo-Soviet revanchists and believe the country is doomed to secular decline on account of its disastrous demography and moribund economic system.

The third and most frightening outcome is a ‘totalitarian reversion’. During the 1990’s ‘Time of Troubles’, as in Weimar Germany, Russia became disillusioned in both the West and itself (Part VII), and came to long for the sovereignty, sobornost and autarky embodied in the lost Empire. This imperial nostalgia brought forth a crowd of Eurasianists, nationalists, derzhavniki, etc, who called for Russia to rediscover its faith in itself and to return to its ‘purer’ imperial past-and-future – be it Eurasian (Aleksandr Dugin), Slavophile (Solzhenitsyn), White Nationalist, or hybrids like National Bolshevism, an intellectual descendent of Strasserism (Eduard Limonov). What they all had in common was an opposition to Western finance-capitalism, to domestic stooges of ‘Atlanticism’, and to the ‘diasporic mentality’ (see Part III) – sometimes manifested in virulent anti-Semitism, which is understandable on the basis that Jews are the ‘diasporic people’ par excellence (see Part III). Free-riding on resurgent the Russian nationalism brought forth by instability, Central Asian immigration, and national inferiority complexes, such views have become much more popular since the Soviet collapse (although overall they are still very much on the fringes). However, let’s not forget that all it takes for this to change is an economic collapse, a weakened state, a profound sense of disillusionment with Rationalism, the loss of sobornost, and a well-organized Party with a skilful demagogue willing to gamble.

The fourth alternative is ‘liberalization’, which is by far the most unlikely outcome – Russia is now heading right towards sobornost along the Belief Matrix, not to the bottom and down. That said, it is not difficult to think up potential scenarios in which ‘liberalization’ can occur as a transitional stage to something else. For instance, a popular uprising topples the fragile authoritarianism of the ‘natural state’ into which Russia had degenerated by the 2020’s, resulting in a wave of poshlost and fanatical Westernization (this time based on, say, environmentalism) that again destroys Russians’ faith in themselves, as a result of which they become disillusioned with the Idea of the West and float upwards to the top-left, into ‘moral anomie’. As pointed out previously, this is an unstable state, for only madmen are capable of abandoning all beliefs. They gray dusk of disillusionment darkens… and there emerges a pure blackness, a despotism based on a new-found, mystical sobornost, united in its contemptuous rejection of Rationalism, and probably far more ‘racialist’ than during the Stalinist era [70]. And this time round, it is armed with thousands of nukes.

These darker possibilities, though currently remote, should not be dismissed. Russia’s oil production very likely peaked in 2008, along with global production [71], and there is credible evidence that this peak will be final [72]. Considering its vital role in lubricating the wheels of global commerce, the future viability of globalization is under serious question. This is just one facet of approaching ‘limits to growth’[73], for in more general terms, resource depletion and pollution threaten the very survival of industrial civilization during this century. Hoarding what remains for its own use may become a priority for rational Russian leaders, and exports only allowed on the most favorable terms, in exchange for Western technologies or German machine tools, but not US Treasuries, Chinese trinkets or oligarch mansions in London.

One consequence is that there will be a massive increase in imperial competition for resources. The industrial core (the US, Europe and China) may strike up strategic alliances to control and influence resource-rich nations, either overtly (latter-day gunboat diplomacy) or covertly (influence operations, information wars, etc). In this world, much like in the 1930’s, the strong will beat the weak. As a resource-rich nation largely spared from the ravages of projected climate change, Russia may come to view itself, with some degree of justification, as a fortress besieged by global industrialism – much as the 1928 war scare contributed to tipping the USSR towards Stalinism. In such a world, Russia’s geopolitical priorities would logically be – and all this is already happening – to a) increase its military strength, including the nuclear deterrent, b) neutralize and co-opt Europe and c) extend influence over the energy-rich Arctic, Central Asia and the Middle East. To pursue these goals effectively, Russia needs to be an Empire.

Finally, any true Eurasian Empire is almost destined to be in conflict with Atlanticism (and not just because this is an explicit aim of folks like Dugin [74]), even leaving aside the prospect of ruthless competition for resources. The economic strength of the Atlantic powers is magnified because of globalization’s opportunities for increasing the power of the whole through ‘scope enlargement’ and international specialization, strength that can – and was – used to strangle any potential Eurasian hegemon. That is the story of the Cold War, in which the USSR increasingly fell behind the West; for with its access to Japanese electronics, Saudi oil, and German machine tools, the US could more than match Soviet military efforts, while at the same time providing its citizens with a much higher standard of life. As such, an autarkic Eurasian Empire would find it to be in its best interests to oppose the Atlantic powers by trying to foment chaos within the global system, so as to shut it down and hence level the playing field to continent against continent, instead of Eurasia against the World System.

IX. The Loop

Due to its geographical and climatic features, and the cultural traditions derived from them, Russia’s economic life is traditionally based on state-driven coercion. This is incompatible with ‘rational’, Western norms, hence Russia always found it particularly difficult to Westernize. When it does try to Westernize, it becomes culturally dependent on the West, but remains backwards nonetheless – if anything, at times even more so. This breeds an inferiority complex and a sense of resentment towards the West, which the latter does little to dispel: Russians increasingly reject the West, and pine for an (imagined?) past of autarky, sovereignty and sobornost. Political leaders are ultimately powerless to resist: either they go with the flow, or they are displaced or overthrown.

The rock is pushed up the mountain with messianic fervor, but eventually the past-and-future turn out to be not as great as Russians imagined them and a long stagnation sets in. The mountain looms ever larger, Sisyphus gets tired, and Prometheus’ acolytes try to block his path; the road ahead begins to look hopeless. This again arouses an intense interest in the West: after some time, due to accumulating backwardness, the regime is no longer able to resist its tantalizing siren calls, and succumbs – often with disastrous consequences, because economic coercion also grinds to a halt, resulting in output and social welfare collapse. The loop comes full cycle, and after a period of recuperation and apathy, Sisyphus starts rolling the rock up the mountain once more with renewed fervor.

The struggle is ultimately (historically) always futile; yet it is too Romantic a struggle to abandon – indeed, Russia does not want to abandon its endless, sordid and tiring, but ultimately uplifting and self-defining struggle towards the boundless plains of universal utopia.


[1] See Почему Россия не Америка / “Why Russia is not America” (A. Parshev, 1999); Russia under the Old Regime: Second Edition (R. Pipes, 1997), Ch. 1: “The Environment and its Consequences”.

[2] Trade and Markets in the Early Empires (K. Polanyi, 1957), Ch.5: “Aristotle discovers the Economy”.

[3] V. Kluchevsky, 1956, pp.313-4: “There is one thing of which the Great Russian is sure − that a sunny summer day is valuable, that nature would allow little time convenient for agricultural work and that a short Great Russian summer can be shortened even more by a sudden untimely turn of bad weather. This would force the Great Russian peasant to hurry up and toil in order to achieve as much as possible over a short while and take the crop in good time… In this way the Great Russian would learn to take an extraordinary but short effort, would learn to do rush, hasty work and then take a rest during forced idleness in autumn and winter. No other nation in Europe is capable of such short extraordinary effort; but, on the other hand, such lack of habit to regular, moderate, constant work is unlikely to be found anywhere in Europe.”

[4] An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (A. Smith, 1776). “…all that part of Asia which lies any considerable way north of the Euxine and Caspian seas, the ancient Scythia, the modern Tartary and Siberia, seem in all ages of the world to have been in the same barbarous and uncivilised state… The Sea of Tartary is the frozen ocean which admits of no navigation, and though some of the greatest rivers in the world run through that country, they are at too great a distance from one another to carry commerce and communication through the greater part of it.”

[5] Russia in the 21st Century: The Prodigal Superpower (S. Rosefielde, 2005).

[6] As long as the energy and mineral resources underpinning it last, anyway.

[7] Kicking Away the Ladder (H. Chang, 2002).

[8] This refers to Russia’s well-known post-Soviet demographic crisis, during which average fertility rates and life expectancies plummeted, causing the population to fall from 149mn in 1992 to 142mn by 2008, despite the net influx of 5mn immigrants from the ‘Near Abroad’.

[9] The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor (D. Landes, 1999), Ch.2: “Answers to Geography: Europe and China”.

[10] Introduction to social macrodynamics: secular cycles and millennial trends (A. Korotayev, 2006) is a comprehensive analysis and modeling of the exponential secular, cyclical Malthusian, and stochastic processes governing political-demographic and economic development in history.

[11] Even tiny differences in growth rates can lead to huge differences in the long-term.

[12] http://www.systemicpeace.org/polity/polity4.htm

[13] A Greek word Fukuyama interprets as “desire for spiritual recognition”.

[14] Interestingly, Fukuyama anticipates – and does not like – the relativist argument. From his “The End of History and the Last Man”: “Relativism – the doctrine that maintains all values are merely relative and which attacks all “privileged perspectives” – must ultimately end up undermining democratic and tolerant values as well. Relativism is not a weapon that can be fired selectively at the enemies one chooses. It fires indiscriminately, shooting out the legs of not only the “absolutisms”, dogmas and certainties of the Western tradition, but that traditions emphasis on tolerance, diversity and freedom of thought as well”.

[15] The Marquis de Custine and his Russia in 1839 (G. Kennan, 1971) quotes the19th century French travel writer: “I don’t reproach the Russians for being what they are; what I blame them for is their desire to appear to be what we [Europeans] are… They are much less interested in being civilized then in making us believe them so… They would be quite content to be in effect more awful and barbaric than they actually are, if only others could thereby be made to believe them better and more civilized.”

[16] Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, pp.28 (S. Matthew, 1995).

[17] Nabokov’s Otherworld (V. Alexandrov, 1991).

[18] Common Places: Mythologies of Everyday Life in Russia (S. Boym, 1994).

[19] Ibid.

[20] Strong Opinions (V. Nabokov, 1973). See http://www.theparisreview.org/media/4310_NABOKOV.pdf for the original interview.

[21] “Hypocrisy is a tribute vice pays to virtue” – La Rochefoucauld. On the one hand, admirable; on the other hand, it is the implicit deception that is intolerable.

[22] Metapolitics: From Wagner and the German Romantics to Hitler (P. Viereck, 1941).

[23] Categorizing the Russia Debate (A. Karlin, 2009) at http://www.darussophile.com/2009/07/09/categorizing-the-russia-debate/.

[24] Metapolitics: From Wagner and the German Romantics to Hitler (P. Viereck, 1941).

[25] Ibid.

[26] Postmodern Jihad: What Osama bin Laden learned from the Left (W. Newell, 2001) at http://ontology.buffalo.edu/smith/courses01/rrtw/Newell.htm.

[27] See Поведение / “Behavior” (K. Krylov, 1996) for a good discussion of the “diaspora” and “barbarian” mentalities at http://warrax.net/behavior/00.html.

[28] Max Weber’s definitions of authority can be assigned places on the Belief Matrix – “charismatic” is the top-right, “legal-rational” is the bottom-right, and “traditional” is in between. The last is typical of premodern, Malthusian, traditional societies based on feudal / clan relations.

[29] Lev Gumilev’s semi-mystical concept of the ‘vital energy’ of a civilization, i.e. its willingness to self-sacrifice, to conquer, to succeed, etc.

[30] In a 2007 interview with the Guardian, Francis Fukuyama stated: “The End of History was never linked to a specifically American model of social or political organization…I believe that the European Union more accurately reflects what the world will look like at the end of history than the contemporary United States. The EU’s attempt to transcend sovereignty and traditional power politics by establishing a transnational rule of law is much more in line with a “post-historical” world than the Americans’ continuing belief in God, national sovereignty, and their military”.

[31] Europe and Mankind (N. Trubetzkoy, 1920).

[32] See Twitter Terror in Moldova (A. Karlin, 2009) for a case study at http://www.darussophile.com/2009/04/11/twitter-terror-moldova/.

[33] The Coming Era of Russia’s Dark Rider (P. Zeihan, 2007) writing in Stratfor (http://www.stratfor.com/coming_era_russias_dark_rider).

[34] Behind the Urals: An American Worker in Russia’s City of Steel (J. Scott, 1941).

[35] Moscow War Diary (A. Werth, 1942).

[36] Having investigated the report of Maljuta Skuratov and commemoration lists (sinodiki), R. Skrynnikov considers, that the number of victims was 2,000-3,000 (Skrynnikov R. G., “Ivan Grosny”, M., AST, 2001).

[37] Furthermore, one must also note that the correspondence between Kurbsky and Ivan Grozny is suspected to be a forgery – see “THE KURBSKII-GROZNYI APOCRYPHA: the 17th-Century Genesis of the “Correspondence” Attributed to Prince A. M. Kurbskii and Tsar Ivan IV” (E. Keenan, 1970) http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/KEEKUR.html.

[38] Secular Cycles (P. Turchin & S. Nefedov, 2009), Ch. 9: “Russia: the Romanov Cycle (1620–1922)”.

[39] In 1547, Hans Schlitte, the agent of Tsar Ivan IV, employed handicraftsmen in Germany for work in Russia. However all these handicraftsmen were arrested in Lübeck at the request of Livonia.

[40] The End of Imperial Russia, 1855-1917 (P. Waldron, 1997), pp. 97. By 1913, adult literacy was at 38%, up from 21% in 1897; the last generation of children to have had access to the empire’s schools, according to the 1920 Soviet census, had a literacy rate of 71% for boys and 52% for girls.

[41] The international demonstration effect, e.g. see Problems of Capital Formation in Underdeveloped Countries (Nurske, 1957).

[42] By 1913, Russia had the highest average tariff rates on manufactured goods in Europe at 84% (Bairoch 1993) and enjoyed the fastest industrial growth rate on the continent. In contrast to development in the 1880’s-1890’s, which was spearheaded by a huge state-led program of railway building, after 1905 there appeared big industrial banks clustered around St.-Petersburg geared towards funding domestic manufacturers on the German model of development (Gerschenkron, 1962).

[43] When the Party Commits Suicide (S. Žižek, 1999), at http://www.egs.edu/faculty/zizek/zizek-when-the-party-commits-suicide.html.

[44] Translation: The Case of the “Stalinist” Textbook (A. Karlin, 2009) at http://www.darussophile.com/2009/05/28/translation-stalinist-textbook/.

[45] Russia in the 21st Century: The Prodigal Superpower (S. Rosefielde, 2005), see summary at http://www.darussophile.com/2009/07/06/notes-prodigal-superpower/.

[46] Are Command Economies Unstable? Why Did the Soviet Economy Collapse? (M. Harrison, 2001) at http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/workingpapers/publications/twerp604.pdf.

[47] What Russia Teacher Us Now (S. Holmes, 1997) at http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=what_russia_teaches_us_now is a typical late-1990’s article from a time when the theme of Russia’s collapse was predominant in the Western media, in stark contrast to today’s talk of a ‘resurgent Russia’.

[48] Russia Through the Looking-Glass (N. Petro, 2006) at http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-institutions_government/russia_3259.jsp.

[49] The State in the New Russia (1992-2004): From Collapse to Gradual Revival? (V. Popov, 2004) at http://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/pm_0342.pdf.

[50] Attempting to portray Putin as a revanchist neo-Soviet authoritarian, the Western media tends to gloss over the manifold authoritarian tendencies of the preceding Yeltsin administration, which redeemed itself by being pro-Western. Alternative newspapers have excellent sources on this, e.g. the eXile: see How do you Spell Hypocrisy? O-S-C-E (M. Ames, 2003) at http://www.exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=7149&IBLOCK_ID=35, The Myth of the Democratic Model (S. Guillory, 2008) at http://www.exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=16511&IBLOCK_ID=35.

[51] In 2004 the Russian sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya calculated that 25% of the Russian elite had a security or intelligence background (i.e. siloviki), which rises to 58% amongst Putin’s ‘inner circle’.

[52] “The truth is like a quantum superposition state: it is not one version or the other, but a strange combination of all them”. – Gideon Lichfield, former Economist journalist. I feel this is especially apt when it comes to Russia-watching. Taken from Press Review: The Economist’s Three Stooges (K. Pankratov, 2007) at http://www.exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=8518&IBLOCK_ID=35.

[53] For examples, see my list of Top 50 Russophobe Myths at http://www.darussophile.com/2009/07/04/top-50-russophobe-myths/. Though *some* of my refutations are in some ways as biased as the original claims, they will provide plenty of food for thought for anyone steeped in exclusively American or West European media coverage of Russia.

[54] Virtual Politics: Faking Democracy in the post-Soviet World (A. Wilson, 2005); see Mark Ames’ eXile review at http://www.exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=7982&IBLOCK_ID=35.

[55] The country’s grain market: realising its potential (D. Medvedev, 2009) at http://rbth.ru/articles/2009/06/16/160609_grain.html.

[56] International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers http://www.oica.net/.

[57] Rosstat.

[58] Through the Looking Glass at Russia’s Demography (A. Karlin, 2009) at http://www.darussophile.com/2009/06/13/thru-looking-glass/.

[59] In the past two years there have been a number of hints from Russia indicating that it does not view Ukraine as a fully sovereign state. E.g. see Putin to the West: Hands off Ukraine (J. Marson, 2009) at http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1900838,00.html.

[60] Would the Real Ukraine Please Stand Up? (G. Stack, 2009) at http://www.russiaprofile.org/page.php?pageid=Politics&articleid=a1245680109.

[61] End of Communism Cheered but Now with More Reservations (Pew Research Center) at http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=267.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Disheartened With the West (A. Pankin, 2009) at http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/1016/42/380391.htm.

[64] Russians don’t much like the West (S. Richards, 2009) at http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/email/russians-don-t-much-like-the-west, Russia’s New Cyberwarriors (N. Petro, 2007) at http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_nicolai__070623_russia_s_new_cyberwa.htm.

[65] Well-off Muscovite Teenagers More Inclined to View US as Enemy (P. Goble, 2009) at http://social.moldova.org/news/welloff-muscovite-teenagers-more-inclined-to-view-us-as-enemy-201672-eng.html.

[66] Russian Oligarch Special Series (Stratfor, 2009), “Russian Oligarchs Part 3: The Party’s Over” at http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20090522_russian_oligarchs_part_3_partys_over.

[67] Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan to seek joining WTO as parts of Customs Union http://en.rian.ru/business/20090706/155444034.html.

[68] The Great Transformation: How the Putin Plan Altered Russian Society (N. Petro, 2009) at http://russiaotherpointsofview.typepad.com/files/nick_petro_putin_plan_may_09.pdf.

[69] See Categorizing the Russia Debate (A. Karlin, 2009) at http://www.darussophile.com/2009/07/09/categorizing-the-russia-debate/ for definitions.

[70] The popularity of the idea of ‘Russia for Russians’ has increased from 26% in 1989 to 54% in 2009 (http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=267). This is reflected in the proliferation of fascist movements.

[71] http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5969

[72] Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert’s Peak (K. Deffeyes, 2006) and The Last Oil Shock (D. Strahan, 2007) are good introductions to the theory of peak oil. See a short, compact mathematical demonstration and quasi-proof at http://watd.wuthering-heights.co.uk/subpages/hubbertmaths/hubbertmaths.html.

[73] Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update (D. Meadows et al, 2004).

[74] Aleksandr Dugin’s Foundations of Geopolitics (J. Dunlop) at http://www.princeton.edu/lisd/publications/wp_russiaseries_dunlop.pdf.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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During one conversation at Sean’s Russia Blog, the commentator Evgeny referred me to a work by Russian political analyst & nationalist Konstantin Krylov, Поведение (“Behavior”). In it he tries to classify the world’s civilizations into four ethical systems (South – tribal, East – collectivist, West – individualist, North – kind of like communism?, and not yet reached anywhere). He makes some good observations, though they are certainly not new to sociology and he simplifies too much. However, I found his last chapter, Civilization and its Enemies, to be a really incisive characterization of two major social groupings “outside” conventional civilization – international diasporas and barbarians. [Go here for Google translation].

Krylov characterizes the diaspora mentality thus:

Мне нет дела до других, как и им – до меня. Как другие ведут себя по отношению ко мне, пусть так себя и ведут. Как я веду себя по отношению к другим, так я и дальше буду себя вести. Все действуют так, как считают нужным, и я тоже действую, как считаю нужным.

[I don't have any cares for others, just as they have no cares for me. Let others continue to behave towards me just like as already do; as for me, I will continue behaving towards them just as I always have. Everyone acts as they consider necessary, and I too act, as I consider necessary.]

According to Krylov’s thinking, diaspora peoples follow a “minimal ethical system”, expecting, and thus accepting, anything at all from others, both within and without their diaspora. They tend to disavow black-and-white, good-and-evil thinking; instead, they can understand an array of different values, they’re just not judgmental about them, except in so far as they are more or less “useful” or “harmful” to them personally. They hold a certain contempt for the rigid ethical / behavioral constraints of normal societies, which they find difficult to understand. Instead, they view themselves as unabashed realists, focus on survival and profiteering, and do not hold grudges or blood feuds; they are fully capable of negotiations with people who wronged them in the past if the situation changes or they need something from them.

Because of their minimal levels of social trust, the diaspora population cannot exist as a stand-alone community and must act as a parasite on another, already existing one; the example par excellence are the Jews, though others include Armenians, Greeks, the Chinese “bamboo network” of East Asia, etc (see Amy Chua’s concept of market-dominant minorities). He acknowledges that this view may be interpreted as being anti-Semitic, but disavows it because it is not an innate characteristic of Jewishness (be it in the “ethnic, religious, or politico-conspiratorial sense”), but rather of their diasporic nature.

Indeed, he notes at the end that Israeli Jews are entirely “another people” from the classical Jewish diaspora, since they have taken up the (Western) ethical system in favor of their previous diasporic ethical system after the formation of the Israeli state. They had to, since they now constituted the majority population and could no longer parasite off themselves. Nowadays the Jews in Israel possess a great sense of national destiny / uniqueness / patriotism, education isn’t particularly valued (interestingly, on international standardized tests Israelis tend to perform rather poorly, in stark contrast to diaspora Jews), etc, – in other words, they are a conventional civilization.

He then discusses relations between the diaspora within, and its relations with its “host” society. He notes that they can be at times useful, at times neutral, and at times debilitating to the host society; furthermore, the diaspora itself remains constant, while it is the host society that leads change. He makes the interesting observation that frequently members of a diaspora are more afraid of their own, rather than of members of the host society, since the latter must act towards them under the constraints of their particular ethical system, whereas between diaspora members relations are cleanly pragmatic / exploitative – and thus they can do unto them any kind of evil if it serves their purposes. Paradoxically, this state of internal insecurity actually binds the diaspora together.

Стоит обратить внимание на внутреннее устройство такого рода сообществ. Как правило, люди, входящие в них, боятся друг друга больше, чем чужих – поскольку ждут от “чужих” этически окрашенного поведения, а от “своих” чисто прагматического. Именно это обстоятельство может как разрушить подобное сообщество, так и (как это не парадоксально) сплотить его.

Diasporas are easily pushed around, and hesitate to stand up for themselves, preferring instead to buy off threats. He then argues that the phenomenon of diaspora peoples favoring others from amongst themselves for jobs, positions, etc – e.g. a Armenian (or Jew, etc) looking out for other Armenians at a big company – is not so much an expression of “national solidarity”, but a method of buying off potential enemies from within their own community; however, when said Armenian reaches a high management position subject to closer scrutiny, he refrains from hiring fellow Armenians, instead relying on credentialed specialists.

Diasporas sometimes have a good effect on the national economy, e.g. in nations where the host population is barred, through law or custom, from working in certain dirty or “debasing” occupations (typically those tied to finance or commerce in traditional Malthusian societies) – the Jews of medieval Europe are the archetypal example. He is also strongly against the idea that diasporas try to covertly acquire power in a country through cabals, etc – quite simply, they are not interested in it enough, nor do they understand the culture they are in (whose behavioral norms are much more complex than their own) well enough to be effective at it. Their main interest is in survival and eating.

Why do diaspora peoples appear to be extremely effective and successful? According to Krylov, because far from being extremely clever or devious as caricatured, the diaspora mindset is much simpler; they have little concept of social shame and simply don’t think about, or notice, many of the ingrained social customs and traditions constraining the actions of members of the host society. For instance:

Если самый дешевый способ получить то, что тебе нужно, от кого-то, это публично унизиться перед ним, то почему бы так и не поступить? Но если проще и дешевле обхамить, надавить, в конце концов обмануть того же самого человека, почему бы не сделать так? С такой позиции это чисто технический вопрос. Для того, чтобы его решить, не надобно большого ума, хотя со стороны такое поведение может казаться чуть ли не образцом сатанинской изворотливости.

[If the cheapest method of acquiring something you need, from someone, is to publicly lower yourself before him, then why not? If its easier and cheaper to pressure or deceive that same person, again why not? To them this is an entirely technical question with no moral overtones. To solve it one doesn't need a great deal of intelligence, even though from the side this kind of behavior may appear to be an example of almost Satanic resourcefulness.]

Finally, he notes that short of the diaspora disappearing – either through complete assimilation into the host society, or by acquiring a new ethical system and becoming another people entirely (like modern Israelis) – the civilized state must treat them with cautious toleration.

Кроме всего прочего, не следует излишне демонизировать поведение “рассеянных народов”. Люди такого типа действительно способны совершить любое зло (за что к ним соответствующим образом и относятся), но они, по крайней мере, не считают причинение зла другим единственным достойным способом существования. Такие люди могут быть безупречно лояльными гражданами, если только государство, в котором они проживают, будет внушать им достаточные опасения – а запугать их легко. Другое дело, что ждать от них проявлений настоящего патриотизма, чести, даже элементарной порядочности, не имеет никакого смысла.

[It does not follow that we should excessively demonize the behavior of diaspora peoples. People of this type can indeed make any kind of evil (which is why host peoples tend to have such bad relations with them), but they ultimately don't consider doing evil unto others to be the only way of earning a good existence. They can be flawlessly loyal citizens, though only if the state in which they live pressures them with substantial threats for disobedience, for they are easily cowed. It's another thing, however, that to await expressions of real patriotism, honor, even elementary decency from them, is entirely futile.]

Are these viewpoints bigoted? Correct? Racist? Anti-Semitic? Primitive? Incisive? A combination of all of them? As someone forced into becoming a “rootless cosmopolitan” myself, I admit to finding myself nodding to almost everything he said. Here’s a recent convo I had with people at Peter Lavelle’s UT discussion group on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall:

I realize, of course, that life under “Communism” was very bland andas the years rolled by increasingly corrupt and unfair to the peopleliving under it. I also understand that from the perspective of most East-Central Europeans, especially those of the younger generation,that system’s collapse was greeted with joy, signifying as it didnewfound social, economic, and national freedoms. Good for them, I hope they enjoy themselves.

That said. As a Russian whose parent’s livelihood basically vanished (R&D / academia) in the 1990′s, forcing him to migrate to a strangeculture whose pernicious effects made me into the historyless rootlesscosmopolitan / cultural traitor that I am today, I view the collapseof the USSR with a certain sadness and regret, despite my recognition of its manifold flaws.

You don’t have any roots in this country, You are like one of those weeds that do not develop deep roots; they grow everywhere and are native nowhere, You are a human weed without the roots, You are apiece of human trash that America collects from all over the world.

This is how a (proudly anti-Semitic, fascist) critic once described me. The thing is, he is 100% correct in my view.

In the context of this discussion, instead of living under the second, “Eastern” (collectivist) ethical system of the Soviet Union, I have been forced into living under the minimal “diaspora” ethical system described by Krylov, in which I am unaccepted by my host societies – and which I myself reciprocally do not accept either – the kitsch, or feelings of loyalty / self-sacrifice / etc, for either Britain, or the US, or even Russia. One of the replies was the following:

Your condition as described by one of your detractors and which you agree is correct -

[["You don't have any roots in this country, You are like one of thoseweeds that do not develop deep roots; they grow everywhere and arenative nowhere, You are a human weed without the roots, You are a pieceof human trash that America collects from all over the world".]]

– is actually a blessing.

This is what has enabled you to be a truly interesting and outstanding thinker, and this is why you will be able to contribute to humanity as you go along.

Had you been “enjoying your life” in that great and fantastic USSR, and taking deep roots there, the chances are that you would grow up as an insignificant miserable cog in that self-destructive aimless machine.

I remain to be convinced.

Anyhow, back to Krylov and this time his exposition of the barbarian mentality. Whereas diasporas lie half-way between civilization and its opposite, barbarians are symmetrically opposed – an ethical system of pure parasitism, glorifying the use of violence and deceit to achieve its goals. He does not believe that barbarism merely signifies a lower level of socio-economic and cultural development than civilization; instead, it is its own world opposed to and feeding off civilization. Barbarism is tightly-interlinked with and even a product of civilization, being that it is a parasite on civilization (which he defines as a construct that aims to solve its problems by itself, problems ranging the gamut from gathering food to hosting high-minded philosophical debates).

Я буду вести себя по отношению к другими так, как они не ведут себя по отношению ко мне (не могут или не хотят). Я буду делать с другими то, чего они со мной не делают (не могут или не хотят).

[I will behave towards like others don't behave towards me (either because they can't or don't want to). I will do unto them, what they don't do unto me (because they can't or don't want to).]

It is a principled position – the barbarian chafes under any other ethical system. A barbarian society regards living off others with pride, as self-actualization of its values, etc – and the feeling is all-encompassing, even among those who can’t physically be thieves or raiders. Furthermore, a key defining trait is that barbarian elites have access to the technical and ideological products of civilization:

Настоящее варварство еще не там, где все ходят с дубинами (и каждый может сделать себе такую же дубину). Настоящее варварство начинается там, где все ходят с дубинами, но вождь и его охрана носят стальное оружие (которого данный варварский народ делать не умеет), а еще лучше – с автоматами и гранатометами.

[Real barbarism begins not where everyone walks with clubs (and anyone can make himself a club). Real barbarism begins where everyone walks with clubs, but the leader and his guards carry cold steel weapons (which said barbarian society can't manufacture itself), or even better - with assault rifles and RPG's.]

Наиболее характерное внешнее проявление варварства – нарочито примитивные и дикие нравы в сочетании с развитой чужой (купленной, краденой или отнятой) материальной культурой. Монгольский хан, кутающийся в китайские шелка; африканский вождь на “джипе” и с “калашниковым” на шее; пуштун со “стингером” на плече – вот это и есть варварство. Варварство выживает, борясь с цивилизацией средствами самой цивилизации.

A characteristic expression of barbarism is the presence of primitive and wild social norms in conjunction with a developed foreign (bought, stolen, or looted) material culture. A Mongol khan, wrapped in Chinese silk; a Pushtun with a Stinger [missile] on his shoulder – this is barbarism. Barbarism survives by fighting civilization using the tools of civilization itself.

Barbarians defend their barbarism eloquently using the intellectual language of civilization – “freedom”, “faith”, “human rights”, “Sharia”, etc. At heart it is a criminal enterprise (by civilizational standards), but Krylov notes that frequently it has a seductive character of its own – thanks to its avid mimicry of civilizational attributes, and the support of influential supporters within civilization. He makes the intriguing argument that the Russian intelligentsia is an essentially barbarian social group.

“Русский интеллигент” – это человек, решающий свои проблемы за счет того, что он доставляет обществу неприятности, хотя и не оружием, а словами. Интеллигенция ведет себя по отношению к русскому обществу (и тем более к государству) примерно так же, как скандалист в очереди: он непрерывно оскорбляет всех присутствующих, и ждет, что его пропустят вперед просто затем, чтобы он, наконец, замолчал. …

[The "Russian intelligent" - is a person who solves his problems by way of bringing ill to society, if not by weapons, then by words. The intelligentsia behave towards Russian society (and especially towards the Russian state) as a scandal-maker in a queue - he insults everyone present, and expects that he will be allowed to move forwards in line just so that they'd get him to shut up.]

Именно такую цель имеет тотальная критика интеллигентами всех аспектов русской жизни и целенаправленное внушение русским людям чувства иррациональной вины … Как правило, эта “критика” использует ряд идей, созданных на Западе (например, либеральных социально-экономических теорий), причем ссылающиеся на эти идеи лица обыкновенно не понимают смысла того, о чем они говорят: это еще один случай использования орудий, созданных цивилизацией, для борьбы против цивилизации …

[This is the basic underlying point behind the intelligentsia's total criticism of all aspects of Russian life and their purposeful foisting of an irrational sense of guilt on the Russian people... As a rule, this "criticism" uses an array of ideas, created in the West (e.g., liberal socio-economic theories), furthermore in many cases the people leaning on these ideas don't actually understand them: this is another example in which the tools created by civilization, are used in the fight against civilization.]

Поэтому не следует удивляться тому, что вполне конструктивные западные идеи приобретают в России некую “разрушительную силу”: они используются для заведомо деструктивных целей.

[Therefore there's no reason to be amazed that completely valid Western ideas acquire a "destructive force" when applied to Russia: they are used for explicitly deconstructive purposes.]

I agree. The Russian intelligentsia has at large been an agent of destruction, most clearly seen in their guise as Old Bolsheviks and the 1990′s extreme liberals. Their current manifestation is in the liberasts, e.g. for examples of their arrogant intolerance and treasonous mentalities see Korchevnaya’s observations and Anatol Lieven’s article on Russia’s Limousine Liberals. Thankfully they no longer represent a real threat to Russian society and can be safely ignored.

One final thing I would note is that it is much easier for a person with a diaspora mentality to become a barbarian, considering that they’re already half-way there.

Application to the Belief Matrix

The Belief Matrix is a tool I invented to classify societies based on their degree of rationalism – irrationalism / mysticism on one axis, and sobornost / social solidarity – poshlost / internal strife on another axis. See “The Reich Loop within the Belief Matrix” section here for a more detailed description.

In this model, the diaspora mentality correlates to both rationalism and poshlost, i.e. the lower-left of the Belief Matrix; barbarism is the top-left, i.e. irrationalism and poshlost. Both are unstable states. The diaspora mentality cannot be sustained within a non-diasporic society, for a society cannot be a parasite on itself indefinitely; it will have to move upwards, towards barbarism, and start preying on others. But that too will eventually come to an end, either when it is crushed by the civilizations it makes war on – or it conquers them, and must now generate its own productive forces now that the opportunities for living off rents / confiscated surpluses have extinguished. This is the essence of the belief cycle called the Sisyphean Loop.

For more on related themes, see here (according to Mark Steyn, the Muslim community in Europe would qualify as barbarians), here (Germany), here (Russia), here (violence is reality), and here (my exposition of nihilism).

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.