Streetwise Professor

August 15, 2009

It’s So Romantic

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 2:02 pm

I’ve written before on how Russia strikes me as a very Romantic country.  Not in the look-into-my-eyes-darling sense of the word, but in the more philosophical sense of the word (note the capitalization).  That thought struck with particular force as I began to read Peter Viereck’s Metapolitics: From Wagner and the German Romantics to Hitler.  Many of the Romantic strains that Viereck identifies in German history and character types are also pronounced in Russia.  Indeed, take virtually any one of the quotes to follow, and you can replace “German” with “Russian” and still strike very close to the bone.

First, a Nietzsche quote in Viereck:

The Germans think that strength must reveal itself in hardness and cruelty; then they submit with fervor and admiration; they are suddenly rid of their pitiful weakness and their sensitivity over trifles, and they devoutly enjoy their terror.  That there is strength in mildness and stillness, they do not believe easily.

Here’s Viereck himself:

Almost every major German figure bears within himself both sides of this contrast [between the Romanized German and the Saxon].  That is why German thinkers and bards talk more of “two souls in one breast” than do the thinkers of any national culture.  . . . They treat their souls as a fond mother treats an enfant terrible: scolding yet egging on.  That may make them “geniuses” and “daemonic,” but this inner conflict over the Roman wall is not always so harmless.  Sometimes it is psychologically accompanied by projection, fanaticism, hysteria, instability, delusions of persecution plus persecution of others, and convulsive outbursts of physical violence.

That last sentence really hits the mark.

This next quote resonates given Russian arguments about its victimization at the hands of invaders over the centuries:

Indeed, throughout history Germany can argue an excellent case against the west.  Tact and peaceful reasoning were not conspicuous in the invasions of Germany. . . . But this admission does not invalidate our thesis that Germany’s aggressive inferiority complex against western civilization is the greatest cultural and political tragedy of Europe.

Here Viereck quotes Gustav Pauli:

Romanticism is Germanic and reached its purest expression in those territories which are freest from Roman colonization.  Everything that is regarded as an essential aspect of the romantic spirit, irrationalism, the mystic welding together of subject and object, the tendency to intermingle the arts, the longing for the far-away and the strange, the feeling for the infinite and the continuity of historic development.

I found the phrase about “mystic welding together of subject and object” in particular to be a good characterization of Russians as well.

Here’s Viereck again:

Romanticism is really the nineteenth century’s version of the perennial German revolt against the western heritage.

Here’s a really good, though extended, passage that fits quite well:

Some readers may object that the stress on schizoid polarity in German minds, on inner swings of the pendulum, is inconsistent with stress on the German craving for discipline, authority, ruthless order.  But is it inconsistent?  Is not, rather, the excessive and traditional discipline by the German state the direct product of the excessive lack of inner discipline of the individual German?  In Germany as in America the increase in centralization of state power is the process by which the state is sucked into the vacuum created by the default in responsibility of the individual citizen.  Anarchy and tyranny are merely the opposite faces of a single coin.

. . . .

Germans accepted authoritarian Prussianism so enthusiastically precisely because it was so un-German  They accepted it as the opposite extreme, the needed overcompensation, of what they unconsciously sensed as their most dangerous and typical quality: their intoxication with chaos, their Faustian romanticism.

But even in this reaction Germans could not escape themselves.  In fact, nothing is more typical of the chaotic romantic temperament than this very attempt to escape from itself into the prison of limitless authoritarianism.

Germans have a strange habit of fleeing not from prisons but into prisons.

. . . .

The masses worship a prison-camp type of state with fanatic hysteria so long as it saves each of them, as romantic individuals, from his inner mental and emotional anarchy.

The juxtaposition of extreme anarchic and extreme authoritarian tendencies is well-remarked in Russia.  Indeed, to this very day many defenders of the current system invoke fears of the former to justify the latter.

Here’s some interesting pieces on the statist impulse:

[Quoting Novalis} “From each true state-citizen grows forth the soul of the state, just as in a religious community a single personal God manifests Himself as if in thousands of shapes.”  Novalis defines each citizen as a mere “limb” of the state organism, which is “alive and personal.”

. . . .

The organic view was valuable in unifying so loose a federation as the Germany of the eighteenth century and of the pre-Bismarck nineteenth century.  Such an all too “atomistic” Germany was, we must remember, the historical context of the romantic revolt against atomism.

. . . .

The self-justified state, like the Faustian man, must not let ethical discrimination hamper its experience of life’s totality.  So we are not surprised to find Adam Muller end with bloody hymns to war.  The result of Hegel’s state-worship too, was that the state became the ethical end in itself in much influential German political thought.  All individuals, all the external restrictions of international morality, and all the concretely existing internal parts of the state must be sacrificed to its mathematically non-existent who, the sum that is greater than its parts.

Statism, the state idolatry, the personification of the state, the submergence of the individual in the collective, the view that the state is the highest representation of the collective, are all quite pronounced in Russia too.  Russians too seem to flee to prisons rather from them, and seem think that on the whole it’s a good thing.

There’s a lot more, but these selections make the point.  I’d also point out that the virulent anti-Americanism (and anti-Semitism) that characterized German Romantic thought echoes strongly in Russia today, and for much the same reason.

Following on Pauli, Viereck hypothesizes that German Romanticism was the product of the division of Germany between the Latinized West and the Barbarian East.  That Germany was on the divide between two civilizations with wildly different mental and moral universes.  Romanticism was a revolt of the East against the West.

Russia, too, has a very uneasy, conflicted relationship with the Latinized West.  Indeed, although the dividing line did not run directly through Russia, as it did Germany (thanks to Hermann/Arminius), post-Peter I’s introduction of Western ideas into Muscovy, the same conflict has rent Russia, with many of the same consequences, political and psychological.  The Slavophiles and latterly, the Eurasianists (new and old), are in essence Russia’s indigenous Romantics.  (It is well known that German Romanticism was quite influential in Russia.  I think that this is primarily a matter that the doctrine found very fertile soil waiting for it there.)

In brief, Russia’s conflicted relationship with the West, and the psychological complexes associated therewith, bear uncanny similarities to Germany’s.  Both Germany and Russia lie on civilizational fault lines, and Russia and the non-Romanized parts of Germany were not all that dissimilar in terms of economy and social organization.  It should not be too surprising that each reacted similarly to the onslaught of modernity and the hegemony of the Latinized West, though each of course exhibits its own distinct characteristics.

Harking back to a post On Russophobia from almost exactly a year ago (and one which arguably had the biggest impact on the trajectory of SWP), it seems to me that my attitudes towards Russia are strongly reflective of my attitudes towards Romanticism.  I am decidedly un-Romantic, and indeed, think that Romanticism was an almost entirely pernicious doctrine.  Indeed, when I consider many of the political, cultural, and social phenomenon or viewpoints that I find the most objectionable, the thing that they are most likely to have in common is an explicit or implicit Romantic tie.  Hence, it is not surprising that I find much not to admire in Russian society, culture, and polity.  And as I said in On Russophobia, self-styled Russophiles, or Slavophiles, or Eurasianists would agree wholeheartedly with many of my characterizations of the features of Russian life and mind, but celebrate them, whereas I do not.

This disagreement Romanticism is characteristic of classical liberals.  I note with interest that in her Bourgeois Virutes, Deirdre (nee Donald) McCloskey, a more ardent classical liberal/libertarian than even I, repeatedly traces the horrors of the 20th century large and small to the baleful influence of the German Romantic school, and intends that the third volume of the proposed trilogy will set out her case in detail.  Viewed in this way, the debate over Russia is merely another manifestation of a longstanding philosophical conflict that has raged for a very long time, and in very many places.

So, from here on out: Don’t call me a Russophobe.  Call me a Romantiphobe;-)

Update:  Reading Viereck’s introduction to the last (2003) edition, I came across this sentence:

The same context is true of Slavophilism (imitated from the German romantic’s [sic] by the Aksakov Brothers) and the Arab Volk mystique.  Had I but world enough and time (at 86), I’d have expanded Metapolitics to enable me to add to its subtitle: “From the German Romantics to Russians and Arabs.”

So, I guess the late Dr. Viereck would have agreed with the essence of my analysis.

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  1. WOW! This is one freakin’ awesome blog post, sir. Definitely one of the great blog posts yet written about Russia. I’m humbled. If only Mr. Obama would read it! Who knows, there is always hope . . .

    Comment by La Russophobe — August 15, 2009 @ 3:30 pm

  2. I agree, though my views on Romanticism significantly differ from yours.

    I’m going to post an essay on “Russia’s Sisyphean Loop” in a few days, it may interest you.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — August 15, 2009 @ 10:07 pm

  3. “There’s a lot more, but these selections make the point. I’d also point out that the virulent anti-Americanism (and anti-Semitism) that characterized German Romantic thought echoes strongly in Russia today, and for much the same reason.”

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 15, 2009 @ 10:21 pm

  4. Pardon the double post.

    Recently in Ukraine, a non-Russian extremist group sought having the Galician SS positively taught in public schools. The predominately ethnic Russian region in Crimea was quick in firmly stating disapproval of that idea.

    I wonder what the stats are of Jews marrying non-Jewish Europeans? I’m sure that Russians rank high. Anti-Semitism was neither invented nor perfected in Russia. One can find tolerance of Jews among a good many Russians when compared to some other non-Jews at large.

    If I’m not mistaken, SO as well as eXiled recently noted how Russian corruption isn’t as great as assumed in some circles. Offhand, I seem to recall it having been said that the corruption in Russia takes a more openly “honest” (for lack of a better word) form. The same can be said with some other Russia related issues.

    On another discussed topic, Germany has had regional differences to the extent which in good part explains its unfication only occurring in the late 1800s.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 15, 2009 @ 10:41 pm

  5. In other words, the Prof is again rationalizing his Russophobia by arguing, as Churchill once did (but he was provoked to say it by Two World Wars): “The Germans are either at your throat or at your feet.” That same attitude characterizes the Washington Beltway Russophobe today. Either Russia is a defeated country that can be dealt with as outsiders wish with the collaboration of some grab all you can asset stripping offshoring oligarchs turned martyrs for democracy (see Khodorkovsky, Mikhail), or it’s a resurgent aggressive power trying to reconstitute the “neo-Soviet Union”. Both are comforting lies.

    Russia was never so defeated as it appeared in the Nineties and it is not so resurgent as it appeared in more recent years. Neither will it disappear or simply be absorbed into a Greater China or trans-Caucases Islamdom (the latter no thanks to the American Council for Peace in Chechnya or other Americansky silovik front groups, the existence of which and intel community connections the Prof denies). I’m glad folks like SO are out there to remind the Russophobes that their projects will fail, and Russia will reengage and gradually revive on its own terms.

    And anti-Semitism? Which country has visa free travel to Israel again and why do one million Israelis (some, as Cutie Pie pointed out, not all having Jewish grandmothers) speak Russian?

    Comment by The Steve J. — August 16, 2009 @ 3:22 am

  6. Besides that, there are Jewish quasi-Romantics, who believe Western civilization (Japan included) as it is presently constituted is dying off or not sufficiently reproducing because it lacks meaning, and the revolt of the Arab world and Islamdom is largely driven by despair rather than triumphalism that Islam will soon conquer Europe. That would be the Asia Times columnist David Goldman, who was widely read by conservatives in the U.S. even if they stoppped admitting this after he praised Putin (though not the Russians as a whole) for being willing to slug it out on behalf of a tiny minority like the Ossetians keeping Russia’s demographic survival as the endgame. I suppose Goldman gets ignored here because as I have noticed, the Prof, rytb, and La Russophobe all have little use for religious viewpoints, even if they are Jewish and not Russian Orthodox or American Protestant dispensationalist (the latter group makes for useful foot soldiers for the anti-Russian cause, since they’ve been trained by nearly a century of Anglo and U.S.-Russian rivarly into believing that dark hearted Muscovy is the Gog and Magog of Ezekiel notoriety).

    Comment by The Steve J. — August 16, 2009 @ 3:28 am

  7. Oh and Prof, Russia establishing its own Saako-client state in our own hemisphere is almost here. All that’s missing are the advisors to train the Venezuelan military, though I’m sure Russian security contractors like their American counterparts will be in the first wave and are probably already in Caracas. AP “Russia, Venezuela edge closer to oil deal, talk arms”. But as you have pointed out since many Russian oil majors that wish to develop the Orinoco Belt and other expensive projects are strapped for cash at the moment and cannot borrow easily from Euro-Atlantic banks, they will have to turn to China for financing. ChiCom boots on the ground in our hemisphere here we come!

    At least now I know how the Hollywood screenwriters producing the remake of Red Dawn will find their material…but go on, say I’ve just been rambling about hypotheticals here and say every sovereign country is free to make alliances with whomever they please, and that there is no blowback for playing Monopoly base games in the CIS.

    Comment by The Steve J. — August 16, 2009 @ 3:41 am

  8. Sort of curious though not surprisingf to see a semi-literate Russophobe professor from the USA (a distinctly non-Western country, parallel to Brazil not to France comes to mind) publicly digest outrageous bullshit generated by a phobia-afflicted second rate “poet” / “doctor” (of Jewish origin) – all in order to smear Russia. And that **** La Russophobe is the first reader. But of course.

    Comment by Roobit — August 16, 2009 @ 5:35 am

  9. “The Germans think that strength must reveal itself in hardness and cruelty; then they submit with fervor and admiration; they are suddenly rid of their pitiful weakness and their sensitivity over trifles, and they devoutly enjoy their terror. That there is strength in mildness and stillness, they do not believe easily.”

    This is most un-characteristic characteristic that is totally alien to Russians (of all ethnicities) but strikes me as a distinctly American trait. It is also grotesquely comically un-German – in the sense that modern Germans are obviously very much opposite of what is described in these sentences. The rabid Russophobe “professor” would apparently use any characteristic of anyone, as long as they are sufficiently negative, to smear and defame a group of people because of their ethnicity. I am AMAZED that the scum like the “professor” can still keep a university job despite consistent behavior that were it directed against a different ethnic or national group would have led to his instant dismissal.

    Comment by Roobit — August 16, 2009 @ 5:42 am

  10. S/O–

    Thanks. I am not surprised. I think we now understand the underlying source of our ongoing disagreements. It is that you are at root Romantic, and I am not. I will look for your post. Give me a ping when it’s up.

    Cutie Pie–

    Where did I ever say that anti-Semitism is unique to Russia? Or that it was “invented or perfected there”? Uhm, like nowhere. It is well known that anti-Semitism is rife throughout Eastern Europe. But it is equally well known that it has been rife in Russia throughout history. Need I remind you of a few historical facts? EG: Pale of Settlement, pogroms, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Doctors’ Plot, just to name a few. Your habit of citing a few counterexamples is a way of knocking down a straw man, in this instance, an assertion that “all Russians are anti-Semites” or “Russia is the most anti-Semitic nation in the world.” Since I never made anything remotely resembling either argument, your giving a whack to such straw men doesn’t touch what I wrote. Relatedly, you need to familiarize yourself with the exception-rule concept. Your predilection to cite certain exceptions frequently highlights the prevailing rule.

    And re corruption, “isn’t as bad as assumed in some circles” could be true, depending on the circles that you are talking about. But, by every measure Russia is one of the most corrupt nations in the world, and is rivaled only by Third World kleptocracies that Russia should feel ashamed to be in the same company with. What’s more, “some circles” in Russia, notably the circle including Medvedev, acknowledge that corruption in the country is extensive, and highly destructive. As to the open nature of corruption, that’s true, but it’s true of most other highly corrupt societies. It indicates that the practice is not stigmatized, and that those who engage in it can do so with little fear of punishment–so why incur the cost of dissembling and concealment? And remember, hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue. So, if you are right, large swathes of Russian officialdom don’t even feel the need to acknowledge or honor virtue, let alone practice it.

    The fragmentation of Germany is an important part of Viereck’s argument. He speaks of the Roman Wall that divided Germany, and the effects of differential exposure to Roman culture on either side of the wall. The divide in Russia was not/is not geographical, and attributable to the outcome of a battle in a dark forest. The divide in Russia arises primarily from the Petrine effort to introduce Western influences into Muscovite society, and the ongoing effects of Western-Russian interactions in the successive centuries.

    Roobit–How enlightened of you. Your comment has been edited to eliminate that vulgar reference to the female anatomy. And if by use of that term you are suggesting that LR is in fact a woman, well, you better take that up with Steve J., whom I think is of a different opinion. And thanks for telling us so much about yourself with the gratuitous reference to Viereck’s Jewish heritage. That, and the aboveforementioned vulgarity, suggest that your epithet of “scum” may best be reflected in your mirror, rather than mine.

    We have to disagree with the applicability of quote to Russia and the US. I think it fits large swathes of Russian thought to a “T.”

    And insofar as my keeping a university job, well, in this country unlike some others I could think of, there are protections (imperfect, I can say from personal experience) for free speech and expression in academia. Moreover, you are completely wrong to assert that I am “smearing and defaming” based on ethnicity. I am discussing modalities of thought that are more characteristic, in my view, of Russians than of others. This is a longstanding intellectual enterprise. Are you denying that there differences in values, beliefs, mindsets, etc., across national or cultural groups? Or do you believe that it is only acceptable to cite favorable differences? (Quite PC, and also raises the question of whose values are to be used to determine what is favorable?) Your thuggish mindset (epitomized by stating that people should lose jobs if they have the temerity to advance un-PC opinions) is exactly the kind of thing that suppresses free expression. I should also note that you engage in the same practice of making generalizations about certain ethnic modalities of thought, and indeed (per your reference to Viereck’s ancestry) do so in a defamatory way.

    Finally, I would note that (a) S/O agrees with my basic thesis of the Romantic aspects of Russian thought, and (b) as I stated in my original On Russophobia post, many ardent Russian nationalists, Slavophiles, Euasianists, etc. would also agree with my identification of key aspects in Russian thought, beliefs, and self-image. The difference is that S/O and the Slavophiles, etc., see these things as features, whereas I see them as bugs.

    Steve J. Tell your doctor that you need an adjustment in the dosage on the meds. You are self-satirizing, and save me the work. Thanks.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 16, 2009 @ 9:33 am

  11. Professor

    This is what you said:

    “There’s a lot more, but these selections make the point. I’d also point out that the virulent anti-Americanism (and anti-Semitism) that characterized German Romantic thought echoes strongly in Russia today, and for much the same reason.”


    This is a broad generalization which has some inaccurate aspects as I noted. You didn’t acknowledge those points.

    Regarding your reply:

    If I’m not mistaken, the Protocols weren’t initiated in Russia, with many Russians not accepting it. Likewise, the Pale of Settlement and pogroms aren’t exclusive to Russia. The Spanish Inquisition, WW II era Holocaust, Turkish actions taken against the Armenians, Bulgarians and some others, American Jim Crow laws and lynchings of Blacks serve as contrasting points.

    Keep in mind this point of yours: “Your predilection to cite certain exceptions frequently highlights the prevailing rule.”

    This thought relates to the ongoing and often unchallenged imagery which lead to some broadly inaccurate stereotyping.

    There’s enough bigotry against Russia and Russians out there. I can see how your piece will be spun elsewhere.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 16, 2009 @ 10:11 am

  12. Wrong. Protocols were definitely of Russian origin, and more specifically, were from the Okhrana, the Tsarist secret police.

    Re somebody else spinning. So you are suggesting that I should self-censor because other people may twist and distort? That’s not going to happen.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 16, 2009 @ 10:22 am

  13. Not quite:

    Pardon the quick usage of Wiki.

    Moreover, Imperial Russia was by no means monolithic in such views, in terms of the people serving in its government. Some never accepted the Protocols. Keep in mind the KKK supporters at various levels of government in the US.

    As for more present times, I recall Sharansky saying that the position of Jewry in present day Russia isn’t radically different from the rest of Europe at large.

    This point relates to a not so distant Moscow Times article on a religious Jewish group which promotes Jewish culture via use of a traveling van throughout Moscow. In the article, a representative of that group notes there being much interest and never any expressed animosity towards his orgs. activity.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 16, 2009 @ 10:39 am

  14. With other examples, I post this excerpt since it was recently sent to me and readily available:

    “ROC authorities as St John of Kronstadt and Metropolitan Archbishop Anthony Khrapovitsky, 100 years ago, vehemently and repeatedly condemned anti-Semitism and pogroms, arguing that the Church venerates many Jewish holy people, including kings David and Solomon, and that early Christians and apostles were ethnic Jews. These pronouncements are well documented in the press of 100+ years ago.”


    The rest of it goes on to acknowledge others taking an unfortunately different route. However, like I said at the top of this note, other Russians from that era to the present have taken more to the position of the above quoted.

    BTW, I’m not suggesting practicing “self censorship.” In reality, there’s enough of that around. Don’t expect me to do likewise.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 16, 2009 @ 10:48 am

  15. “Not in the look-into-my-eyes-darling sense of the word”

    Actually it is, if you think of it in the context of George Dumbass Bush looking into the eyes of his darling Vladimir Putin and finding him trustworthy after glimpsing his soul.

    Comment by La Russophobe — August 16, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

  16. Uhm, QTП, here’s the exact passage from the wikipedia link:

    Based on evidence repeatedly corroborated by British, German, Ukrainian, Polish and Russian sources over a 75 year period, The Protocols, far from being a “discovered” document as it was claimed to be, was in fact deliberately fabricated sometime between 1895 and 1902 by Russian journalist Matvei Golovinski. In a Swiss lawsuit in the late 1930s concerning circulation of the Protocols, “Two of the Russian witnesses gave testimony pointing to the involvement of Pyotr Ivanovich Rachkovsky in the forgery”.[9] Rachkovsky was head of the Paris branch of the Russian secret police.[10]

    The source material for the forgery was a synthesis between Joly’s book and a chapter from a work of fiction titled Biarritz, which was written in 1868 by antisemitic German novelist Hermann Goedsche and translated into Russian in 1872.[11] In creating the Protocols, Golovinski took Joly’s novel and changed the plotters from Napoleon III to the Jews, just as Joly had changed the plotters from the Jesuits to Napoleon III in his version of the story. The current belief is the forgery was initiated and authorized by factions of the Russian aristocracy opposed to the political and social reforms initiated by the previous Tsar, (Alexander II). The fabricated document was meant to convince the antisemitic Tsar Nicholas II not to allow additional reforms, since all reforms would play into the hands of this just uncovered “secret Jewish plot”. Once the Russian Revolution began in 1905, however, the use of the forgery changed. The same group, now part of the White movement, disseminated the document during their 18 year fight against the Bolsheviks in an attempt to link the Red Army, which had a few Jews in its leadership, to the fictitious conspiracy.
    . . . .

    The book typically consists of 24 to 27 paragraphs or sections entitled “Protocols”. It has been published and distributed in many forms: manuscript, periodical, booklet, book and via the internet. It was first edited and disseminated to the public in 1903 by Pavel Krushevan, the instigator of the Kishinev pogrom. It was re-published in 1906-1907 by the Union of the Russian People, a part of the pro-Tsarist antisemitic group The Black Hundreds, as a pamphlet entitled Enemies of the Human Race. The pamphlet was published specifically to blame the Jews for Russia’s embarrassing defeat in the Russo-Japanese War. It was similarly used in opposition to the Russian Revolution of 1905, the October Revolution (1917), and the peace negotiations at the end of World War I, becoming known worldwide during the 1919-1920 period when it was widely circulated in the West.

    And this is from the wiki entry on the Okhrana:

    Other controversial activities included fabrication of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion hoax (many historians maintain that Matvei Golovinski, a writer and Okhranka agent, compiled the first edition on the instructions of Pyotr Rachkovsky) and fabrication of the antisemitic Beilis trial.

    So, unless you are going to be cute (pun intended) in your statement “weren’t initiated in Russia” by claiming that Joly and Biarritz are the ultimate authors and hence the Protocols were plagiarized, the citation you provide supports my view, not yours. There is little, hardly any, methinks, dispute that the Protocols in their current form were created by and disseminated by the Okhrana. And again, to cite particular instances of anti-anti-Semitism does not contravene my basic point that official and popular anti-Semitism has been a plague on Russia for years. It went to the highest levels of the Russian government (Nicholas II was a notorious anti-Semite) AND the Russian Orthodox Church. It is ahistorical to suggest otherwise.

    And re the KKK in the USA. This is news? Beyond pointing out the whataboutism, let me say that the contrast between your treatment of Russian anti-Semitism (which, sadly, is all too common) and the overwhelming treatment of the KKK in the US tells a great deal. The KKK is almost universally reviled, and its history in the Reconstruction South, and in the 1920s and later, is acknowledged and regretted. It is not excused, or believed to be meaningfully palliated by the fact that there were a few white Southerners who spoke out against it. That is, virtually all Americans acknowledge this shameful aspect of our history. They don’t try the “yeah but” routine like you are wont to do, and as you do in this specific case of anti-Semitism in Russia.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 16, 2009 @ 4:33 pm

  17. “And if by use of that term you are suggesting that LR is in fact a woman, well, you better take that up with Steve J., whom I think is of a different opinion.” Yes I still think “she” is a dude blogging as a lady, though AK is of a different opinion. We both agree that LR is a front for some American silovik wannabe think tank or catches the crumbs from some PR agency’s table, and I already wrote which one I think it has been. But as Ice Cube once rapped, thence quoted on HBO’s Generation Kill, “any day / without an AK / is a good day”.

    As for me being on meds for pointing out the obvious, that the Colored Revolutions had some at least indirect (maybe via Soros or other fronts, hell, GS funded the first Internet connection to the USSR back in 1984 according to Wikipedia) “good shepherding” as in the Matt Damon flick of the same title, well, no need for more comment here at a public forum.

    Comment by The Steve J. — August 16, 2009 @ 4:41 pm


    Also, in 1983 the San Francisco Moscow Teleport (SFMT) project was started by VNIIPAS and an American team which included George Soros.

    Do I need to draw a map for you or what Prof? Why do you think the conservative media (Weekly Standard, National Review, etc.) savaged Soros for funding Democrat Left groups to defeat Bush in 2004 but never say a mumblin’ word about his Eastern European philanthropy because they love the guy?

    They get their marching orders too, or at least “friendly” phone calls from old friends who used to hike in the Soviet Union back in the 1980s when gas pipelines blew up in Western Siberia and now work at various foundations in D.C. We’re free to discuss any Russian’s “KGB ties” or “siloviki” background here, with the assumption that there’s no such thing as an ex-KGB man, but not their counterparts and the concomitant phrase that “there’s no such thing as an ex-CIA man” when it comes to Paul Goble and co?

    Comment by The Steve J. — August 16, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

  19. Steve J. Stop it! You’re killing me. Your conspiratorial mindset is out there for all to see. And if you can’t tell the difference between the significance of the intelligence background of a Putin or a Sechin, individuals in position of great power in Russia, and that of a Paul Goble, you are even more clueless than I thought. And that’s saying something.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 16, 2009 @ 5:12 pm

  20. Thanks. I am not surprised. I think we now understand the underlying source of our ongoing disagreements. It is that you are at root Romantic, and I am not. I will look for your post. Give me a ping when it’s up.

    Will do so.

    PS. I’m curious whether your dislike for Romanticism extends into the purely literary and aesthetic realms – what is your opinion on Wagner, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Delacroix, etc?

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — August 17, 2009 @ 12:24 am

  21. Professor

    You didn’t prove me wrong. The basis of the Protocols’ origin wasn’t in Russia. Years ago, I recall Nat Hentoff saying that Nicholas II acknowledged the Protocols as a hoax. It wasn’t something accepted in Russia to the degree of Nazi attitudes in Germany and some other parts of Europe.

    The so-called “whataboutism” serves to highlight the hypcritical standards against Russia. Moreover, those using the “whataboutism” term have at times displayed their own version of it.

    Your comments about the ROC are relative. The Vatican didn’t excommunicate Hitler (that’s my understanding), with the former having its own questionable relationship on such issues as the “Rat Line,” involving the transfer of Ustasha personnel to other countries after WW II. On another religious matter, Martin Luther has been referred to as an anti-Semite. Without my disagreeing, these Christian denominatins have different and more positive representations. The same can definitely be said of the ROC. Hence, the negatively broad stereotyping of it by some fits the category of being inaccurate, if not prejudiced.

    Your point about Russia being noticeably anti-Semitic in the present day is off the mark for the reasons I specified.

    The past experience of Jews in Russia isn’t as you broadly skew. It’s an absurdity to liken the position of Jews in Imperial Russia with the Nazi era Holocaust (not that you specifically express support for that faulty notion). With the discrimination, a number of Jews found a role within Imperial Russian structures. One of several examples is that of Samuel Poliakov, an observant Jew, whose company won the bid to become involved in the building of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Nobility privileges were granted to him in honor of his work.

    FYI, the pogroms also involved folks not affiliated with the Russian government. These included some anti-government political types seeking destabilization of the society by playing on existing prejudices, including perhaps that of some of the organizers. In some instances, the Russian government made efforts to stop such violence. The historical accounting on this particular issue includes elements of the Russian government pursuing policies not known of in advance or approved by the top.

    Getting back to another point of yours: prior to the advent of Hitler, the case can be made that Germany wasn’t so anti-Jewish as some other parts of Europe. What happened in Germany is maybe not so unique as some seem to suggest. Unfairly trashing a people when they’re down can greatly influence an extremist backlash. It’s a fine line between distinguishing some characteristics within a group and the matter of human nature having some universal qualities. Regarding Germany, there’s the comparison of how Germans are viewed today as well as before Hitler’s rise. I’m not fully sold on the pre-Hitler characterization (by some) of Germans as the best explanation for Nazism. I think there’s something to be said for the “it can happen anywhere” (at least in a good number of other places) mind-set.

    I’ll continue to oppose the politically motivated cherry picking of certain past matters, which serve to slur a given group of people.

    Concerning some of the subject matter raised, someone made these observations:

    I would suggest reading the ORIGINAL literature on the character of Slavs, specifically Eastern Slavs, by Byzantine Emperor and chronicler, Constantine Porphyrogenitus, who was amazed at their humane laws, traditions, hospitality and incredible treatment of “prisoners of war”, including the Asian raiders regularly pillaging their lands. They usually made these captives work for several years to make up for the death and carnage they incurred, and then, let tem go.

    The Code of Law “Russian Truth” formally granted government stature by Great Prince of Novgorod and Kiev, Jaroslav the Wise – the most humane laws in all of Europe, with capital punishment called for only in rare, extreme cases, with most others settled by fines, compensation or work/service obligation.

    Contrast this with descriptions of Germanics by the Roman historians Tacitus, and others. One can spin a Germanic/Teutonic historic track record of aggression and cruelty…. There’s the “Slavic Dove versus the Germanic Wolf” comparison that has been used in researching and evaluating historic characteristics of the two ethnic groups by some historians (mainly non-Russian).

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 17, 2009 @ 1:02 am

  22. PS: To underscore on an earlier point – the number of Jews who’ve returned to Russia in recent years, as well as the many people of Russian-Jewish background serves as a main counterpoint to this questionable view:

    “There’s a lot more, but these selections make the point. I’d also point out that the virulent anti-Americanism (and anti-Semitism) that characterized German Romantic thought echoes strongly in Russia today, and for much the same reason.”

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 17, 2009 @ 1:21 am

  23. Additonal note:

    As far as not facing up to an unfortunate past (a point raised at this thread by someone else), present day Russia seems to do a much better job on the pogroms and some other matters than how official Turkey views the past treatment of Armenians, Bulgarians and some others.

    On a related note, it would be interesting to see a comparison of non-ethnic Turks (Kurds and Armenians in particular) in the Turkish government with non-ethnic Russians in leading Russian government positions. Offhand, I gather Russia to be more multiethnic than Turkey – a point to be considered in such a comparison.

    Simply saying this is the result of a brutal conquest over others overlooks other aspects like the many patriotic Russians comprising various different ethnic backgrounds.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 17, 2009 @ 4:04 am

  24. WHOA!!! There it is! Cutie Pie refers to “russian truth” by Yaroslav the Wise, Prince of Novgorod – and, oh, yeah, Kyiv.

    Yaroslav Moodryj (the Wise) was Prince of Rus, which does not refer to “russian,” but to the lands on the territory of Ukraine then known as “Rus” (pronounced “roos,” with a soft “s”). But russians like to use it to justify their current existence, by equating “Rus” with “russia.” He was indeed Prince of Kyiv, which is the capital of Ukraine today.

    The correct word for russia is “rossiya,” which is not the same as “Rus.” If the intent was to say “Russian Truth,” then the proper word would have been “Rossiyska Pravda”, not “Rooska Pravda.”

    Now, in fairness, she was referring to a purported work (no reference provided, no link provided, for courtesy to the reader) on the character of Eastern Slavs, and people in Rus could fairly be considered Eastern Slavs to a certain extent, despite all of the Vikings coming down the Dnipro River, and the Greeks and Romans in Crimea.

    Comment by elmer — August 17, 2009 @ 9:14 am

  25. Cutie Pie–

    I still think you are being a sea lawyer re Protocols. Your recollection of Nat Hentoff’s statement doesn’t really pass the robust documentation test, to say the least. Nicholas II (and his wife, for that matter) was a notorious anti-Semite, and his regime provoked numerous pogroms, in part to deflect hatred away from the regime to the Jews in 1905. And what’s more, your defense basically is that, well, the Okhrana plagiarized and adapted somebody else’s bigotry for its own purposes. The Protocols in the form that we know them today were created by and disseminated by the Russian government, more specifically, it’s secret police. The fact that others (e.g., Nazis, modern Arabs) have embraced them more fervently than the Russians did speaks ill of them, but not well for Russia. Ditto your statement that Russia has done better in acknowledging the pogroms than Turkey has its Armenian genocide.

    The key to looking good, in your book, is to set the bar as low as possible, find the worst performer in some category, and then compare Russia to that standard. Your motto: “Russia! Not the Worst!” Maybe not, but hardly puts Russia in company I’d want to keep.

    S/O. Looking to me for opinions on aesthetics is pretty funny. My knowledge of classical music is limited at best, so I wouldn’t dare offer a critique. Re literature, I do like some things that would be considered Romantic. Moby Dick is one of my favorite books. I do like Dostoevsky as literature, although I don’t find him persuasive. Romantic art (e.g., Delacroix) is a little too lurid for me, but again, my knowledge of art is very limited.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 17, 2009 @ 4:34 pm

  26. SJN–

    This is for you:

    think we can already point to how Washington is dealing with Russia’s burgeoning military relationship with Venezuela – which despite the growing proof that Caracas is leaking these Russian weapons to FARC, the yanks are still relaxed, sober, and laissez-faire. If the Russians and Venezuelans want to have a military relationship, no need to make a big deal out of it. Russia has in the past showed a desire to have their Venezuela relationship be perceived as identical tit-for-tat meddling in a sphere of influence, but not everybody is still living in the 19th century (the calm result may have even been disappointing).

    That’s you Steve, living in the 19th century. And like Putin et al, it drives you crazy that Russia’s attempt at tit for tat provocation draw a big shrug and a “whatever.” Indeed, that’s the thing that most drives Russian great power fanatics absolutely nuts. They’d rather be hated than ignored, for the powerful aren’t ignored.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 17, 2009 @ 7:42 pm

  27. Ukrainian nationalists like Elmer continue to pervert history by trying to claim that modern day Russia isn’t descended from Rus.


    The husband and wife Massie book Nicholas and Alexandra is a good read. Within the last decade, Lev Novrozov (hope I spelled his name right, as I’m short for time on this note) wrote a piece in one of Chris Ruddy’s run outlets which is of the view that Nicholas II wasn’t the level of negativity that some suggest. I briefly discussed that piece with him.

    Holding Russia to standards that others aren’t is ongoing. As often presented, it suggests Russia to be more backwards, while at the same time expecting more of that country than others – some of whom are said to be more advanced (a claim that in some instances is questionable). This is evident when the past and present of Russia is discussed

    I look forward to receiving my copy of Solzhenitsyn’s work on Jewry. As I noted, the pogroms also involved folks not part of any Russian government orchestrated operation, inclusive of anti-government political types. Simultaneoulsy, the Russian government was by no means a monolith. This was why I brought up the connection between the American government and KKK. And yes, there were instances of the government making effort to put down some of these pogroms. At the same time, with the discrimination and violence (which the government was in one way or another responsible for as the law of the land), a good many Jews played significant roles within official Russia.

    A parting note to you brings to your attention the Jewish-American-Israeli coach of the Russian national men’s basketball team and Jewish background of two post-Soviet Russian prime ministers. Along with some earlier points made at this thread, the state of Jewry in post-Soviet Russia seems different from what you say in your above blog post.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 17, 2009 @ 8:33 pm

  28. This isn’t the main point of the thread, but…..

    That “Rus” does not mean “russian” does not equate to anything about where Russia “descended” from.

    It does mean that many russians try to use “Rus” to preach that Ukraine is Russia, and that Russia is Ukraine.

    Which, of course, is not the case.

    In 988 AD, or Common Era, if one prefers, Volodymyr accepted Christianity and brought all of his subjects into Christianity.

    Neither Moskva nor Russia existed at that time, and would not exist for quite some time after that.

    “Russia! Not the worst”

    Good one, SWP.

    But I’m stil debating about whether Russia is not as bad as a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

    As far as Jews in Russia –

    Here is a somewhat interesting discussion with Hitchens and Robert Service on the topic of “would the sovok union have been as bad if Trotsky had been able to take over instead of Stalin”? It’s a 5-part series:

    Which reminds me a bit of the old Saturday Night Live bits along the lines of “What If Eleanor Roosevelt Could Fly?”, etc.

    At any rate, in one of the parts, both Hitchens and Service note that Lenin finally realized, almost on his death bed, that in picking Stalin, he had made a mistake.

    They go on to point out the “virtues” of Trotsky, and how he, of Jewish descent, went to a Lutheran school, but really had no future in Russia.

    The upshot? To quote them all: “revolution was a career move.”

    But it is indeed very, very interesting that a goodly percentage of the oligarchs – and thugs – in recent Russia are indeed Jewish.

    Berezovsky, Abramovich, and others.

    Berezovsky, of course, does not set foot in Russia any more – he lives in England.

    Coming on the heals of the OCSE pronouncement, stating that there was no difference between Hitler and Stalin, your article, from the veiwpoint of Romanticism, is indeed interesting.

    Locke, Rousseau, etc. – and now, Viereck.


    Comment by elmer — August 17, 2009 @ 9:05 pm

  29. Cutie Pie–Chris Ruddy? Are you effin’ kidding me? Again, I never asserted a monolithic Russia. Another straw man that you’ve valiantly vanquished.

    Elmer–you’re welcome, and thanks in return. And a couple of short comments. You’re right, Musocvy~=Kievan Rus, although there is a connection. Also, saw the Hitchens-Service thing. Interesting. Trotsky is fascinating. One can see how he is more appealing than Stalin, certainly, and even Lenin. But still, a monster. Indeed, given his intellectual gifts, his monstrosity is even more unforgivable.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 17, 2009 @ 10:06 pm

    The New Republic, hawkish libs that they are, instantly respond, saying that we should just diss the Russians since we wouldn’t take the same thing so seriously. One commenter slaps back with a bit of true history:

    “because history affords us no examples of the United States freakingout and making a BFD over Russia training troops in Cuba or Central America, right? Washington would never bring the world to the brink of nuclear war [1962] or risk a president’s impeachment to funnel arms and money to rebels [1984-87] over something so trivial.

    If there’s one thing that is guaranteed to cause conservatives to lead a massive case of public freakout, the People’s Liberation Army setting up camp anywhere in North America or the Caribbean would be that thing. Seriously, people, we’ve gone to war over precisely this sort of thing in the past.”

    Comment by The Steve J. — August 18, 2009 @ 12:17 am

  31. Professor

    I was referring more to Novrozov and not Ruddy.

    Your straw man comment is ironic.

    Why do you say Elmer is right, when he’s wrong in suggesting that Russia isn’t descended from Rus?

    Oleg from Novgorod changed his base of location from Novgorod to Kiev, when the Rus state becomes generally recognized as being in existence.

    Moscow later developed as a city within Rus.

    I didn’t see the Hitchens-Service piece. Your stated reaction to Ruddy is somewhat along the lines of how I approach Hitchens on some topics. Didn’t Trotsky favor a “world revolution” to Stalin’s “socialism in one country?” While not being fond of the latter, I’m not sure that the former would’ve been a better alternative.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 18, 2009 @ 12:22 am

  32. Last but not least, I wouldn’t say that Soros is not a powerful guy just because he’s not formally in government. His NGOs are practically an arm of the USG and the question of whether his bets well in advance against currencies like the pound had at least something to do with inside information or was some quid pro quo for his previous activities in the 80s and early 90s on behalf of various 4th branch interest is not a trivial one. But in SWP’s world only Russian oligarchs can make billions from their silovik connections, that is not possible in the West. I am not so sure anymore after seeing Goldman come out of the crisis still smelling like a rose save for the stink of Shifty Paulson’s shotgun wedding of Merrill and BOA.

    Comment by The Steve J. — August 18, 2009 @ 12:23 am

  33. SWP, here is an interesting article about why Russia is totalitarian, or “proto-totalitarian,” and Ukraine is going the democracy route.

    It does not rely on your “Romanticism” view, as far as I can tell – it’s another take on the situation that gets to the same conclusions.

    Excerpt below.

    Democratic Ukraine, autocratic Russia: Why?
    Today, 11:54 | Andreas Umland and Ingmar Bredies, Special to Kyiv Post

    Kyivan Rus, the medieval state that
    existed from 880 to the middle of the
    13th century, gave rise to modern-day
    Ukraine and Russia. The two nations
    have taken divergent paths toward
    governance, differences that began in
    the old empire.

    Developments in the former Soviet Union in recent years were fascinating for the specialist and might have puzzled the layman: Why have Europe’s two largest countries developed in such different ways? Russia has returned to authoritarianism while Ukraine seems to be maturing towards a real democracy. How did this happen – in spite of these nations’ similar Eastern Slavic Orthodox cultures and intertwined histories?

    Comment by elmer — August 18, 2009 @ 8:21 am

  34. For several reasons, a historically questionable overview of the past and present.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 18, 2009 @ 10:51 am

  35. Gentlemen:

    I would like to emphasize one simple fact that the recently emerged separate country in question – the Ukraine – has had no historical proper name of its own.
    The matter is that in all of the Slavic languages the word “ukraine” means one and the same thing – “a borderland” or “a rimland”.
    This meaning is absolutely obvious and pellucid for all of the Slavic peoples in Eastern, Western and Southern Europe indiscriminately, all of them having had the same common ancient word-stem “krai” in their vocabularies with the following meaning: “border”, “rim”, “part”, “a part of the land”, etc.
    Since the prefix “u” means “at” (like the French preposition “chez”), so the world “ukraine” means nothing else but “a part of the land at the border,” or in short: “a borderland.”

    Which is why the correct English form of the country’s name must be THE Ukraine, with the definite article, because there exist a great many of various “ukraines” or “borderlands” in the world, yet it is only one of them that has become a separate state, and which has assumed the name Borderland or the Ukraine as its official name.

    At the present time, the Ukraine is being a mini-empire, consisting of seven parts: 1. Malorossia (Little Russia), 2. Novorossia (New Russia), 3. the Crimea, 4. Slobozhanshchina (Sloboda), 5. Volhynia-Podolia, 6. Galicia, and 7. Ruthenia (Red Russia). Of which only numbers 5 and 6 are inhabited by the native speakers of the so-called Ukrainian language.

    Comment by Michael Kuznetsov — August 19, 2009 @ 4:19 am

  36. For any occasion, the following link GULLUP: will show that 83 percent of the Ukrainian citizens consider the Russian language to be their mother-tongue.

    Comment by Michael Kuznetsov — August 19, 2009 @ 5:15 am

  37. Michael, spoken like a typical Kremlin shill, your link seems the usual bogus Kremlin propaganda . In the 2001 census as per wikipedia “67.5% of the country population named Ukrainian as their native language (a 2.8% increase from 1989), while 29.6% named Russian (a 3.2% decrease). It should be noted, though, that for many Ukrainians (of various ethnic descent), the term native language may not necessarily associate with the language they use more frequently. The overwhelming majority of ethnic Ukrainians consider the Ukrainian language native, including those who often speak Russian.”

    Try finding a reliable neutral factual link on that issue.

    Your “borderland” commentary is transparently pure Kremlin. Lost empires are a bummer especialy in a culture where national granduer makes better the humilitation of the near third world conditions that can’t be overcome. The sad tired clueless landscape of Putin’s Russia doesn’t offer much more than that.

    Comment by penny — August 19, 2009 @ 8:37 pm

  38. Penny, it is indeed easy to recognize the same old tired, oft repeated kremlin propaganda.

    Including the one about “the” Ukraine, which totally ignores reality today.

    Since it appears that there are kremlinoids here who want to hijack this thread, here’s a very interesting article about Russia’s fake history by Peter Borisow, published in Canadian American Slavic Studies (Fall 2008).

    Interesting tidbit – the origin of the name for Russia, or “rossiya,” comes from the Ukrainian word that means “scattered.”

    Kremlinoids also like to preach that there is no Ukrainian language, that it’s just a bad dialect of Russian.

    This article turns the tables on that old canard, and holds that Russian is actually a garbled offspring of Ukrainian.

    It also covers what comes from the “Romanticism” which SWP writes about – the brutal genocide of Ukrainians in the Holodomor.

    Comment by elmer — August 19, 2009 @ 10:40 pm

  39. “Kremlinoids also like to preach that there is no Ukrainian language, that it’s just a bad dialect of Russian.”


    That group of “Kremlinoids” are in a minority. Much like the minority of Ukrainian ultra-nationalist crackpots who claim that modern day Russia isn’t descended from Rus.


    On the language matter, modern day Ukrainian isn’t what was spoken in the days of Rus.

    In relation to this discussion, here’s an interesting commentary which cuts thru the BS:

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 20, 2009 @ 1:10 am

  40. Cutie Pie,

    Thanks for linking to me in your comment. I appreciate it very much.

    Comment by Natalie — August 20, 2009 @ 8:03 pm

  41. You’re quite welcome Natalie and thank you for your most interesting blog.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — August 21, 2009 @ 1:35 am

  42. New Link

    Uncommon Knowledge: Christopher Hitchens & Robert Service

    Comment by Oleg — September 29, 2009 @ 8:15 am

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