Wednesday, 1 July 2009

How to understand Russia and its history

In LiveJournal community nytimesinmoscow a question was posed: what can't Americans understand about Russia?

I suggested the following answer:

Americans don't understand that there are almost no century-old traditions of fighting for freedom in Russia, but there is a great tradition of despotic slavery instead.

Nevertheless, Americans are able to understand this, for there is a good concept in Philosophy of Russian History that helps to. This concept is described, for instance, in works of russian-american historian A. Yanov and russian dissident V. I. Novodvorskaya. Its essence is there are five competing traditions in the history of Russia. There are 1) Scandinavian and 2) Slavic traditions; progressive ones but very poorly supported among Russians. There is also 3) Horde tradition, and due to this one Russia can not overcome imperial consciousness. There is 4) Byzantium tradition being the source of Russian loyality to authoritarism. And there is 5) the Wild Field tradition which can easily be recognized in Russian revolts and which makes Russian culture so unique romantic and controversial.

It is because of domination of traditions 3) and 4) the genesis of totalitarian monster of USSR was possible.

Unfortunately, not only Americans misunderstand it. Most of Russians have no idea of this all as well.

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