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There are often questions in the comments about Egor Kholmogorov’s stance on various things, e.g. about how he reconciles his Orthodox beliefs with Russian ethnonationalism.

So I prepared something different from our usual fare of serious longreads – a series of translations of his social media posts, where he briefly but succinctly addresses some of the most common of these questions.

Not all of this is going to make all our readers very happy. But we make no apologies for it.


On Orthodoxy and the Russian State

One more time, friends…

I was, am, and will remain a Russian Orthodox nationalist monarchist.

For me, Holy Rus’ was always, and will always remain, more precious than the Empire, while the Russian Empire, the historical Russia – will be infinitely more precious than the Soviet Union.

In the realm of the spirit, my foremost guide is Orthodox Christianity as propounded in the traditional teachings of the Orthodox Church, while in the realm of politics, it is the vital interests of the Russian people.

I am prepared to respect the USSR to the extent that it does not contradict the Russian Empire, and in turn, I respect the Empire to the extent that it does not contradict, but continues Holy Rus’.

I am prepared to respect other spiritual traditions to the extent that they are not hostile to Orthodox Christianity, and to respect other ideological programs to the extent that their realization does not come at the expense of the vital interests of the Russian people.

If you expected some other position from me, it is not on account of my positions having changed, but on you having been mistaken in understanding my point of view. I change my position only with respect to certain topics and figures within the underlying system of moral coordinates specified above.


On the USSR

  1. Our homeland is Rusia.
  2. The USSR was a set of separatist polities on the ruins of our Motherland.
  3. The Russian people were deprived of their rights and political subjectivity in the USSR.
  4. It was precisely the administrative-territorial setup of the USSR that made it easy to dismember Russian national territories: To create the Ukraine, to give it the Donbass and Crimea, to create Kazakhstan, to give it Southern Siberia, etc.
  5. The cause of the collapse of the USSR was the creation of the USSR. Its disintegration was preordained and constitutionally enshrined upon its creation.
  6. The Declaration of the State Sovereignty of the RSFSR on June 12, 1990 did not constitute the restoration of Russian statehood, but a second round of Soviet separatism.
  7. Only through cruel and bloody methods was a third round of separatism avoided – the secession of the autonomous republics from the RSFSR.
  8. The Russians need to restore their sovereignty within Russia and the territorial unity of the Russian people within realistic borders. Our task is to transform the Russian Federation into Russia.
  9. All talk about “USSR 2.0” and similar schemes are but an attempt to once again deprive Russians of their statehood, to steal our homeland once again, and is therefore unacceptable.
  10. Glory to Russia!


On Ethnonationalism

So, about the inevitable discussion about civic nationalism and ethnonationalism.

I have always been, and remain, an unambiguous supporter of ethnonationalism, and an opponent of civic nationalism as a substitute – as opposed to a complement to – ethnonationalism.

This distinguishes me from many other Russian nationalists, including some famous ones.

What is important for me is precisely the Russian ethnos as an anthropological, biological, social, and ethno-demographic reality. I want the Russian people to preserve itself, to develop, to flourish, and not to reject other people. I do not want the Russian people to splinter apart, or to dissolve. And I consider my own job as helping provide the Russian people with more opportunities to improve its existence. So one can view my nationalism as a sort of political ethnocentrism.

The ethnos is a system for the reproduction of cultural life adaptations and collective reference points that are imbibed from the cradle onwards. Ethnicity is a foundational intuition, which does away with the need for its people to make contractual agreements on solidarity for collective survival and development. In this sense, one can be born into an ethnicity, one can be brought into it, one can join it, but one can’t just register with it as one would with a political party.

Russification is not about declaring oneself to be Russian; it is about living with Russians, and merging into the Russian flow of life on all levels, from the mundane and familial, to the ideational and the political. This is often quite easy, if competing identities are not so strong that they shift the intuitive solidarity of the person in question away from Russians to representatives of his ethnic group.

It is of course the case that Russian culture is more than just ethnographic culture, and Russian history is more than just ethnic history – but neither one nor the other is possible without the Russian ethnographic core. Consequently, preserving and strengthening this core is necessary, as opposed to diluting it with “multi-nationality.” The sad experience of civic nations at the start of the 21st demonstrate that their fate is to become multiracial conglomerates, subsumed by stronger and more aggressive identities – Islamic, Mexican, etc. So if I was faced with the choice of ethnic isolation, or sharing the fate of the French or American nations, I would choose ethnic isolation.

Fortunately, we need not make such a choice. The potential influence of the Russian ethnos is so great that it casually draws myriads of peoples and ethnic groups, and gently grinds them down. And I am, of course, a categorical assimilationist. My own distant ancestors were assimilated Slavs, and merged with the Russian ethnos as its northern component, which carries the N1a1 haplogroup. And I feel great about this, and I am therefore certain, that all Finno-Ugric peoples should be honored to become fully merged with the Russian ethnos. The same awaits many other peoples, and not only Orthodox ones. And this is a wonderful thing – they will leave elements of their own culture, of their language, of their historical memory, in the wider landscape of Russian culture – but in the end, they will become Russians, specifically ethnic Russians, and not just “civic Russians” under a common geopolitical roof.

Consequently, I am hardly bothered by those people who run around, ranting about their Papuan second cousin and yelling, “What, are you now going to exclude me from the Russians?” To the contrary, we are more than happy to include you – life with Russians, marry them, and such questions would not even arise with your grandchildren. It is you more than anyone else who is obsessively combing over your family tree to find some trace of foreign ancestry, so as to present yourselves as not quite Russians, or not Russians like everyone else. That is your choice, and not that of Russian nationalists.

The task of Russian nationalists, the target of our political ethnocentrism, is not to infringe on anyone’s rights, or to exclude someone from the Russian people, but to create the most favorable political conditions for securing and developing the Russian people on all levels – political unity, demographic reproduction, economic well-being, and cultural expansion. At the end of the day, the goal of Russian nationalism is to make sure that the Russian people prosper, that they are happy, and that they are surrounded by a beautiful reality that calls our soul to the heavens, instead of dragging them into the grave.

There is absolutely no reason to restrict the rights of other peoples for Russians to accomplish this. All that the Russians need to do is to not allow other people to dominate them, to impose on them that what is alien, or to take away from them that what is theirs. It is to escape such conflicts that Russian nationalists call on everyone to become Russians, in the above sense of mutual life and gradual integration.

The juxtaposition of the “ethnic” balalaika and the “national” Tchaikovsky is a false one. The balalaika is not just Russian per se, and the Iolanta is not just a cosmopolitan opus that happened to be written by a Russian. What is Russian? It is the ethnic folk song At the Gates of Batyushkin woven into Tchaikovsky’s “national” overture 1812, one of the most frequently performed works in the world music repertoire. Remove the melody, and you will have neither nationality, nor cosmopolitanism.

At the end of the day, to be Russian – it is partake of a great culture, ta great history, ta great language, a great repository of scientific accomplishments. It is to have access to all the achievements of civilization – Russian, European, Classical, and many others. At the end of the day, the Russian language hosts the world’s only complete translation of the works of Sima Qian, so even Chinese culture is not entirely remote. To be Russian is to be a complete person, it is to maximize one’s capacities for the self-realization of the human spirit, which only a few other civilizations have on the planet. And if someone wants to be English or Chinese, then it would be logical for him to go there, instead of muddying the water here.

So I see no need to hide our Russian ethnic foundation or our Russian ethnic identity, to apologize for it or to be embarrassed by it, or to consider it as something optional.

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Nicholas II & family, 1914. Colorized by Olga.

Translator’s Foreword (Fluctuarius Argenteus)

As the perfect companion piece to his takedown of Stalin, here’s Egor Kholmogorov’s appraisal of Nicholas II, styled an “anti-Stalin”, written during his recent trip to Crimea, which provoked another round of teeth-gnashing among Neo-Stalinists and Sovietophiles. It should also be norws that a recent poll shows that Nicholas II has overtaken Stalin as the most positively-regarded Russian historical figure of the 20th century.

AK’s Foreword

If you appreciate these translations, please feel free to give Kholmogorov a tip here:


Nicholas II: The Tsar of Normalcy

Original: Николай II становится для нас анти-Сталиным

“Here’s where Nicholas II would go to visit his uncle. Yulia, get over here, grab a photo of him at this very place, I’ll take a picture of you…”, says a middle-aged man to his young daughter, two meters away from the spot where I am writing this article.


Nicholas II in Kharaks, Crimea.

I found the above photo just three weeks ago, when all the social media feeds were overflowing with the Emperor’s portraits on his birthday. I’ve never seen so many photos and such warm comments before.

The political “exchange rate” of Nicholas II in our historical memory is on the way up. Previously, monarchism used to be retrospective and slightly abstract: sure, we respect the Russian historical statehood in general, Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality and all that stuff, and, given that this particular Tsar turned out to be the last one and died as a martyr, we’ll respect him as well while taking note of his multiple foibles.

But these days I sense more and more of a markedly personal sympathy for the Emperor and his family among the people, going hand in hand with a more level-headed appraisal of his reign, gradually freed from Communist and Liberal propaganda clichés.

It turns out that the era of Nicholas II made an enormous contribution to Russian history, and ascribing these achievements of an autocratic Empire to anyone but the Emperor is at the very least shameless.

Nicholas II becomes something of a historical meme to us, a certain kind of an anti-Stalin. To properly understand this, however, we should first deal with Stalin himself.

The personality of the “Kremlin highlander”[1] embodies the idea of extreme measures taken during an extreme era of Russian history.

Paradoxically, Stalin is loved not so much for his achievements as for his methods: executions, incarcerations, deportations, a grotesquely wasteful use of human resources in both wartime and peacetime, the exchange of thousands and millions of human lives for percentage points of industrialization and kilometers of frontline advancement.

A huge number of people believe that “over here, it can’t be done otherwise”. Or, even more masochistically, “with us, it can’t be done otherwise”.

To prove this thesis, they cite the achievements of Stalinist Socialism, such as industrialization and the construction of the military-industrial complex. The USSR crushed Nazi Germany while Tsarism lost World War I, to say nothing of the Russo-Japanese war (which was also won by Stalin). We turned into a superpower and went to space.

“Was it the Tsar who launched Gagarin into space?”, asks a commentator to a radio show where I gave a talk. No matter that the price for this Great Leap Forward were millions of Russian lives lost to the Civil War, three waves of famine, dekulakization, repression and crushing World War II defeats – after all, “with us, it can’t be done otherwise”.

It is probably a bit more complex than that.

With the Tsar in charge, Russia had no need to become a superpower; she was one. Our country lost this status due to revolutionary disintegration.

And yes, it was the Tsar who sent Gagarin to space. Russian rocket artillery was first used in the 1870s during the conquest of Central Asia. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky published his papers on rocketry during the reign of Nicholas II. Sergey Korolev’s mentor Friedrich Zander published his first studies on interplanetary travel in 1908. “Kondratyuk’s loop”, the optimal trajectory of a flight to the Moon – where the Soviets didn’t manage to send a man, unlike the US – was calculated in 1916 by Alexander Shargei, a student of the St. Petersburg Polytechnic founded under Nicholas II. Most founding fathers of the Russian space program studied in polytechnic colleges founded by the Tsar.

The Tsar didn’t lose World War I at all. When he was overthrown by a coalition of mutineers and conspirators, Russian forces had a firm foothold in the territory of two out of three the enemy powers on its frontlines. Even the Provisional Government didn’t lose World War I. Despite creeping revolutionary degeneration, the Russian army held the frontlines waiting for the inevitable Entente victory that would have given Russia its rightful place among the victors.

It was the Bolsheviks who lost World War I. They disbanded the army and signed the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty that enabled the occupation of all of Western Russia and pushed our borders back to the 16th century. Ascribing the Bolsheviks’ defeat to the Tsar is as smart as it is cynical.


Nicholas II & family in Crimea. Colored by KraljAleksandar.

At no point in World War I was there even a remote prospect of Moscow or St. Petersburg getting captured. Before the Bolsheviks came, no one could imagine the Germans taking Kiev and advancing into the Crimea; to the contrary, Sevastopol was to be the staging ground for an invasion of Constantinople in 1917. Even the greatest debacle of the war, General Samsonov’s campaign in East Prussia, wasn’t in the same league as the Kiev encirclement, brought about by the unparalleled strategic genius of Comrade Stalin himself.

While one can debate over who was the true Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army in 1915-17, the Tsar or General Alexeyev, there is no doubt about the following. The Tsar understood that appointing the son of a cantonist to such a position would have been impossible in a deeply stratified Russian society, hence his decision to become a figurehead and let Alexeyev’s military talents flourish. The general repaid for this with a base ungratefulness, only to realize very soon that without a Tsar, the post of Commander-in-Chief would pass to a Subaltern Krylenko or a Comrade Trotsky.

Ditto for the Russo-Japanese war. It was a conflict of three Great Powers (Russia vs. Japan, instigated by Britain). Russia fought at a remote theater of war, considered to be of tertiary importance, and narrowly avoided a catastrophe thanks to the Trans-Siberian Railroad built by Alexander III and Nicholas II. It is a huge question how things would have turned out without the revolutionary backstab, given the huge Japanese casualties.

In 1945, Stalin was reaping the consequences of America’s crushing victory over Japan and the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The war in the Far East was a requisition of war trophies from an already defeated empire. If the Red Army had faced any true Japanese resistance, those who had defeated Hitler would have also trounced Hirohito, but we would have paid thousands upon thousands lives for this geopolitical victory.

There is no doubt that shrewdly finding new allies and piggybacking on their achievements was a major effort of Stalinist diplomacy (generously paid for with Russian blood on the Eastern Front), but “winning the war” with Japan had nothing to do with it.

The Russian industrialization had been going on since the early 1890s (otherwise where did the working class that the Bolsheviks courted come from?), and Russia was one of the fastest growing economies on the planet.

Stalinist industrialization only appeared spectacular in the context of the devastation wrought upon Russia by Bolshevik dictatorship and Civil War. While Tsarist industrialisation operated by increasing the capital intensity of industry and accumulating labor-saving machinery, Stalinist “know-how” consisted of dropping the price of another industrial factor, that of labor, to near zero.

Hence the methods of compulsive labor in collective farms, exile settlements, and gulags reminiscent of serfdom or slavery. Conversely, the equipment was last-season at best, first American, unused during the Great Depression and bought with grain squeezed from the countryside (leading to a horrific famine), then German, taken as spoils of war.

Russia had its own military industries and was capable of building airplanes designed by Sikorsky (promptly kicked out of the country by the Bolsheviks) and especially battleships, which the Soviets failed to produce a single example of. In 1941, Leningrad’s main defences consisted of battleships and the Krasnaya Gorka fort, all built under Nicholas II. Likewise, Sevastopol fought back with coastal batteries designed under the Tsar, with Battery #35 equipped with gun carriages from the Poltava, another Tsarist battleship.

If not for the Tsar’s legacy, Leningrad would have fallen and Sevastopol wouldn’t have held for almost a year.

During the Great War, thanks to Nicholas II’s efforts, Russia quickly did away with ammunition shortage (common to all belligerent parties) and created armament reserves so vast that they, unfortunately, covered the Bolsheviks’ needs during the Civil War.

Conversely, the Soviet military industry during the pre-World War II years was in the doldrums. In spite of a huge overspending of human resources in era of “5-year plans”, as of 22nd June 1941, it depended… on its main adversary. To quote Alexey Isaev and Artem Drabkin[2], who can’t be suspected of anti-Stalinism:

The equipment and cutting-edge specimens of armaments bought from the Germans invigorated Soviet military industry. For example, the most mass-produced Red Army cannon, the famous “forty-fiver” was actually a Rheinmetall-Borsig AG artillery piece upgraded by Soviet constructors. The M-17 aviation engine was nothing more than a licenced BMW VI motor… German machinery was used to produce the most advanced Soviet medium tank, the T-34-76.

Nothing suggests that the military industry of a putative Imperial Russia in 1941 would have been weaker than that of the Soviet Union. Considering that its leading engineers wouldn’t have been exiled, it would have been quite the contrary: During their march to Moscow, Guderian’s tanks could have encountered Sikorsky helicopters armed with Zander-Korolev antitank missiles.

It is also uncertain whether German tanks would have even moved in the direction of Moscow at all. If not for the Red Scares, a party led by a deeply Russophobic Hitler would not have claimed power in 1933. German elites would probably have preferred more moderate revanchists leaning towards co-operation, not war with Russia.

If a World War II had broken out at all, it would have had entirely different provisions, and would not have been an all-devouring crusade of cannibals against Russia.

There is the conundrum: With each day of new research, it becomes more obvious that all technical, geopolitical, economic, or cultural achievements claimed by the Soviets to justify the the overthrow of monarchy and the Revolution would have been achieved to at least the same if not greater extent if the course of Russian history hadn’t been interrupted by a revolutionary catastrophe.

In addition, we would not have needed to pay for those achievements with the bloodbath of the Civil War, the separatism of the borderlands, the meat-grinder of the Red Terror and de-Cossackization, the dishonour of regicide (including the execution of a disabled teenager), the torture of priests and profanation of holy relics, the three waves of famine (1921-2, 1932-3, 1946-7), the extermination of the technical and artistic intelligentsia as would-be “wreckers” and “enemies of the people”. The poet Gumilyov, the engineer Palchinsky, the biologist Vavilov, the historian Lyubavsky[3], the military theorist Svechin and many others would have remained alive. Universal primary education would have been introduced 10 years earlier, and the GOELRO plan, based on Tsarist plans, would have been implemented 5 years ahead of the Soviet schedule.

In other words, from the viewpoint of national economic development, extreme revolutionary measures were entirely historically unjustifiable.

Just as the French Revolution derailed the country’s development and stymied it with the Reign of Terror and the Napoleonic wars, the Russian Revolution was a bloodstained exercise in self-imposed hardships.

The monstrous mechanism of repression constructed by Stalin could barely reach the same results that the “decayed Tsarism” was in the course of achieving by itself, without murdering millions.

Compare and contrast the fate of the Trans-Siberian and Murmansk Railways, built under Tsarism without mass sacrifices, and Stalin’s Transpolar Mainline, which claimed the lives of thousands of zeks and was finally abandoned until it was revived under Putin.

The last frontier of Stalinism is held by the following argument: “Well, if your Tsar was so good and kind and responsible before the country, he was still forced to abdicate, while Stalin killed all who conspired against him and clung to power”.

Indeed, there isn’t much that can be argued here.

Comrade Stalin managed to suspect and murder everybody right, left, and center. That is how he remains in history, as a suspicious, cruel, and ruthless despot, concerned above all with the preservation of his own personal power. Even in his famous Victory Toast “to the great Russian people”, he didn’t thank the Russians for the victory in the war but praised them for not ousting a horrifically incompetent government for the sake of a peace with Germany and fighting the good fight until the very end.

This, however, was a lesson learned by the Russians after they saw the consequences of deposing the government in World War I. No one wanted to repeat that.

Nicholas II, born with a sense of his right to rule and an ensuing sense of responsibility, wasn’t willing to fight for his power at any cost. He wasn’t a Machiavellian schemer or executioner. During the entirety of his reign, fewer people were executed – even counting the sentences of expedited military tribunals at the height of 1905-06 revolutionary terror – than the weekly toll of the Stalinist death machine just in 1937-38.

The Great Terror of 1937, pace the Neo-Stalinist myth, was not a purge of the corrupt Leninist “Old Guard”. It was an extermination of former nobles, officers, peasants (“kulaks”), and members of opposition parties, while Communists were but a secondary target for this wave.

The Tsar didn’t ferret out treason in his inner circle, didn’t wage war against a press and a Liberal intelligentsia that smeared him 24/7, he didn’t “wack” Guchkov, Milyukov, or his other enemies in the “political tusovka.”

The Emperor was a man who was altogether normal – a good man at a personal level, competent in administration, pious in the Orthodox faith. He was convinced that if repression was useful at all, it was only so during limited periods of extreme emergencies, as opposed to anything permanent, and that the Russians deserved much better than being ruled with blood and terror.

That is the real secret behind today’s “vogue” for Nicholas II’s personality.

If Stalin is the image of an iron fist pushing our people over a field of blood towards superpowerhood, crushing the bones of enemies real and imaginary, then Nicholas II represents the Russian dream of a normal, non-catastrophic historical development, uninterrupted by great upheavals and bloodbaths.

In him, we see an image of how Russia could have developed over the 20th century had she not been misled by the glittering mirage of Revolution that turned out out to be false gold.


Nicholas II inspecting the Sikorsky Russky Vityaz, precursor to the world’s first heavy bomber.

Take a look at old photos of Nicholas II. Climbing onto a Sikorsky airplane, and talking with its constructor. Trying on the uniform of a Russian infantryman. Playing with his heir on the beach. Walking through the vineyards of Danylivka with the Ayu-Dag mountain in the background. The affection that many feel for these photos is an expression of a simple dream, a dream of a ruler who would not be a torturer, a tyrant, or a paranoid mass murderer, but just a good man.

A dream of a Russia worthy of a ruler with a human face.

For this normal, non-cannibalistic ruler to preside over Russia’s normal, non-catastrophic development without being destroyed by his enemies, the nation and society itself needs to be imbued with the will for a non-revolutionary, non-extreme course of development.

That was exactly what Nicholas II didn’t have enough of, not determination or cruelty.

For the entirety of his reign, the so-called “public opinion” waged an information and political war of extermination against the Emperor. This narrow but influence slice of society flat out refused any other option for the country’s development save for Revolution. And it ended up paying its mite to what it unleashed: Most of this society was exiled, executed, sent to camps, or otherwise smothered by a regime whose emergence was completely unexpected by these “freedom fighters.”

Many years ago, the legal and moral structure in European Christian societies formed under the influence of the Gospel narrative of Jesus Christ’s judgement and crucifixion. The basis of the European justice system was preventing a repetition of His unlawful conviction (even if perhaps more as an ideal than a reality – e.g., see the case of Joan of Arc).

I believe that the modern Russian political psyche is turning towards the following assumption: If we have another kind-hearted, misunderstood, non-cruel, and non-paranoid ruler, we should avoid his demonization and overthrow, as well as all ensuing horrors, at any cost. Avoid another plunge into a Revolution and build anti-revolutionary safeguards based on prudence and self-restraint, not on cruelty and murder. Let Russia develop normally for as long as possible, instead of cannibalizing itself again.

…The girl is standing on the doorstep of a beautiful house with a portrait of Nicholas II. She already knows that he was a simple, handsome man walking through these gardens. Perhaps she also knows that he is a saint, recognized as such for his martyr’s death together with his family. She will grow up thinking that power over Russia belongs not to a “God on Earth” or a “Great Dictator” but to a man, a sinner in some matters, but a saint in what really matters.



[1] An expression from Osip Mandelstam’s (1891 – 1938) so-called Stalin Epigram (1933).

[2] Contemporary Russian historians of World War II with strong pro-Soviet/Neo-Stalinist leanings.

[3] Matvey Lyubavsky (1860 – 1936), major scholar of Medieval and Early Modern Russian history, Rector of Moscow University 1911-17, was arrested in 1930 and sentenced in 1931 to 5 years of exile.

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Vladislav Pravdin – GREAT STALIN (1949). It is our joy that during the hard years of the war the Red Army and the Soviet people were led by the wise and experienced leader of the Soviet Union – the GREAT STALIN.

Translator’s Foreword (Fluctuarius Argenteus)

And now for something completely different. Instead of snippets from larger works, here’s Egor Kholmogorov’s two-part takedown of the notion of “Stalin as a Russia national hero” merged into a single text.

The relationship of Russian nationalism and Neo-Stalinism is a torturous one. Modern Neo-Stalinism emerged in the early 2000s as one aspect of an anti-Yeltsinist and anti-Liberal consensus, an attempt to reconcile the Imperial and Soviet past under the banner of a broadly defined Russian patriotism and do away with the kind of historical nihilism that painted Stalin as the ultimate expression of a “millennium-old Russian yearning for slavery”. Many, including the author of the article and its translator, paid lip service to this movement in their younger years.

By approximately 2005, the movement had gone mainstream, and by 2012, it completely morphed into a cancerous outgrowth. The nerve of early Neo-Stalinist rhetoric was the belief that Stalin had made a U-turn from (((Old Bolshevik cosmopolitanism))), legalised some forms of Russian national consciousness, and generally put Russian history back on track (i.e., was not true Marxism, and it was good). The Neo-Stalinism of The New Tens is virulently hostile towards the slightest hint of Russian patriotism and a positive appraisal of pre-1917 Russia, going as far as to condemn liking Alexander Nevsky and Peter the Great (both lionised under Stalin) as “Vlasovism” (oh the sweet irony).

Needless to say, this text provoked some gnashing of teeth in the Neo-Stalinist camp.

AK’s Foreword

After my takedown of Lenin, some people suggested that I extend it to Stalin. But what point is there when we have Kholmogorov? I agree with this 90%, down to the biographical details of my own modest (if still regrettable) quasi-Stalinophile sentiments a decade ago.

This is something that afflicted many Russian patriots of that time, being part of a general rejection of the Russophobic narratives of the liberal elites. Support for Stalin became intensely tribal, and a means to troll those people. However, it has now gone on for far too long. That particular culture war is no longer relevant, and lingering Stalinophilia now only serves to distort Russian history and Russia’s self-image of itself. It is time to put that mustachioed, medals-bedecked Halloween costume back into the cupboard.

Although we may quibble with some details – I had quite a few myself as I edited this – this piece may be considered to be as close to a Russian nationalist statement on Stalin as any.

If you appreciate these translatinos, please feel free to give Kholmogorov a tip here:


Part I: Pharaoh of the Plow and Atom


38% of Russian citizens polled by Levada Center put Joseph Stalin at #1 among the greatest heroes of Russian and world history. He is followed by Putin, Pushkin, Lenin, Peter I, Gagarin, Leo Tolstoy, Georgy Zhukov, Catherine II, Lermontov, Lomonosov, Mendeleev, and even Brezhnev and Gorbachev. The only non-Russians who made it to the top are Napoleon, Newton, and Einstein.

Well well well… This is an obvious disgrace. If trustworthy, it reveals than the average Russian doesn’t have the vaguest idea about the course of Russian and world history and the true importance of historical figures. To be fair, sociologists aren’t that far from the masses, mixing in the same poll politicians, generals, writers, and scientist, whose relative importance just can’t be measured by the scale. Essentially, this a list of the best-advertised personalities.

The absolute disaster here is that, in 2017, almost a good half our citizens are confident enough to place Stalin at #1 in Russian and world history. Of course, the Generalissimo here is playing the part of an epic or even mythological hero; the details and real achievements do not matter. For our people, Stalin is a byword for “a strong Russia to be reckoned with in the global arena”. And this strength acts as an acceptable rationale for everything else: millions of murdered Russians, from great scientists to common villagers, demolished churches and martyred priests, a completely fleeced countryside… Everything is pardoned and justified, following Isaac Deutscher’s formula: “He found Russia working with wooden plows and left her equipped with atomic piles” (which is frequently misattributed to Winston Churchill instead of this obscure Trotskyite and has “atomic piles” replaced with the “atomic bomb”).

In other words, Stalin is seen by the Russian consciousness as the architect of our incredible grandeur, which was enabled by the tremendous industrial leap forward and Victory in the Great Patriotic War. This grandeur is enough to excuse his transformation of Russia into a hellish bloodbath of terror.

If we put mythological and epical thinking aside and deal with historical facts, is Stalin’s #1 place among the greatest personalities in world history, afforded by our compatriots and sociologists, in any way justified?

I have never been into anti-Stalinist hysterics. I even published multiple articles calling to refrain from cartoonish nihilism while evaluating Stalin’s contribution to our country’s Victory in the Great Patriotic War. I am an even stauncher opponent of identifying Russia with Stalin, of using Stalin’s horrifying atrocities as a pretext to erase our national heroism and demand “reparations”, “territorial concessions”, and other vile nonsense. I couldn’t care less about Stalin being distasteful to other countries and nations – the Russians are blameless before them.

What really concerns me is Stalin’s place in the history of the Russian people. And it is in this domain, no thanks to meddlesome “National Stalinists” who go as far as to put Stalin on icons, where the role of this historical figure is inflated to infinity and beyond. It now turns out that it wasn’t Stalin’s good fortune that the Russians stayed loyal to him during the military debacle of 1941, as he claimed himself in his famous Victory Toast. No, it was a great honor and mercy for the Russians on Stalin’s part, because he condescended to rule them, shoot them, exile them where they could plow permafrost, let them get slaughtered in Nazi encirclements, and starve them with famines. It turns out that we Russians are allegedly unworthy of Stalin, our Messiah.

This boundless and hypertrophied propaganda poisoning the minds of our countrymen is sometimes even more obscene than the cult of the Great Leader as it existed in his lifetime. To heighten Stalin’s pedestal, they keep placing more and more falsehood at its base, be it myths of a pathetic backward Tsarist Russia or new slander against victims of the regime, long rehabilitated by state security and never held in contempt by the nation or history. Even the greatest of victims, such as Nikolai Vavilov, are now dragged through the mud, and the most despicable of rogues, such as Trofim Lysenko, are now lionized, for the sole purpose of keeping Stalin’s halo intact.

That is why we have to return to the question of Stalin the historical figure and not Stalin the myth, and enquire into the degree and character of his greatness.

The first foundation stone of Stalin’s pedestal is the Industrialization. Allegedly, the very Russia that languished in backwardness under the pathetically incompetent Tsars made a huge industrial leap under Stalin, storming into global industrial leadership, beating Hitler, and becoming a superpower.

This claim is false in several respects. First, Tsarist Russia wasn’t backward either in industry or in military technology. The country was developing dynamically, and there is no reason to suggest she would have reached a lower level of industrial progress than the one attained by the USSR in 1939. When we were little kids, Soviet textbooks hypnotized us with diagrams of industrial development compared to “Russia in 1913”. And no one would pose the question: “Wait, if the revolution hadn’t happened, Russia would have simply frozen at 1913 levels forever?”. And here’s another naïve question no one came to ask Soviet history teachers: “If Tsarist Russia was so industrially backward, where did her working class come from, with the Bolshevik Party as its self-proclaimed leadership?”

Russian industrialization began in the 1890s mostly thanks to the efforts of Count Sergei Witte, who was a follower of the great German economist Friedrich List, the theorist of the forces of production (a term later plagiarized by Karl Marx) and protectionism. An active ally of Witte’s was Dmitry Mendeleev, not only a famous chemist but also an economist who organised the Russian oil industry and also followed List’s principles of economic protectionism.

Enjoying the complete support of Emperors Alexander III and Nicholas II, Witte achieved an impressive surge in industrial development. However, he was often criticised for overstraining the Russian peasantry to achieve said surge, which backfired with the unrest of 1905-06 that coincided with a cyclic crisis in world economy. In 1909, Russia saw the start of a new economic boom and a new wave of industrialization overseen by Peter Stolypin.

Stolypin’s approach was much more merciful to the peasantry than Witte’s. The countryside stopped being an economic donor and became a full-fledged partner, reaping the benefits of industrialization together with urban areas. The Great War, despite extreme conditions, gave an even greater boost to Russia’s military and industrial development. It was was the Bolshevik Revolution, as well as the ensuing “War Communism” and Civil War, which caused the terrible desolation that almost plunged the country into a new Stone Age. As a member of the Bolshevik leadership, Stalin was directly responsible for that.

Evidently, to endure as a Great Power (and, consequently, protect the Bolshevik dictatorship from being deposed by a foreign invasion), Russia couldn’t stay at the rock bottom where Bolshevism had flung her. Hence the idea of resuming industrialization, now under a new Communist management and based on Communist ideas. Stalinism didn’t attempt anything new here, because industrialization had already been running for a quarter of a century under the Tsars and was in any case supported by all rival Communist factions. Stalin’s contribution to industrialization is limited to inventing a new method, not based on strong-arming the countryside (as with Witte) or robbing it blind (as proposed by Trotsky and Pyatakov).

Stalin’s industrialization was powered by the physical eradication of the Russian countryside via forced collectivization, punitive expeditions, mass exile, famine, and terror. Yes, this method of industrialization had been previously unknown to the wider world and could be perfectly dispensed with, as demonstrated by Tsarist Russia. But can the invention of cannibalism be considered a contribution to the culinary arts? Probably not.

To Stalin’s credit, he was very successful in simultaneously bleeding the country dry to gain funds for industrialization with exploiting the vicissitudes of the global market. The Great Depression engulfed the entire world, flooding the market with cheap imported machinery and tractors, as well as jobless American engineers. In this respect, Stalin’s industrialization turned out to be cheaper for the USSR than if it had happened at the peak of the global business cycle. But let’s not forget that Russian bread and Russian exports also became cheaper cheaper. To turn a profit, Soviet industrialization needed not just cheap labor, but a slave-like one, spurred by a famine stemming from Stalin’s 1930-31 attempts at monopolizing global grain exports. As grain prices kept falling during the Great Depression, the Soviet Union was forced to increase export volume and thus physically decimate its own citizenry with starvation and terror.

In 1929, the Soviets exported 1.3 million metric tons of grain worth $68 a ton, earning $88 million. In 1930, the exports amounted to 4.8 million tons worth $45 to $60 a ton, netting a marvelous $288 million in profits. However, in October 1930, grain prices on the world market collapsed. After completely fleecing the peasantry and exporting 5.2 million tons, Stalin earned a paltry $72 million. At the same time, a mass urban exodus from the countryside required greater grain procurements for the domestic market as well. Combined with plummeting grain harvests in 1931-32, this would lead to a terrible famine, now appropriated by Ukrainian nationalists under the name of “Holodomor” and “genocide” (in reality, the Kuban and Volga regions didn’t suffer any less).

Stalin’s great contribution to industrialization consisted in employing slave labor not in a Bronze Age or plantation economy, but in an economy of the Industrial Age, a feat hitherto unknown to human history. Stalin surpassed the kings of Egypt because the Pharaohs used slave labor to build the Pyramids only in Soviet textbooks. In reality, the work teams of peasants that took part in those colossal construction projects were well remunerated and had decent working conditions by Ancient Egyptian standards. Stalin demonstrated that Southern slave owners could compete with the industry of the Union if only they had abandoned their paternalistic views of their slaves and sent them, overseen by cruel taskmasters, to build factories, roads, and mines…

Low labor costs, achieved through extreme coercion and terror, did make the USSR capable of undertaking projects that hadn’t been considered economically viable in Tsarist Russia, such as the Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works, dependent on both Kuznetsk coal and Urals ore. When capital was the main factor of production, such projects wouldn’t have made a profit. The historical Russian model of industrialization was capital-intensive: the Morozovs, Ryabushinkys, Tereschenkos, Putilovs, Konovalovs and other tycoons invested in costly machinery, often more advanced than in neighboring Germany. Based on this trend, the Russian-American economist Alexander Gerschenkron wrote of the advantages of “economic backwardness”, that is, a belated industrialization.

The Bolsheviks blew the old Russian industry to smithereens. However, the Great Leader and the Great Teacher successfully triumphed over the laws of economics. The leading economic factor in Soviet industrial projects, in Soviet circumpolar canal-digging and railroad construction, was labor. Slave labor. The profitability of most industrial projects soared, as a train full of Gulag convicts acted as a replacement for costly machinery, which was doubly economical: money was saved on both expensive equipment and maintenance for the workers themselves.

Stalin sought to apply the same principle of making labor the main industrial factor while lowering the importance of capital everywhere, including science. Sharashkas and threats of arrest turned out to be a better stimulus for scientific progress, in the short run at least, than German sausages and American mansions with swimming pools. Alas, biology is different from mechanics: Vavilov couldn’t get wheat chromosomes to vernalize even at gunpoint, which ended in his elimination and the rise of Lysenko, who promised to impose Stalinist labor discipline even on plant life…

Is enriching global economic thought with the principle of forced labor superiority to the capital enough to make Stalin the greatest person in history? I don’t think so. Russia used to have its own model of industrialization, which had produced excellent results and created an industrially developed economy integrated into the global economic system. Of course, it wasn’t without its failings, and had patent elements of financial dependence. But didn’t the USSR have the same kind of dependence on foreign credit, both during and after the industrialization, though only working harder to conceal it? Professor Katasonov’s calculations reveal that all profits from Soviet exports, all the gold pillaged from the Church and the general populace, all the money made from art sales couldn’t pay for the equipment imported by the USSR. This meant that the Soviets were systematically dependent on foreign loans, which Stalin himself acknowledged on multiple occasions in his correspondence. In this respect, the Great Leader merely differed from the Tsar in hiding his debts from the masses.

World War II caught Stalin’s Soviet Union in the midst of an incomplete industrialization, dependent on foreign imports in many types of machinery, up to the eyes in debt, with a part of the populace – oftentimes the intellectually and economically superior one – exterminated or jailed, and with a unique slave-labor driven industrial economy. Any organic path of Russia’s development, especially Stolypin’s, would have given Russia much better historical prospects.

But perhaps the Stalinist Soviet Union developed some kind of unique technology that was beyond the powers of old Russia? Nope. Stalin did bequeath us the proverbial atomic piles, using slave labor and nuclear espionage to save the billions of dollars spent by the USA on the Manhattan Project, which the Soviets simply didn’t have. God forbid me from chastising Stalin for that act of espionage – actually, it was one of his greatest and most innocent achievements that cost only two human lives (the Rosenbergs) and saved millions of them.

However, Stalin kept dreaming of Soviet battleships for the entirety of reign, but the USSR never managed to complete its large warships program. The naval contribution to the defense of Leningrad in WWII consisted of Gangut and Petropavlovsk, two Tsarist battleships built by Admiral Grigorovich and paid for by a Duma browbeaten into submission by Stolypin. Soviet aircraft carriers at that time were also a complete impossibility.

The story of Stalin’s fighter planes turned into a tale of endless anguish for engineers, constructors, and pilots, which the Great Leader himself confirmed by mass imprisonment of the apparatchiks responsible for the wartime aircraft production (the so-called “Aviation Affair”). The same thing happened with bombers: It would suffice to mention that the Soviet Tu-4 was a reverse-engineered copy of the American B-29.

These examples have nothing to do with the myth of Russia’s backwardness. Quite to the contrary: Russia, by virtue of NOT being a backward country and having amassed a huge intellectual and technological potential, could survive the emigration and mass murder of scientists and engineers and the savagery of the slave labor system, and advance to new technological horizons. However, almost all of these new horizons were revealed to us by “old-schoolers”. The most prominent of the Soviet scientists involved in the nuclear and missile projects came almost exclusively from the ranks of the “enemy class” of the pre-revolutionary intelligentsia, receiving their education either before the Revolution or in the 1920s, when the old foundations of education hadn’t been completely ruined. Without these human resources, Stalin wouldn’t have had a shot at leaving Russia with atomic piles. The same atomic piles, however, could well have be developed by the same date by a Tsar Alexey Nikolayevich or Mikhail Alexandrovic h…

By the way, about those plows that Stalin “found Russia” with. Indeed, Stalin took Russia with wooden plows… from Lenin. And Lenin had grabbed Russia by the neck after she had lost her Tsar, under whose rule she had been a country with automobiles, armored cars, Sikorsky airplanes, early aircraft carriers, battleships and tank blueprints. And the truth is that Stalin took Russia from Lenin with plows and left her with the same implements. The plow was in use in 1953 just as in 1924, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing (the sokha, the Russian light wooden plow, is better suited to certain soil types than heavier plows). All in all, measuring the trajectory of Stalinism in terms of plows and atomic piles is a gross oversimplification.

However, let us not lapse into slander and calumny by claiming that all Stalin’s achievements came only as a result of cannibalism and mass destruction of his own citizens. After the war, many residential and industrial objects in the Soviet Union were erected by German POWs, following the same slave labor model. Some select citizens of the USSR whirled around Moscow in an Opels (rechristened Moskvitch) while sporting nice Carl Zeiss glasses. Stalinist industrialization got a new a material and moral resource: Victory. And that Cictory is what our compatriots deservedly count as one of Stalin’s greatest achievements.

Can the victor in the greatest war in history not be named the greatest man in history? This is a story for our next article.


Part II: Stalin’s Toxic Gifts


So, let’s go back to Stalin as the “greatest person in Russian and world history”. This reputation – to the degree that it actually exists among the populace and wasn’t engineered by sociologists – dwells mostly upon the Soviet Victory in the Great Patriotic War. World War II being the greatest war ever waged by mankind, it seems reasonable and justified to hail the victor in this war as the greatest man ever.

There can be a lot of objections to this. First, the Great Patriotic War was just one part of World War II, won fair and square by the United States. The Americans, having lost the least amount of people by dint of replacing them with guns and dollars, using the Russians to do the bloody work, and stealing the thunder of their British allies, went on to become the masters of the postwar world order.

Even during the Cold War, the USSR was, for a long time, a mere challenger to American supremacy and not an equal contender. And we all know how this war ended for us. The US victory in WWII under President Roosevelt is undisputed. He died when their victory was a fait accompli, and President Truman took no new decisions of his own (Roosevelt would have probably nuked Hiroshima, too). But is Roosevelt the greatest person in history? Not quite! He keeps getting flak from the left and the right, even for his New Deal, even for his meagre concessions to the Soviets in Tehran and Yalta. Even in the US proper, his ranking among top US presidents never rises above #2, and usually he occupies the #3 spot.

Regarding Russia, her greatest pre-1941 war was the Patriotic War of 1812, greatest by the stature of the enemy (Napoleon, one of the greatest characters in history), by the size and the power of his Army of the Twelve Nations, the tragedy of the fall of the Russian capital, the charity and sacrifice of the nobility, the merchant class, and the peasantry, the complete destruction of the adversary – in all these respects, the “thunder of 1812” was historically unparalleled. Who won this war? Alexander I the Blessed. To quote Pushkin’s lines, “he conquered Paris, he founded the Lyceum”.

But is this Emperor counted among the all-time greats of Russian history, according to Levada or whatever other poll? No. He is half-forgotten, his reputation destroyed by ignominious military settlements (still less outrageous than the Gulag), the infamy of Arakcheevschina (still not quite the Yezhovschina), the sin of patricide[1] (is it worse than Patria-cide?), the ridicule of other, much less flattering Pushkin poems[2]. And if it is ever to be proven that he was already been canonised by the Orthodox Church as a saint and revered by the common folk under the name of Feodor Kuzmich[3], this glory and grace would only be bestowed upon his second life, granted to expiate the sins of the first.

Stalin founded no Lyceum, he created the sharashkas, and, to paraphrase Saltykov-Schedrin’s History of a Town, “torched public schools and abolished (some of) the sciences”. He didn’t reach Paris but quite definitely conquered Berlin, a feat unseen since the days of Empress Elizaveta Petrovna, God bless her memory. He lucked out with his enemy – Hitler wasn’t as great as Napoleon, but he was extraordinary vile towards the Russians and brought Russia untold of devastation. Before the invasion, his generals fulminated with very clear instructions: “war crimes in the East are not to be considered as such”, “any cultural assets in the East do not matter”. Anyone who would stand between Hitler and the Russians and organize resistance was deserving of great praise.

Stalin is deserving of such praise, too. He managed to collect himself and lead the struggle, distributing his forces so that Hitler’s onslaught got bogged down in Russia’s expanse and failing to reach any Russian capital except Kiev. He evacuated and thus preserve the bulk of Soviet industrial production. The army that he assumed supreme command of experienced almost no defeats after November 1942 and led an unstoppable march to the Elbe. Stalin was prudent enough to make peace with the Russian people and unfurl the banner of Russian patriotism – quickly furled back up after the war but not as completely, since no one dared to derogate the Russians as brazenly as in the 1920s and 1930s. Stalin was shrewd enough while dealing with the Alleis that the USSR ended the war with large, even somewhat excessive gains. It is historically disingenuous to deny Stalin these achievements, and it would be nothing but a parallel falsehood to the rising tide of diehard Stalinist lies, which provoked this essay in the first place.

If we are to speak of Stalin’s greatness in world history and Russian history, his halo needs to be knocked down a couple of notches. Who is to blame but the country’s political and military leader for allowing the claws of the German eagle to sink so deep into the chest of our eagle-turned-red-star? Who is to answer for the unthinkable casualties sustained by our army in the 1941 encirclements?

Of course, these losses can’t be deemed “excessive”. Modern calculations place Soviet and German irrevocable military losses at 11.5 million vs. 8.6 million, a ratio of 1:3 to 1. But what are these 3 million “surplus” dead if not the price paid for the chaos and incompetence reigning in 1941, especially in September and October, when the tide of the Blitzkrieg seemed to have been stemmed?

Yes, June 22, 1941 was a case of the Wehrmacht’s military luck, intensified by a vile sneak attack. Luck has its place in warfare. But the encirclements near Kiev and Vyazma, the siege of Leningrad, to say nothing of the crushing 1942 defeats, were less a case of German good luck than our own failures.

The more one reads documents and memoirs, the clearer it is that Stalin’s interference in warfare was incompetent, arbitrary, and short-sighted. He was intelligent, driven, obstinate, obsessive about details, and despotic, all great qualities for a general, but his mind was corrupted by Bolshevism, a belief that applying enough pressure is all it takes to achieve a result, and a resulting utopian mindset. His meticulousness often turned into nitpicking, and he would obsess over trivial details. In spite of the Neo-Stalinist mythology, his views were ideologically blinkered in many important questions. Given the conditions of a hyper-centralized system of military management, all of the Commander-in-Chief’s foibles, all of his idiosyncrasies and fantasies took their greatly magnified toll on the real command of warfare. Yes, Stalin was smarter than Hitler, but setting the bar for greatness so low would be embarrassing even for the Generalissimo himself.

“It is all well and good”, some might say, “and a lot of what you say might be true – but don’t forget, the winner takes it all.

Perhaps a winner does take it all, but it doesn’t make him immune to criticism for misusing his spoils of victory. An untold loss of life, devastation, suffering, the horror of POW camps, occupation, and terror should have given the Russian a right to sizeable reparations. Did Stalin give its due to the nation he called “great” in his Victory Toast? Let’s give an objective rundown of military gains and talk about Stalin’s diplomacy.

When you hear any talk of Stalinism as an era when Russia was a Great Power to be reckoned with, you should realize that World War II started, and started the way it did, only because the pre-war Stalinist USSR was a pariah state, a rogue state written off by everyone. Through Foreign Affairs Commissar Maksim Litvinov, Stalin kept proclaiming a policy of collective defense, trying to cobble together anti-Fascist coalitions. He waged a “proxy war” with the Nazis in Spain, which was such an ideological trash fire that many past Republican sympathizers had to admit that Franco, a rational nationalist with a strong vision of unity, was better than bloodthirsty Red psychos. Nothing revealed the truth about Red methods for the European Liberal Left and pitted former fellow travelers against the Soviet Union quite like the Spanish Civil War.

When, in 1938, an agreement regarding the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia was reached in Munich, no one bothered to ask the opinion of the USSR, an alleged “Great Power”. This pushed Stalin towards a reasonable and prudent idea: if you can’t side with hyenas against a wolf, you pit the wolf against the hyenas. In his 1939 pact with Hitler, Stalin attempted, without a major war or sometimes without a single shot fired, to restore the territorial losses of 1918: the Baltics, Western Ukraine and Belarus, and Bessarabia. He bungled with Finland but at least got Vyborg back. He also grabbed what hadn’t belonged to Russia but should have: Galicia and Bukovina (the latter would be cited by Hitler as a pretext for the invasion on June 22, 1941).

Was this return to imperial borders justified? It was. Did Stalin do well by this? Probably yes. Did those returned territories do any good for the Russians? Not at all. Stalin fixed the crimes and mistakes of Lenin, a fellow Bolshevik. He pushed the balance of Russian history from “in the red” to “zero”. Doesn’t sound much for a “great leader”.

But what happened to the regathered lands? They were turned into ethnic republics that easily “de-occupied” themselves in 1991. Only tiny tracts of borderlands were annexed to the Pskov oblast. A once heavily Russified Vilna, recaptured from Poland, was given to the Lithuanian SSR. A Moldovan Republic was merged from Bessarabia and Transnistria, which is now on its way to fusing with Romania and dragging the Transnistrian Russians with it. However, Stalin’s most toxic and jinxed gift of all was Galicia. The entirety of Ukrainiznig potential accumulated there over the course of Austrian and Polish dominance engulfed Soviet Ukraine and dragged it into the abyss of “anti-Moskalism”. Stalin could fight the Banderites however he wanted, but, in the national absence of a Russian idea in the USSR, with Ukrainism propped up by all means possible, it became inevitable that Ukrainian identity would crystallize according to Galician precepts. Petro Poroshenko owes an enormous debt to Stalin, who enabled the Ukrainization of Ukrainizers.

All of these toxic gifts came with a terrible price, paid for by our people during the war. This price gave the Russians the right to expect even greater gifts, now destined only for the Russian people and no one else.

So what happened in reality? Pechenga, once the scene of St. Tryphon of Pechenga’s ascetic devotion, became Russian once again. Another restoration of what had been ours before. Carpathian Ruthenia, however, despite the pleas of Rusyn delegates to incorporate their land into the RSFSR, was not united with Russia and sacrificed on the altar of Ukrainization.

The rest was a gift to Poland, that backstabber who managed to reap three harvests from the same field. In exchange for restoring to Russia what Lenin had given away with the Riga peace treaty, they occupied, with Stalin’s consent, all of Eastern Germany, and expelled its ethnic German population, and gained highly developed industrial regions, and received the lion’s share of East Prussia, and got the Augustów district back from the USSR, and kept running around the world for 80 years complaining about the “Russian occupation” and demanding Lvov and Grodno back. Talk about stuffing the goose! And who kept feeding that pocket monster as a ploy to appease the British? Stalin, that’s who.

If there’s ever a World War III, it will start with a NATO blockade of Kaliningrad. And Stalin would be to blame for that, because he stripped the Augustów district from Belarus and carved up East Prussia in such a way that our communications with Kaliningrad stretch through Lithuania, always eager to block them entirely. Another toxic gift, because Stalin didn’t even believe that Prussia would not stay with the Russians forever. He wanted to trade it in exchange for German neutrality, which is why the first wave of Russian settlement there mainly consisted of exiles. As a result, it wasn’t really Stalin’s gift to the Russians but Adenauer’s: the West German Chancellor wasn’t swayed by the prospect of neutrality.

The same happened in the Far East. Stalin did the barest minimum of what every government of nationalist Russia would have done in a military grudge match against Japan: restoring the losses of the Russo-Japanese War and grabbing the Kuril Islands “for the trouble”. However, even those gains were left in a suspended and toxic state. Instead of strong-arming Japan into accepting the totality of our gains without further delay, the peace treaty question was dragged out until it blossomed into the mythical problem of the so-called Northern Territories. Toxic gifts, here we go again.

Let’s not forget the assets in Manchuria sacrificed in the name of solidarity with Red China – the Chinese Eastern Railway and Dalniy/Dalian, all the more frustrating because Manchuria’s specificities made it possible to give it a sui generis status profitable to the Soviets.


What could have been: Map of the “Future Europe” (not like Wilhelm II would have liked it!)

For the USSR, WWII resulted in lesser territorial gains that would have been plausibly claimed by Russia at the end of the Great War, which was “surrendered” by the Bolsheviks in Brest-Litovsk. Almost everywhere he would go, Stalin only picked up what had been squandered by Lenin. He failed to gain from a crushing German defeat even a half of what could have and would have been acquired by the Tsar. Under the Tsar, Galicia would have been incorporated into Russia under a Russian banner (to say nothing of the Turkish Straits). The few acquisitions of the Soviet Empire actually beneficial for the Russians, such as Kaliningrad, turned out to be this way almost by pure happenstance.

As part of a package deal involving these gains, the Russians got a bunch of freeloaders that had to be schooled in the ways of Communism and kept in line at gunpoint (East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia). And they had to be fed, fed, and fed once again. Exhausting the Russians under the burden of hangers-on in an incomprehensible Communist experiment is hardly a solid basis for greatness.

If we calculate the war losses of our nation and our more than modest gains, our victory was indeed Pyrrhic – as great as it was unprofitable. If it was indeed a historical comeback, it remedied not the historical faults of Tsarist Russia but those of Stalin’s mentor Lenin, who had wrecked historical Russia both morally and territorially.

Let’s give Stalin his due. He knew very well that he had started the war and had been rubbish at managing it. The Russians had every reason to give him the boot. He explicitly mentioned this in the Victory Toast: “A different people could have said to the Government: “You have failed to justify our expectations. Go away. We shall install another government which will conclude peace with Germany and assure us a quiet life.”

However, Stalin also considered the Russians’ understanding that “running away” from a world war, failing to complete it for a second time would be tantamount to ending our history as a great nation. This was evident to both people of intelligence and the national instinct of the masses. Even such a fervent anti-Communist as Ivan Ilyin wrote that a desertion similar to the one of 1917 was impossible, that one had to fight on and win. Stalin harnessed this resource of Russian prudence and patience to reap the laurels of victory. However, he failed to repay most of his “debts” to the Russians.

The war was barely over, but Marxist historians wasted no time in trampling all over the academic defenders of Russian Imperial legacy led by Academician Tarle. By Stalin’s and Zhdanov’s decree, the term “Russian nation-state” was almost completely purged from the historical idiom. Orthodox hierarchs were still needed for reasons of international diplomatic representation, but the persecution of the Church would make a comeback, including the closure of churches (bear in mind that most of the churches “opened under Stalin” were churches that reopened by themselves under German occupation, and churches reopened in Stalin-held territories were a drop in the ocean). Barely four years after the victory, state security boss Viktor Abakumov would torture those few Soviet apparatchiks who dared to have but a smidgen of Russian identity. Stalin would destroy his incredibly talented assistant Nikolay Voznesenskiy, ruining all chances of the USSR being led by an intellectually developed Russian person. In the USSR, a prison of the Russian people designed by Lenin and built by Stalin, they briefly opened a fresh-air shutter and then slammed it shut.

We, Russians, cannot elevate this man to the rank of the greatest genius in history while keeping a straight face. We cannot sell our memory – mutilated national livelihood, demolished churches, massacred priests and murdered scientists, engineers, and poets, our forefathers exiled to Siberia for refusing to give their last horse to Red activists – for a minute of Stalin’s “Victory Toast”.

Yes, we should be fair in our historical judgement and shouldn’t defame Stalin with the fantasies of the “children of the Arbat”[4]. But we also should, with even greater force and rage, be fair in the opposite respect: never cutting Stalin any slack for his horrifying sins, mistakes, cruelties, and injustices, never forgetting just how many eggs he broke to make his omelet.


[1] Alexander I is widely accepted to have been complicit in the palace coup that led to the death of his father Paul I.

[2] For instance, in the so-called Chapter X of Eugene Onegin Pushkin described Alexander I as “a feeble and conniving ruler, a bald fop, the enemy of all work, crowned with glory by happenstance”.

[3] Legend has it that Alexander I, remorseful of his past misdeeds and faced with a profound religious crisis, feigned his own death in 1825 and fled to Siberia, where he lived as a starets (mystic hermit) under the name of Feodor Kuzmich (died 1864). The Orthodox Church officially canonized Feodor Kuzmich as a saint in 1984 but rejects his identification with the Emperor.

[4] Reference to Anatoly Rybakov’s 1987 novel Children of the Arbat (referring to a central Moscow street populated by high-ranking “Old Bolsheviks” after the revolution), a hallmark of Perestroika anti-Stalinism, where Stalin was portrayed as a one-dimensionally diabolical and sadistic figure.

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Translator’s Foreword (Fluctuarius Argenteus)

The doubtless success of the “primer” for Kholmogorov’s Solzhenitsyn treatise has compelled both the author and the translator to publish another “juicy bit” from the sprawling work. This part of the article analyzes Solzhenitsyn’s rejection of the Enlightenment that led him to lambast Andrey Sakharov’s project of a gradual “convergence” between Communism and Capitalism, causing a split within the dissident movement. It serves as a useful and engaging glimpse into Solzhenitsyn’s anti-Enlightenment, anti-Globalist, outspokenly nationalist philosophy that has reacquired relevance in recent years.

Most of the footnotes and tangents of the original text have been truncated, paraphrased, or incorporated into the body of the article proper. Several insignificant abridgements have been made, with the author’s consent.


The Enlightenment of Our Discontent

Solzhenitsyn was 20th century’s most consistent and paradoxical opponent of the Enlightenment. The paradox lied in the fact that he did not challenge Enlightenment secular humanism from the standpoint of a reactionary anti-humanism. Solzhenitsyn’s criticism came from a humane viewpoint, consistent and empathetic towards both the nation and the individual. This paradox was something that didn’t escape André Glucksman’s attention during his discussion with Solzhenitsyn on French TV: “For me, this man directly belongs and adheres to a group of writers who dedicated their talent to the cause of struggle for justice. However, some of those writers, such as Tolstoy, Zola, or Hugo, completely accepted and completely corresponded to the Enlightenment ideology. But Solzhenitsyn is now critical of this ideology, hence the paradox.” (Le Bouillon de culture talk show , broadcast on 17 September 1993 )

Solzhenitsyn resisted the Enlightenment by employing the language of suffering and acting as the voice of pain endured by those martyred for the cause of “Enlightenment ideals” during two Enlightenment-inspired revolutions: that of the French Jacobins and that of the Russian Bolsheviks. From this viewpoint, he definitely belongs to the “naturalistic” strain of Conservatism. However, he explicitly spurns Rousseauist naturalism and rejects its “noble savage” and his society-dependent “nobility”: “I am most unlike Rousseau in my views. Claiming that humans are good by nature but corrupted by their environment and circumstances was a grave error. I have always said, many times, that the line between good and evil is not drawn between governments, parties, or nations, but through every human heart. A human being is naturally inclined to both good and evil.” (Die Zeit interview, 1993)

Transferring the burden of responsibility for a moral choice between good and evil is the main sin against humanity committed, according to Solzhenitsyn, by the Enlightenment philosophy: “When religion started to wane in the 18th century (the 19th in certain areas), this faith was transposed onto the social system alone. After the loss of religious sentiment, the route of individual self-perfection, the way of individual education started to weaken, and the center of gravity shifted to this: once we change society, we’ll fix all of our problems.” Attempts at transforming humanity via a social transformation of the society were paid with the bloody toll of the guillotine and the Gulag.

That is why “Enlightenment” is one of the most negatively charged notions in Solzhenitsyn’s lexicon. “If the Earth is finite, then its spaces and resources are finite, and it is unfit for the sort of endless, limitless progress that was hammered into our heads by Enlightenment fantasists”, he wrote in his 1973 Letter to the Leaders of the Soviet Union.

A quarter of the century later, and the Limits to Growth myth-making of the Club of Rome, so influential in Solzhenitsyn’s early writings, is nowhere to be seen. Instead of a technological and environmental crisis, the West is faced with its own imperial Globalism. This was the subject of one of Solzhenitsyn’s last notable discourses, Degeneration of Humanism, read in December 2000 at the award ceremony for the Grand Prix of the French Académie des sciences morales et politiques. Once more, Solzhenitsyn drives an onslaught against the Enlightenment and its usual companion, secular humanism, as the main culprits of the modern crisis:

“Humanism was captivated by the seductive idea of taking from Christianity all of its noblest ideas, its goodness, its compassion towards the oppressed and the wretched, its acceptance of free will… while somehow doing without the Creator of the Universe.”

From time to time, humanism did succeed at assuaging cruelties. Nevertheless, over the course of the 20th century, the world was wrecked with two terrible wars, and in their wake, trying to preserve its zealous idealism, humanism morphed into a “humanism of promises”. Promises of establishing a rational worldwide order, giving equal rights to the entire population of the globe, creating a world government…

And, in its turn, this round of promises ended in falsehood.

“The term “progress for everyone” started to lapse from common usage. If some concessions are to be made by someone, somewhere, why should it be us, the most effective and developed nations, the Golden Billion?.. The gap between the most and least advanced countries keeps growing instead of shrinking. There is a hard rule: you fall behind once, you are to doomed to falling behind forever… If someone on this planet must dampen their industries, why not do it at the expense of the Third World? There are powerful financial and economic tools for that: world banks, transnational corporations… Is such a change completely unexpected for Humanism? Let’s recall that, during its development, there was a period, after d’Holbach, Helvétius, and Diderot, when a theory of “rational egotism” was proclaimed and gained significant traction… And now the current Russian press writes about an “enlightened egotistical interest.” Egotistical, but still enlightened , you see…”

As the zeitgeist changed, so did intellectual movements that influenced Solzhenitsyn. From a partisan of the Limits to Growth theory, he turned into a caustic anti-Globalist, pulling the mask off the same anti-industrialism that used to enthrall him, revealing it as an ideology of saving resources at the expense of the weak. There is one constant, however: Solzhenitsyn traces the evils of the modern world to the Enlightenment paradigm. “From the Age of the Enlightenment”, he argues, “grow the roots of Liberalism, Socialism, and Communism alike.”

This Enlightenment humanism led to making it “possible – with only the most humane of goals in mind! – to carry out a three-month long bombing of a European country populated by millions, robbing large cities and entire regions of electricity, so vital in our day and age, and destroying without hesitation marvelous European bridges over the Danube. Is it in the name of saving one part of the populace from deportation – and dooming the other part to the same fate? Is it in the name of healing a country branded a “sick man” – or is it in the name of stripping it of a lucrative province?” The 1999 Kosovo War, a watershed of Russian consciousness in its relations with the West, was, for Solzhenitsyn, the latest fruit of the Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment of Solzhenitsyn’s writings is a composite image, if you will, a general metaphor of the evils of modernity that he was opposed to. The two millstones that his grain has been caught between – those of Communism and Western Liberalism – are, essentially, parts of the same Enlightenment windmill. Two roads to the same abyss, to paraphrase Solzhenitsyn’s ally Igor Shafarevich, were laid by the same motor grader, with Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau pulling its levers.

Feud with Sakharov

The entire period of Solzhenitsyn activity as a publicist, thinker, intellectual, and political prophet is a constant and fierce duel with the Enlightenment. And it begins with a resistance to the menace of convergence, that is, a rapprochement and a fusion of the two versions of the Enlightenment project: Soviet Communism and Western Liberalism.

To properly understand what the concept means, we should turn to the reality of late 1960s – early 1970s. For an analyst at that time, it seemed beyond any doubt that “convergence” was the keyword of the decade. A democratic West and a Communist East were drawn together, heading towards a complete merger.

In the West, the Left reaches the apex of its power. Leftist parties, and Leftist ideas even more so, influence the policy-making of most Western countries. In the US, Lyndon Johnson ushers in his Great Society programs and rapidly does away with racial segregation. In the UK, the Labour are almost always in power (and when they aren’t, Tory policies aren’t that different). In France, General de Gaulle not only pursues friendship with the Soviet Union but also strongarms entrepreneurs into a system of sharing their revenue with their workers. In Germany, Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik ends an acrimonious confrontation between its West and East. The youth revolution of 1968, despite its defeat, changes the paradigm of social consciousness.

The USSR and its satellites, dubbed as “the East”, undergo a different revolution, social and psychological in character. While the official Soviet Union is engaged in a confrontation, and sometimes even a war, with the West, the average Soviet citizen craves nothing else than becoming Western in all respects – in fashion, music, books, ideas, living standards and lifestyle. Consumerism becomes the foundation of life choices. The main grievance with the Soviet regime has nothing to do with its suppression of freedom, persecution of religion, stifling of free thought, exploitation or expropriation. The main discontent is that it fails to provide living standards commensurate with the consumption standards of the West (or their imitation, such as a Lada instead of a Fiat). The Prague Spring of 1968 is a suppressed revolution just like the Paris Spring, but it is also seen as a major paradigm shift – a complete loss of faith in Soviet Communism by pretty much everyone.

The development of this situation, it seemed, could follow but a single scenario: a Détente and a gradual waning of hostilities and erasure of borders between West and East, with a well-fed European demi-Socialism at one end of the bridge and a famished Soviet demi-bourgeoisie at the other. Both sides would, of course, stamp out the “radicals”: the “Stalinists”, hell-bent on continuing class struggle until the bitter end, and the Right, made of out reactionaries, nationalists, and Christians rejecting Communism specifically because of its radical secularism and lack of nationality.

In the long run, it would lead to a fusion of the Soviet Union with the West as its demi-periphery with a sizeable geopolitical autonomy, a consolidation of all versions of the Enlightenment historical project, and the coming of a Euro-Communist, Socialist, and Liberal Reformist “end of history”. This would be exactly the future envisioned by one of the heroes of the age, Academician Andrei Sakharov, in his Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom (1968):

Stage 1: […] A growing struggle of ideas between Stalinists and Maoists on one side and realistically minded left-wing Leninists and “Occidentalists” on the other leads to […] chartering the course to a deeper peaceful coexistence, a stronger democracy, and wider economic reforms (1968 to 1980).

Stage 2: In the USA and other Capitalist countries, the assertive demands of real life […] lead to the victory of the left, reform-conscious wing of the bourgeoisie. In their actions, they adopt a program of a rapprochement, or “convergence”, with Socialism… This program envisions a stronger role for the intelligentsia in the struggle against racism and militarism (1972 to 1985).

Stage 3: The Soviet Union and the USA, leaving their differences behind, solve the problem of rescuing the “poorer” half of the globe… They construct enormous chemical fertilizer factories and nuclear-powered irrigation systems… At the same time, disarmament is well underway (1972 to 1990)

Stage 4: A Socialist Convergence leads to weakening the contradictions of social structures… to a world government and a mollifying of national antagonism (1968 to 2002)”

The picture of a consolidated Communo-Liberal world, built on a common Enlightenment foundation and unfit for nations and national uniqueness, where Red atheists continue to lord over the destiny of the Russian people (who will also be subject to, in Sakharov’s term, a “very cultured world management” – all of this was so repugnant to Solzhenitsyn that he wasted no time in rushing into battle.

By the point of Solzhenitsyn’s transformation into a public civic thinker, his views solidified around an unwavering opposition to the entirety of the post-Medieval “orbital route” of humanity, starting with the Renaissance and the Reformation. For Solzhenitsyn, the only difference between Soviet Communism and Western Liberalism is the intensity and the degree of violence in their imposing of godlessness. In the Letter to the Leaders, he emphasized that “atheism was the main emotional center of inspiration for Marxism, and the remainder of its doctrine was tacked onto this.”

Solzhenitsyn equally rejects a Western ingrowth into Communism, leading to lenience towards totalitarian Soviet repression, and an ingrowth of the USSR into the Western system through its acceptance of consumerist behavior patterns. One of the final chapters of Cancer Ward is a peculiar manifestation of these anti-consumerist views, shown through Kostoglodov’s confusion and irritation at a Tashkent department store during his attempts at buying a “lightweight smoothing-iron”. The extremely meager range of goods on sale is portrayed as an unnecessary and obscene opulence, as a meaningless clutter of useless objects, and an overheard snippet of a conversation about a “size 50 shirt with a size 39 collar” nearly drives the protagonist into a frenzy.

The main spiritual foe of Solzhenitsyn’s is not Communism by itself and not the liberal West but what they have in common: a project of improving human life without God, the general preference given to the material over the spiritual. The greatest danger for him is a threat of consolidation of the two Enlightenment projects on a single platform. Such a consolidation would lead to an unstoppable reinforcement of the Enlightenment world order and a doubling of the negatives of the two Enlightenment “schools of thought”.

It was entirely logical that Solzhenitsyn’s first attempt at political debate, the As Breathing And Consciousness Return article opening the seminal dissident anthology From Under the Rubble published in Paris in 1974, would be a dispute with Sakharov’s Convergence project.

Solzhenitsyn argues that a conflict between Stalinism and Leninism is impossible because Stalinism is Leninism put to practice. Socialism, as a revolutionary ideology, is incompatible with any sort of ethics or nonviolence and thus cannot lead to a peaceful coexistence.

As a counterweight to Sakharov’s globalism, Solzhenitsyn consistently emphasizes nationalism:

“Against the current of Marxism, the 20th century gave us the limitless strength and vitality of national sentiment, which impels us to ponder more thoroughly over this conundrum: Why is humanity so clearly quantified in terms of nations, no less so than in terms of individuals? Is this national faceting not one of the greatest riches of humankind? Should it be erased? Can it?”

In the text of his Nobel lecture (1970), the Russian writer is even more assertive in formulating his nationalist and anti-Globalist manifesto:

“Lately, it has become fashionable to speak of an erasure of nations, of peoples vanishing in a melting pot of modern civilization. I disagree… the disappearance of nations would make us even poorer than making all humans alike, having the same character, the same face… Nations are humanity’s treasure and its collective personalities; the smallest of them has its own colors and conceals within itself a special facet of God’s design…”

Finally, Solzhenitsyn lands a powerful blow against his main unspoken enemy – the Convergence theory.

“For solving the ethical problems of humankind, the prospect of a convergence is a rather dreary one: two flawed societies with their own vices, slowly coming together and turning one into the other, what can they produce? A society that is doubly immoral.”

A convergence does not produce a mutual transfer of advantages, just a duplication of vices typical of either type of society. Those vices are rooted in their common foundation – the Enlightenment, and, consequently, atheism.

Solzhenitsyn is very well aware of Sakharov’s true intentions behind his statement that a Globalist convergence would produce a planetary government best described as a “very cultured world management”. This program of transit from a “Socialist democracy” and plain old “democracy” towards an authoritarian rule of Enlightenment “holy orders” forces Solzhenitsyn to lay out a completely opposite plan: an exodus from Communism via a nationalist authoritarianism heaving closer to earth, to the soil, to the breath of historical tradition.

Continuing his debate with Sakharov, Solzhenitsyn grinds his axe particularly against the “democratic” utopia of Occidentalist dissidents.

“An external freedom, freedom by itself, can it be the ultimate goal of sentient creatures? Or is it but a form for accomplishing other, loftier tasks?”

“In a persistent search for political freedom… it would be useful to understand what to do with it. We achieved this freedom in 1917 (and it kept expanding month by month) – and how did we use it? Grab your rifle and go wherever your fancy takes you. Cut off the wire from a telegraph pole for your own personal use…”

To debate democratic utopianism, Solzhenitsyn employs a principle of historical duration. The bulk of human history unfolded under an Ancien Régime, but people still could live, and their lives weren’t particularly bad.

“…In the long course of human history, there have been rather few democratic republics, but people kept living for centuries, and not always in a bad way. They even felt this much-vaunted happiness, which is sometimes called pastoral or patriarchal and wasn’t simply invented by literature. And they managed to preserve the physical health of the nation (it is apparent because nations haven’t lapsed into degeneracy). They also preserved a spiritual health reflected, for example, in folklore and proverbs, a health much greater than the one expressed nowadays in ape-like radio melodies, musical hits, and bothersome commercials. Can a radio audience from outer space guess that this planet once had – and then left behind – Bach, Rembrandt, and Dante

Among those forms of government, there were many authoritarian ones, that is, based on a submission to an authority of a widely divergent source and quality… For many centuries, Russia endured many forms of authoritarianism but preserved herself and her health, and avoided the self-destructions that would happen in the 20th century. Millions of our rural forefathers who had existed over ten centuries did not feel at their deathbeds that they had lived overly intolerable lives…”

This argument, of course, could only be thought of by an anti-progressive, by someone not enthralled by the achievements of the industrial age, with its automobiles, TV sets, a developed medicine and supermarkets round every corner. Solzhenitsyn rejects an implied postulate of the progressive model: the relative growth of historical weight depending on the century, where the 19th century is infinitely more “weighty” than the 13th, and the 20th more so than the 19th. After enduring the main horrors of the 20th century, Solzhenitsyn is thoroughly skeptical of this thesis, and deliberately paints in the first chapters of August 1914 a near-pastoral picture of an Old Regime annihilated by the revolution.

Within the historical optics where the 20th century is not more important or relevant than the 10th, millennia of authoritarian, patriarchal regimes definitely have more weight than the short span of “democratic republics”, which has yet to demonstrate its stability and long-term effectiveness. Solzhenitsyn is more perturbed not by the autocracy of the past but by the “autocracies”, or rather totalitarian dictatorships, of the present (in the form of Communist partocracies) or the future (in the form of Liberal technocracies run by “very cultured people”).

“What is truly terrible is not authoritarianism by itself but regimes that bear no responsibility to anyone or anything. The autocrats of bygone religious ages, invested with a seemingly limitless power, felt their responsibility before God and their own conscience. Modern-day autocrats are more dangerous because it’s hard to find higher values that are binding for them…” As Solzhenitsyn’s main value is not progress, not consumerist plenty, not external freedom but a possibility to direct one’s soul to God, his rejection of Communism is logically followed not by an embracement of Occidentalist democracy but by a system more conducive to “render unto God the things that are God’s”.

“If Russia had been accustomed to living under authoritarians system for centuries, and a democratic system brought her to unraveling in the course of just eight months of 1917, then – I do not claim it, I merely ask – perhaps one should accept that an evolutionary development of our country from one type of authoritarianism to another would be more natural, smooth, and painless?” Without this polemics against Sakharov’s Convergence one cannot comprehend other principal ideas posited by Solzhenitsyn in his articles published in From Under the Rubble and his Letter to the Leaders.

Introspective Anti-Globalism

The principle of self-restraint and the plan of Russia’s introspection, the inward turn towards its own North-East, were markedly anti-Globalist. When two globalizations, that of Soviet Communism and that of American Liberalism, intertwined in a bizarre antagonism/symbiosis known as the Cold War, their entanglement threatened to become a fusion. And the Russian writer proposes Russia to take a unilateral psychological and geopolitical leap out of globalization.

The Enlightenment doctrine had two essential foundations. It could be the Lockean principle of mutual limitation of individuals and limitless freedom where no such limitation existed, which led to the Liberal strain of the Enlightenment and the concept of human rights. It could be the Rousseauist principle of a fusion of individuals into a super-subject, an unrestricted collective sovereign; this paved the way for Enlightenment radicalism and Jacobin/Bolshevik practices.

Solzhenitsyn spurns this idea in favor of self-restraint, a personal limitation from within as a basis for true liberation. After quoting an Old Believer journal (“No true human freedom except in self-restraint”), he adds: “After a Western ideal of boundless freedom, after the Marxist notion of freedom as a deliberate and inescapable yoke comes the truly Christian definition of freedom: freedom is SELF-RESTRAINT! In the name of others!”

Once again, here we can discover a remarkable polar opposite to Sakharov’s famous formula “The meaning of life is in expansion”. For Solzhenitsyn, the meaning of life is in a rejection of expansion and a voluntary introspection, the development of what one already owns.

Hence both Solzhenitsyn’s anti-industrialism of this period and his geopolitical program championing a settlement of the Russian North-East. He attempts to get rid of the globalizing factors that kept drawing the USSR (and, consequently, Russia) into a closer entanglement with the West, hastening the dreaded Convergence. In From Under the Rubble and Letter to the Leaders, Solzhenitsyn seeks to convince both the Russian society and the Soviet regime to reject a competition with the West that draws them to a merger and turn inward, to improving their own homeland, the economic and geopolitical foundations of their civilization.

It is hard not to notice how directly opposed is Solzhenitsyn’s program of developing the Russian North-East as a home to Sakharov’s Globalist project of involving the USSR and the USA in solving Third World problems, as if the Russians really had nothing to do at their own home.

“We are tired of these global tasks, so useless to us! We must walk away from this heated global competition, from this much-advertised space race that we don’t need. Why should we plan building villages on the Moon while our own Russian villages are decaying and growing unfit for living? In an insane industrial race, we have herded immense human masses into unnatural cities with hasty and shoddy buildings, where we poison, overstrain, and debase ourselves starting with our youngest age. An exploitation of women instead of their equality, a dereliction of family education, alcoholism, loss of interest in work, the decline of schooling, the decline of our language – such are the spiritual wastelands that keep scouring our livelihood… And still, flaunting our “advancedness”, we have slavishly imitated the Western technological progress, only to thoughtlessly run with it into the impasse of a crisis that threatens the existence of humanity itself…”

A “convergent” globalization drains Russian natural resources and draws Russia into a pan-Western technological crisis, intensifying Russian de-nationalization. Most importantly, a US-Soviet cooperation/rivalry consolidates their materialist Enlightenment platform. Solzhenitsyn craves a change of direction: “We should stop running out into the street to pick each and every fight; we should humbly withdraw into out own home while we are in this state of disarray and confusion.” Instead of a globalizing Soviet outward expansion, Russia should turn to internal empty spaces, the key to Russian spiritual reintegration.

«The North-East is our vector, chartered long ago for Russia’s natural progress and development…

The North-East is a reminder that we, Russia, are the North-East of the planet! Our ocean is the Artic, not the Indian one, we are not the Mediterranean, we are not Africa, and we have no business there! Our hands, our sacrifice, our labor, our love is needed by these limitless spaces, recklessly abandoned to freeze in neglect for four centuries…

The North-East is the key to solving many allegedly unsolvable Russian problems… Its spaces give us a way out of the global technological crisis… Its cold, mostly frozen spaces are yet unready for agriculture and would require an immense investment of energy – but the very depths of the North-East conceal this energy, which we haven’t yet put to waste…

The North-East is larger than its name and deeper than its geography. The North-East would mean that Russia has eagerly taken the route of SELF-RESTRAINT, a choice of depth and not surface, an inward, not an outward choice. It would mean directing all of the citizens’ development – national, social, educational, family, and personal – toward an internal, not external prosperity.”

It was a brazen attempt to play at an “anti-Sakharov” field by pitching to the Soviets, instead of the globalizing Convergence of the Détente, a “divergence”, a planned de-globalization of the USSR in the name of Russian interests. “I write this under an ASSUMPTION that you have mostly the same concerns, that you do not shy away from your origins, your fathers, grandfathers, ancestors, and the nature you grew up with, that you are not devoid of nationality…” Solzhenitsyn addressed the Soviet leadership. He was mistaken: a clear national identity and national consciousness were something that his addressees sorely lacked. A telltale sign of this nihilism was Solzhenitsyn’s emphatic deportation from the USSR soon after he had sent the letter.

However, if the “ideological” part of Solzhenitsyn’s proposals was completely unacceptable for the Soviet establishment, some of his proposed routes of national development were either appropriated by the Soviets or masterfully predicted by Solzhenitsyn himself. Let’s check the timetable:

September 1973. The Letter is written and sent.

February 1974. Solzhenitsyn expelled from the USSR.

March 1974. The first of CPSU Central Committee plenary sessions devoted to the “Non-Chernozem Zone”. The Zone (essentially, the core of Russian territory) is in the center of Soviet government policies and sees real investment.

April 1974. The Baikal-Amur Railway is declared a construction project of national importance, both pursuing an anti-Chinese policy and developing the North-East. Peter Stolypin’s project of an Amur railway from nearly 70 years before had been explicitly mentioned in Solzhenitsyn’s Letter.

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Translator’s Foreword (Fluctuarius Argenteus)

Almost by necessity, all previous Kholmogorov translations have been those of his older texts, with a “lag” between the original and the translation varying between several days and several months. What you see now is a much rarer treat. Kholmogorov has just finished a long and engrossing article on Alexander Solzhenitsyn, clocking in at 16,000 words, to be published by a Russian conservative outlet. Publishing a complete translation on The Unz Review would require the text to be split into three or four parts, and would be an exercise in futility if the figure of Solzhenitsyn doesn’t attract enough attention from the readership in the first place.

As a result, this text was born. It is the preamble to Kholmogorov’s yet-unpublished Solzhenitsynean magnum opus, and it functions well on its own as a glimpse into Solzhenitsyn’s status in present-day Russia, going far beyond CliffsNotes truisms and common ideological myths surrounding his name. The article argues that, far from being a relic of the Cold War, Solzhenitsyn remains a relevant figure, perhaps even more so than during his lifetime, with many of his predictions coming true and some of his suggestions and ideas being adopted wholesale by the Russian government.

It is worth adding that Solzhenitsyn’s global importance is far from diminishing any time soon as well, attracting both detractors (usually from the NeoCon/NeoLib Unholy Alliance, as evidenced by this hot take) and admirers (e.g., Jordan B. Peterson, one of the Alt Right’s intellectual darlings, speaks fondly of Solzhenitsyn’s influence on his life philosophy in 12 Rules for Life).

Unz Review readers have the rare opportunity to get a primer of this article before it comes out in Russian. If it flies well with the audience, get ready for an epic three- or four-parter!

Note from AK: If you are enjoying these translations, please feel free to donate to Egor Kholmogorov here:



Alexander Solzhenitsyn: A Russian Prophet

Translated by Fluctuarius Argenteus

Alexander Solzhenitsyn was, without doubt, the most politically successful author in world history. Surely there were crowned poets, but their talents had never been truly exceptional. There were politicians awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, such as Winston Churchill. There were men of letters who had made a successful bureaucratic career, such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Prime Minister of Saxe-Weimar. But there was but one writer whose words could uplift entire continents and send shockwaves through global political trends. There was only one who bequeathed his nation a detailed ideological and political program that would become not less, but more relevant after his death. This man was Solzhenitsyn.

At present, Russia – to both the joy and chagrin of many – is entering a new political era, codified specifically by Solzhenitsyn’s writings and ideas. It is not the Solzhenitsyn of ideologically varnished Liberal anthologies, nor is this his twisted inversion, the Solzhenitsyn who, as an “enemy of the people”, is the never-ending source of Neo-Communist hysterics. The driving factor of current politics is becoming the true Solzhenitsyn, as revealed in his actual writings – novels, short stories, articles, discourses, and interviews.

Some formulas coined by the writer became part of government policy, such as the emphasis on the “preservation of the people”. Others became a political reality, such as his call for a nationally minded authoritarianism, as opposed to the aping Western multiparty democracy. There are also still many – such as his ideas regarding the zemstvo, organs of “small-space democracy” – that are yet to be widely heard and discussed.

Our civic and political maturation, in line with Solzhenitsyn’s vision, is happening right here and now. For many years, Solzhenitsyn kept pointing out that the mid-17th century church reforms that had provoked the schism of the Old Believers was one of the direst and most calamitous events of Russian history. Nothing could be more pathetic than a struggle against the most pious and hard-working part of the Russian nation. But we nowadays see a determination to heal that old wound from within both the government and the Orthodox Church.

On August 30, 1991, Solzhenitsyn wrote a letter to President Yeltsin, urging him to refrain from automatically accepting Soviet administrative demarcation lines as the new state boundaries. For more than 15 years, he kept insisting that the idea of Crimea and Sevastopol as parts of the Ukraine is nonsensical, and that the Eastern Ukrainian oblasts, once known as Novorossiya, should be granted the right to make their own choice of allegiance in a referendum. A rejection of all attempts to “drive a wedge between kindred peoples” and construct the Ukrainian state as an anti-Russia project is a mainstay of Solzhenitsyn’s writings – and reflective of his own dual Russian (Solzhenitsyn) and Ukrainian (Scherbak) ancestry. All of this seemed of only minor importance at the time of his passing in 2008, but ever since 2014, we have been living in a reality where these issues have again become cardinal.

One of Solzhenitsyn’s chief concerns was the question of Russian unity: The injustice inherent in the system of federalism that was rife with another “parade of sovereignties”[1], the idiocy of the central government making treaties with minority republics, the unacceptable discrimination against the Russian language. Solzhenitsyn was one of the first critics of the US Public Law 86-90 regarding the so-called “Captive Nations”, in which Russia was tarred as the “occupier” of ephemeral “nations” such as “Idel-Ural” and “Cossackia”. Once again, we feel Solzhenitsyn’s legacy acquiring the most acute present-day relevance.

It is not just Solzhenitsyn’s ideas that are coming to the fore, but even his historical appraisals. It was Solzhenitsyn who hailed Peter Stolypin as the consummate Russian statesman, and the late imperial Prime Minister now occupies a central place in the Russian political canon. Likewise, it was Solzhenitsyn who singled out the figure of Alexander Parvus in the history of the Revolution, and nowadays, no analysis of the Russian Catastrophe avoids discussing this international man of mystery and his contribution to Russia’s destruction. The only figure that our present day views with more appreciation than Solzhenitsyn is probably Emperor Nicholas II. However, even in this case, we see a creeping evolution towards latent monarchism in Solzhenitsyn’s old age.

ROGPR: Towards Tropical Hyperborea?

It sometimes seems that even nature itself hews to Solzhenitsyn’s will. When he first proclaimed the necessity of developing the Russian North-East and harnessing its vast and inhospitable spaces, it seemed an impossible utopian dream. His claim that “Russia is the North-East of the planet, and our ocean is the Arctic, not the Indian” was countered by the seemingly commonsense reply that the ocean is called the Arctic Ocean – or the “Ice Ocean”, as it is called in Russian – because it’s literally covered with ice, and that one can’t live in the permafrost. Soon afterwards, the rapid melting of the Arctic has begun to provoke geopolitical ferment; there are conversations about internationalizing the Northern Sea Route to foreign shipping, and mutterings that Solzhenitsyn’s call to settle and secure the Far North was left unattended for too long. But better late than never.

Solzhenitsyn’s legacy is not only a Russian, but a planetary political phenomenon. It was Solzhenitsyn who in his famous Harvard Speech warned the West that they were not alone on this planet, that civilizations described by Western historians and culture theorists are no mere decorative elements, and instead living worlds in themselves, that cannot have a Western measure imposed upon them. Russia, a unique civilization, is of these historical worlds. And the Western measure itself has become subjected to spiritual corrosion, and has fallen far relative to the bygone greatness of Christian civilization. Solzhenitsyn’s once-shocking idea that a globalist “End of History” is impossible has since been appropriated by Western political theorists, namely Samuel Huntington with his “Clash of Civilizations”. This very idea has constituted the bedrock of Russian foreign policy since Putin’s Munich Speech in 2007.

The Gulag Archipelago, published in the West, carried out a sweeping detoxification of Western elites from their poisoning by Communism, that “opiate for the intellectuals” (to quote Raymond Aron). However, this transformation gave them no antidote for militant atheism, the very force that had spawned Bolshevism. A liberal version of anti-Communism logically led to the triumph of Communism under the modernized and updated guise of Cultural Marxism – leftist feminism, totalitarian “tolerance”, racist “anti-racism”, the final victory of Homintern. Even this had already been envisioned by Solzhenitsyn. He theorized that, at a certain point in the future, a Russia liberated from Communist totalitarianism would gaze in horror at the triumph of a Liberal-built Western “Communism”.

That said, Solzhenitsyn’s main concern was never an abstract global humanity, but the Russian people. He is perhaps the writer with the most acute and intensely conscious national awareness out of those who had risen to fame in the second half of the 20th century. His resistance to Communism cannot be properly understood without its main motive: The Russian people cannot and must not be used as a tool for any utopias or experiments, be they Communist or “progressive” in nature. Solzhenitsyn equally rejects political projects that treat Russians as expendable fodder – be it for the Empire, or the “world revolution”, or the triumph of industrialism, or the space race. Everything that improves and intensifies Russian national life is good; everything that doesn’t, is bad.

His resolute and outspoken anti-Communism, his determination to bring down the Reds whatever the cost, was borne out of the conviction that the Occidentalist Marxist utopia had led to a colossal and bloodstained waste of national human resources, that the Russians had been reduced to cogs in a machine and fuel for the fire, that the organic development of Russia, both spiritual and economic, had ceased. The constant leitmotif of his books is not just the enunciation of the damage wrought by Communist tyranny upon the Russian psyche and livelihoods, but also in revealing the forces of resistance and freedom hidden inside that psyche.

In addition to his anti-Communism, he was just as merciless towards both Occidentalist and plain Western Russophobia. He lambasted the intelligentsia, devoid of tradition and roots, as “the Smatterers”[2]. He introduced the very notion of Russophobia into modern political parlance, to be later developed into a coherent theory by his closest ally, the mathematician Igor Shafarevich. Solzhenitsyn provided his definition of Russophobia: The view of Russia as a backward “land of slaves”, the claim that the Soviet regime was a natural continuation of historical Russian statehood, both Muscovite and Imperial, which was purportedly also based on wanton cruelty and inhumanity. In his anti-Russophobe polemics, Solzhenitsyn emphasized the normalcy of Russia’s pre-Bolshevik history. He spurned both October and February revolutions of 1917 as the fruits of a nihilistic desire to unmake and remake Russia based on a total ignorance of Russian life.

Solzhenitsyn is opposed to both the verbal mockeries of Russia-bashing “pluralists” with their non-concealed contempt for “this country”, and the cold determination of Western politicians and political theorists to paint Russians and not Communism as the main adversary of the West. Solzhenitsyn publicly lashed out at US military plans to specifically bomb the Russian population in case of war, and came to realize both his own and his Russian compatriots’ unenviable position as “a grain caught between two millstones”[3] – that of Communism and that of Western Liberalism.

It was clear to him that these millstones were both just parts of an infernal machine built by a godless anti-Christian “humanism”. Communism and Liberalism are two siblings spawned by the Enlightenment ideology that would put mankind on the disastrous road of worshiping Matter instead of Spirit, which would inevitably lea to the sullying and degradation of said Matter. Solzhenitsyn puts forward a detailed and consistent anti-Enlightenment doctrine: A return to God, voluntary self-restraint and self-restriction of humankind, emphasizing duties instead of ever-expanding “rights”, prioritizing inner freedom, and rejecting the sacrifice of national life not only to totalitarian utopia but also to the orgy of freedom. Solzhenitsyn’s doctrine is one of the most consistent and politically sound Conservative philosophies formulated over the last couple of centuries. His duel with the ghosts of Voltaire and Rousseau goes on after his death, and the score is still in the Russian writer’s favor.


Sviyazhsk, Russia.

It was Solzhenitsyn’s activity directed against the convergence of the Western and Soviet systems, towards the moral discreditation of Communism and the awakening of a spirit of radical resistance to the Red evil in the West, his critique of the Liberal foundations and hypocritical hegemonism of the West itself, and last but not least, his post-homecoming attempts at a moral consolidation of Russia around a nationalist, conservative, populist, anti-Western and anti-Neo-Communist platform – it was all of this which drove the global Enlightenment project into its current state of crisis.

Moreover, this is not just a merely ideological crisis, manifested in the increasingly totalitarian Liberal self-destruction of Western civilization. It is also a geopolitical crisis, caused by the following fact: Moscow, once a center of global Communism (that is, one of the poles of the Enlightenment spectrum), is rapidly transforming – unless it deviates from Solzhenitsyn’s legacy – into a Vatican, or if you will, a Mecca of Conservatism. It is precisely here where the strongest redoubt that defends the image of mankind in its traditional Christian interpretation is now located.



[1] A byword for the snowballing secessionism of Soviet republics in 1988-91, when they first proclaimed “state sovereignty” (primacy of republican legislation over Soviet laws) and then full independence.

[2] The most common English translation of his 1974 essay Obrazovanschina, alluding to the narrow and superficial intellectual development of Liberal intelligentsia.

[3] Russian proverb equivalent to “between the devil and the deep blue sea”, also the title of Solzhenitsyn’s memoirs published in 1998-2003 (usually rendered in English as simply Between Two Millstones).


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The latest in our series of translations of Russian national-conservative intellectual Egor Kholmogorov.

For the first part, see: Russians in the 2oth Century. Part I: Origins to WWII.

Incidentally, while counter-mainstream commenters in the West are hardly well compensated, this is unfortunately doubly true in Russia. If you have enjoyed our translations of him, a contribution to Egor Kholmogorov would be much appreciated:

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Considering the disastrous state of US-Russian relations, the West’s lack of Russia expertise is no longer just regrettable, but potentially catastrophic. So far as neoliberalism.txt is concerned, Russian nationalism basically consists of Stalin, Dugin, and The Foundations of Geopolitics (or rather its Wikipedia summary) – a narrative that the American Alt Right and European identitarians uncritically buy into (e.g. searching “Dugin” on Counter-Currents or yields hundreds of results, vs. virtually zero for Kholmogorov, or Sputnik & Pogrom). This conveniently makes it very easy to dismiss more nuanced and genuine right-wing Russian perspectives.

Expanding the English language presence of other Russian intellectuals is probably by far not the worst way to go about remedying this sad state of affairs.


Russians in the 2oth Century. Part II: Late Stalinism to the Present Day

Translated by Fluctuarius Argenteus



From the Genocide of Tradition to the Era of the Russian Party

However, the post-WWII Russian national revival was highly ambiguous and unstable. Right after the first signs of a political shaping of Russian national sentiment came the harsh backlash of the Leningrad Affair. The show trials led to the extermination of government officials that came to prominence during the war and bore certain traits of Russian national consciousness. The campaigns against “cosmopolitanism” and “kowtowing to the West” did little to strengthen Russian patriotism and much to inflame xenophobic passions that, in the long run, turned against the Russians themselves.

After Stalin’s death, the Soviet leadership started regressing to pre-war ideological dogmas. As early as 1955, they unleashed a fierce persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church, using all the classic tricks of the Union of the Militant Godless, save for the physical elimination of the priesthood. Churches were shut down and destroyed, church services were routinely obstructed and impeded. Thus began the construction of the Russian person of the ottepel era: a godless enthusiast of science and progress, almost devoid of aesthetic feelings that were replaced with futuristic optimism.


One of the telltale signs of an ongoing profound “reprogramming” of the Russian nation was the liquidation of “unpromising villages”, a campaign unleashed in 1958 mostly in Central and Northern Russia – that is, the heartland of the Russian nation. The traditional Russian system of settlement in a network of small villages was uprooted. Russian peasants, forcibly removed from their traditional habitat, were herded into “urban-type settlements” that bore more resemblance to concentration camps, quickly evolving into hotbeds of alcohol abuse and criminality. A simultaneous mass housing construction campaign did much to improve the living conditions of the Russians but was also followed by social and economic maladaptation: the cohesive whole of traditional culture was destroyed to make way for the worship of the television set.

The psyche of the 1960s Russian was denationalised to the extreme, with traits of national identity forsaken in the name of modernist urbanism and a mixture of principles that were Occidentalist and Soviet (but patterned after the West) in nature.


Ilya Glazunov. Ilya Glazunov. The Contribution of the Peoples of the USSR to the Development of World Culture and Civilization (1980).

A sudden change came in 1965 soon after Khrushchev’s downfall. An ethnic revival swept the Soviet Union, with only limited support from the Communist establishment. The so-called “Russian Party” was formed out of a part of the 1960s Soviet intelligentsia and second-tier apparatchiks. It was largely a grassroots civic movement organised by enthusiasts, reaching its apex during the celebrations of the sixth centenary of the Battle of Kulikovo in 1980 (afterwards, this trend tragically reversed).

Georgy Sviridov. Snowstorm Romance.

church-intercession-nerlThe main manifestations of the Russian Revival were the protection and partial restoration of Russia’s medieval architectural legacy (first and foremost, Orthodox churches) and the spread of a vogue for everything Old Russian, which became something of a marker of ethnic Russianness. There were close counterparts to Western folk revival, in music (e.g. the great Russian composer Georgy Sviridov), design, ethnic symbolology. Nearly every household used to have a calendar with a picture of the Church of the Intercession on the Nerl as a symbol of rediscovered Russianness. After the end of overt persecution, the “religious fad” (as it was dubbed by indignant Komsomol agitators) made a comeback.

Essentially, Old Rus became a legally permissible symbol of Russian tradition in a climate where the later medieval era and the Imperial period were “ideologically compromised”. Self-identification with Old Rus became a form of ethnic Russian awareness, especially in urban areas. A new urban Russian identity found its reflection in the runaway popularity of Ilya Glazunov, who used contemporary pop art techniques to infuse ethnic Russian imagery with a sharp symbolism.


The “villagers”.

The literary icon of the Russian Revival was the Pochvennichestvo group, which were first and foremost linked to the “village prose” movement in literature. One of their greatest concerns was the defense of Russian nature against destruction by the “great construction projects” of Socialism, in particular, a protest against the flooding of traditional Russian territory during the construction of enormous man-made water reservoirs. The driving force of the “village prose” was a protest against the destruction of the Russian village on the basis that it was “unpromising”.


While the “villagers” tried to stay within the confines of the Soviet system, Alexander Solzhenitsyn adopted a much more radical position. Over the 1960s, he evolved from a humanistic Narodism critical of the repressive Soviet system to a stark distinction between the Soviet and the Russian and a firm emphasis on the revival of Russianness from underneath the Soviet yoke. In his Letter to the Leaders of the Soviet Union , Solzhenitsyn proposed his own programme of de-Communisation in the USSR as a condition of preserving the Russian people. Using the image of the Chinese menace, relevant in the 1970s USSR, Solzhenitsyn called on the Soviet leaders to abandon fidelity to the Communist ideology, invoked by the Chinese, in favour of Russianness, and start settling the wide expanses of Russia instead of exporting revolution:

I am mostly concerned with the fate of specifically Russians and Ukrainians, both being faithful to the old proverb (“grow where you are planted”) and more profoundly – due to the incomparable suffering that we have endured. And I write this under an ASSUMPTION that you have mostly the same concerns, that you do not shy away from your origins, your fathers, grandfathers, ancestors, and the nature you grew up with, that you are not devoid of nationality…

Under the central planning that we are so proud of, we could have avoided despoiling Russian nature by creating inhuman agglomerations of millions. We did exactly the opposite: sullying our wide Russian expanses and disfiguring our dear Moscow, the heart of Russia…

The Russian hope for winning time and winning salvation lies in our vast North-Eastern expanses, not yet defaced thanks to our 400-year clumsiness, we can build not an insane all-devouring civilisation of “progress” – no, we can start with an already stable economy and populate the land according to its requirements and principles. These vast lands give us a hope of not dooming Russia to die in the crisis of Western civilisation. (And, thanks to wasteful collectivisation, there is much empty land even closer.)

Let us remember Stolypin and give him his due without dogmatic bias. In 1908, in the State Duma, he prophetically uttered: “THE LAND IS THE SOURCE OF OUR POWER IN THE FUTURE, THE LAND IS RUSSIA”. And regarding the Amur railway: “If we stay asleep in lethargy, the Amur region will be permeated with foreign influences, and, when we wake up, it might turn out to be Russian in name only…”

The national leaders of Russia, faced with the menace of a war with China, will still have to rely on patriotism and patriotism alone. When Stalin made the same turn during the war – remember! – no one was surprised, not a tear was shed for Marxism, everyone accepted this as the most natural, Russian, and our own thing to do!

Essentially, Solzhenitsyn offered a compromise that would encompass a gradual transformation of the Soviet state. While keeping its power and reshaping it on the basis of nationalism, the Soviet leadership would jettison Communist ideology and reinvent itself as a national autocracy.

Russian history has made me into an opponent of any and all revolutions and armed insurrections. This includes future ones: those that you [the Soviet leadership] desire (not in our country) and those that you fear (in our country). Through my studies, I have grown convinced that mass bloody revolutions are always injurious to the nations that they affect… Over the last half-century, Russia’s readiness for democracy and multi-party parliamentarianism could have only decreased. Their sudden introduction now would only lead to a new and grievous repetition of 1917…

Russia lived with authoritarianism for a thousand years, but at the onset of the 20th century it still preserved much of the nation’s physical and spiritual health. This, however, was due to fulfilling one important condition. That authoritarianism had, if only at its source, at its beginning, a strong moral foundation. Not an ideology of universal violence, but Orthodoxy, yes, seven centuries of the Orthodoxy of Sergius of Radonezh and Nilus of Sora, not yet twisted by Nikon, not yet bureaucratised by Peter…[1]

Everything depends on what kind of authoritarianism we are to expect in the future. It is not authoritarianism itself that is intolerable; it is the everyday ideological falsehood. It is not authoritarianism that is intolerable; it is despotism and violence, insurmountable violence…

Our country should be governed by considerations of an internal, moral, healthy development of our people: the liberation of women from wage slavery, especially from hard physical labour; setting right our schools and the education of children; saving our soils, waters, the entirety of Russian nature; restoring healthy cities; settling the North-East…

An amazing fact: even though Solzhenitsyn was forcibly expelled from the USSR and could not engage in any real dialogue with the Soviet establishment, some practical aspects of the 1970s Soviet policy followed the course chartered in the Letter to the Leaders of the Soviet Union. In the mid-1970s, the destruction of the Russian countryside gave way to welfare programs for the “Non-Chernozem Zone”[2] – tardy but still useful for strengthening the basis of national life – as well as an intensified development of the North-East and the construction of the Baikal-Amur Mainline, envisioned by Stolypin and mentioned by Solzhenitsyn. Unsurprisingly, however, the Soviet leadership didn’t even consider Solzhenitsyn’s call for an ideological shift.

Solzhenitsyn’s Letter caused his ideological breakup with the Liberal dissident intelligentsia led by Andrei Sakharov. The row between “Westernisers” and “Nativists”, both in the USSR and among émigrés, reached levels of acrimony unseen since the final third of the 19th century. The mathematician Igor Shafarevich, a like-minded thinker and Solzhenitsyn’s close ally, circulated an essay called Russophobia in samizdat, killing all prospects of reconciliation between the two camps. In the essay, he branded the Soviet Liberal intelligentsia a “small people” opposed to the “big people” [the Russian majority of the nation]. Like Solzhenitsyn, he saw the essence of the Russophobia of the “small people” in them ascribing the entirety of Soviet atrocities to the “innate nature of the Russians”, their national character, and the Russian historical tradition as a whole.


The Russians Nailed to the Cross

One could imagine that the Soviet system would find a way to merge with Russian ethnic tradition and give birth to a more or less viable synthesis. However, those hopes were dashed in the 1980s with the dramatic self-destruction of the Soviet régime. Moreover, one of its first precursors was manifested in Andropov’s crackdown on the “Russian Party”. As a result of its suppression, it entered the era of Perestroika – with its cutthroat competition of ideologies and reform projects – in a drastically weakened condition.

For other Soviet republics, Perestroika was synonymous with an upsurge of nationalism and Russophobia. Everywhere in the USSR, the Russians were subjected to pogroms, persecutions, and expulsions that varied as per the traditions of the local dominant ethnic groups. However, the Russians themselves experienced the same processes as a form of national nihilism, fawning adulation of everything Western, and a surging Russophobia of the intelligentsia.

pamyat-protest-1987A national and traditional alternative to Communism was heavily marginalised and ridiculed by the Perestroika press that linked all talk of ethnic Russian problems to the Pamyat Society[3], while the “democratic” camp denied those problems existed at all.

By the time of the destruction of the Soviet Union, a veritable vivisection of the historical territory of the Russian people, the Russians failed to achieve the degree of awareness and consolidation that would have helped to resist this breakup or to at least use it in the interests of the Russian people.

Allegations claiming that Russian nationally-minded politicians welcomed this breakup and supported the idea of “Russian sovereignty” are delusional. On the contrary, Yeltsin pushed the sovereignty of the RSFSR in the name of a “multinational people” and challenged ethnic autonomies to “grab as much power as you can swallow”.

Transnistria was the only place where the Russians managed to mount a resistance sufficient to stop their assimilation into foreign and emphatically anti-Russian projects of nation-building. The fate of the Russians in Central Asia was dire, with local radicals pushing the policy of expulsion while the government of the Russian Federation turned a blind eye to ethnic Russian refugees. The so-called Ichkeria of Dudaev and Maskhadov became a bloodstained page in the history of the Russian people due to a near-total ethnic cleansing of its Russian population. With the tacit approval of the European Union, the Baltic states maintain discriminatory policies against their “non-citizens”.

The situation of Russians in the Ukraine turned to tragedy. A nationalist frenzy led to ever-increasing attacks on the Russian language and Russian identity that had as their final goal not only a suppression of the identity of the country’s ethnic Russian citizens, but its complete replacement. Education curricula, linguistic policies, and TV propaganda gradually remade Russians into Ukrainians that were expected to hate Moscow for standing in the way of the country’s “European choice”.

In 2014, this aggressive de-Russification erupted into open military conflict, the final outcome of which it is at present impossible to predict. We can notice an obvious Russian insurrection of national liberation in Novorossiya, but, due to limited Russian government support, it is unclear whether the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics would be able to go “the way of the Crimea” and gain independence, or whether they will get pushed back into the Ukraine under the aegis of the “Minsk Agreements”.


In the Russian Federation proper, the first post-Soviet decade was a time of semi-official Russophobia, with anti-Russian doctrines daily proclaimed in the press and on TV by the intelligentsia. The word russkiy became taboo and was gradually supplanted by the more politically correct rossiyskiy[4]. The government favoured the interests of all ethnicities and minorities while completely ignoring the Russians.

This effectively stimulated the collapse of the Russian ethnos. Some groups, such as Cossacks and Pomors, saw that identifying as separate nations was more advantageous, especially given that government sponsorship of ethnic culture specifically catered to minorities only. Groups with fantasy identities sprang up, such as “Ingermanlanders”, while others such as “Siberians” even managed to contrive an artificial language.

russian-cross The post-Soviet period threw the Russians as an ethnic group into a spiral of horrific demographic collapse. Birth rates fell through the floor while mortality soared, fuelled by drug abuse, alcoholism, street and organised crime. The phrase “the Russian Cross” entered Russian popular speech, referring to the intersection of two lines denoting soaring mortality and plummeting birth rates. Experts earnestly claimed that the Russian population would shrink to 50 million, and analysts routinely fed the papers with scenarios of Russia’s imminent collapse.

An “against the grain” factor of this period was a massive resurgence of Orthodoxy. Millions of Russians returned to the faith, churches and monasteries were reopened, and Orthodox rituals and worldviews returned to everyday life. The Orthodox Christian identity became the main marker of self-awareness for countless people. As a rule, the Orthodox renaissance was inextricable from a sense of belonging to the Russian historical, cultural, and aesthetic tradition.


From a rejection of the 1990s “liberal hell” there came a growth of national awareness as a form of resistance to Russia’s plunge into darkness and self-annihilation. The motives of “I feel sorry for the Empire”[5],“we’ll have our revenge”, “don’t let them bring us to our knees” were brought together in a forceful, if ideologically vague, rejection of a decadent reality. And all of this energy of resistance was marked by the word “Russian”.

It seems all the more natural that, with the self-reconstructive processes of the Russian state relaunched in the early 2000s, the entire trend depended on a larger role for Orthodoxy and an assimilation of ideas and energy accumulated by the Russian resistance in earlier decades. It is not usual now to see those ideas and their heralds manifest in government policies.

Nevertheless, it is still premature to speak of a normalisation of the Russian people’s place in Russia.


The Russian Question in the 21st Century

The 20th century, both in its Soviet and post-Soviet legacy, left Russians with a number of extremely difficult problems:

  1. The Russian ethnic group is torn apart and dismembered by state boundaries that came into being after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Certain newly independent states pursue a deliberate and consistent policy of attacking the Russian language and ethnic identity.
  2. The national habitat of the Russians has shrunk, and their demographic situation is precarious. Two decades of calamitous population collapse have given way to a fragile equilibrium that can change for the worse at any moment.
  3. Russian ethnic awareness has been artificially dissociated from its Orthodox Christian origins and is presently subjected to dangerous attacks, running the gamut from denial of Russian history and traditional Orthodox values to overt Russophobia, e.g. statements on Russian “genetic deficiency” disseminated by certain media from within Russia itself.
  4. Even the Russian language, the only official language of Russia according to the Constitution, is a constant target of opprobrium. Its status is put into doubt or denied in some regions of the Russian Federation, and the time reserved for its study in school curricula is curtailed in favour of regional languages. The compulsory study of minority languages is imposed even on ethnic Russian students, who are not native speakers.
  5. Fundamental Russian traditions of environmental adaptation have been forcibly eroded. The campaign against “unpromising villages” wrecked the traditional Russian network of settlements. A total hyper-urbanisation that went hand in hand with the destruction of villages, towns, cemeteries, and churches led to the shrinkage of family memories to three generations at most.

Solving these problems is paramount for the Russian Federation as a state. The very existence of the state is dependent on the direction of the activity and energy of the Russians. A decline of that energy immediately leads to obvious signs of state collapse. Conversely, a growth in Russian activity, as happened in 2014, brought Russia back to being a Great Power. While discussing the “Russian question”, we speak of either unity and development, or the collapse and degradation of Russia as a state.

The cohesion of the Russians and the Russian state is the principal guarantee of Russia’s territorial integrity. The Russian people, Russian culture, and the Russian language have always been and still remain the main factor of Russia’s unity. Regarding such remote enclave or semi-enclave territories as Kaliningrad Oblast, the Crimea, Sakhalin, or the Kuril Islands, their unity with Russia is mainly sustained by the virtue of them being populated mostly by Russians, and moreover, Russians with a heightened ethnic awareness of living at the “frontier”. If not for this “Russian factor”, had everything been dependent only on geopolitics and geography, those territories would have been irrevocably lost during the early 1990s crisis.

Incidentally, even though Kaliningrad is the most “recent” Russian territory, it has stronger ties to the country than many 19th century acquisitions. This is due to it being populated almost exclusively by Russians. We can state with utmost certainty that the level of a particular region’s integration into Russia, its level of compliance with federal laws and regulations, is directly tied to the percentage of Russians in the area. Regions where their numbers are insufficient tend to become ground zero for interethnic conflicts, terrorism, radicalism, and more or less overt separatist propaganda.


Map of ethnic Russian percentage in Russia (via Seva Bashirov).

It is imperative to emphasise a very strong link between ethnic Russian presence and traditionally practised Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is effectively an alternate form of Russian ethnic presence, and by and large an analogue to Russianness. We could delineate the following three types of Russian regions:

  1. Regions dominated by the ethnic Russian population and Orthodoxy. Their integration is near-absolute;
  2. Regions with a non-dominant ethnic Russian presence, but with a dominant Orthodox tradition. There, integrating factors prevail over disintegrating ones;
  3. Regions with a low Russian and Orthodox presence. In these regions, the level of disintegration is so high that its containment requires special political (and sometimes law enforcement) measures.

As a sui generis type, we could single out regions where, amidst a high Russian percentage, Orthodox identity is constantly attacked by certain cultural, religious, or ideological minorities. Those are mostly large metropolitan areas or borderlands. In such regions, we can detect extremely contradictory ideological trends, including outbursts of radical nationalism (including ethnic Russian nationalism), the emergence of groups nihilistically opposed to the government, and the erosion of national awareness among Russians.

The growth of the ethnic Russian population, both absolute and relative to the population of specific regions, the bolstering of Russian identity linked to Orthodox Christian tradition and the historical memory of the nation, is the guarantee of Russia’s cohesion as a state. The stronger its Russianness, the stronger the unity of the state. Conversely, demographic and cultural decline amongst Russians can only undermine the integrity of the Russian state.


[1] Saints Sergius of Radonezh (1314 – 1392) and Nilus of Sora (ca. 1433 – 1508) are often credited with developing a specifically Russian tradition of monastic life and ascetic mysticism within the larger Orthodox communion.

Nikon (1605 – 1681), Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1652-66, enacted a series of reforms bringing church liturgy and doctrine closer in line with that of the Constantinople Patriarchate, which was seen by many as an attack on Russian traditions and provoked a church schism that endures to this day.

Under Peter the Great, the office of the Patriarch was abolished, and the Russian Orthodox Church was completely subsumed into the government apparatus, losing even nominal autonomy.

[2] A bureaucratic term comprising most of Northern and Western European Russia, dominated by low-fertility soils and low-yield agriculture.

[3] A Russian nationalist movement founded in 1980, now largely dormant. Its heyday was during the early Perestroika years, when it became one of the most prominent nationalist organisations. However, it quickly fragmented into several factions, most of them espousing anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories, which made Pamyat supporters an extremely easy target for Liberal ridicule and Russophobic propaganda.

[4] The difference between russkiy and rossiyskiy, both technically meaning “Russian”, is quite difficult to convey in translation. Essentially, the former adjective is more traditional and has strong historical and ethnic connotations, while the latter was meant to invoke allegiance to the modern Russian state regardless of one’s ethnicity (and swiftly acquired connotations of “related to any ethnicity living in Russia EXCEPT the Russians themselves”).

[5] Memetic phrase from the classic Soviet Ostern White Sun of the Desert (1970), used as a sometimes ironic, sometimes earnest expression of shame and guilt for the gap between Russia’s potential and its sorry state.

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The latest in our series of translations of Russian national-conservative intellectual Egor Kholmogorov.

This massive opus, which will be published in two parts, is the closest thing there is to a condensed historiosophy of Kholmogorov’s.

Russians in the 2oth Century. Part I: Origins to WWII

Translated by Fluctuarius Argenteus



Early Stages of Russian Ethnic History

The modern Russian nation grew out of the Old Rus people, whose identity had already started to coalesce in the 9th century, as evidenced by a 839 embassy to Frankish emperor Louis the Pious, where the ambassadors claimed they were representing “a people named Ros.”

Over the 9-11th centuries, the Old Rus people assimilated a number of East Slavic and Finno-Ugric tribes, Scandinavian and West Slavic ethnic and social groups, developed a national awareness based around the concept of the Russian Land and Orthodox Christian identity, formed elements of high and everyday culture and lifestyle, as well as environmental, economic, and colonisation strategies.

The Old Rus identity was so durable that even the period of terrible Mongol onslaught and subsequent raids, political vassalage, and onerous tribute did not significantly hamper their development and territorial expansion. Starting in the 13-14th century, the Russians rapidly expanded to the north of the East European Plain. The system of small villages connected mainly through rivers and other waterways, allowed it to cover enormous and hard-to-colonise territories with a network of populated centres. An enormous role in the Russian colonisation was played by Orthodox monasteries, which, even at the most remote limits of Russia, acted as hotbeds of economic activity and culture.


The Russian state around 1500.

Over the 15th and 16th centuries Russia is formed as an early nation-state that identified the Grand Duchy of Moscow and its dependencies with the Old Rus and claiming the entirety of the Old Russian national legacy, above all the lands of Western and Southwestern Rus that had been annexed by Lithuania and Poland. In those lands, the population gradually developed the peculiarities of the Little Russian and Belorussian branches of the Russian nation. Together with disintegrating factors, such as Polonisation or Catholisation, there were also uniting factors, such as Orthodox communion and a common struggle for Orthodoxy.

In the East and South, we see the mass migration of Russians to the Urals, Siberia, and the Black Sea steppes, the construction of the Great Abatis Line and the emergence of a unique Cossack military and social system, which brought these lands away from nomad dominance and under intensive Russian colonisation and economic exploitation.

By the end of the 17th century, Russia grew to be the largest continental empire on Earth, even if the population was sparse and unevenly distributed. The Russians became one of the largest ethnic groups, with a rich and original culture, language, Orthodox tradition, and folkway. The existence of a Russian civilisation became a fait accompli.

Imperial Contradictions

The Imperial period in Russian history was coloured by contradictory processes. On the one hand, the expansion of the state continued, uniting the Belorussian and most of the Little Russian branches of the Russian people within a single state, leading to their mutual influence and enrichment as parts of a unified nation. In spite of roadblocks set up by serfdom, an intensive territorial expansion of the Russian population went on. In many cases, a widespread “escape from the state” only intensified the settlement of new territories by runaway serfs. Russian settlement completely engulfed Novorossiya and Crimea, North Caucasus, the Altai, and Ussuria. The Russians became the dominant ethnic group in the Volga region, the Urals, and Siberia, and energetically made their way into Central Asia and the Baltics, with many Russian communities also springing up in Transcaucasia. Russian colonisation even spread beyond the borders of Russia, leading to “Yellow Russia” projects in Manchuria.


Ethnicities of the Russian Empire in 1916.

On the other hand, the Empire absorbed large populations marked by a foreign cultural, ethnic, and even civilisation identity. Their integration into the Russian cultural matrix was hamstrung by the following problem: even for the Russians themselves, the civilisation standard of Russian culture ceased to be seen as fundamental. The reforms of Peter the Great caused it to be supplanted by the European standard. Social life was marred by cultural gaps and cultural cringe, a mutual estrangement between the upper and lower classes, when the élite could barely converse in their native tongue. In this period, the Orthodox faith, professed by all estates of the society, remained the sole unifying factor of national cultural identity. Rejecting the Russian civilisation standard led to a decline of folk culture. Rather than an ideal for ethnic minorities to aspire to, Russification began to be seen as a useless half-measure, getting in the way of a direct Europeanisation of specific ethnic groups and their ultimate independence from Russia.

At the same time, the 19th century saw a tremendous effort of synthesizing a modern Russian national culture. It was marked by the birth of national historiography, journalism, religious and philosophical thought. Russian poetry and prose reached an unparalleled splendour, becoming one of the cornerstones of world culture.

samarin The Slavophile doctrine revindicated Russian civilisational sovereignty. Yury Samarin’s [portrait right by Vasily Tropinin] and Mikhail Katkov’s polemical essays defended political nationalism, claiming that Russian culture and Russian national character are meant to integrate the entirety of the Empire’s population into a single whole, subject to the same laws, speaking a single language and having a common culture.

At the same time, we can see the the sources of the artificial separation of the Little Russian and Belorussian branches of the Russian nation. The cultural “Ukrainophile” movement in Galicia, beyond the borders of the Russian Empire, evolves into a cohesive Ukrainian separatism with its own version of history, its own purpose-built language, and political claims to all of Southern Russia. On a smaller scale the same reorientation happened with Belorussians. In both cases, one can easily see the interests of rival nations and empires, mostly Poles and Austrians, attempting to convert a part of the Russian population into a buffer between them and the Russian ethnopolitical core. Certain elements of this alienation even permeated Imperial statistics where “Great”, “Little”, and “White” Russians were counted and mapped separately.


Demonstration by the Union of the Russian People.

Early 20th Century Crisis

In the early decades of the 20th century, the Russians were faced with a systemic crisis. Social antagonism between the peasantry and the upper classes of the Empire intensified. Still largely agrarian, Russia lagged behind in developing a non-class-based national awareness in the majority of the common folk. Mass schooling, an essential factor of nation-building, was underdeveloped, the army operated in the context of a royalist rather than national patriotism, the Church, faced with revolutionary and anti-clerical propaganda, was forced to be on the defensive instead of taking any active nation-building measures.

The development of national and patriotic awareness unfolded mostly in the educated classes, with an emerging national ideology, a demand for national culture, and patriotism as the ideological norm. However, the intelligentsia by and large preferred Liberalism and Socialism, including its Marxist strain. In the fight for the masses, national ideology faced fierce competition from revolutionary ideology, which was as anti-national as it was anti-monarchy and anti-capitalist.

The interpretation of Russia as the “prison of nations” and a desire to “liberate” ethnic minorities at any cost, including the open support of separatism, was the mainstay of most Russian revolutionary factions, from Liberals to Social-Democrats (Bolsheviks). Even before the collapse of the monarchy, the ethnic fringes of the Empire saw aggressive anti-Russian movements, especially the 1916 Central Asian uprising in a large part fanned by Turkish special services.


Stolypin in the State Duma.

On a state level, the Imperial government more and more identified with Russian national values. In 1912, the State Duma passed a law that separated the Russian and Orthodox-majority Chełm (Kholm) Governorate from the Kingdom of Poland. The ethno-religious factor was put before reasons of political geography. Even more ethnocentric and Russian-favouring were the policies of Pyotr Stolypin, specifically his bill regarding zemstvo [local self-government] in the Western Krai [essentially modern-day Belarus], pushed against both left- and right-wing resistance in the Duma and the State Council. However, the assassination of the nationalist Prime Minister, social crisis, and state collapse put a decades-long stop to pro-Russian ethnic policies.


Revolutionary Russophobia

The downfall of the monarchy, anarchy, endless ephemeral governments and republics, the civil war – all of this led not only to separatism in the non-Russian periphery but also cemented the schism of the Russian people. With a Ukrainian People’s Republic proclaimed in Kiev, Ukrainian separatism became a major factor in the intervention and civil war. In addition to the Belorussian Rada, there were active attempts to promote Cossack, Siberian, and Far Eastern separatism.

If most Whites supported the idea of a “united and indivisible Russia” and were Russian nationalists and patriots, the Bolsheviks actively employed the slogans of ethnic equality and supported the separatist forces of ethnic groups living in the Volga and North Caucasus regions. Bolshevik policies in those lands were markedly anti-Russian. While reconquering secessionist statelets, the Soviets positioned their régimes as national workers’ governments fighting against national bourgeois governments. For the Bolshevik leadership, the ethnic breakup of Russia and the Russians was self-evidently inevitable.


Ukrainization campaign in Odessa.

While constructing the USSR, the Bolshevik leaders politically reinforced the separations of Little Russians (renamed to Ukrainians) and Belorussians from Great Russians, now seen as the sole nation that the term “Russian” encompassed. On the other hand, they rejected the plans for a “Russian Republic” which implied the secession of Tatar, Bashkir, etc. republics from the RSFSR.

The USSR turned into an asymmetrical edifice, with its weakest point being the enshrinement of Ukrainian separatism. In 1924, Mykhaylo Hrushevsky, a leading ideologue of Ukrainisation, returned to Kiev and charted the course for imposing the Ukrainian language and identity via Soviet mass schooling. The national policies of early Bolshevik rule were based on systematic Russophobia. The Russians were seen, to quote Lenin, as a people “great only in their violence, only as great as bullies are.” The Bolshevik headman called for a purge of government administration from “a veritable sea of chauvinist Great Russian scum.”

The relations between the Russians and other ethnic groups were to be based on a complete humilitation of the Russian people as a way for them to atone for past injustices. As Nikolay Bukharin deigned to speak for all Russians, “we, as a former imperial nation, must place ourselves in unequal conditions by way of giving even more leeway to national movements.” The creators of the USSR seemed to imagine it as a prison for the Russian people where the Russian people were serving a sentence for the Russian Empire, officially dubbed “the prison of nations”.

Fortunately, even this affirmative action internationalism had its limitations. The Bolshevik leadership ostracised and annihilated the group of Mirsaid Sultan-Galiev, a Tatar nationalist who championed the separation of a Tatar-Bashkir-Chuvash state from the RSFSR, “with rights equal to those of the Ukraine”, and creating a Turan Republic in Central Asia. Sultan-Galiev’s rationale for those projects was that they were “terrible for Russian nationalism but harmless for the Revolution.” In this particular case, geopolitical reasons and the principle of state unity prevailed over the strictures of Bolshevik doctrine.


Mirsaid Sultan-Galiev, ideologue of the Red Turan.

The revolution and civil war divided the Russians into Reds and White, the latter forced into emigration. Numerically the White émigrés were incomparable to the Russians that had remained in the Motherland; the breakup was more along educational and social lines. Russia was deprived of most of its bourgeoisie, officers, intelligentsia, and clergy. The Russian culture broke into three parts: émigré, official Soviet, and “forcefully Soviet” (paying only lip service to the conditions imposed by the Soviet régime).


The philosophers’ ship.

A Nation on the Brink of Liquidation

Of course, the ideological thought of the Russian intelligentsia kept working on restoring national unity, building bridges between the sundered Russian world. Popular both in Soviet Russia and among émigrés, the ideology of the Smenovekhovtsy called for all patriots to work for the USSR, seeing it not as a Communist tyranny but a common Motherland, a homeland of the Russian nation, while awaiting a gradual national transformation, a Russification of Bolshevism. This ideology kept most Russian intellectuals and specialists from emigrating and supported their desire to work for the Motherland while waiting for better times to come. As a result, Russia kept within its Soviet borders a critical mass of people with a developed national awareness.

Among the peasantry, still forming the majority of the nation, conformism with regards to the Soviet system was intertwined with economic pragmatism: the Soviets solved the question of land ownership and slowly unfolded development programmes in the countryside. As a result, the peasants were lukewarm regarding the gradual erosion of national culture and church tradition, especially given that the foundations of country lifestyle remained largely the same.


Participants of the Tambov Rebellion.

The Bolshevik onslaught against the peasantry was repelled by an acrimonious civil war that the Soviets had to endure after having defeated the Whites. Nominally, the Kronstadt, Tambov, and Don rebellions were crushed, and the 1921-23 famine decimated Russian peasantry, but in fact the Communist assault against the country was frozen for almost a decade. Revolutionary upheavals were mostly limited to urban areas.

Nevertheless, in 1928-32 the Soviets dealt a terrible blow both to the traditional peasant lifestyle and Russian national consciousness, preserved by the Smenovekhovtsy intelligentsia. The collectivisation wrecked the traditional life of the Russian countryside and started the machinery of repression and population transfer (both forceful and voluntary). The 1932-33 famine stroke a second demographic blow after the one in 1921-23 to the Russian peasantry. The excess mortality index in Southwestern Russia (Ukraine), the Volga region, and North Caucasus oscillated between 2.6 and 3.2 over the normal. The largest depopulation occurred in Krasnodar and Stavropol krais, as well as Donetsk, Lugansk, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov, and Zaporozhye oblasts – meaning that the so-called Holodomor was thrust mainly against Novorossiya.


Exile of the Kulaks.

Anti-clerical policies, enacted right after the revolution, intensified during the “Godless Five Years”, which saw mass closure and demolishment of churches and mass executions of priesthood. For most of the Russian population, the road to traditional church life was severed.

At the same time, a campaign of elimination targeted the Smenovekhovtsy intellectuals. A series of show trials (“Academy Affair”, “Vesna affair”, “Slavic Studies Affair”, the Industrial Party and Peasant Labour Party trials) all but stamped out the milieu of non-Communist academics, intellectuals, and specialists who collaborated with the Soviets out of national and patriotic sentiment.


Removal of the Monument to Nakhimov in Sevastopol, 1928.

The 1920s and the 1930s were the apex of anti-Russian propaganda with Bolshevik slogans. Pravda published doggerel like the following: “Russia! Are you through? Are you gone? Have you croaked at last? Well, good riddance to you, as you didn’t live but only kept moaning in a dark and narrow hut”. In 1928, a monument to Admiral Pavel Nakhimov was torn down in Sevastopol for being offensive to Turkish sailors that entered the seaport. In 1932, the Narkompros [education ministry] ordered a monument to General Nikolay Raevsky on the Borodino battlefield to be turned into scrap metal, claiming it was “devoid of any historical or artistic value”.

This practice of historical nihilism and systematic humiliation of Russian national sentiment had its theoretical foundations in Nikolay Pokrovsky’s school of historiography that treated the entirety of Russian history as that of a “prison of nations” and painted national heroes as flunkies of the Tsars and bourgeois capital. By 1933, the Russian nation as a community joined by common memory, traditions, and cultural practices stood on the brink of destruction, ravaged by both ideological denationalisation and economic collectivisation brought about by Communism.


A Forced National Revival

The right-wing swerve of capitalist Europe after the rise of the Nazi Party forced the Communists to review their policies. It became impossible to ignore the national factor in foreign affairs with the same ease as they did within the country.

The Soviets start employing Russianness not only to describe the internationalist duty of the “nation of bullies”, not only as the idea of Russians as a vanguard revolutionary nation, but while appealing to Russian cultural and historical tradition. This tradition was no longer seen as a purely negative factor or something to be outlived. The era of “Let’s melt down Minin and Pozharsky”[1] doggerel was over. Stalin himself voiced a demand for “a Bolshevik Ilovaysky” (pre-revolutionary history manuals written by Dmitry Ilovaysky were a byword for ultraconservative nationalist historiography). The Pokrovsky school was subjected to an ideological interdiction. A series of films and books came out, glorifying the national heroes of the past – Alexander Nevsky, Minin and Pozharsky, Suvorov and Kutuzov. A symbolic watershed came in November 1936 with a well-orchestrated critical savaging of Tairov’s opera The Bogatyrs, with a thoroughly Russophobic libretto by Demyan Bedny.

Of even greater importance that changes in the rarified heights of political atmosphere were the decision to curtail the korenizatsiya in Soviet republics and autonomies, and switching all national alphabets to Cyrillic (even more surprising given that the Latinisation of Russian script was discussed in earnest in the earlier 1930s). All schools faced more stringent requirements for compulsory Russian teaching.

However, this ideological renovation did not mean an end to Soviet internationalist aggression against the Russians. The dismemberment of Russian national territory continued into the 1930s. In 1936, to coincide with the new Soviet constitution, a Kyrgyz and a Kazakh Soviet Republic were carved out of the RSFSR, and the authors of ideologically approved official histories of those republics emphasised colonial oppression in Imperial times.

A new wave of repression in 1937-38 dealt a new blow to the Russian. The purges targeted not only Communist apparatchiks but also clergy, military specialists, and intelligentsia, deemed “ideologically hazardous” for this or that reason. Russian culture was robbed of dozens of great scientists, thinkers, and writers.


The Great War

The Great Patriotic War was the time of unthinkable trials for the Russian people. Hitler’s aggression saw as its end the complete destruction of Russian statehood, the dismemberment of the country, and its breakup along ethnic lines. The war was waged to destroy the Russians, not the Soviets, and Nazi policies were based on a complete disdain for Russian cultural heritage (“all and any cultural values in the East do not matter”, said the infamous order signed by Walther von Reichenau), as well as for civilian lives (e.g., the mass starvation of Leningrad citizens was planned regardless of whether the city surrendered or not).

It is not surprising that the war triggered a rapid national upsurge, a development of Russian patriotism that called for victory over the invaders. The great Russian thinker Ivan Ilyin noted in a wartime article written for the Swiss press that “the further the war extended in time and space, the more noticeable was the Russian instinct of self-preservation, the greater was the resolve of the Russians to repel the enemy, the more the warring masses subjected themselves to the discipline of the national High Command while ignoring the Communist régime…”

Ilyin also claimed that “the collective memory of the First World War, where Russia’s desertion led to a terrible 25-year long retribution, led to the thought that this new war had to be loyally fought to the end.” That is why the level of active collaborationism was much lower than Hitler’s analysts expected based on the pre-war anti-Russian policies of the Soviets. Pro-Nazi collaborationism “in the name of the Russian people” was the province of numerically insignificant groups.

The war took a terrible toll on the Russians, bringing untold grief, gigantic demographic losses (a third demographic collapse in 30 years), and untold destruction. At the same time, the Russians restored their self-awareness as a great nation with a unique historical mission. The self-awareness as a nation of victors, cemented in wartime propaganda, became a part for millions of people a part of their personal consciousness. The word “Russian” reached a worldwide prestige rarely seen in Imperial times.

It seemed that the USSR would turn to a national/imperial model with a clear Russian dominance. This idea even dawned upon several high-ranking RSFSR apparatchiks. A noticeable change was the expansion of the Russian habitat after a long period of shrinkage. The newly annexed East Prussia, Southern Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands were settled almost exclusively with ethnic Russians. These lands became core Russian territories, largely against the grain of Stalin’s plans for using East Prussia as a bargaining chip in a gamble for “a unified neutral Germany”. Essentially, Kaliningrad was claimed for the Russians thanks to Konrad Adenauer’s recalcitrance; the West German chancellor saw Germany only as a part of the Western bloc.

However, the consequences of deportations in the North Caucasus and Crimea were much more dramatic for the Russians. The regions became almost exclusively Russian, but the rehabilitation and return of the deported ethnic groups led to inter-ethnic conflict, terrorism, and anti-Russian pogroms. Even during this period, the interest of Russians weren’t always put first – e.g., the request of Carpathian Ruthenian representatives to annex their land to the Russian (as opposed to Ukrainian) Soviet republic was declined.

The effect of annexing Western Ukraine to the Ukrainian SSR proved to be quite dubious. The Soviets spent more than a decade on suppressing Banderite terror gangs, but even after that Galicia kept contaminating the rest of the republic with the most radical strain of Ukrainian nationalism, founded upon a zoological hatred of the “Moskals”. By the end of the 1980s, that ideology had infested most of the Ukrainian SSR population, Ukrainised in the Soviet manner, and gave fruit that were more and more anti-Russian in nature.


Election of the Patriarch Alexey I (Simansky) in 1945.

An important part of the patriotic swerve was a partial rapprochement between Soviet régime and the Russian Orthodox Church. The traditional hierarchy with the Patriarch at the head was restored, the schism of the Living Church[2] liquidated, most of the country gained access to Orthodox sacraments and rituals, and thus to ages-old Russian cultural milieu. Orthodoxy was largely restored as a part of the vision of Russian identity.

Regardless of its ideological intent, the post-war educational revolution had enormous repercussions for the Russians. A multitude of new colleges gave a higher or specialised education to most young men and women, while most schools attempted to emulate pre-revolutionary classical gymnasia, even if only in look and feel. However, it should be kept in mind that, for the entirety of post-war Stalin’s rule, college education in the country of triumphant socialism was not free but paid.


[1] An infamous poem by Soviet poet Dzhek Altauzen (1907 – 1942), referring the monument to in the Red Square commonly seen as an iconic symbol of Russian patriotism.

[2] A schism in the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1920s-40s that called for a “modernisation” of church doctrine and rituals along Marxist lines and collaborated with the Soviets.

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Pavel Ryzhenko (2008): Umbrella.

The latest in our series of translations of Russian national-conservative intellectual Egor Kholmogorov, as promised.

In his latest article, published at Vzglyad, Kholmogorov demolishes twelve myths about the Bolshevik revolution, using a recent article by the Russian novelist Zakhar Prilepin as a foil. Why Prilepin? Who is he, anyway? You won’t find many mentions of him in the Western media, like you would of Vladimir Sorokin, Lyudmila Ulitskaya, or Dzerzhinsky admirer turned maniac Russophobe Svetlana Alexievich – writers that take a “handshakeworthy” anti-Russian stance. However, Zakhar Prilepin enjoys far more popular acclaim within Russia itself than any of those third rate entities – the only modern Russian literary authors comparable to him in eminence are Boris Akunin (historical mystery), Viktor Pelevin (satire), and Sergey Lukyanenko (sci-fi).

Part of the reason is Prilepin’s background. He has nothing to do with the Moscow intellentsia; he is the quintessential Russian redneck. Worked as a laborer, a security guard, and with the OMON riot police. Chechnya vet. Went into journalism in the 2000s, but found his true calling in artistic literature: Writing socially critical novels, typically about life in the Russian podunks (he himself hails from the rustbelt city of Nizhny Novgorod). Worst of all, he is a vatnik, a Communist (a National Bolshevik, to be precise), and a Donbass supporter. Most definitely not handshakeworthy – especially since he doesn’t exactly keep his politics on a backburner. Prilepin is also Chief Editor of Svobodnaya Pressa, an intelligent online journal and media success story that enjoys 15 million monthly visits (they even once translated one of my articles). He also pals around with DNR bigwigs and has even gathered a batallion for the War in the Donbass, though its more PR spectable than anything else.

As one of Russia’s leading “patriotic”/vatnik intellectuals, and one of the most authoritatative spokespersons for what Russian Neo-Stalinists actually think, a point by point critique of Prilepin’s apologia for the Bolshevik Revolution has value beyond just another recitation of Bolshevik crimes and hypocrisy (of which there is no shortage of anyway). Moreover, even if you substantively or wholly disagree with Egor Kholmogorov’s critique, I hope that this translation will at least help you get a better picture of the actual state of the debate about the Soviet legacy amongst normal Russians, beyond the banal (not to mention 90% wrong) Western representation of it as a binary struggle between a Stalinophile Kremlin and pro-Western liberals.

Translated by: Anatoly Karlin (intro to #5) and Fluctuarius Argenteus (#6-12).



Twelve Myths of the Bolshevik Revolution: A Conservative Refutation

The defense of Lenin and the Bolshevik regime in Zakhar Prilepin’s recent article is so representative of the genre that one can barely leave it uncommeted.

The Great October Revolution lies in ruins on its centenary. The essence of its defeat lies in that even the modest apologists for Bolshevism hardly ever cite their actual programs, slogans, and values. Nobody knows says that the Revolution opened the path to socialism and Communism all over the world, nobody expresses joy over the collapse of the bourgeoisie and the Tsar’s henchmen, and their replacement by a workers’ state. Nobody says that the light of atheism shone through the darkness of clerical obscurantism, nobody insists that the Bolseviks gave the land to the peasants, the factories to the workers, and peace to the people.

The justification of the October Revolution, of Bolshevism, and of Soviet power – in short, the entirety of Red apologetics – now occurs from within patriotic, nationalist, conspirological, populist, and even Christian Orthodox frameworks, all of which were mostly or entirely antithetical to the Communist value system itself. In practice, this consists of sophistic manipulations of Hegel’s “Cunning of Reason.” That is, the Bolsheviks wanted one thing, but something entirely different happened in reality, and it is actually this unconscious benefit which constitutes the real blessing of the revolution.

This form of apologetics was invented as early as the 1920s by the National Bolsheviks, from Ustryalov – who viewed Lenin as a patriot and a great stateman, and the Whites as agents of foreign powers in the form of the Entente – to Klyuev – who saw the Bolsheviks as liberators of the more authentic, pre-Petrine, “Kerzhen” Russia. But the value of all these apologetics was most poignantly demonstrated by the execution (Ustryalov, Klyuev) or imprisonment (Karsavin, Savitsky, Shulgin) of everyone who glorified Bolshevism through prisms other than Marxism-Leninism. Sure, the Bolsheviks were not averse to using smenovekhovstvo – the White emigres pushing for conciliation with the Soviet regime – for their own purposes, but they most assuredly did not subscribe to their vision of their historical mission as patriots, regatherers of the Russian lands, and custodians of the Russian state.

Why do people still bother with Red apologetics today?

Partly, on account of inflexibility. Russia in the 1990s was infested by ghouls, screeching that they had freed us from Lenin, the Communists, and the revolutionary heritage – which quietly freeing us of the contents of our pockets. And since this looting occured under the banner of anticommunism, it is no surprise that pro-Soviet discourse grew popular, since it, at least, did not brook this mass looting.

For all intents and purposes, Red apologetics was an apologetics for a social state; for public property, that had been created by the common labor of the Soviet people; for the Army, cosmonautics, the military-industrial complex, the Navy, the research centers, and so forth. And this was logical.

To my shame, there was a period, when I myself, despite never having imbibed the Leninist spirit, partook of similar activities. The most popular aspect of these apologetics was the Stalinist one – yes, the Revolution may have been horrific, but then came along Stalin and set everything right again…

But this train has passed. Russian society now faces new challenges, in which the political canonization of Bolshevism, Leninism, and Stalinism are not the friends, but the enemies, of our future.

And yet the Red people are still stuck in their polemics about Gaidar and Chubais. For instance, take the issue of creeping separatism in Tatarstan. It is impossible to solve it from a neo-Soviet position, because it was Lenin who created the Tatar ASSR and accomodated the Sultan-Galievs. The Ukraine, which demolished all its Lenin monuments, was his beloved child. In reality, regardless of which question we consider, appeals to the Soviet experience are block brakes on our future progress. It is either a false alternative to the liberal solution, or it is the liberal solution. Therefore, it is of no surprise that we are hearing increasingly Bolshevik overtones in the rhetoric of our liberal cliques, for example, in the matter of anti-clericalism. The Zyuganov era of traditionalist-friendly Communism is coming to its inevitable end, and is becoming displaced by a new era of Communist liberalism, which is hostile to the Russian traditional values that are held in equal contempt by both liberals and conventional Communists. [1]

It is precisely this form of apologetics that was advanced by Zakhar Prilepin in his recent article 12 Points about the Revolution and the Civil War. His defense of Lenin and the Bolshevik order is so representative that the urge to deconstruct it is irresistable, so that is what we shall do, point by consecutive point.

1. The Bolsheviks did not overthrow the Tsar – they overthrew the liberal-Westernist Provisional Government.

The Bolsheviks were the most categorical supporters of overthrowing the autocracy amongst all the Russian opposition parties. They excluded the possibility of keeping the monarchy even in a purely constitutional form; they were the most consistent republicans.

The Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party considers its immediate political task to be the overview of Tsarist autocracy and its replacement by a democratic republic,” read the program of the RSDRP accepted at its 2nd Congress, the very one where Lenin’s supporters constituted the majority, and henceforth came to be known as the Bolsheviks.

The Bolsheviks didn’t play a major role in the overthrow of the monarchy only because the party was still very weak as of February 1917.

But they more than compensated for this through their murder of the royal family, which, besides the innate abhorrence of the murder of the children and the servants, constituted the true overthrow of the Russian monarchy. As many historians and legal theorists have pointed out, the abdictation of Nicholas II in March 1917 was legally null and reversible, whereas death was final.

2. Prilepin, arguing that the Civil War between Whites and Reds was started by the Februarists (Kornilov, Alekseyev, Savinkov), poses this rhetorical question: “Do those who oppose Lenin and the Bolsheviks really believe that Russia would have been better off in the 20th century if it was governed by liberals, revolutionaries with a penchant for terrorism, and generals who broke their vows”?

Unfortunately, the majority of our readers are still not sufficiently familiar with the history of the anti-Bolshevik resistance, and might therefore be inclined to agree with this assertion. But that doesn’t make it correct.

The leaders, the real icons of the White movement – generals Drozdovsky, Markov, Kappel, Yudenich, Kutepov – were convinced monarchists. The only consistent republican amongst the leadership was Denikin. The position of Admiral Kolchak remains unclear.

The rest in one way or another expressed support for monarchy. Moreover, despite the dissatisfaction of Entente emissaries, the White movements continuously moved rightwards throughout the years of the Civil War towards a more definite monarchism, culminating in a Zemsky Sobor in Vladivostok in 1922.

General Kornilov: “I was never against the monarchy… I am a Cossack. A true Cossack cannot be anything but a monarchist.

General Alekseyev: “In the course of time Russia has to move towards a restoration of monarchy.

General Wrangel: “The Tsar must appear only when the Bolsheviks are vanquished.

Even the republican Denikin admitted that half of his Army consisted of monarchists.

But to honestly answer the question of whether it would have been better for Russia to be ruled by liberals, retired Social Revolutionary pyromaniacs, and turncoat generals in the 20th century, it is merely sufficient to pose the following questions:

“Would Savinkov, the terrorist Social Revolutionary, have implemented general collectivization, dekulakization, and the expulsion of people whose lands and property had been seized, into areas of permafrost, where they died of hunger?”

“Would Kornilov, the general who betrayed the monarchy, has created a system of concentration camps covering the entire country, where people would have been sent for telling a joke about himself, or for stealing a sheaf of wheat from one of Savinkov’s collective farms?”

“Would Kerensky, that undoubted leftist scoundrel, have issued orders blocking relief to the famine-stricken oblasts of Malorossiya, the Kuban, and the Volga, and instead barred their denizens from leaving the disaster zones?”

“Would Denikin, the republican, have signed off on lists of hundreds of names to be executed and approved the requests of local secret police HQs to raise the shooting quotas?”

“Would Milyukov, unrivalled in his liberal vulgarity, have closed churches, shot monks, priests, bishops, and hole fools, tear off crosses from children’s necks and open up holy relics for “examination”?”

An honest answer to these questions demonstrates how even a regime of incredibly odious Februarists was still far preferable to Bolshevik tyranny. Even the most authoritarian right-wing regimes are incomparable to leftist totalitarians in the scale of their repressions and destruction. Pinochet is not Pol Pot.

Furthermore, we can see why even the Februarists were preferable to Communist power by the example of the 1990s. In those years, the new Februarists encountered fierce political, ideological, and sometimes violent resistance from the national-patriotic forces. In the end, before a single decade passed, and Russian February ended, voluntarily surrending power to Putin, who began the process of state rebuilding. Why would the 1920s have been any different?

3. “Supporters of the idea that the Revolution was financed by German and British money should try to explain, first, whether they actually obtained the advantages they sought; and second, identify the goals that both pursued by intervening against Soviet Russia, if the Bolsheviks were indeed their agents.

Nobody ever suspected the Bolsheviks of acting in the interests of the Entente. It is the Februarists, overthrown by the Bolsheviks, who were probably English agents, whereas Lenin and his colleagues are, not without justification, seen as German agents.

There were no even minimally significant clashes between the Bolsheviks and the German Army, which occupied a large portion of Russia under the Brest Peace. Lenin and his government was absolutely loyal to Germany up to the last day of the Hohenzollern monarchy, with tremendous benefits to the German war effort – a large part of the Army was freed from the Eastern Front and hurled west instead, helped along by food supplies from the Ukraine.

You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Lenin was most scrupulous about keeping his side of the German contract, up to and including pressuring even his own party to ratify the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. It is sufficient to recall that on March 1, 1918 the Bolsheviks matter of factly surrendered Kiev, liberated from the Petlyurites on February 8 as a result of a workers’ uprising.

The enduring nature of the Bolshevik-German alliance is testified to by its quick resurrection under Germany’s new republican rulers, despite them having suppressed all attempts to seize power by Moscow-backed Cominternists.

4. “When discussing the exile of part of the aristocracy from Russia, and its replacement by “cooks and bandits,” as some of us say, it is worth recalling, that Lenin, too, was a noble, as were many of the most prominent Bolshevik figures and leaders of the party” [there follows a discussion of the noble descent of Lenin, Ordzhonikidze, Mayakovsky, and even the Chekist, Gleb Bokii].

There is nothing new about some members of the aristocracy defecting to anti-aristocratic movements. One can cite many other historical examples, from Pericles in Ancient Athens to Philippe I, Duke of Orléans.

The list of names mentioned by Prilepin himself show that the numbers of noblemen amongst the leaders of the Bolsheviks was negligibly small (especially when your exclude Polish nobles such as Dzerzhinsky, who hated everything Russian and were considered revolutionaries a priori in the Russian Empire).

Moreover, the degree of Lenin’s noble stock shouldn’t be exaggerated; his father, Ilya Ulyanov, was the son of a petty bourgeois, and only acquired the rank permitting him to pass on his noble status seven years after Vladimir’s birth.

Relations between the Bolsheviks and the nobility was determined not by individual relationships, but by the political philosophy of Bolshevism, the essence of which was class war – and the nobility, just like the priesthood, the bourgeioisie, and well-to-do peasants peasants were seen as class enemies, destined for destruction.

5. “75,000 former Tsarist officers served in the Red Army (62,000 of whom were of noble origin), whereas the Whites only attracted 35,000 of the 150,000 officer corps of the Russian Empire.

Prilepin’s numbers are an arbitrary fiction concocted by the Soviet researcher Alexander Kavtaradze in the book Military Specialists in the Service of the Soviet Republic 1917-1920. His speculations were refuted in Sergey Volkov’s ground-breaking research manuscript The Tragedy of the Russian Officers.

Kavtaradze arbitrarily sums up completely different categories, such as:

1. The 8,000 officers who voluntarily signed up with the Bolsheviks to participate in the “curtain forces” shielding Russia from German forces in the spring of 1918. These were men who wanted to continue fighting the German enemy, but were betrayed by the Bolsheviks, and subsequently, a signifcant number of them left the Red Army, or even joined up with the Whites.

2. The 48,000 former officers conscripted into the Red Army from 1918-2020, often coercively.

3. The 14,000 imprisoned White officers, who entered the Red Army to save their own life. These former officers constituted around a quarter to a third of the command of the Red Army, but their percentage steadily declined, since the Bolsheviks didn’t trust the Tsarist military experts.

It also a manipulation to put the numbers of the officers corps of the Russian Empire at 150,000. That was the number of officers in the active Army, whereas the numbers given as serving the Bolsheviks included all officers, regardless of where they were in 1918 – in the rear, in hospital, etc. According to Volkov’s calculations, the size of the Russian officer corps was 276,000 at the end of 1917. Consequently, less than a quarter of all Russian officers ended up serving the Reds.

For comparison, there were 170,000 officers who took part in the White movement, of whom 55,000 died in the Civil War, and a similar number of whom ended up in the emigration.

So you still want to talk about how the cooks and bandits deceived and defeated the wonderful, blue-blooded Russian nobles, who didn’t at all renege on their oaths to the Emperor?” asks Prilepin.

The quality of the officers who went to the Bolsheviks should be discussed separately.

The Russian Army command could be separated into two main groups by 1917.

The first group were the cadre officers of the Imperial Army, like Roschin in The Road to Calvary by Alexey Tolstoy. This category was seriously depleted by the war, especially in its early stages, which predetermined the discipline crisis in the Imperial Army.

The second group constituted officers produced by the exingencies of wartime, such as the poet Nikolay Gumilev and Alexander Blok, Telegin from the aforementioned Road to Calvary, the notorious ensign Nikolay Krylenko, etc. These people were, essentially, ordinary intellectuals in epaulettes, neither from military families nor possessing serious military training.

General Gurko spoke with distain about the “clerks and bathhouse attendants” turned officers. A significant part of them, ensigns, didn’t differ much from ordinary soldiers, and from the civilians, whose ranks they had recently withdrawn from. The vast majority of Red officers came from this group, while cadre officers constituted no more than 6% of the command.

Wikipedia currently lists 385 Tsarist generals who served in the Red Army. For comparison, there were close to 4,000 generals in the Imperial Russian Army in 1916, and even more by the end of 1917. No more than 10% of the generals went on to serve in the Red Army.

There were practically no top-level commanders from the First World War; for the most part they were either staff generals (Mikhnevich, Manikovsky, Zayonchkovsky), or dashing colonels, who got their high ranks in the war. Even more telling is that the Bolsheviks did not entrust these generals with indepenent command, instead using them more as as specialist consultants, and surrounding them with commissars. One rare exception was major-general Vladimir Olderogge, who finished off Kolchak’s army in Siberia in 1919.

However, the ultimate fate of most of the Tsarist generals and officers who went to serve the Bolsheviks is even more germane.

They were destroyed in 1931 in the Vesna case, fabricated by the OGPU. A total of 3,000 people were arrested, and many of them – including the aforementioned Olderogge – were shot. In 1937-38, those who had hitherto received only prison sentences were also shot: The great military theorist Svechin, generals Sytin, Verkhovsky, Morozov…

Consequently, we come to the following conclusion: Either the Soviets inducted enemies into the Red Army, who served it insincerely; or the Bolsheviks deliberately destroyed the officers and generals who believed them and chose to serve them out of their love for the Motherland.

6. “The Civil War was unleashed by the Whites…

The first event of the Civil War in Russia was the Bolshevik coup in Petrograd and Moscow that included such acts as the shelling of the Kremlin – that is, an usurpation of power.

Apparently, the author assumes that all citizens of the former Russian Empire had to accept the usurpation simply because some Congress of the Soviets in the capital proclaimed the transfer of power to something called the Sovnarkom.
If every usurper has the right to unconditional submission, then Major Prilepin is out of place in the Donetsk People’s Republic military. By his own logic, they are typical mutineers who failed to accept the self-proclaimed régime in Kiev and “unleashed” a war by refusing to submit to Maidan usurpers.

Fourteen (14!) foreign countries intervened in the Civil War – and, in this situation, blaming its victims on Bolshevism alone is utter hogwash.

Painting the Bolsheviks as Russia’s defenders against intervention is an old propaganda stunt.

The Entente intervention sought to contain the consequences of their largest ally’s withdrawal from the Great War, then in full swing, and the signing of a separate peace treaty by its usurper government.

Neither Britain nor France nor the US sought to annex a part of Russian territory or overthrow the Bolsheviks by military force (however successful those attempts could have been), and lent a very scanty aid to the anti-Bolshevik resistance while being very assertive in demanding gold in exchange for said aid.

In Spring 1919, the Entente decided to completely cease all military intervention in the Russian Civil War. None of the different “interventions” ever posed any credible threat to the Bolshevik régime.

7. “The first pieces of legislation adopted by the Bolsheviks after their rise to power had nothing repressive in their nature. The Bolsheviks came as unprecedented idealists, liberators of the people, and democrats in the best sense of the word”.

On October 27th (November 9th New Style), the Soviets promulgated the Decree of the Press, its fourth decree up to that date.

It justified and introduced criteria for a repressive crackdown on all “bourgeois” press outlets by the Sovnarkom. They were three in total: calling for “a n open resistance or disobedience to the Government of Workers and Peasants” (i.e., when a legitimate government refuses to defer to usurpers); attempts at “fomenting dissent via grossly obvious perversions of fact” (i.e., any information the Bolsheviks deemed unfavorable to their cause); and calling for “acts of patently criminal or felonious nature” (i.e., given that no Penal Code existed at the moment, acts of any nature the Sovnarkom didn’t like).

Over November and December, the preaching of violence in Soviet acts intensified: confiscation of private printing presses and reserves of paper (November 17th, this and the following dates New Style); state monopoly on public notices (November 20th); demands for arrest and trial “by the revolutionary court of the people” for anyone deemed “harmful to the people’s cause” (November 18th); explicit ban on direct and intermediary negotiations with the “leaders of the counterrevolutionary insurrection” (December 8th); arrest warrant for the leadership of Constitutional Democrats branded as the “party of the enemies of the people” (December 11th).
So much for “democrats in the best sense of the word”.

8. “Faced with an impeding collapse of the Empire collapsing and separatist movements at its fringes, the Bolsheviks immediately shifted their tactics and rapidly reassembled the Empire, only permanently losing Finland and Poland, whose being a part of Russia is even now seen as irrelevant and superfluous anyway. The Bolsheviks have done nothing to merit the title of “wreckers of the Empire” – even if they called their offensive campaigns “internationalist”, their result was a traditional Russian territorial expansion.

The Bolshevik Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia, eulogized by Prilepin, explicitly allows for a “right of nations within Russia to free self-determination, including seceding and creating an independent state.

It turns out that Bolsheviks were typical hypocrites – when different nations actually tried to use the rights they were entitled to, they immediately “shifted their tactics” and turned to “territorial expansion”. Seems very familiar in the light of how the Bolsheviks treated all other human rights.

And, of course, the Bolsheviks did not expand to any territory in the end.

By the time the Civil War ended in the Russian Far East, they had lost the Baltics, Western Ukraine, and Western Belarus, ceded to Poland by the Riga peace treaty, as well as Bessarabia, annexed by Romania. Stalin took all of this back in 1939, no thanks to Bolshevism but thanks to World War II and a deal with Hitler (and none of this, save several districts transferred from Estonia and Latvia, was added to the territory of Soviet Russia proper).

The territory that got misplaced on the road to Communism included even the Uriankhai Krai (now the Tuva Republic), only reintegrated in 1944. Permanent losses included regions of Western Armenia ceded by 1921 Moscow and Kars treaties to “our friend Kemal”: Kars, many times washed by the blood of Russian soldiers, and Mount Ararat.

After recognising Finland’s independence, Lenin, in a gesture of largesse, gave up Vyborg, conquered by Peter the Great from the Swedes.
In 1940, Vyborg returned to Russia only thanks to Marshal Mannerheim. His obstinate resistance to Soviet forces caused Stalin to abandon plans for a puppet Democratic Republic of Finland led by Otto Kuusinen. Instead of signing a treaty with the puppet state, voluntarily ceding a good half of Karelia and drawing the border south of Vyborg, the Soviet Union was forced to sign a full-fledged peace treaty with harsh conditions.

The Soviets did exactly zilch in terms of expanding Russian territory until the very capture of Lvov during Stalin’s “liberation campaign” against Poland. However, Lvov would have become a part of the Russian Empire anyway had the Tsar not been deposed. Under Stalin, Lvov became a poisoned gift that contaminated the Ukraine with the most radical strain of nationalism.

9. “Point one: there’s no Tsar. Point two: there are only White generals who are mostly okay with divvying up the country. And there are Bolsheviks who are against this divvying up.

Eulogizing about Leninist national and territorial policy is a particularly arduous affair for Prilepin. He resorts to parroting the Liberal thesis of “all empires are bound to collapse” and appealing to a treaty between Britain and France regarding the “partition of zones of influence in Russia”.

Let’s start with an outright hoax. The Whites were fighting for a united and indivisible Russia. This was the chief slogan and the main goal of the White movement. Gens. Kolchak, Denikin, and Wrangel alike were adamantly against recognizing any separatist statelets that had sprung up in the territory of the Russian Empire.

As has been said, treating a British-French agreement signed on December 23rd 1917 and establishing zones of responsibility of Entente powers in the South of Russia, with the Great War still ongoing, as a “partition of Russia between Britain and France”, is entirely baseless.

The author may fulminate against the idea of Bolshevism as the culprit that had planted the bomb under Russian territorial unity as much as he wishes to. But nothing can be done to disprove the fact that the Bolsheviks established a “Kyrgyz Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic” in 1925, rechristened the Kazakh Republic in 1925, its capital until that year having been Orenburg. Such was the revenge of the Bolsheviks against the Orenburg Cossack Host for their resistance. That Russian city having been transferred away from Kazakhstan and back to Russia is nothing short of a miracle. Many other parts of Southern Siberia were much less lucky.

The Soviets, everywhere they could reach, created republics with a right to autonomy and secession, created “titular ethnicities” [2], granted them development funds, constructed their histories and gave them Latin-based writing systems (something reattempted by Nursultan Nazarbayev with much fanfare). [3] Terry Martin’s study The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 is a terrific analysis of this process.

Mykhailo Hrushevsky, the founding father of Ukrainian separatism, came to enact in his capacity as President of the Ukrainian Soviet Academy of Sciences more than he ever could dream of as President of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, – turning millions of Little Russian peasants into “Ukrainians”.

Ukrainization was a central policy of the Soviets in 1920s – 1930s and never ceased completely in later eras. Indeed, Stalin did dampen those processes somewhat (even though he upgraded Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Karelia-Finland from autonomies to full-fledged Soviet republics, the latter fortunately abolished by Khrushchev), but they never stopped for the entirety of the Soviet régime.

Finally, the artificial borders chartered by Communists exploded in 1991 thanks to Liberals.

Who is to blame for falling to the ground – the one who laboriously sawed the chair’s legs or the one who carelessly parked his rear end on its seat?

10. “They say Patriarch Tikhon anathematized the Bolsheviks, and that’s why one cannot support them. But neither did he bless or endorse the White movement.

The Patriarch did not anathematize the Bolsheviks, only those who enacted cruel persecutions against the Church and Orthodox Christians, those who murdered priests, robbed churches, stripped decorations from icons, desecrated holy vessels, and so on.

However, he did censure Bolsheviks proper in his epistle dated October 13th (26th) 1918, and his words are a dreadful argument against Prilepin himself:

Our great Motherland is conquered, diminished, and dismembered, and, as a tribute imposed upon her, you secretly send to Germany the gold that doesn’t belong to you.

No one feels safe anymore. Everyone lives in constant fear of searches, robbery, eviction, arrest, and execution. Innocents are taken by the hundred, tortured in prisons for months, often put to death with no trial or jury, even an expedited trial that you introduced.

The executions affect not only those guilty before you in some way but even those who are patently blameless but taken as “hostages”. Those unfortunates are murdered as a revenge for crimes enacted by people who not only don’t have opinions similar to theirs but also support you or have convictions comparable to yours.

First, under the name of “bourgeoisie”, you robbed well-to-do people; then, under the name of “kulaks”, you turned to robbing richer and more diligent peasants, thus multiplying poverty, even though you must realize that, by ruining a great multitude of individual citizens, you destroy public wealth and lead the entire country to destitution.

In this context, it seems that the point of whether the Patriarch, taken hostage by the Bolsheviks and subject to constant mortal danger, supported the Whites or not is moot.

11. “The Bolsheviks nationalized the industries, harming the interests of large-scale capitalists by siding with those of the laborers. The class most interested in the Civil War were, metaphorically speaking, the Russian Forbes 500…

The identity of the laborers that the Bolsheviks sided with is rather unclear. Were they factory workers doomed to several years of devastation, famine, and non-functional plants? Or peasants, anguishing from the terror of Prodrazvyorstka and Kombeds [4] and later rising up in the Tambov rebellion [5] (and many others), suffocated with chemical weapons?

When the “exploiters” were in charge, Russian economy grew by 8% a year; it took the Soviets more than a decade to reach its 1913 levels.

Regarding the “Russian Forbes 500”: with the exception of Russia’s richest man Nikolay Vtorov, murdered in 1918 in Moscow under suspicious circumstances, the others emigrated and saw the twilight of their years in Paris or Monaco. In the 1920s, Mikhail Tereshchenko’s 127-meter yacht, the Iolanthe, was the world’s largest yacht afloat.

Meanwhile, the living standards of the proletariat liberated from the yoke of capitalists and Tsarist social legislation was graphically described by poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, the chief panegyrist of Bolshevism: “Workers sitting in the dark, munching on damp bread.”

This was all peanuts compared to what came next: a system of forced labor, the main know-how of Stalinist industrialisation. Having no means of concentrating enough capital to fulfil his 5-year plan, Comrade Stalin found an elegant solution – dumping the costs of the other industrial factor, labor itself, to near zero.

For the first time in history, the world saw a modern industrialisation based on slave labor. The Bolsheviks were successful in annihilating private capital. The state remained the sole capitalist. And it was the state, not individual businessmen, who conducted negotiations with workers, with the barrel of an NKVD pistol as its ultima ratio.

While their comrades in both Europe and America successfully campaigned for better wages and welfare and formed the system of the social state, Russian workers spent decades in slave-like conditions and deemed themselves lucky if they weren’t converted from slaves of the 5-year plan to bondsmen of the Gulag.

12. “The main victor of the Civil War was the Russian people. The Russian Revolution of November 7th 1917 is an achievement, a victory, and a tragedy of the Russian nation. It is fully responsible for it, and has every right to be proud of this momentous achievement that changed the course of world history.

I won’t contest that the Russian people emerged victorious from the Civil War. If many, all too many Russians hadn’t thrown their lot with Bolshevism, either actively or by submission, no Latvian riflemen or Chinese volunteers could have led Lenin and his gang to victory.

The Russians, however, won a victory over themselves and their kin who dared to side with honor, God’s truth, and a tormented Fatherland, the united and indivisible Russia. This victory led all who kowtowed before Bolshevism to decades of poverty, terror, slavery, and Kafkaesque everyday life. Their only daily consolation was the hope of suffering for the greater good, a Grand Project.

No one reminded those people that only recently Tsarist Russia had completed one of the most astounding projects in the history of mankind, the transcontinental Trans-Siberian railway. It was achieved with no waste or exhaustion, no payment of tens of thousand of human lives for an infrastructural breakthrough.

Every human community, including the Russians, has a basic set of values and goals. Spiritual: spreading its worldview and faith, bolstering its national character and original creativity in national culture. Material: increasing the welfare of the nation and expanding their numbers. (Geo)political: increasing its national habitat and the security of its borders.

The Russians failed to achieve any of those goals over the 20th century as a direct consequence of the Bolshevik coup.

The Russian Orthodox Church endured a most savage persecution that put it on the brink of extinction. The originality of Russian culture was forcibly erased, having just reached its fin de siècle apex. Russians were subjected to decades of horrific poverty, terror, and famine, falling into a demographic abyss of enormous proportions.

The Bolshevik period ended with a rapid contraction of Russian borders, a reduction of Russian habitat, and our people turned, even within Russia itself, into second-grade citizens.

If this passes as a victory, then our goal is not to triumph over ourselves in this fashion once again.

Translator’s Notes

[1] This entire paragraph does not appear in the Vzglyad text, but did appear in Kholmogorov’s original draft. I considered it too good not to translate and publish anyway. – AK

[2] A semi-official term for ethnic groups whose name coincided with the name of an autonomy of a full-fledged republic in both the USSR and modern Russia (even though they weren’t/aren’t necessarily the most populous ethnicity), e.g. Kazakhs in Kazakhstan, Ukrainians in the Ukraine, Bashkirs in Bashkortostan, etc. Most of the time, the “titular” ethnicity was/is given the largest leeway possible by the central Soviet/Russian government.

[3] Reference to a recent decree of the Kazakh President proclaiming the shift the Kazakh alphabet from Cyrillic- to Latin-based , to be completed by 2025.

[4] The Prodrazvyorstka was a Soviet policy of forceful grain confiscation, formally reimbursed with a nominal fee much lower than the market price, leading to mass pauperization of peasants and famine. Kombeds (Poor Peasants’ Committees) were organs of Soviet power in rural settlements, mostly charged with enacting said policy.

[5] A 1920-21 peasant insurrection in the Volga region caused by mass grain requisitions and other forms of Soviet-sanctioned abuse, leaving more than 200,000 civilians dead. Often claimed as the first documented use of chemical weapons in internal conflict.

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The latest in our series of translations of Russian national-conservative thinker Egor Kholmogorov.

Translated by: Fluctuarius Argenteus; slightly edited by AK.



Socialism Not Dead: Paradoxes of an Unsolved Problem

It may seem strange that, at the turn of the 21st century, the word “Socialism” is back in the popular political idiom. The final decade of the preceding century seemed to have been the time of its complete (and, so it would seem, irreversible) annihilation.

Soviet-style “Real Socialism” ended in a pathetic disgrace, striking its colors at the sight of a sausage pointed at its heart. Who would have thought that churning out missiles, dams, and factories wouldn’t be enough to sustain a planned economy based on communal property? It was also necessary to grant the Socialist people access to consumer goods at least remotely comparable to those available under Capitalism; otherwise, falling behind not only in living standards but also in technology became inevitable. Soviet Socialism collapsed under the weight of this contradiction, while China enacted reforms so deep that, while looking at Chinese billionaires, one can’t help but wonder whether it’s still Socialism or a “Red Capitalist” oligarchy of the Chinese Communist Party – quite probably no worse than any other oligarchy in history.

Meanwhile, the Capitalist world with its triumphant Liberalism seemed to have scored a doubtless moral victory. Not only did it outpace Socialism, it completely consumed it. All more or less sensible Socialist ideas were incorporated into the structure of the “welfare state”, leaving “Real Socialism” with such dubious achievements as complete socialization of property or pedantic ideological censorship. Socialism appeared to have been entirely devoured and digested by a Capitalism that had reached in this struggle a new stage in its historical evolution.

A quarter of a century after this victory over Socialism, the foundations of the global Liberal order are more and more visibly shaken. Within the US Democratic party, Hillary Clinton’s Liberalism, oriented at racial and sexual minorities, has been challenged by “Democratic Socialist” Bernie Sanders who is cajoling White American workers into rising against the 1%, the Wall Street loan sharks. Socialist? US Presidential candidate? Early 21st century? It seems patently absurd. Meanwhile across the pond, the Labour party in the UK eschewed fine-looking bureaucrats in favour of Jeremy Corbyn, a Socialist, an anti-militarist, and general diehard Leftist. One of his first acts as leader of the Shadow Cabinet was creating a committee for a new economic policy, including such anti-inequality fighters as Thomas Piketty and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz.

All of a sudden, we not only see a ressurection of Socialism in two of the leading countries of the Capitalist world, but positioning itself as a powerful political political alternative to the dominant Liberal mainstream. If we take into account that this mainstream is also under attack by right-wing populism of the likes of Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen (the program of the latter replete with anti-Capitalist and anti-Globalist vocabulary), the Liberal “end of history” seems to have ended quite rapidly. If this wave hasn’t reached us yet, it is only because both our Liberalism and our Capitalism are quite peculiar, and our political system doesn’t operate under Western-style rules. However, one cannot completely shut oneself off from a revolution of ideas, and it seems likely we will soon hear the march of a new Socialism here in Russia.

What is the cause of this 2010s Socialist re-revolution? The return of economic conditions that had caused the heyday of Socialism in the 19th century and were drastically changed in the 20th. The driving force of the Socialism of two centuries ago was a contradiction between the ideals of civil liberty and equality brought about by the French Revolution and the Enlightenment, and an absolute economic inequality typical of ancien régime Europe. The latter became more prominent and intolerable at the start of the Industrial Revolution, when hundreds of thousands of proletarians became concentrated in the stench and stuffiness of the working-class suburbs of developed countries.

Liberalism was faced with a monstrous and insoluble contradiction: why, after declaring human rights and liberties in thought and politics, giving equal rights to all social strata and doing away with the feudal ladder of estates, should it remain the guardian of a gap between wealth and misery, the protector of economic inequality? The situation of defending equality in the sphere of ideas, less important for most of the people, and championing inequality in the sphere of the stomach, of much greater everyday importance, seemed entirely ridiculous.

Excuses invented for explaining why some people are poor and some rich pushed those who considered this to be an injustice to certain solutions. “Private property is inviolable, you have no right to infringe upon it, therefore, you dare not touch the wealth of others,” said the wealth apologists. “It simply means that property is theft, and it must be destroyed or redistributed to close the gap between wealth and poverty,” replied the champions of the poor. “Liberty is not the equality of results but that of opportunities. We should be equal at square one, and then let each one gain according to his energy and talents,” said the wealth apologists. “Then we should socialize the work effort, and then we’ll have a common result: From each other according to their ability, to each other according to their needs. Also, let’s create truly equal opportunities, because the prospect of equal chances for millionaires and have-nots is a bald-faced lie,” replied the champions of the poor.

The ideas, methods, and moral high ground of the Socialism of yesteryear stemmed from a European yearning for equality, described by Alexis de Tocqueville, and the angst caused by the monstrous material inequality in the Europe in an age when the gaps between wealth and poverty were insurmountable. These gaps are the subject of a spirited dialogue between a young Rastignac and a cynical, conniving Vautrin in Honoré de Balzac’s Le Père Goriot. Vautrin explains to Rastignac, then a young idealist, that his chances of making good money thanks to learning, personal qualities, and industriousness are equal to zero. The only way of winning a fortune is getting it from somebody who already has it, by way of inheritance or marriage. The only way of becoming rich is being rich.

The world that spawned most Socialist theories, especially those of Saint-Simon, Proudhon, and Marx, was not a liberal world of free competition and equal opportunity. It was a polarized world devoid of a middle class: the 1% of haves and the 99% of have-nots.

What did this mean in practice? All talk of alleged opportunity in life granted by a Liberal version of Capitalism seemed naught but a myth. Big money was a magnet that attracted even bigger money. The lion’s share of national income, regardless of the pace of its growth, was distributed in the same proportion that was fixed in the structure of national capital. Simply put, those who controlled the majority of wealth gained the majority of income while making little to no effort.

America was the sole exception, with a lower concentration of wealth and a higher share of income distributed through free competition. Hence the image of the USA as a Promised Land, a land of opportunity, a magnet for migration. A good way of making money in Europe was moving to America (with the possibility of returning to the Old World with newfound wealth in tow left open).

No industrial growth, no Socialist attacks on the government or the bourgeoisie could change anything in the structure of this world until the start of World War I. This explains the revolutionary character of European socialism and the borderline utopian radicalism of its proposed solutions: Total socialization of industry, expropriation of the ruling classes, dictatorship of the proletariat, dreams of a World Revolution.


Source: Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty. Not part of Kholmogorov’s article.

This World Revolution did come to pass – but it started not in 1917, but in 1914. As brilliantly demonstrated by Thomas Piketty in Capital in the 21st Century, the Great War kickstarted a default of old European wealth. The horrors of war, the collapse of world trade, the Russian Revolution with its devastation and expropriation of the wealthy classes, the defeat and hyperinflation in Germany and Austria, the demographic crisis and budget deficit in the UK and France, the impeding dismantlement of colonialism – all of this led to a catastrophic decline in capital concentration in Europe.


Source: From Soviets to Oligarchs: Inequality and Property in Russia 1905-2016 by Filip Novokmet, Thomas Piketty, and Gabriel Zucman (2017). Not part of Kholmogorov’s article.

The revolutionary role of Russia, whose bourgeoisie was sacrificed at the altar of transformation, consisted not so much in socializing property and launching the Socialist experiment as in crashing the world rent. The enormous Russian debt that had fed millions of rentiers all over Europe turned into dust in the blink of an eye and doomed the rentier civilisation to extinction.

From the 1920s to the 1940s, the level of capital concentration in the world capitalist system continued its decline. Contributing factors included the Great Depression that had finally made its way to America, the devastation of World War II, the post-war wave of nationalisations, and tax deductions for national reconstruction. The ratio of capital to national income fell from 6:1 under the old regime to 2:1, i.e. the entirety of concentrated capital (be it in the form of real estate, shares, or foreign assets) became equal to only two years’ worth of national income.

What were the socioeconomic consequences of this Great Default? The grip of Capital loosened, its magnetic effect wasn’t as far-reaching, and the problem of economic equality was tackled within the framework of global Capitalism, without employing the radical recipes of fin de siècle Socialism. More precisely, those radical recipes were relegated to countries that were lagging behind in industrial development, such as Russia and China. The main goal of this radicalism was a wilful, determined achievement of an industrial breakthrough. Socialism in so-called Socialist countries was most concerned with productivity and not wealth redistribution.

Western countries, however, having no need for a “great leap forward”, were able to afford the luxury of a “Socialism sans Socialism”. Social Democracy, Christian Socialism, Swedish Socialism, Social Reformism all followed the same model. Without abolishing private property as such, without creating a dictatorship of Leftist parties, by limiting themselves to a selective nationalisation, they achieved economic equality by fostering a system of high wages and a well-developed social sphere, ushering in the welfare state. Essentially, it was a huge Ponzi scheme organized according to Keynesian precepts: The state took away a sizable portion of incomes via taxation in order to redistribute this money, also as income but under a more egalitarian distribution.

This was the zeitgeist of the treinte glorieuses of 1945-1975, when all Western governments followed, with slight variations, a single socioeconomic policy targeted at bringing social inequality as far down as possible, raising national income redistributed as salaries to the detriment of rents, dividends, etc., and widening the social responsibilities of the state. It was the age of a rising middle class, the 40% that follow the 10%-strong strata of the wealthy; this class laid claim to 30-40% of national wealth as opposed to just 5% before World War I. The 50% of the poor were stuck with the same 5% as before, but at least they gained a much greater chance of breaking out of poverty by dint of education, good work, entrepreneurial spirit and general savvy.

The social lifts seemed to be working. A peculiar anthem of the era is Chuck Berry’s tongue-in-cheek 1964 song You Never Can Tell, the accompaniment to John Travolta’s and Uma Thurman’s wild gyrating in Pulp Fiction. It’s the story of a young Black couple from New Orleans that makes decent money, buys a house, mail-order furniture, a fridge, a phonograph, even a used jalopy… New capital growth was slow but steady, not in the form of rent or foreign bonds but mostly as real estate, shares and equity.

The most positive Soviet-era memories of those who were impacted by the system are based on largely the same processes, just disguised with red banners and “Glory to the Communist Party” posters. The income levels of Soviet workers were incommensurably lower, as was the quality of consumer goods offered by the market (it took a long time to realise that the Western market of the era was just a mechanism for redistributing wealth that was gained through not entirely market-based means). However, the Soviet system was infinitely more helpful with regards to restoring and accumulating… capital. It was even explicitly called “capital construction.” Most Soviet citizens were granted, entirely free of charge, real estate that was worth many years of individual income and still commands an impressive market price. And so construction proceededly rapidly apace to build the cosy, even slightly bourgeois world of 1970s Soviet comedies.

The Socialist system, like that of the West, followed the route of reconstructive capitalism. Meanwhile, Socialism as an idea gradually fell out of favor over the 20th century as its main raison d’être, inequality, disappeared. The semi-Socialist policies of Western countries created a perfect model village of Capitalism: Low inequality levels, broad opportunities, intensive social lifts, high levels of welfare, a wide availability of consumer goods thanks to a developed and flexible market. All of it seemed like a brilliant alternative to Socialist experiments: Socializing not wealth, not industry, but revenue, redistributing it so that everyone could decide where to spend it within a wide spectrum of options.

An ideal world of freedom and equality finally seemed to be within grasping distance. It also had a place for racial and gender equality, the 1960s becoming a triumph for equal rights activists of all stripes. At the same time, Socialism was quagmired in internal antagonism, the total control of the state eroding all freedom and neutering the enjoyment and variety of everyday life.


Source: Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty. Not part of Kholmogorov’s article.

However, the economic developments of the treinte glorieuses were the gravedigger for both Soviet Socialism and Western Welfare Capitalism. They signed their own death warrants themselves. A natural accumulation of capital was underway, via saving a part of income in the West or direct capital giveaways by the state in the USSR. But a feature of capital is that it “magnetizes” and draws income. The owner of capital tends to rent-oriented, not work-orientated, behavior. This “capitalist” wants to gain interest and rent, to make his capital inheritable, to pay the lowest taxes he can, and thoroughly despises the have-nots whose claims to a share of his income seem to him most outrageous.

The late 1970s saw the rise of a new Capitalism with many faces, from British Thatcherism to US Reaganomics to the waves of privatization that swept away the Soviet system and its socialist economy. It was a massive uprising of capital that wanted back its right to extract revenue and spend it on itself without sharing with society. Just like the pendulum swinging towards Socialism in the early 20th century, its return towards pure Capitalism at the end of the century was most pronounced and most socially destructive in Russia. A savage, dog-eat-dog oligarchic Capitalism that took sway in the country freed itself from practically all burden of social responsibility. It was a tyranny of wealth limited only by the garrotte in the hands of thugs, be they mafia racketeers or bureaucrat raiders.

However, it would be unreasonable to claim that the nature of the processes that transpired in those decades was drastically different in Russia, Europe, and the US. It was a time of large predatory fortunes, scams and profiteering, social polarization, and growing inequality everywhere. Americans and Western Europeans, accustomed to slogans of “equal opportunity,” suddenly once again found themselves in the era of Rastignac, when the only way to get rich – was to be rich. Also, the very notion of wealth had changed: It was no longer a reasonable, comfortable prosperity, but a blatant, tacky luxury.

In The Price of Inequality, Stiglitz describes the behavior of modern American business as “rent-oriented.” Nobody wants to improve real economic indices, nobody wants to make money, everybody wants to live as a rentier off unfounded bonuses, “golden parachutes,” and other forms of self-financing so common in American corporations. Is it that different from Gazprom cleaning women?[1]

At the other end is the growth of inflamed poverty: according to Stiglitz, the life expectancy of US White men with no college education is plummeting at the rate of 1990s Russia. Over the last 15 years, everyone and their mother have talked about the “death of the middle class.” Piketty projects that at the current rate of increasing inequality, Europe will return to 19th century levels by 2050: 10% of the population will own 80% of capital, and 60% of all income.

The society built by the global anti-Capitalist uprising of the early 1900s is becoming a thing of the past, as is faith in market-based self-regulation of Capitalism, allegedly evolved enough to solve social issues. It turns out that self-regulation played no part whatsoever, and the growth of economic equality occurred due to a catastrophe that had wiped out the “old money,” paving way for a unique Social-Capitalist system. Conversely, growing capital concentration, seemingly normal for a self-regulating capitalism, simply reproduces inequality.

A Neo-Socialism is the natural response of a society that enshrines equality to the emergence of a new inequality. Will it be different from classic Socialism? It will be, and rather strongly so.

Destruction of private property and socialization of the means of production proved to be a rather dubious road to Socialism. In practice, they only led to the creation of a new class – the nomenklatura, a decline in individual initiative, logistic and planning errors leading to shortages and even famines. And, in the long run, they failed to prevent the restoration of Capitalism in its most savage incarnation. In addition, small-scale private property continued to develop even if when it all private property was nominally abolished.

The utopia of complete socialization is opposed by the following fact: As material progress unfolds, a human being demands more, not less space for individual existence and self-expression. The ideal of a normal human, as it turns out, is his own house, not an army barracks. Collectivism invariably leads to a tyranny of mediocrity and dooms the societies that adopt it to backwardness in scientific-technical development.

Under these conditions, Neo-Socialism presupposes, above all, the socialization of income and prohibitive measures on capital concentration. The world of future Socialism is a world where all offshores are annihilated and each and every fatcat is subjected to high income and property taxes, with inheritance laws hampering the transfer of super-wealth. This nullifies the magnetic effect of large capital, and most of income is redistributed as wages in the context of free labor and a free market. From an instrument of optimizing income, the market turns into an instrument of optimizing expenditure.

Here, however, the New Socialism faces several classic pitfalls, already singled out by Joseph Schumpeter in the mid-20th century. The impossibility of super-wealth, limiting unfair and imperfect competition, monopolism, and profiteering lead to the waning of that very entrepreneurial spirit that nurtures the Capitalist economy. There will a dearth of those interested in starting a new business to beat all competitors and make a nice buck. And, needless to say, an “inventor and innovator” certificate[2] is a feeble substitute for super-incomes.

The only remedy to entrepreneurial crisis within Neo-Socialism could be a change in business philosophy: Stop chasing big money and instead take pride in the individuality of your business, its attractiveness and social relevance. This, however, only works for small and middle-sized businesses, while bigger enterprises require investments (including non-returnable ones) and risks so enormous that a small-time businessman can only afford it if he is aiming for a super-income. An alternative is a planned, state-run innovation policy, a “Communism of ideas” that will be of dubious long-term efficacy.

A society that guarantees a relative equality of income would be doomed to low economic growth. However, it is precisely the form of economic growth stabilization – especially within the core of the Capitalist system – envisioned by Neo-Socialist economists, Piketty above all.

Another question inevitably brought forward by Neo-Socialism is its relations with globalization. In a Neo-Liberal world, globalization is a world market system that forces the expenses of wealthy and developed countries on the poor and undeveloped by creating “common markets” that stifle economic development. They confine poor countries to the lower stages of technological chains while keeping the rights to ideas and the final product in the hands of developed countries. This is exactly the principle of the Transatlantic and Trans-Pacific Partnerships, modern attempts to cement the eternal commercial dominance of the US.[3]

An alternative to this economic globalism is economic Nationalism; the greater the drop in economic growth and surge in inequality, the more that will it be visible. Countries with independent industrial potential and inner market resources will isolate themselves from the rest of the world as much as they are able to, from imports to economic immigrants, in order to maintain their development level despite in spite and at the expense of others.

This Nationalist alternative is seen as the greater threat to the Neo-Socialist project. Its defenders keep putting a lot of effort into criticising Nationalist and Protectionist ideas and rallying to the defence of Smithian dogmas of “relative advantage” that lead to international division of labor and creation of common markets.

Nevertheless, preserving global markets under a Neo-Socialist policy would require a serious “leveling of fortunes” everywhere on the planet. Wealthy countries, much like wealthy people, would be compelled to spend most of their wealth to improve the living standards of the poor up to a certain “golden mean.” According to modern GDP per capita statistics, it would be represented by the living standards of a Turkey or a Mexico – probably even lower in reality, because rich countries create much of their GDP and national income by virtue of being rich. Were they to be more modest in their lifestyle, much of their national product simply wouldn’t be produced.

Is it possible to downgrade the living standards of rich countries and prop up the poor ones to even slightly reduce global inequality? One may well doubt this, especially considering that for most of humanity, it is the quality of life in the developed countries that really matters, not the tyranny of averages. Everyone in the world dreams of a Lexus, not a Zaporozhets.[4]

And now we re-encounter a fundamental contradiction within the Socialist dream. It is inspired by a global historical trend towards equality and social justice, but the justice in question turns out to be a tyranny of mediocrity, the erasure of extremes of arrogant wealth and abject poverty. But how is the value of this justice comparable with the imperative of development that presupposes certain extremes? To move forward, one must desire to be the best, which is impossible without a certain, sufficiently wide score chart – even if it comes at the expense of others.

Combining the values of justice and equality with the values of development is a task yet unsolved by the New Socialism.



[1] Allusion to a news item at around the time of this article’s writing featuring a woman employed as a cleaner in the Gazprom office who had reported the theft of her Christian Dior handbag worth $26K.

[2] Allusion to the Soviet practice of rewarding technical and industrial innovators with honorary diplomas and certificates, as opposed to patent rights or other, more substantial awards.

[3] A cheap rear-wheel-drive supermini mass-produced in the USSR (and then, briefly, in independent Ukraine) in 1958-1994 that became a byword for shoddy, uncomfortable, and breakage-prone cars in (post-)Soviet culture.

[4] On January 23, 2017, the US announced its withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific trade agreement.


Translator’s Note

The article was written in April 2016 and reflects the political and economic situation of the era.

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The conventional view of nationalism is that it was a product of mass literacy and the modern state, underpinned by schoolbooks and Tombs of the Unknown Soldier. Recent years have seen challenges to this historiographic consensus at both a general level (e.g. Azar Gat’s Nations), and with respect to specific peoples (Robert Tomb’s recent The English and Their History comes to mind).

Our latest translation of Russian conservative intellectual Egor Kholmogorov is more than just a Russian contribution to this debate. It makes the much more radical argument that not only was Russia not a laggard in the process of nation-building, as European historiography has long claimed, but was at the very forefront of this process for longer than a millennium, from Novgorod’s implicit devotion to the Russian commonweal in the 13th century to Russia’s defense of a “Europe of Fatherlands” against the globalist tide of national annihilation today.


Mammoths and Patriots on the Russian Plain

A Brief History of Russian National Sentiment

by Egor Kholmogorov

Translated by Fluctuarius Argenteus


Sometimes I hear that saying “patriotism as a national idea” is akin to saying that water is wet. However, this argument comes from people with a very superficial understanding of how difficult it is to be patriot given that, unlike a comfortable cosmopolitanism, patriotism is the path of struggle. Also, they fail to realize how important the contribution of Russia and Russian culture is to shaping the very phenomenon of a patriotic consciousness in the modern world. The Russians developed patriotism as a national idea far earlier than most European nations. And it is Russia that keeps its faith in a “Europe of Fatherlands” or a “World of Fatherlands” in today’s age of identity erasure.

“Russia is the Motherland of elephants.” This zinger, coined as a mockery of Russian patriotism[1], is, however, entirely true, with a slight correction: Russia is the Motherland of mammoths. It is thanks to the hunt of those majestic beasts that the first humans on the Russian Plain, then half-concealed by the Great Glacier, created a culture highly developed for its time. Nowadays, archaeologists even speak of a “mammoth hunter civilization.”

Indeed, even nowadays the remains of long-term housing built out of mammoth ivory, exhibited at the museum of Kostenki village, Voronezh Oblast, are no less amazing than some stone ruins from Oriental or European antiquity. Overall, it seems that the mammoth joke is on the jokers.

With the same minor correction, one can claim that Russia is the Motherland of patriotism. Of course, patriotism is a word of Latin roots, also hearkening back to Greek. Of course, the cult of pride for one’s country, its history and its heroes, was developed in Greece and Rome, and new European nations learned this art from the ancients (for example, Old Rus’ via Byzantium).

But there are different kinds of patriotism. “The thrust of the Greek notion of freedom was directed at their closest neighbors: being free meant not being dependent on them”, as noted by Robert Wipper (1859 – 1954), one of our foremost Classical scholars. Only two or three times out of the entirety of Hellenic history the Greeks showed a capacity for working together and for a Pan-Hellenic patriotism, but even 300 Spartans, defending a bottleneck that led to the heart of Greece, believed they were fighting for “Laconic law.” The Greeks saw Hellas not as a common home country but as a common space for competing hometowns, peaceful if possible (at the Olympic Games).

Roman patriotism was more similar to ours. It was a not solely urban but also imperial patriotism, that of a city turned superpower. The history of a city that defended its freedom from foreign invaders and domestic tyrants, vanquished all of its neighbors, and transformed into a worldwide Empire formed the archetype of a patriotic myth for future generations.

The Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg houses a sculpture by Vasily Demut-Malinovsky (1776 – 1846) named The Russian Scaevola. A very Classical-looking Russian peasant with an axe is chopping off his arm bearing a brand of the letter N, meaning “Napoleon.” This patriotic legend was born as an imitation of a celebrated Roman historical myth. A young Roman patrician named Gaius Mucius, nicknamed Scaevola (“Left-Handed”), attempted to assassinate Porsenna, the Etruscan king. When he was caught and subjected to torture, he placed his right hand on a brazier and endured the pain until it became completely charred. Porcenna, terrified by the Roman’s defiant fortitude, sued for peace with his city.

However, it was the city that formed the nucleus of Roman patriotism. If Russia truly were “Muscovy”, if Moscow had been seen as a creator of a new world and not as a unifier of Russian lands, then we could have developed a Roman-styled urban patriotism.

But Russian patriotism existed long before the rise of Moscow, and had at its forefront not the City, but the Land. Russian patriotic consciousness is the oldest national consciousness among European peoples. There is no France yet, only a “Western Frankia.” There is no Germany yet, just the Holy Roman Empire, which would only have the “of the Germanic nation” appended to its name in 1512. England, only recently under the rule of Danish kings and separated into territories of Danelaw and Saxon Law, has fallen under the sway of new conquerors, the haughty Normans marked by both Frankish arrogance and Norse ruthlessness. Meanwhile, a Russian chronicler is already penning the title of his work containing the question: “From whence came the Russian Land?”[2]

150 years before that, Russian envoys already come to Constantinople bearing the words, “We are of Russian kindred”, and they come, as the chronicle puts it, “from the great Russian prince, and all other princes, and all people of the Russian land.” The oldest historical document mentioning the Russians, the Annales Bertiniani from the year 838, already contains this “Russian kindred” formula (id est gentem suam, Rhos vocari dicebant). The chronicler still remembers the differences between Polans, Drevlians, and Vyatichi[3], he knows that Russian princes united Varangians and Slavs, but the unity of this society named “Rus’” seems to him indisputable and beyond all doubt. The first Russian chronicler deliberately constructs the image of Russian history as that of a unified people creating a unified country and subject to a unified authority. The same is discussed by Hilarion of Kiev (11th century) in his Sermon on Law and Grace with regards to Prince Vladimir: “For he was the sole ruler of his land, bringing all neighboring countries under his sway, some of them by peace, and the unruly ones by the sword.

Those three elements – Land, People, Empire – are, in their unity, the true formula of Russian patriotism, inherited by Russia from the times when Western European peoples had no patriotic consciousness to speak of. Only in 1214, when French king Philip II Augustus crushed the joint forces of the Holy Roman Empire and England near Bouvines, can we discover a semblance of French national pride. Only three decades later, an anonymous Russian scribes writes the Lay of the Ruin of the Russian Land, a haunting patriotic manifesto lamenting the destruction of Rus’ in the flames of the Mongol invasion.

Due to the vagaries of history, the tale of the destruction per se is not extant[4], yet we can still read the preamble, a veritable hymn to old pre-Mongol Rus’ demonstrating the height of its patriotic sentiment. The Lay is a love-letter to the Russian Land, a paean to its beauty and wealth. In my opinion, the text should be learned by heart as a part of school curriculum.

“Oh Russian Land, bright with brightness and adorned with adornments! Many are thy beauties: thou art adorned by many lakes, rivers and wells famed in thy lands, mountains, steep hills, tall oak woods, clean fields, marvellous beasts, diverse birds, countless great cities, marvellous villages, vineries of monasteries, houses of the Lord and redoubtable princes, honest boyars, noblemen aplenty. The Russian Land is filled with everything, oh true Christian faith!”

But it is not just the beauty of nature of Rus’ that he relishes; it is also its might, its dominion over other nations and the prestige of its rulers:

“From here to Hungarians and Poles and Czechs, from Czechs to Yotvingians[5], from Yotvingians to Lithuanians to Germans, from Germans to Karelians, from Karelians to Ustyug[6], where live the pagan Toymichi[7], and beyond the Breathing Sea[8], from the sea to Bulgars, from Bulgars to Burtasians[9], from Burtasians to Cheremis[10], from Cheremis to Mordva[11] – everything did the Lord bring under the sway of Christian people. The pagan lands submitted to the Grand Prince Vsevolod[12], and his father Yuri, prince of Kiev[13], and his grandfather Vladimir Monomakh[14], with whose name the Polovtsy[15] scared their children in their cradles. And Lithuanians dared not crawl out of their swamps, and Hungarians fortified their stone cities with iron gates so that the great Vladimir would not strike at them, and the Germans rejoiced, living far away beyond the Blue Sea[16]”

This common national memory, the idea of the Russian Land as a unity was the force that kept Russia from disintegration and destruction during the years of the Mongol yoke. Serapion, Bishop of Vladimir (? – 1275), lamented that “our majesty is brought to the ground, our beauty is dead, our wealth profits others, our works inherited by pagans, our land is the legacy of outlanders.” This, by the way, is the best answer of a contemporary of the Mongol invasion to those that today would present this incursion from the East as a time of friendship and cooperation.

“We cannot relish our own bread.” This formula of Serapion’s is a precise description of centuries-long Russian woes that intensified in the years of the Horde: we cannot have the joy of relishing our bread, it is either won with blood and tears, or stolen by foreign invaders, or the harvest fails. A simple Russian dream: to relish our own bread.

Nevertheless, that dream required fighting for. The Russians afforded particular reverence to those that would fight for Rus’, like Saint Alexander Nevsky. For Novgorod, he was both protector and hangman when he forced a rich mercantile city untouched by the Mongol invasion to pay the tribute imposed by the Horde. This was done to relieve the burden of other Russian lands, pillaged and impoverished. He chopped heads off, drowned peolpe, gouged eyes out; he should have been remembered as a tyrant. Yet here are the words of a Novgorod chronicler in the First Novgorod Chronicle (oldest recension) regarding the prince’s passing: “Merciful Lord, reveal Thy Countenance to him in the ages to come, for he labored much for the sake of Novgorod and the whole of Russian Land.”

“For the whole of Russian Land”, words written in Novgorod, a city oftentimes presented today as something of an independent state forcefully subjugated by Muscovy. However, in spite of all trade ties to the West, Novgorodians gave priority to a Pan-Russian patriotic sentiment, even judging the prince that had harshly mistreated them from the viewpoint of an integral Russian cause, and not just that of their city.

That is the ideological foundation of the unified Russian state, the great Russia, which appeared not with a delay compared to Western Europe, but with a lead. Dmitry Likhachov (1906 – 1999) noted in his book Russian Culture of the Period of Russian Nation-State Formation (1946): “The origins of national elements of specific cultures are more or less simultaneous everywhere in Europe, but only in Russia do they receive support in the form of a proper Russian nation-state. That is why the national character of 14-15th century culture of Rus’ is more pronounced than in that of England, France, or Germany of the same period. The unity of the Russian language is much stronger than that of French, English, German, Italian national languages. Russian literature is much more subordinate to the theme of state-building than that of other nations…”

I cannot agree with Lev Gumilyov’s (1912 – 1992) statement claiming that “they came to the Kulikovo Field[17] as men of Moscow, Serpukhov, Rostov, Beloozero, Smolensk, Murom, etc., but returned as Russians.” The desire to frame the great battle as a turning point is understandable, but the warriors came to fight, came as Russians already, not only those from from the Vladimir Principality and its vassals, but also from Lithuanian-held Rus’. They realized quite well that the true Pan-Russian cause was that of Moscow and not Lithuania. Simeon the Proud, the uncle of Dmitry Donskoy, the victor of Kulikovo, already claimed the title “of all Russias”[18], and the Byzantine emperor referred to him in his epistles as riks pasis Rossias, “the king of all Russia.” Therefore, the warriors of Kulikovo were already fighting for Russia and just Moscow.

Thanks to Joan of Arc, the French got the idea that Englishmen have no right to claim La Belle France for themselves. The Hundred Years’ War in general played an enormous part in developing national awareness in European peoples. It would suffice to compare two versions of the same chronicle written by the famous Jean Froissart with a difference of several decades and describing the same events. The first version is steeped in chivalric ideas, the second one is inspired by the concept of nationality. Froissart interprets the same act first as conforming to the concept of honor, then as typical of English or French character.

In spite of this dichotomy, it is hard to imagine a 15th or early 16th-century French or English king justifying his claims to a certain territory with a national principle, not defending his own domain but demanding to cede a different one “because Frenchmen live there.” At the same time, barely freed from the yoke of the Horde, Russia begins an irredentist struggle for Russian lands. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Livonia are seen as thieves of “ancestral lands” inherited by Russian princes from their forefather, Prince Vladimir.

The Papal envoys, while attempting to cajole Vasily III into a war with distant Turkey, got the following reply from the boyars: “The Grand Prince wants his ancestral domain, the Russian Land” (at that particular moment this claim also included Kiev). Those demands were invariably followed by lengthy historical justifications of the rights Russian state that would shock European diplomats.“Russian diplomats skilfully used their historical learning and created a complex theory of Muscovite princely power that elevated the prestige of the Russian monarchy… It was a creative political ideology that directed the politics of the Russian state towards the defence of national interests and culture in the complex milieu of European civilisation”, writes Dmitry Likhachov in National Consciousness of Old Rus’.

At that time Europe was engulfed in wars of religion. The battle of Catholics and Protestants almost succeeded in stamping out the sprouts of nascent national consciousness. Only horror and revulsion at the atrocities inflicted by kin and kith speaking the same language keeps national consciousness alive in spite of religious boundaries. European nations mostly grew out of a rejection of religious schism, and this was a positive and unifying side of European nationalism. But it was also marred by a certain Hellenic particularism, all too often national bigotry was directed at closest neighbors and formed a nation based on this hostility. What are the French without hating Englishmen, Germans, or Spaniards?

Russian national awareness evolved in a different way. It was not directed against a neighbor. Even the attitude towards Poland-Lithuania, in spite of incessant hostilities, never developed into an ethnophobia. If Russophobia is an unfortunate fixture of Polish national awareness, the Russian side of the conflict limited itself to “I’ll have my revenge and then forget.” Russian self-awareness was based on a positive patriotism, on love for one’s own land, people, culture, and ruler. The rejection of others expressed itself not in hatred but in a good-natured gibe similar to the manner in which The Lay of the Ruin describes the neighbors of Rus’.

The “foreign” becomes a threat only if it is injurious and harmful to Russian identity. It is menacing not as an external but as an internal threat, as demonstrated by the Time of Troubles. Russia has no difficulty in repelling invaders but wasted much effort on surpassing internal conflict that almost wrecked the state itself. Ivan Timofeev (ca. 1555 – 1631), one of the most acute observers of the Time of Troubles, saw the root of all evil in an obsession with all things foreign that had engulfed Ivan the Terrible and Boris Godunov. He chastises the first Russian czar for straying from national identity:

“He slew many nobles of his czardom that were loyal to him, others he exiled into lands of heathen faiths, and instead of them he favored those who had come from foreign lands… That is why we are surprised: even people of moderate reason would have understood that one cannot trust one’s enemies forever. And he, a man of such great wisdom, was laid low by his own weak conscience, willingly putting his head into serpent’s jaws. All enemies that came from other lands would have never defeated him if he hadn’t surrendered himself into their hands. Alas! All of his secrets were in the hands of barbarians, and they did what they pleased with him. I will say nothing more – he was a traitor to himself.”

Timofeev reproaches the common folk as well. “Their tongues grew mute and their mouths were shut with bribery; all of our feelings were weakened by fear” is his description of Boris Godunov’s rise to power, the ascendancy of a man who was seen by many as a criminal and a child-murderer. The same complacence in the face of wickedness at the beginning of the Time of Trouble is lambasted by Avraamy Palitsyn (? – ca. 1625), who speaks of “a mad silence of the entire people.”

The restoration of the country begins with a loud patriotic proclamations: the epistles of Patriarch Hermogenes (ca. 1530 – 1612), calling Russia to resist brigands and invaders; the letters of the Nizhny Novgorod volunteer army[19] calling to “stand united against common enemies and Russian brigands that spill our own blood in the country.” Patriotic rhetoric and patriotic awareness were the remedy that nursed Russia back to health in the moment where its statehood was in tatters. The Chronograph (1617)[20] describes the Council of the Land that elected a new dynasty[21] by painting a picture of national unity: “From the borders to the hinterlands of the Russian land the Orthodox people, men both meek and powerful, rich and poor, old and young, were granted the generous gift of life-giving wisdom and illuminated with the light of virtuously minded concord. Even though they came from different lands, they spoke with one voice, even though they were dissimilar as they lived far apart, they were gathered in one council as equals.”

The Time of Troubles and the heroism of Minin and Pozharsky’s resistance army are a damning argument against the popular myth that denies the existence of the Russian nation in that period. On the contrary, Russia, in the depth of its national and patriotic consciousness, was a step or two ahead of even the most progressive of neighbouring countries, where even a century later collusion with foreigners against one’s own nation was not considered dishonorable and considered a legitimate political instrument.

In Russia this was already unthinkable. There, patriotic consciousness was a hallmark of identity, which enabled the reunification of Ukraine, the patriotic heroism of the Great Northern War that required a mighty collective effort of the entire nation to carve out a space among great European powers, the brilliant achievements of Catherine the Great, the majestic victory over Napoleon in 1812. The last war is particularly remarkable: not only ex post facto, but even during the campaign itself it was seen as, and called, a Patriotic War. All gestures and words of the actors in this patriotic drama were made for the cause of the Fatherland.

The Russian propaganda machine left Napoleon no chance to subjugate the Russian people or entrench his dominance. The narcissistic conqueror was opposed not only by soldiers but by artists of rhetoric, from patriotic admiral Alexander Shishkov (1754 – 1841) who wrote the czar’s manifestos to populist propaganda virtuoso Count Fyodor Rostopchin (1763 – 1826) and his broadsides[22]. Without understanding the cultural and symbolic background we can never understand the most important of historical events, from the Battle of Borodino, fought mainly for political reasons, where every Russian officer saw death or injury as the highest honor, to the epic and terrifying fire of Moscow. Russia opposed Napoleon not only with a superior fighting spirit but also with a superior, elaborate patriotic ideology.

Even in Europe, German nationalism was not a predecessor but perhaps a byproduct of Russian patriotic resistance to Napoleon. Russia created a vast network of resistance, inspiring many European minds. Alexander Svechin (1878 – 1938), a prominent military theorist, gives the following description of the German front of Russian propaganda wars:

Russia organized a German Committee under the de facto leadership of Baron Heinrich von und zu Stein, the political head of the German national movement, who consented to leading the Russian propaganda effort. With a brilliant cadre of German patriotic officers that had resigned Prussian service when Prussia had been strongarmed into an alliance with Napoleon, Stein decided to create a German Legion staffed with German deserters and prisoners of war from La Grande Armée. The Legion was intended as a revolutionary challenge to a Germany enslaved by the French and then the core of an armed insurrection within Germany itself.

A fine example of propaganda tracts published in Saint Petersburg in October 1812 at the printers of the Senate, financed by an absolute monarch, is the “Brief Catechism of the German Soldier” written by Ernst Moritz Arndt by special commission. It claimed that German soldiers used to have their own emperor, but then they made a pact with Satan and Hell in the guise of Napoleon. People who were once free became slaves and are being sent to far-flung countries to turn free and happy peoples into slaves just as themselves. A German emperor sends a German soldier to war; must he fight? No, says Arndt; the idea of monarchy is subordinate to that of the nation and Fatherland. If the sovereign forces his soldiers to oppress the innocent and violate their rights, if he conspires against the happiness and freedom of his own subjects, if he colludes with the enemies of his own nation, if he allows his population to be robbed, dishonored, and raped, then following the orders of such a sovereign would be an affront to divine law. German honor commands the German soldier to break the sword that German despots force him to raise for the cause of his nation’s enemies, the French. The soldier must remember that the Fatherland and nation are timeless and deathless, while monarchs and all kinds of superiors will stay in the past with their petty ambitions and disgraceful misdeeds…

The success of propaganda among German regiments that defended Napoleon’s operation lines in 1812 was largely instrumental for the Berezina battle plan, an encirclement of the La Grande Armée core that had delved too deep into Moscow.

This fact seems like a veritable mockery of the popular Western “time zones of nationalism” theory formulated by Ernest Gellner. Allegedly, national consciousness in Europe develops from West to East. The further to the West, the more developed the national sentiment, the stronger its civic nature. Conversely, the further you look to the East, the more tardy and ethnocentric the national sentiment there.

As we can see, this is patently untrue. Russian national sentiment is not younger but older than German, or even the French and English. It is the oldest among the modern peoples of Europe, based on an identity of the Russian Land already pronounced in 10-11th centuries. There is no reason for assigning the Russians a more recent birth date. At the same time, the Russian self-awareness is perhaps not the most but the least ethnocentric, sometimes overly so, causing certain inconveniences for the Russians themselves.

The object of this sentiment is not the place of a particular ethnic group among others but the Fatherland, the Russian Land, its beauty and grandeur among other lands.

The Russians were indeed late in realising the ethnic aspect of nationalism, not due to an alleged backwardness, but because they were late in encountering ethnic nationalism directed against them, mostly in the western borderlands of the Russian Empire. A certain part was played by the German nationalism in the Baltic region; having clashed with it, Yuri Samarin (1819 – 1876) formulated his idea of Russians as a nation that needs equal rights within its own empire in his Letters from Riga (1849)[23].

In spite of the “time zone” theory, German nationalism – in the form of a Pan-German, unifying, state-driven national sentiment – was not a predecessor but a product of Russian patriotism that manifested in the anti-Napoleonic struggle. Russia stimulated German nationalism as an opposition to a Pan-European empire, not imitated it. Russia became a protector of identity and national diversity in Europe in spite of all attempts to forge it into some faceless union.

Nowadays, Russian patriotism preserves the same importance. As justly reminded by Vladimir Putin: “For Russia, for a Russian person […] the patriotic sentiment is very important, the sense of national belonging that is now, to their chagrin, being eroded in certain European countries.” In today’s Europe, the eyes of those who seek to preserve their national identity, those who are patriots and nationalists in the best sense of the word, are fixed upon Moscow. Conversely, those who yell the loudest about a “Russian menace” and a “European unity in the face of Russian aggression” are mostly partisans of a complete erasure of European faces and borders, oriented towards the EU Quarter of Brussels and the White House.

As I have attempted to demonstrate, this is really old news. Russia is still the Motherland of patriotism in Europe, and now, in defiance of an artificial denationalisation imposed by Communism, we are returning to our old mission – keeping the flame of nationality in Europe, preserving it as a Europe of Fatherlands and not a public thoroughfare.


[1] The origins of this memetic phrase are in the so-called Anti-Cosmopolitan campaign enacted in the final years of Stalinism (1948-53); one of its prominent traits was the “discovery” Russian “firsts” in science, invention, the arts, etc.; many of such “discoveries” were based on dubious or outright falsified data. The “Motherland of elephants” joke was born as a parody of this propaganda blitz.

[2] An allusion to the Primary Chronicle, a.k.a. The Tale of Past Years (ca. 1110), Russia’s oldest surviving historical chronicle traditionally attributed to Nestor (ca. 1056 – 1114), a monk of the Kiev Monastery of the Caves. Its first words, often interpreted as the work’s title, are “These are the tales of past years, of where the Russian Land comes from, of who reigned the first in Kiev, and of how the Russian Land came to be.”

[3] Early East Slavic tribal groups.

[4] The anonymous 13th-century work only survives in fragments and quotations, most of them limited to its poetic preamble.

[5] Baltic tribal group.

[6] Modern-day Velikiy Ustyug, a city in the far Russian North.

[7] An obscure Finno-Ugric tribe.

[8] The White Sea or the Arctic Ocean.

[9] A defunct Volga ethnic group of unknown origin.

[10] An ancient name for the Mari ethnic group, in the modern-day Mariy El Republic of Russia.

[11] A Finno-Ugric ethnic group, in the modern-day Mordovia Republic of Russia.

[12] Vsevolod the Big Nest (1154 – 1212), Grand Prince of Vladimir.

[13] Yuri Dolgorukiy (ca. 1099 – 1157), Grand Prince of Suzdal and Kiev, founder of Moscow.

[14] Vladimir Monomakh (1053 – 1125), Grand Prince of Kiev. Famous, among other things, for organizing successful collective Russians expeditions against steppe nomads.

[15] Russian name for Cumans, nomads of Turkic origin.

[16] The Baltic.

[17] The battle of Kulikovo (1380) was fought by a Muscovy-led coalition of Russian principalities and was the first major Russian victory over Mongols in decades.

[18] This traditional English translation of title is something of a misnomer, a more precise one would be “of the whole of Rus’” or “of the united Rus’.”

[19] A popular resistance force organized in 1611 in the Volga city of Nizhny Novgorod by the merchant Kuzma Minin and the nobleman Dmitry Pozharsky with the goal of suppressing roving bands of brigands, expelling Polish invaders, and preventing the complete collapse of the Russian state. It was instrumental in defeating the Polish garrison in Moscow in 1612 and restoring an independent Russian monarchy in 1613.

[20] Compendium of Russian and world history from Biblical events to recent times, including the events of the Time of Troubles.

[21] An irregularly convened assembly of delegates from all estates of Russian feudal society (sometimes including peasantry) that discussed and voted on the affairs of the state, active ca. 1549 – ca. 1683. The Council of 1613 was particularly important for electing a new dynasty (the Romanovs) to take the vacant Russian throne.

[22] As governor of Moscow during the Napoleonic invasion, Rostopchin became famous for the mass printing and distribution of colorful broadsides with grotesque caricatures and easy-to-grasp text, written in a deliberately folksy style, that satirized the enemy and called for a mass popular resistance.

[23] In 1846, as a government inspector, Samarin travelled through what now is Latvia, documenting many facts of abusive and arrogant attitude towards Russia and the Russians by privileged Baltic German nobility amid the tacit or open support of Russian government officials. Drawing from those experiences, he published a pamphlet titled Letters from Riga (1849), considered one of the first Slavophile manifestos and a seminal document of modern Russian nationalism. The publication caused a scandal that led to Samarin’s brief imprisonment and exile for “fomenting anti-government dissent.”

Translator’s Notes

  1. Several abridgements were made in accordance with the author’s wishes.
  2. The translator took the liberty of making the text more accesible to readers not possessing an in-depth knowledge of Russian history. All names were rendered in their full form, and mentions of most Russian historical figures come with birth and death years for easier reference.
  3. Only names, events, etc. that cannot be identified with a quick Google or Wikipedia search were annotated. So were several allusions to historical events known to every educated Russian but obscure in the West.
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Summary of the Russian nationalist response to #ParisAttacks.

A Cruel French Lesson, by Egor Kholmogorov appeared in the November 14 issue of Komsomolskaya Pravda, one of the leading Russian dailies. It outlines what is pretty much the standard right-wing conservative Russian position on the #ParisAttacks.

Some context: After the terrorist strikes, many outspoken Russian liberals rushed to wrap their digital selves in the French flag; a status signalling action made easy by Facebook’s provision of a French flag avatar coloration app (one could cynically add: To mark the most significant event in the world since the US legalization of gay marrage). This is in stark contrast to the relative silence over the Russian victims of the terrorist downing of the aircraft over the Sinai – and for that matter, the silence in regards to Lebanon, and for that matter, for Syria pretty much nonstop since 2011. (The Egyptians at least were commendably consistent, bathring the Pyramids in the flags of all four of the aforementioned nations).

To be sure, many Russians who adopted the French flag did so on the fly, with no intentions of making any overtly political point. However, some of the more ideologically pro-Western Russians were more to the point in justifying increased attention for French versus Russian victims of jihadi terrorism. For instance, the Russian liberal “hipster” publication GQ was very explicit in defending its decision to feature the Paris Attacks over KGL9268 on the grounds that they idenfied with the City of Lights as a “permanent festival,” whereas for them their own homeland was a permanent “territory of woe” and thus unworthy of any particular attention (this binary characterization might seem rather optimistic to anyone actually familiar with the Parisian banlieues). An English language illustration of this phenomenon is this Foreign Policy piece by Julia Ioffe, which bizarrely justifies the discrepancy in terms of the better performance of French special forces at Bataclan relative to Nord-Ost (no mention being made of the fact that the Chechen terrorists in 2002 were ten times as numerous and far better equipped).

Bearing this in mind, the patriotic and conservative types – seeing such widespread attitudes in the Russian media as an implicit endorsement of the theme that Westerners are first-rate peoples and the center of civilization, as opposed to disposable Russians in peripheral Eurasia – have not been overly concerned with sensitivity right now, which is clearly expressed in Kholmogorov’s article. He is not writing for Westerners, but for Russians on his side of the domestic culture war.

To be sure, translation ≠ endorsement, and there are several points one can take issue with him on. There is too much butthurt over Charlie Hebdo, which – contrary to its high media profile – is in reality a very low circulation publication in France itself. Furthermore, the French state obviously has no obligation to apologize for it. Tying the emergence of ISIS to France’s Levantine policies between the wars is far too radical a causal stretch and besides the point in relations to current French policies anyway. Perhaps most critically of all, the Russian obsession with the West – most prominent amongst the Westernists, of course, but still making itself felt, if in an inverted form, amongst nationalists like Kholmogorov – is perhaps unseemly and even maladaptive, since ironically one could say that this merely reflects and confirms Russia’s status as a peripheral country.

Nonetheless, I believe the vast majority of the points Kholmogorov makes are fair and to the point, and moreover the fact that something so “politically incorrect” can be published in a major Russian daily – can one imagine anything similar in The New York Times? Or even The Daily Mail? – testifies to the fact that Putin’s Russia, ethnically blank slatist as it might formally be, is nonetheless as good ally as any to those Europeans who still support European civilization and self-determination.


A Cruel French Lesson

by Egor Kholmogorov

The hideous acts of terrorism in France strongly resemble a fast-forward video of the decades long terrorist war that has been waged against Russia. The massacre at the Bataclan theater is basically a French version of Nord-Ost…

So we in Russia understand what is now happening with the French like few others.

But this tragedy occured at a rather inconvenient time in relations between the two countries. It came on the heels of a French magazine’s vulgar lampooning of the victims of the terrorist attack on our aircraft over the Sinai. I have not seen a single public apology from the French. Our officials are the only people who have tried reassuring us that real French people are ashamed about this… Thus, all expressions of sympathy, alas, have to begin with a caveat: “Regardless of your mockery of the terrorist attack against us, we do really feel for you.”

We feel for you because we ourselves have felt such tragedies on our shoulders. We sympathize, and we sympathize sincerely.

But approaching this with a cool head, one can’t deny that this case is also a matter of France paying the bills, and for multiple accounts at once.

The terrorists shouted, “This is for Syria!” And this is, at some level, “For Syria” – not in the sense that French aviation is bombing ISIS, but in that when France after the First World War received a mandate to govern Syria, it first divided that territory into five states along confessional lines: Christian, Alawite, Sunni, Druze, and Armenian. Then it took them and used them to glue together two states – Syria and Lebanon, thus laying the foundations for civil war in both countries. Had they either kept Syria unified, or properly divided, there would have been no ISIS.

Two years ago, President Hollande rattled his sabre harder than anyone else in pushing for an American intervention in Syria [against Assad], and was only narrowly stopped at the last moment by Vladimir Putin.

It was Hollande and his predecessor Sarkozy who supported the overthrow of Gaddafi, who welcomed the Islamic Revolution in Egypt, who seeded the flames of war in Syria and in so doing became directly responsible for the creation of ISIS, Al-Nusra, and similar demons, for the spread of their activities to France and all Europe, and for the overwhelming waves of refugees.

When in January murderers took care of the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo, instead of a sane adjustment to security and migration policy, Hollande was only interested in preventing Marine Le Pen from getting any political kudos and kickstarted the hysterical tolerance campaign “Je suis Charlie.”

Moreover, the objects of sympathy should not have been a bunch of talentless hacks, but those French citizens who were in danger of becoming victims of terrorism in the future!

Migration policy should have been tightened, and border controls strengthened. A campaign should have begun to fight against terrorist organizations globally and against the Islamist underground in France itself.

Instead of this, the orgy of “tolerance” continued, as Hollande occupied himself with weightier matters, such as saving the Kievan junta and clamping down on Mistral sales. France became a best friend of Qatar – one of the main sponsors of radical terrorism, including ISIS.

And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you…

The most horrifying fact of this strategy is that the killers in the Bataclan spoke good French with no accent. This means that they are not recent immigrants, recently arrived from the Middle East. These are French high school graduates, perhaps – French citizens, to whom they tried to teach the lessons of tolerance.

There is a hard-hitting film from 2008 starring Isabelle Adjani called La Journée de la Jupe. A female teacher in an immigrant quadrant of Paris, despairing of the thuggery and unwillingness to learn of her students, and tired of their barbaric morals, finds a gun in the possession of one of them. She grabs the gun and proceeds to take the class hostage, and force the impudent rascals to study the biography of Molière and respect women at gunpoint. The police and bureaucrats dance about in the background, convinced that the “intolerant” teacher is the main threat. Special forces prepare to storm the classroom. But in the end, the gun ends up in the hands of one of the pupils, and there begins a bloody massacre. This is a very enlightenening film that everyone should watch today.

So it is impossible to say that the French themselves are unaware of what is happening with them. And it is no accident that the Front National of Marine Le Pen is France’s leading party. But the political system there has been specially arranged in such a way that even with a plurality of the votes, the National Front still get the smallest amount of seats in Parliament. This means that the situation will only change when the Front National starts getting more than 50% of the total votes.

Dictatorships can always be excused away by the fact that the incompetence of the man in power is paid for by the sufferings of people who never elected him. But France is a democratic country. It has political leaders who were ready to rearrange politics in a way that could avert tragedy. They could have voted for Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002 and 2007, and for Marine Le Pen in 2012. They not only could have, but should have, voted for Marine in 2012. But instead, the French elected Hollande and his party of tolerant hypocrites.

Today has revealed the frightful cost of that decision. The streets of Paris have been stained with blood, as mobs of fightened and bewildered people rampaged through the city.

But will even this shock change anything? If, regardless of the newly introduced State of Emergency, the regional elections of December 6th go ahead – will the French finally be ready to put a stop to all this, or will they continue to vote for freedom for terrorists, and equality and brotherhood with bandits?

I am afraid that the answer to this horror will be a continuation of the same old, same old. Western propaganda has already adapted an essentially totalitarian tenor: “We will rally all the more closely around the values of multiculturalism, we will not allow any expressions of extremism, this is all Assad’s fault, if only he had stepped down – none of this would have happened…”

Unfortunately, it has become clear that what we are seeing is a live translation of the fall of the Roman Empire under the onslaught of the barbarians. The same stubborn refusal to understand what is going on, the same unpreparedness to take serious decisions, the same vacillation and buffoonery in the moment of mortal danger. It would be great if wonderful France were to finally find its Jeanne D’Arc.

But that is hard to believe.

Therefore, Russia’s main task is to learn its lesson – and to defend itself. To defend its territory. Its people. Its aircraft.

To support its allies. To remove the contagion of terrorism from the Middle East and everywhere else. To be prepared to settle accounts not just with its perpetrators, but also its sponsors.

And to avoid hoping that either the French state or Europe will learn any lessons from this. That they will change their politics, join us in fighting our common enemy, or stop behaving like an elephant in a china shop in the East. To plan our moves on such hopes would be nothing more than self-deceit.

But with the French, we sympathize. Stay strong!

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Russian conservative Egor Holmogorov argues that Muslim immigrants in Europe and Russia can’t have their cake and eat it too: Either they take responsibility for “lone wolf” terrorists, or they stop demanding privileges as a community.

Human Sacrifices

Europe has just undergone a week of human sacrifices.


The French writer Dominique Venner committed suicide at the altar of Notre Dame de Paris.

At first, it was suggested it was a protest against the legalization of gay marriage in France. But the note Venner left behind – who was, incidentally, a specialist on Russia and the history of our Civil War – allows us to place his action in a wider context: This was not so much a protest against a specific law, as against the cultural, civilizational, religious, and moral suicide of Europe. Let me acquaint the reader with the full text:

“I am healthy in body and mind, and I am filled with love for my wife and children. I love life and expect nothing beyond, if not the perpetuation of my race and my mind. However, in the evening of my life, facing immense dangers to my French and European homeland, I feel the duty to act as long as I still have strength. I believe it necessary to sacrifice myself to break the lethargy that plagues us. I give up what life remains to me in order to protest and to found. I chose a highly symbolic place, the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, which I respect and admire: she was built by the genius of my ancestors on the site of cults still more ancient, recalling our immemorial origins.

While many men are slaves of their lives, my gesture embodies an ethic of will. I give myself over to death to awaken slumbering consciences. I rebel against fate. I protest against poisons of the soul and the desires of invasive individuals to destroy the anchors of our identity, including the family, the intimate basis of our multi-millennial civilization. While I defend the identity of all peoples in their homes, I also rebel against the crime of the replacement of our people.

The dominant discourse cannot leave behind its toxic ambiguities, and Europeans must bear the consequences. Lacking an identitarian religion to moor us, we share a common memory going back to Homer, a repository of all the values ​​on which our future rebirth will be founded once we break with the metaphysics of the unlimited, the baleful source of all modern excesses.

I apologize in advance to anyone who will suffer due to my death, first and foremost to my wife, my children, and my grandchildren, as well as my friends and followers. But once the pain and shock fade, I do not doubt that they will understand the meaning of my gesture and transcend their sorrow with pride. I hope that they shall endure together. They will find in my recent writings intimations and explanations of my actions.”

Despite the blasphemy implicit in suicide, Venner acted, nonetheless, as a man of the Christian faith. In this sense, his action was the opposite of that of another “hero” of the contemporary European resistance, Anders Breivik. Breivik carried out a massacre in protest, killing people who for the most part had nothing to do with Norway’s immigration policy.

He acted like his Viking forebears, who, if one was to believe the sagas, bestowed the title of “Child Lover” on those rare warriors who refused to impale babies on the end of a spear. Breivik, by the way, behaved honorably in court, and was fully prepared to face the death penalty if he was sentenced to it; and in the end, he achieved a moral victory in his case – a most astounding outcome, considering the sheer ghastliness of his crime.

Venner took an entirely different road.

Under the formal cover of a pagan sacrifice, worthy of the heights of Roman valor, he demonstrated a Christian soul – taking not other lives, but his own, all for the sake of awakening the human spirit. That this splendid action incited hysteria on the part of the FEMEN stripper troupe, who didn’t hesitate to carry out another of their “actions” at the place where Venner died, testifies to the impotent rage of the demons of both the pagan and Christian worlds.

Speaking of FEMEN, it’s quite a fascinating story; full of impudence in Russia and Ukraine, they have suffered a crushing moral defeat in Europe within less than a year. First, the Archbishop of Brussels Andre-Joseph Leonard reacted to their shrieking delirium with Christian patience and humility; now, they have brought eternal contempt on themselves through their dancing on a person’s place of death.


There remains only one question: Why are these ladies so free to violate social order in ostensibly law-based states? How are they able to break into Notre Dame and create a pigsty there for the second time in 6 months? It would seem that the French Ministry of Internal Affairs has no answer to this question.

Anyway, continuing. Dominique Venner didn’t so much carry out his action to ban homosexuals from adopting children – that is but one of the many facets of Europe’s suicide – as to finally end this epoch, in which a soldier of a European army – living in his own country, and his own city – could just have his head cut on the streets.


After two Muslim fanatics cut off the head of one of Her Majesty’s soldiers in London, the British authorities advised servicemen not to go out in the streets in their uniforms, or best of all to not to leave their barracks at all. But isn’t this how hostile troops behave themselves in occupied territories? “Achtung! Partisanen!” The last time London experienced occupation was nearly a thousands years back, and it must be a new feeling for the Brits, especially considering that the occupying isn’t done by them, but to them – with the full agreement and support of Her Majesty’s government and parliament, which are now preoccupied with far weightier issues – say, the legalization of gay marriage.

“Islam has no responsibility for what just happened, and Muslims make great contributions to British society,” British leaders rush to proclaim, as always. Doing anything possible to avoid offending Muslims is evidently given a higher priority than expressing sympathy to the family and close ones of the deceased, or to soothe British society.

Is it really the case that Islam as a religion has no relation to the terrorist actions of so-called “Islamic fanatics”? The scoundrel who cut off that soldier’s head; the scoundrel Syrian rebel who ate the lungs of one of Assad’s soldiers to shouts of “Allahu Akbar!”; the scoundrels-in-training crawling out from Stockholm’s attics under that same slogan, cleansing the city of the remaining Carlsons and then posting their exploits on YouTube – all these soldiers in Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals, fighting in an incipient war of civilizations and races (enjoy the word while you still, before it’s banned like it was in France) – can we really say that all this “has no relation to Islam”?

In my opinion, we can’t say that for several reasons.


First, there are many murderers and arsonists who do their deeds “in the name of Allah,” and they didn’t all appear in just the past decade. If you do a head count of murderers, who killed unarmed people while calling on Mohammed, their numbers would have long since stretched into the thousands. Second, these same killers genuinely believe that they good Muslims, fulfilling the the commandments of the Prophet; their atrocities are part of jihad, and they consider themselves deserving of a martyr’s glory and ascension to heaven.

No doubt there are quite a lot of people in the world who consider themselves Napoleons, messengers from space, and channelers of extra-terrestrial wisdom. But the majority of such people are sitting in mental hospitals soon after writing their first “manifesto,” not holding discussions with major politicians and social forces; they are not sought after or used by intelligence services; their delusional ravings are not the subject of any dissertation, except for those to do with psychiatry.

But let’s assume that one fine day not just one patient were to fancy himself a Napoleon, but that a thousand patients were to start imagining someone as a Napoleon, another – as a Murat, and a third – as a Davout, and – swapping their antique cannons for grenade-launchers and armored vehicles – they were to set off to conquer Egypt. At that point, it would be difficult to continue speaking of this as just some banal insanity.

It’s perfectly obvious that these people’s “Napoleonism” would become a mass social cult. Insanity takes people one by one, whereas a collective fleeing from reason is something else entirely. The facts remain facts: That collective insanity that cuts off the head of soldiers, devours lungs, or simply burns down the foundations of Swedish socialism goes under one particular name – “Islam.”

We can, of course, pretend that they are all impostors; that all these scoundrels are simply trying to associate themselves with the religion, while having nothing in common with the real Islam. This is unlikely, but theoretically possible.

But consider this fantasy scenario: Some person appears takes your name, copies your physical appearance and habits, and memorizes all your speech patterns and ideas. Then your impostor commits all the horrific crimes mentioned above, as if in your name. What would you do? Most likely, you would spend all of your time, energy, and nerves on unmasking, stopping, and perhaps destroying the usurper.

It would be logical to expect analogous actions on the part of official representatives of Islam as regards the tens of thousand of “individual maniacs and crazies, who bring shame on the good name of Islam.” But we don’t see any evidence of such actions. All we get in response to crimes committed in the name of Allah are meandering official expressions of condolence, as well as slightly less official rationalizations of the “boys will be boys” kind.

From one murder to another, there is no evidence of any real battle with Islam’s supposed “evil twin” in the official pronouncements of the majority of Muslim public figures throughout the world. So there appears an entirely reasonable question: Maybe there is no twin after all?

If anything, the reactions of Muslim community leaders in answer to these questions only serve to reinforce fears. As a rule, they begin to insult the questioners, accusing them of Islamophobia and threatening them with violence. If we are talking about Islamic impostors – that is, the supposed worst enemies of Islam – then it would make sense for Muslim leaders to see allies in those who combat them. But that is not so.

The nature of the reaction to a pointed rejection of aggressive Islamism can be described in detail by the religious expert Roman Silantyev, or the Senior Archedeacon Andrei Kuraev. (Daniel Sysoyev can no longer do that – he was shot in the head by a killer, in the name of Allah, on 20 November 2009). {Translator: Silantyev was threatened from some quarters after publishing a history of Islam in Russia; here is Wikipedia on Sysoev}.

Quite recently, on 27 April, there erupted a remarkable exchange on our program with Anatoly Wasserman, “Wasserman’s Reaction,” between Andrei Kuraev and the prominent mufti Nafigulla Ashirov. In response to Kuraev’s theses, which were essentially the same as mine above, the mufti began to make practically open threats against the Archdeacon, saying, “I would not want hot-tempered youth to get mad at him and for something to happen to him.”

Consequently, the official position of Muslim public figures isn’t so much that “killers don’t have any relation to Islam,” but that there are “hot-tempered youths, who take things a bit too literally.” At least, this is how we are compelled to understand things in practice. There is no true and peaceful Islam, standing against a cruel and barbarian False Islam of fanatics. But there is an “Islam of youths,” which is neither afraid to kill nor to die, or to commit any manner of atrocities in the name of God. And there is an “Islam of elders,” which consists of the understanding that going too far against the grain could get you killed, and that life is preferable.


I think there is value in recognizing all this, at least as regards our immigration policy. There is no need for Christian European countries to allow in immigrants from Muslim countries, whose countries could come to be interpreted as little more than “youthful pranks.”

And since much of the case for immigration from these countries is made on the basis of Europe’s demand for labor (there really isn’t any such demand – it is just a typical case of “labor spam,” which I wrote about quite recently), there is no reason to allow in the representatives of the “Islam of the elders” either.

We can also formulate another principle, which is pointedly ignored by politically correct politikany in Europe, and those who follow in their footsteps in Russia (although the racial-confessional resistance against political correctness here is so great that our bureaucrats can at times, from the simplicity of their souls, even blurt out something that the majority agrees with).

If large numbers of Muslims arrive, settle in enclaves, and demand that their rights be taken into account and recognized – the wearing of the hijab, forbidding “insults to religious feelings” – which typically lead to the banning of crosses, Christmas trees, etc., then the least we could expect is that they should not commit religiously motivated crimes.

If such crimes are committed, then responsibility has to be shared by the entire religious community. They can’t present themselves as one community, demanding privileges and concessions, but then transform into a medley of individuals that don’t speak for each other the moment there appears an acrid smell smell in the air. Either there is a Muslim community in front of the European countries – in which case that community can talk of its rights only if it is prepared to carry responsibility for the actions of its members; or it is a collection of individuals, in which case the phrase “the Muslims of Britain, Belgium, Moscow demand…” should have no meaning.

Thus far, the actions of the official Muslim representatives as regards terrorists most resembles the famous parable about the liberals and terrorists during the campaign of the People’s Will to assassinate Alexander II.

Paraphrasing for our times, we can say that today the main difference between “terrorist” and “official” Islam amount to the following: The terrorist says, “Surrender, or I’ll cut someone’s head off,” while some officious mufti echoes, “Our youth is hot-tempered, prone to take offense. Surrender, or it will cut someone’s head off.”

Reader comments

The comments below are drawn from Vzglyad, where the article was reposted.

Lena M: For Russia to cool down the Muslim wars, it needs another Stalin. We do not have such a one… a pity. Chechnya is confident in that it holds Russia on its knees. It’s like in a zoo: The wolves think that man feeds them, because he is afraid of them. The wolves don’t consider that a man could destroy them just like that, because there’s no need to feed them. Cursed democracy)) Two nice bombs – and we lose our Gold Olympic medals in wrestling))

дядь Леша: And after all is said and done… Islam has a centuries-long record of peaceful and accomplished life in Russia. And it continues to exist like that today, despite the new arrivals. So I consider Kuraev’s generalizations to be a form of gaponstvo – and the reaction of the mufti to his “theses” to be entirely appropriate.

Translator notes

The translation of Dominique Venner’s farewell letter was done by Greg Johnson blogging at Counter-Currents. I copied it from there directly so that the text would not have to go through two rounds of translation.

Apart from that, it would probably be a good idea to remind readers that Russian Spectrum translations do not necessarily reflect editorial opinion.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Egor Kholmogorov 
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