June 29, 2004 by AK

False assumptions

Perhaps it’s just my clogged nose. When sick, I’m irritable. But even when I’m sate and slightly drunk and otherwise contented, superficial (and supercilious) American/British/Scandinavian wise guys pretending to be experts on Russia (or any other country, to that matter) can ruin my digestion with more ease than French smart alecs bashing the Great Satan can ruin theirs. Ignorance is not a sin, not even a character flaw: it’s our natural state. And the supreme vice… The supreme vice is shallowness.

1. Russians love dictators/don’t get liberty/drink vodka by the glass/beat their women, etc. etc. I don’t mind stereotypes. I like them no less than the guy next door. But bear in mind that at least from Peter I to 1917 Russia was a nation divided. A peasant and a university-educated landowner would be unable to understand each other. They spoke different languages, literally and not. Things changed after the Revolution, but these days, Russia is divided to the point of falling apart. The educated and the ignorant, the rich and the poor. It has a huge underclass; these folks always drink/get high/beat their wives etc. etc.

2. Russians are xenophobic and anti-Semitic. Well yes, but xenophobia is not a cardinal sin, and at times is a nation’s remedy against disintegration. Russia has never been more anti-Semitic than any other country at the same stage of social development. Pogroms only seem shocking because they happened when Western Europe seemed to be getting big on minority rights. But most Russians were living in a different time then, lagging the European calendar by centuries.

3. Russian history is a trail of blood and tyranny. The world knew no other way of governance but autocracy for most of human history. Autocracy and tyranny are the rule, and representative government an exception. Continental countries in particular are … Trade centers were more likely to… Russia had Novgorod and Pskov, too. The total body count is not that high, but skewed towards the present.

Plus, Russia’s shitty geography. No natural defenses against the Great Steppe. Total vulnerability. Hence a need for a centralized military machine.


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