← Ancient Slavic god Zimnik: a squat old man, long hair the color of snow, wears a white coat, always barefoot. Carries an iron staff, one swing with which instantly freezes everything solid. Can summon snowstorms, ice storms and blizzards. Goes around taking whatever he likes, especially children who misbehave.
Recent events, such as the overthrow of the government in Ukraine, the secession of Crimea and its decision to join the Russian Federation, the subsequent military campaign against civilians in Eastern Ukraine, western sanctions against Russia, and, most recently, the attack on the ruble, have caused a certain phase transition to occur within Russian society, which, I believe, is very poorly, if at all, understood in the west. This lack of understanding puts Europe at a significant disadvantage in being able to negotiate an end to this crisis.
Whereas prior to these events the Russians were rather content to consider themselves “just another European country,” they have now remembered that they are a distinct civilization, with different civilizational roots (Byzantium rather than Rome)—one that has been subject to concerted western efforts to destroy it once or twice a century, be it by Sweden, Poland, France, Germany, or some combination of the above. This has conditioned the Russian character in a specific set of ways which, if not adequately understood, is likely to lead to disaster for Europe and the world.
Lest you think that Byzantium is some minor cultural influence on Russia, it is, in fact, rather key. Byzantine cultural influences, which came along with Orthodox Christianity, first through Crimea (the birthplace of Christianity in Russia), then through the Russian capital Kiev (the same Kiev that is now the capital of Ukraine), allowed Russia to leapfrog across a millennium or so of cultural development. Such influences include the opaque and ponderously bureaucratic nature of Russian governance, which the westerners, who love transparency (if only in others) find so unnerving, along with many other things. Russians sometimes like to call Moscow the Third Rome—third after Rome itself and Constantinople—and this is not an entirely empty claim. But this is not to say that Russian civilization is derivative; yes, it has managed to absorb the entire classical heritage, viewed through a distinctly eastern lens, but its vast northern environment has transformed that heritage into something radically different.
Since this subject is of overwhelming complexity, I will focus on just four factors, which I find essential for understanding the transformation we are currently witnessing.
1. Taking offense
Western nations have emerged in an environment of limited resources and relentless population pressure, and this has to a large degree determined the way in which they respond when they are offended. For quite a long time, while centralized authority was weak, conflicts were settled through bloody conflict, and even a minor affront could cause former friends to become instant adversaries and draw their swords. This is because it was an environment in which standing your ground was key to survival.
In contrast, Russia emerged as a nation in an environment of almost infinite, although mostly quite diffuse, resources. It also drew from the bounty of the trade route that led from the Vikings to the Greeks, which was so active that Arab geographers believed that there was a saltwater strait linking the Black Sea with the Baltic, whereas the route consisted of rivers with a considerable amount of portage. In this environment, it was important to avoid conflict, and people who would draw their swords at a single misspoken word were unlikely to do well in it.
Thus, a very different conflict resolution strategy has emerged, which survives to this day. If you insult, aggrieve or otherwise harm a Russian, you are unlikely to get a fight (unless it happens to be a demonstrative beating held in a public setting, or a calculated settling of scores through violence). Instead, more likely than not, the Russian will simply tell you to go to hell, and then refuse to have anything further to do with you. If physical proximity makes this difficult, the Russian will consider relocating, moving in any direction that happens to be away from you. So common is this speech act in practice that it has been abbreviated to a monosyllabic utterance: “Пшёл!” (“Pshol!”) and can be referred to simply as “послать” (literally, “to send”). In an environment where there is an almost infinite amount of free land to settle, such a strategy makes perfect sense. Russians live like settled people, but when they have to move, they move like nomads, whose main method of conflict resolution is voluntary relocation.
This response to grievance as something permanent is a major facet of Russian culture, and westerners who do not understand it are unlikely to achieve an outcome they would like, or even understand. To a westerner, an insult can be resolved by saying something like “I am sorry!” To a Russian that's pretty much just noise, especially if it is being emitted by somebody who has already been told to go to hell. A verbal apology that is not backed up by something tangible is one of these rules of politeness, which to the Russians are something of a luxury. Until a couple of decades ago, the standard Russian apology was “извиняюсь” (“izviniáius'”), which can be translated literally as “I excuse myself.” Russia is now a much more polite country, but the basic cultural pattern remains in place.
Although purely verbal apologies are worthless, restitution is not. Setting things right may involve parting with a prized possession, or making a significant new pledge, or announcing an important change of direction. The point is, these all involve taking pivotal actions, not just words, because beyond a certain point words can only make the situation worse, taking it from the “Go to hell” stage to the even less copacetic “Let me show you the way” stage.
2. Dealing with invaders
Russia has a long history of being invaded from every direction, but especially from the west, and Russian culture has evolved a certain mindset which is difficult for outsiders to comprehend. First of all, it is important to realize that when Russians fight off an invasion (and having the CIA and the US State Department run Ukraine with the help of Ukrainian Nazis qualifies as an invasion) they are not fighting for territory, at least not directly. Rather, they are fighting for Russia as a concept. And the concept states that Russia has been invaded numerous times, but never successfully. In the Russian mindset, invading Russia successfully involves killing just about every Russian, and, as they are fond of saying, “They can't kill us all.” (“Нас всех не убьёшь.”) Population can be restored over time (it was down 22 million at the end of World War II) but the concept, once lost, would be lost forever. It may sound nonsensical to a westerner to hear Russians call their country “a country of princes, poets and saints,” but that's what it is—it is a state of mind. Russia doesn't have a history—it is its history.
Because the Russians fight for the concept of Russia rather than for any given chunk of Russian territory, they are always rather willing to retreat—at first. When Napoleon invaded Russia, fully planning to plunder his way across the countryside, he found the entire countryside torched by the retreating Russians. When he finally occupied Moscow, it too went up in flames. Napoleon camped out for a bit, but eventually, realizing that there was nothing more to be done (attack Siberia?) and that his army would starve and die of exposure if they remained, he beat a hasty and shameful retreat, eventually abandoning his men to their fate. As they retreated, another facet of Russian cultural heritage came to the fore: every peasant from every village that got torched as the Russians retreated was in the forefront as the Russians advanced, itching for a chance to take a pot shot at a French soldier.
Similarly, the German invasion during World War II was at first able to make rapid advances, taking a lot of territory, while the Russians equally swiftly retreated and evacuated their populations, relocating entire factories and other institutions to Siberia and resettling families in the interior of the country. Then the German advance stopped, reversed, and eventually turned into a rout. The standard pattern repeated itself, with the Russian army breaking the invader's will while most of the locals that found themselves under occupation withheld cooperation, organized as partisans and inflicted maximum possible damage on the retreating invader.
|Murmansk, 68°58′45″, pop. 300,000|
January 12: first sunrise in 40 days
Length of day: 38 minutes
3. Dealing with foreign powers
Russia owns almost the entire northern portion of the Eurasian continent, which comprises something like 1/6 of the Earth's dry surface. That, by Earth standards, is a lot of territory. This is not an aberration or an accident of history: throughout their history, the Russians were absolutely driven to provide for their collective security by gaining as much territory as possible. If you are wondering what motivated them to undertake such a quest, see “Dealing with invaders” above.
If you think that foreign powers repeatedly attempted to invade and conquer Russia in order to gain access to its vast natural resources, then you are wrong: the access was always there for the asking. The Russians are not exactly known for refusing to sell their natural resources—even to their potential enemies. No, what Russia's enemies wanted was to be able to tap into Russia's resources free of charge. To them, Russia's existence was an inconvenience, which they attempted to eliminate through violence.
What they achieved instead was a higher price for themselves, once their invasion attempt failed. The calculus is simple: the foreigners want Russia's resources; to defend them, Russia needs a strong, centralized state with a big, powerful military; ergo, the foreigners should be made to pay, to support Russia's state and military. Consequently, most of the Russian state's financial needs are addressed through export tariffs, on oil and natural gas especially, rather than by taxing the Russian population. After all, the Russian population is taxed heavily enough by having to fight off periodic invasions; why tax them more? Thus, the Russian state is a customs state: it uses customs duties and tariffs to extract funds from the enemies who would destroy it and use these funds to defend itself. Since there is no replacement for Russia's natural resources, the more hostile the outside world acts toward Russia, the more it will end up paying for Russia's national defense.
Note that this policy is directed at foreign powers, not at foreign-born people. Over the centuries, Russia has absorbed numerous immigrants: from Germany during the 30 years' war; from France after the French revolution. More recent influxes have been from Vietnam, Korea, China and Central Asia. Last year Russia absorbed more immigrants than any other country except for the United States, which is dealing with an influx from countries on its southern border, whose populations its policies have done much to impoverish. Moreover, the Russians are absorbing this major influx, which includes close to a million from war-torn Ukraine, without much complaint. Russia is a nation of immigrants to a greater extent than most others, and is more of a melting pot than the United States.
4. Thanks, but we have our own
One more interesting Russian cultural trait is that Russians have always felt compelled to excel in all categories, from ballet and figure-skating to hockey and football to space flight and microchip manufacturing. You may think of champagne as a trademark French product, but last I checked “Советское шампанское” (“Soviet champagne”) was still selling briskly around New Year's Eve, and not only in Russia but in Russian shops in the US because, you see, the French stuff may be nice, but it just doesn't taste sufficiently Russian. For just about every thing you can imagine there is a Russian version of it, which the Russians often feel is better, and sometimes can claim they invented in the first place (the radio, for instance, was invented by Popov, not by Marconi). There are exceptions (tropical fruit is one example) and they are allowed provided they come from a “brotherly nation” such as Cuba. That was the pattern during the Soviet times, and it appears to be coming back to some extent now.
During the late Brezhnev/Andropov/Gorbachev “stagnation” period Russian innovation indeed stagnated, along with everything else, and Russia lost ground against the west technologically (but not culturally). After the Soviet collapse Russians became eager for western imports, and this was quite normal considering that Russia wasn't producing much of anything at the time. Then, during the 1990s, there came the era of western compradors, who dumped imported products on Russia with the long-term goal of completely wiping out domestic industry and making Russia into a pure raw materials supplier, at which point it would be defenseless against an embargo and easily forced to surrender its sovereignty. This would be an invasion by non-military means, against which Russia would find itself defenseless.
This process ran quite far before it hit a couple of major snags. First, Russian manufacturing and non-hydrocarbon exports rebounded, doubling several times in the course of a decade. The surge included grain exports, weapons, and high-tech. Second, Russia found lots of better, cheaper, friendlier trading partners around the world. Still, Russia's trade with the west, and with the EU specifically, is by no means insignificant. Third, the Russian defense industry has been able to maintain its standards, and its independence from imports. (This can hardly be said about the defense firms in the west, which depend on Russian titanium exports.)
And now there has come the perfect storm for the compradors: the ruble has partially devalued in response to lower oil prices, pricing out imports and helping domestic producers; sanctions have undermined Russia's confidence in the reliability of the west as suppliers; and the conflict over Crimea has boosted the Russians' confidence in their own abilities. The Russian government is seizing this opportunity to champion companies that can quickly effect import replacement for imports from the west. Russia's central bank has been charged with financing them at interest rates that make import replacement even more attractive.
Some people have been drawing comparisons between the period we are in now and the last time oil prices dropped—all the way to $10/barrel—in some measure precipitating the Soviet collapse. But this analogy is false. At the time, the Soviet Union was economically stagnant and dependent on western credit to secure grain imports, without which it wouldn't have been able to raise enough livestock to feed its population. It was led by the feckless and malleable Gorbachev—an appeaser, a capitulator, and a world-class windbag whose wife loved to go shopping in London. The Russian people despised him and referred to him as “Mishka the Marked,” thanks to his birthmark. And now Russia is resurgent, is one of the world's largest grain exporters, and is being led by the defiant and implacable President Putin who enjoys an approval rating of over 80%. In comparing pre-collapse USSR to Russia today, commentators and analysts showcase their ignorance.
This part almost writes itself. It's a recipe for disaster, so I'll write it out as a recipe.
1. Take a nation of people who respond to offense by damning you to hell, and refusing to having anything more to do with you, rather than fighting. Make sure that this is a nation whose natural resources are essential for keeping your lights on and your houses heated, for making your passenger airliners and your jet fighters, and for a great many other things. Keep in mind, a quarter of the light bulbs in the US light up thanks to Russian nuclear fuel, whereas a cutoff of Russian gas to Europe would be a cataclysm of the first order.
2. Make them feel that they are being invaded by installing a government that is hostile to them in a territory that they consider part of their historical homeland. The only truly non-Russian part of the Ukraine is Galicia, which parted company many centuries ago and which, most Russians will tell you, “You can take to hell with you.” If you like your neo-Nazis, you can keep your neo-Nazis. Also keep in mind how the Russians deal with invaders: they freeze them out.
3. Impose economic and financial sanctions on Russia. Watch in dismay as your exporters start losing money when in instant retaliation Russia blocks your agricultural exports. Keep in mind that this is a country that, thanks to surviving a long string of invasion attempts, traditionally relies on potentially hostile foreign states to finance its defense against them. If they fail to do so, then it will resort to other ways of deterring them, such as freezing them out. “No gas for NATO members” seems like a catchy slogan. Hope and pray that it doesn't catch on in Moscow.
4. Mount an attack on their national currency, causing it to lose part of its value on par with a lower price of oil. Watch in dismay as Russian officials laugh all the way to the central bank because the lower ruble has caused state revenues to remain unchanged in spite of lower oil prices, erasing a potential budget deficit. Watch in dismay as your exporters go bankrupt because their exports are priced out of the Russian market. Keep in mind, Russia has no national debt to speak of, runs a negligible budget deficit, has plentiful foreign currency reserves and ample gold reserves. Also keep in mind that your banks have loaned hundreds of billions of dollars to Russian businesses (which you have just deprived of access to your banking system by imposing sanctions). Hope and pray that Russia doesn't put a freeze on debt repayments to western banks until the sanctions are lifted, since that would blow up your banks.
5. Watch in dismay as Russia signs major natural gas export deals with everyone except you. Is there going to be enough gas left for you when they are done? Well, it appears that this no longer a concern for the Russians, because you have offended them, and, being who they are, they told you to go to hell (don't forget to take Galicia with you) and will now deal with other, friendlier countries.
6. Continue to watch in dismay as Russia actively looks for ways to sever most of the trade links with you, finding suppliers in other parts of the world or organizing production for import replacement.
But now comes a surprise—an underreported one, to say the least. Russia has just offered the EU a deal. If the EU refuses to join the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the US (which, by the way, would hurt it economically) then it can join the Customs Union with Russia. Why freeze yourselves out when we can all freeze out Washington instead? This is the restitution Russia would accept for the EU's offensive behavior with regard to the Ukraine and the sanctions. Coming from a customs state, it is a most generous offer. A lot went into making it: the recognition that the EU poses no military threat to Russia and not much of an economic one either; the fact that the European countries are all very cute and tiny and lovable, and make tasty cheeses and sausages; the understanding that their current crop of national politicians is feckless and beholden to Washington, and that they need a big push in order to understand where their nations' true interests lie... Will the EU accept this offer, or will they accept Galicia as a new member and “freeze out”?
Excellent analysis/summary! There is not a single sentence that is in disagreement with my personal aspirations, character and culture. I think I was born Russian or have a Russian heart!!! All that remains is getting my plans in order so that I can move there asap! (Abel Kotze, South Africa)...
Very informative. Thanks.
I loved the way our politicians are qualified: "feckless and beholden to Washington", totally true.
Happy New Year 2015... what could go worse?
excellent article - thanks Dmitry!
sadly the EU leaders now will just ignore the Russian offer and continue to do as the Empire tells them.
Even though people here in europe know that is lunacy :(
I'm running out of superlatives! Pure gold again, Dmitry; and with the usual measure of suddenly-erupting LOLz at one arresting insight after another. Love it!
Please, I beg you, don't get so buried in Quidnon work that you have to suspend this blog. As you've already noticed, your pipeline of actually-sound insight and information on Russia is simply invaluable to us in the West; considering that, apart from Saker and one or two others, the Permanent Bullshit Blizzard of the Western states (fondly called 'news services') simply doesn't offer any of this 24 carat sound fact and analysis; and most of the PBB operatives - both the outfits and the bubblehead 'journalist' Barbie'n'Ken-clones who hack for them - are not remotely equal to being able to offer it. Just not up to the job, any of them.
As I've had occasion to say to one or two naturally-gifted amateurs before on other fora: How does it feel to know that your a better real journalist, as a citizen-volunteer, than the alleged professionals?
Tremendous stuff! Keep sluggin' Dmitry! And sailors' luck sent to you in fifty-gallon drums for Q! Did something similar myself, years back, in steel, with the scars and weld-burns still visible to prove it. Seventy foot hull, in my case: 'ORCA Cleddyfwr'. Now the home of a young family, to whom I passed it on when I became too old to continue. Q is a similar BIG undertaking; but not one that's likely to defeat the Orlovs, I imagine.
Solidarity, good brother! RhG
Thanks for another excellent, compelling, logical and amusing article. I have learned a lot from your writing, and hope to persuade other British people to think likewise. (I'm now voting UKIP because I want the UK to be independent - of NATO and Washington too).
"Population can be restored over time (it was down 22 million at the end of World War II) but the concept, once lost, would be lost forever".
Reminds me of what the English admiral Cunningham said during the Battle of Crete, when his ships were being sunk continually by the Luftwaffe. Nevertheless, he insisted, they must go on trying to save the soldiers who needed evacuation. "It takes three years to build a ship, but it takes 300 years to build a tradition".
"Russians have always felt compelled to excel in all categories, from ballet and figure-skating to hockey and football to space flight and microchip manufacturing."
Don't forget literature! Too many great authors to mention here, but my all-time favourite is Goncharov's "Oblomov", followed closely by Gogol's "Diary of a Madman". Both are brilliant and hilarious, plus the writing is second to none.
I have a question. The old Soviet Union comprised multiple ethnicities. And yet in the admittedly limited number of USSR videos I have seen, such as this one
everyone is white. Why is that? Have I simply viewed too limited a sample of videos?
Thanks Dimitry for offering this very nice and studious perspective in the country that the West is repeatedly underestimating. And at least right now also actively misunderstanding for it's own huge loss.
The picture you are painting is something like I have been drawing to be seen by my fellows' eyes also here in Finland, but mainly not having caused any significant success. Hubris for the "western values" has continuously raised especially by this huge ideological statement machinery called EU where we now take intensively part on, even not knowing what it's exactly doing and getting us into. But again: rise of education looks to have been brought us enormous ability to believe in nice sounding words even it's coming more and more obvious those words are to get us to a huge disaster.
In Finland we have a long long tradition of mainly peaceful co-existence with russians. In fact we where under the government of Russia in the 19th century until the WWI, but there is quite a concensus that was much more harmonious time that we had previously under swedish rulers. Our own small but powerful swedish speaking minority looks like to have an agenda to dispel or even falsify that view. In the end resulting things like russophobia. Disgusting.
We had own trauma-causing battles with russians in 1940's. Though it looks in first place very odd that elderly countryside people, some them having real memories of war time, have a very reasonable approach towards russians and are very much pointing out friendly relations in between these specific two countries. But when you think twice it's also obvious that is very sane way to act. It's obvious Finland can benefit - and is exactly benefitting by e.g. 50% of it's energy imported from Russia - much more of active friendliness than any other approach.
The problem is instead the young and educated ones, who are eating the apples that media-snake is suggesting them to eat. That has caused a very stupid hate upon Russia and it's actions.
I'm living about 50 km to Russian border here in northern Finland, and very much hoping the corrupted construction called EU is to suffocate on it's infantile appetite soon, so we'll been able to say to our neighbors: "we went badly wrong, misguided. And for sure that hell you said we were free to go into was not any worth to go."
Thanks for that !
I think I knew or sensed part of it (I'm French).
In particular this "expansionist Russia" meme towards the west always sounded strange to me, as clearly there is no lack of "lebensraum", and no lack of oil/resources either (or yet, to be correct).
How about this new law against gay(or more trans) being allowed to drive ? As for instance in :
Is it overblown ?
Very instructive write up, thank you.
Hailing from the B in BRICS, I wonder how the ruble devaluation has affected the bilateral currency swap agreements with such countries.
I know that the Brazilian real has been devalued too, almost to the tune of the ruble, so perhaps the trade between both countries hasn't suffered much.
We are witnessing history in the making. I'm only afraid that, a century almost to the date after the Great War, a subterfuge for a blood bath will be concocted by the military hegemon, lest its people turn against its paid pipers.
Yves, the law is mostly an effort.to make sure that mental patients.don't get licenses, but it seems transsexuals got thrown in, probably as west-baiting. By focusing on gay rights in Russia people in the west play into the hands of some nastier elements in Russian politics, setting gay rights in Russia back by a generation or more. I think they should stop meddling and causing damage.
Very insightful article on why Washington's neo-cons are pretty much on the same fool's errand upon which both Napolean and Hitler embarked. But as Mencken once said (more or less), nobody ever went broke betting on the stupidity of the American people. That said, here a few random thoughts and jots:
I think you should know that I listened to Farewell of Slavianka while reading this post. :-)
(the radio, for instance, was invented by Popov, not by Marconi)
When I read this, I couldn't help but imagine Ensign Chekhov from Star Trek saying, "Radio and telewision are a Russian inwention!" I have also heard it claimed that it was actually Nikola Tesla, a Serb, who invented radio which as we know has the same technological basis as television.
Here in the northern US over the past two winters, the broken jet-stream has been giving us a little taste of what Russian winters must be like, in the form of the infamous "polar vortex". If that's what all your winters are like, no wonder y'all are as tough as cast-iron railroad spikes! I had the day off Thursday last week, and I pretty much stayed inside all day.
Perfectly written, I asking myself for quite long time why Russia is still patient to educate stubborn stupid children at US and or Europe?
Myself I would already say go to hell with them..
I am always amused by media how they try to portrait Russia and Putin as unpredictable, while Putin is clearly articulating openly what is Russia proposals (since Munchen speech) and look.
I came to conclusion that Russians are good at Chess where you playing quite openly.
In US I guess is more popular Poker. So US is trying to play Poker, but they did not realize they are involved in Chess game.
As with Finland we have in Czech Republic or former Czechoslovakia some bad feeleng due to invasion of 68.
But again, it is true politians at that time Czech Communist Party has beed warned several times and did not react accordingly accordingly to Soviet concerns. There where other factors as well, but again - there was attempt do explain Soviet position.
To your list of attributes you could add that the Russian state (or whoever happens to be in charge) is normally willing to tolerate (create, exacerbate, make good use of) tremendous privation and suffering in their populations - famines, pogroms, gulags, state socialism, etc. - to an extent that less secure leaders would blanch at. That alone makes it impossible to compare the hand that Putin holds compared to a Merkel or an Obama.
The Russian Army took the grain and burned down the peasants' village, yet it was Napoleon's army that ended up on the receiving end of those peasant pikes as they made their back through.
Thanks for the summary... makes this lapsed Russian (Crimean!)want to move back. You forgot to mention that part ab "show a Russian a bit of generosity, and you'll be repaid ten times over."
Russia's Not Invented Here syndrome has seemed like a crippling deficiency throughout the 20th century, but as globalization breaks down and cheap energy goes the way of the Dodo, that might just be Russia's saving grace.
A very interesting post, Dmitriy! None of the Russia-based news sources I follow have mentioned the offer you mention at the very end; can you provide a link to a source in English?
Thank you so very much for this analysis. I have been wondering why Putin hasn't had a more forceful reaction to the UNITED STATES's provocations. In light of what you said, he is clearly well past the "Go to hell" stage but not yet at the "Let me show you the way" stage. Unfortunately I fear the US leaders will take that as a sign of weakness or indecision and keep pressing.
I've spent a life time reading Russian history and for pleasure reading Russian literature. "War and Peace" should be read by the Neocons in Washington who really believe in NATO's power to bully Russia into submission.
The NATO cheerleaders and US Military have feasted on fighting basically unarmed 3rd world nations. They can't remember the last time a helicopter of Fighter Bombers was shot down by a missile. The Russians could educate them very quickly with the TOR-M2u and S-400 systems.
Today, Washington is ruled by radicals, they are so aggressive that they approach a threat on par with the Nazi German madness of 1930's. The reason for the power of these radicals is really hard for even us Americans to fathom.
Russia is more and more being seen as the only nation left who can stand up to the radicals who rule Washington and repress us Americans with a police state, increasing wealth transfer and culture of war.
To leave off. Russia has made great steps forward in the last decade. My on the ground experience in Russia leaves me with some complaints that Putin needs to address with the greatest vigor. That would be Oligarch Power and their transfer of wealth to them and away from Russia's workers and retirees. Also, I remember 1990's organized crime, a friend of mine in security services was badly wounded fighting these organized thugs. Myself, in travel around European Russia met too many organized criminals to count. We were never save without paying for locally based security, as even state security was not operative outside the major cities. It was indeed not safe! I know it has improved, but locals who seek to start businesses still face the thugs who will demand to be payed for their security. Were I Putin, I would remember and awaken an inner "Stalin" when it comes to both Oligarchs and Organized Crime.
This just to confirm Dmitry analysis - use googletranslate - recent poll in Russian regarding west attitude....
One trouble with invading Russia is that if it worked, someone would end up having to live there.
So why are liberal USians so easily diverted into questions about who can do what with his/her whatever? Why has that suddenly become the test of True Liberalism? Conversely, why are Russians making a big deal out of pushing USian Liberalist buttons? Granted, we aren't much use on real issues like poverty & what to do about it, & tend to be suckers [so far] for anything the Dem Party serves up, long as the Repubs stay utterly repubnant!
Real trouble might be some kind of a relief from all that, except I've got a disquieting feeling that it won't be.
As proof that the sanctions have hurt the west as much or more than Russia, two days before the Charlie Hebdo shootings, Hollande gave a speech demanding an end to sanctions against Russia because of harm to French business, including no payment yet for two Mistral helicopter ships.
Two days later, someone, "terrorists" according to the west, but probably the CIA or Mossad according to various people like Thierry Meyssan, Webster Tarpley, and Paul Craig Roberts.
@ John D. Wheeler, I think Putin is feeding USA the rope by which we will hang ourselves. Whenever we attack Russia, we end up weakening ourselves, such as with the sanctions.
At some point we will be so overextended we will collapse under our own weight - rather like Rome did. Rome's enemies were able to invade from the outside mainly because Rome first rotted from the inside.
Very interesting characterization, thank you. I am curious about these things since I read Spengler. By and large, he thought that the Russian steppe will host one of the next important civilizations after it gets rid of the Western influence. Most of your reasoning makes perfect sense.
Some of your points seem to be a bit too general though. I cannot recall anything about a customs state in Tsarist Russia for example. It is an actual policy and it works well, but is it part of the national character? You also avoided the recurring imperial drive behind Russian policies which is quite important for her neighbours in the long run.
Another note: I think that the non-Russian parts of Ukraine should also include Carpathian Ruthenia which is a different basket from Galicia.
Thank you again.
Ah !!! I laughed and smiled all the way - this is so good... makes so much sense... thank you for writing this and letting us in on these 'secrets'. I simply love it as am fascinated by and admire Russia.
Russia's art/culture and incredible ability to survive...
- I am many years old - of Viking stock - know some Russians and they are very dear to me.... I watch what is going on today and thanks to internet and on line news in English I can follow I see much - you have given us a good lesson today. Thank you.
Having grown up in the Cold War era, this is a very eye opening article. I have Russian ancestry and have always been fascinated by it. Your article makes me want to emigrate to Russia.
As others have remarked, your detailed analysis and summary are very good. Thank you!
The only assertion I recognize as erroneous is this: Russia is a nation of immigrants to a greater extent than most others, and is more of a melting pot than the United States.
The United States is nothing but a "melting pot." Only 1.6% of its population self-identifies as Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, or American Indian. There is no such creature as an ethnic United-Statesian among the remainder of the ~313 million people who live there. Nearly every resident is a hyphenate, and every element of U.S. culture is an amalgam of its melting-pot residents’ original ethnic and racial influences.
On the other hand, there most certainly is a distinctly Russian people, a distinctly Russian language, and a (long and rich) distinctly Russian culture. So of course Russia is not more of a “melting pot” than the U.S.
Thank you for another excellent post!
Very interesting. One thing you forgot to mention is that Russia makes much better missiles than the USA, in particular anti-ship missiles. Also they have an airborn ion-cloud based stealth technology that makes even old prop-planes invisible to US radar, and now an ECM system that can completely disable the US Aegis naval defensive systems.
I think if the USA is insane enough to start an actual war with Russia, there will be a lot of 'showing the way to hell' to US naval force projection.
Some years ago (could be 15!)talking to friends in Romania about the place of Russia and arguing that if Russia turns her back to Europe that would amount to the death of Europe, I was met with roaring laughter. They probably still laugh (accumulation of years doesn't necessarily mean a growth in wisdom).
You nailed it Dmitri. Excellent article. Being of Russian origin like yourself and also living a couple decades in Canada I can 100% relate to what you are writing. You connected dots very nicely between Russian environment, national character caused by it and subsequent Russian history and modern reality. Enjoyed very much!
Good articles on above site
i found offer by russian eu ambassador ingerman that eu and russia work together instead of ttip at above link.
nice analysis. Keep it up.
All the best to Russia-
I pray that you are right..
Putin did his do, and is silent now excellent- nervousness is almost palpable...
Excellent article, and great title, BTW. Anyone who hasn't seen "The Peculiarities of the Russian National Fishing," I highly recommend it.
At a loss for words .I am late on posting my comment and all the posts above say it all.You brought a smile ,if not outright laughter with the "go to hell " phrase and also "let me show you the way" .
I reside in Canada ,the Southern part and I can certainly vouch for the cold winters ,often below -40C,but I tend to think that living in such a climate make us different ,in as much as we tend to be more neighborly and respectful with others.It can be for reasons of survival even in this day and age.
I totally enjoyed your blog and am now registered to learn more of the Eastern world and Russian mind set .So many good writers ,scientists etc. and great thinkers come out of Russia .Your blog exemplifies this .
From my heart Thank You.
Thank you very much.Ich bin sehr 'entertained' - about Russia there is always a lot of misunderstandings; some people, like the ittle swede Karl XII and the little frenchman Nappe only could think of war as a way to find an answer to the russian problem.
Excellent prose, Dmitri, and a cogent explanation of why the standard Western "news media" explanation of and predictions of Russia's near-term fate just doesn't cut it. One of the major themes therein is the ubiquitous Russia-won't-be-able-to-meet-her-foreign-debts spiel. Well, like you said, she'll only replace the imports with locally produced goods and if Russia doesn't meet the obligations made by her local businesses taking loans from the Western bank[ing gnome]s, so be it. Something tells me this is more of a Western banking problem than anything else!
And as far as the timing and possible LIHOP / MIHOP aspects of Charlie Hebdo? Well since Obama didn't show up for the French solidarity march, the French will take this as a snub by typically self-centred Americains and will probably act accordingly. The Russians aren't the only ones who know how to tell other people to go to Hell!
P.S. Now I think I know where the American expression, "Oh, pshaw!" came from.
It was in the 19th century that my great-uncle Lev Sergeevich Golitzyn elaborated Russian champagne on his property, Novyi Svet, in Crimea. He even won a gold medal for it at the Paris Universal Exposition in 1889.
I hate to disillusion you, but, UKIP are ardent 'Friends Of Israel' - they have to be or otherwise they would sink without trace. So ....what's to be with them?
Putin reminds me of a US racehorse called Secretariat. I think when he won the Belmont Stakes the second horse came in 40 lengths behind !
One reporter said he seemed to be running in a different race from the others! Maybe on a different planet, too. I can't remember.
It was also said that he sprinted the whole mile and a quarter - where five and six furlongs are considered the sprint distances.
Big Red and little Red. I believe I read Putin has ginger hair.
Money—and how it rules our lives
What if the Public Understood How Money Works?
By William K. Black
A New Sino-Russian Alliance?
Greetings from France.
If you want to see how the American operate, pick up "The Global Minotaur" from Prof Varoufakis (Possibly the new finance minister of Greece if Syriza wins). While the Russians mind their own business and try to develop their economy on a sustainable and consensual way with their neighbours, Washington has this predatory and parasitic system which sucks global surplus into their system, in exchange for nothing.
Speaking of Figure skating: in the last Grand Prix Junior championships, Russian youngsters stood on the podium in every event, of ten in two positions. By contrast, no US skater made a top three placement and only three were in attendance. Yes, that's only figure skating and only juniors. But it's a harbinger of things to come. Russia in the '00's has gone into a terrible decline. It looks like it has more than replentished its ranks. They have done so painstakingly and in record time. IF you can do it in Figure Skating you can do it in just about any field.
I am speechless. Bravo, Sir - bravo.
Excellent analysis Dmitry. As an ethnic Russian I find myself behaving in ways which mirror the Russian national character in my business and social dealings.
BTW, I really like reading your blog and watch many of your interviews.
I could not more agree. But for me as a European, I would like to see Russia go a little more in developing human rights respect. It would take away a lot of the negative bias among ordinary Europeans.
The latest from Paul Craig Roberts: http://kingworldnews.com/paul-craig-roberts-putin-can-destroy-nato-entire-western-financial-system/
France starts to talk about dropping sanctions, then this event happens. The timing of it is as suspicious as the downing of that Malaysian passenger jet that the neo Nazis in Kiev shot down.
Oliver Stone has stated that the coup in Kiev had all the markings of the CIA on it. He plans to release a documentary on Putin that casts him in a different light than the lies and distortions who are fed by the bought and sold media whores back here in so called "free world", the west.
Europe is contemplating sanctions and this jet with almost 300 innocent lives aboard is deliberately shot down. I have a passing curiosity about the JFK coup (it was LBJ with CIA elements and the mob, who all laid in bed together). In this 6 hour long documentary where this guy is reading from officially declassified documents, he reads right from the documents about the CIA potential plan to shoot down a commercial jet, blame it on Cuba, and use that event as an excuse to invade Cuba, overthrow Castro,(and install another US puppet or oligarch). So they have seriously considered doing such a thing in the past. Very interesting.
The latest, France is talking about dropping sanctions against Russia, and this latest event. Paul Craig Roberts suggests that is a black flag event to reign in European countries who are beginning to realize who the bad guys really are (the US neocons) and that all of this is really not in their best interests.
If true, watch for future unfortunate or tragic events to occur in any other country that begins to think about exerting their independence from Washington.
Meanwhile, according to Dr Roberts, Russia is starting to route their gas through Turkey because they are sick of the neo Nazis stealing it while its en route to Europe. He calls upon Putin to shut off NATO countries and balk at repaying European banks. I don't know what Putin is waiting for, I think he has shown the most restraint, courage, and wisdom of any leader in the world.
What a great read, thanks a lot and please don't stop. I will be coming back regularly to check this blog, we really need to hear what Russians think about themselves and how they view the rest of the world.
Yesterday I came across another great article about the Russian physique, by a Spanish writer resident in Moscow for many years and a person interested in the real soul of that great country.
The strange thing, is that both writers highlight many of the same things, about our misunderstood neighbours.
The Spanish writers name is, Daniel Utrilla and if any of you are interested and can read Spanish I can assure you that it will not disappoint.
I am posting the link because is so bloody rear to read anything positive about Russia these day, thanks again and all the best fromantic Asturias, Spain. http://www.jotdown.es/2015/01/daniel-utrilla-rusia-entiende-que-danar-su-economia-era-el-objetivo-y-que-ucrania-ha-sido-el-instrumento/
Producing commodities cannot be free so Germans are happy getting Russian oil and gas and selling cars and equipment to the big Russian market.
who got the commodities for free? A small group of oligarchs both private and public keeping the money in hard currency in offshore accounts.
Russian state is not so kind with small and medium sized enterprises as bureaucrats are thinking about their pockets... So the European SME has access to working capital at much lower cost.
Finally Russia needs hard currency for its exports so maybe better to let Europe to continue being a source of hard rather than soft currency...
Any thoughts on this history/analysis of Russia
by Craig Murray, a former British ambassador?
2015 will be a year of change. Listen to the entire interview here http://kingworldnews.com/dr-paul-craig-roberts-1-17-15/
I follow Russian news and geopolitical analysis passionately.
You have just penned one of the most salient observations on the Russian soul as it pertains to the events that have transpired over recent years.
I congratulate you and applaud your effort - молодец!!!
Really appreciate this analysis & overview. Thanks.
It appears most, if not all, of European politicians are paid for and bought or silenced through NSA/GCHQ surveliance. Consequently, they thank God for the rain every time they are spit on the face.
The blame, therefore, lies with the electorate who keeps electing these puppets.
I don't doubt that Russia will weather the coming economic and social disruptions far better than the Americans will. I firmly believe that there will not be a United States twenty years from now. The danger is that the US and Israel will resort to nuclear war when they realise that the game is up and that they are about to lose their pre-eminent position in the world. The Russians are fortunate to have a strong, intelligent leader like Putin.
Dear mr. Orlov, thanks a lot !
It is what I really know from long ago about Russia and Russians.
It is true: Russia it a civilisation by it's self, and a great one. No need to mention the argument.
yes Russia could be considered exceptional not USA.
To me when I refere to somthing good, real good mostly I've made the reference to Russians and Russia.
But the "others"hate the superiority of somebody else and only inferior people could hate without any arrgumentsor acknowledgemts of the facts.
I find very bad what's happend at this very moment against Russia, but this could be the suiccide of the enemies of Russia.
I hope not that they will pledge such a moronic succide !
it plenty of everythig to everyone and certainly thanks to Russia.
It is time that the Western countryies will wake uo before the tragedy will occure.
The reason that the west and her vassal states are provoking Russia is because they are only going to be wasting the life and blood of their 'people'...their own hides will never see any danger. I keep begging people to 'hold the responsible, responsible' but no one listens. If Barack Obama want to fight Russia let him pack up his kids and his wife and go fight. What does his desire and warmongering have to do with us? Nothing. How LONG? HOW LONG(!) until the people of the world recognize that they are nothing but fertilizers in the world 'leaders' (really world destroyers) minds? The West feels it has 'too many citizens' and has been actively trying to maim them for some time (they put fluoride in our water, for Gods sake, one of the most toxic hazardous wastes known to man) so they are ready to pour out the lifeblood of millions of her citizens on Russian soil to gain a measure of 'control'...and to prop up 'the empire'. But it is not necessary for this to happen...the earth has room to accommodate billions and billions in proserity. But larger pouplace means less control and the 'destroyers' want to retain control more than anything. If you Russians don't acknowledge what is going on, I am going to begin to think that it is all a game to you and that you ARE NOT a 'christian' empire AT ALL...and that is my equivalent of saying 'go to hell' because you will have stood for murder and injustice and called yourself and your cause 'righteous'. Humanity is not 'owned' by humanity. It is owned by GOD ALONE. Surely a well educated Russian knows the works of Tolstoy! :) thanks for the article it was very interesting.
I enjoyed reading your article and based upon my experience in working in Kazakhstan for a few years would agree with your summary of the Russian Character. I have many Russian friends that I met while working in Kazakhstan which runs along the southern border of Russia. The Russian people that I know are courageous and strong willed people with an unyielding moral character. Their dedication to family, friends, faith, and "Mother Russia" are legendary. I saw 56 below zero (wind chill) winters in Kz. I cannot imagine winters in Siberia.
I offer one additional thought for your consideration. Correct me if I am wrong, but Russia is still a Sovereign Nation and is no longer beholding to the demands of the Rothschild Banking cabal. While the USA, Inc. is owned by them and therefore enslaved by their debt based economic model and used its Sovereignty as collateral. The economic sanction games played by the USA, Inc are attempts by the Rothschild Banksters to punish Russia for kicking them out of Russia.
Mr. Putin understands this and exudes calm and patience as he awaits for the inevitable economic collapse in the USA, Inc.
This is a very nice analysis indeed. Where I lack the knowledge about how things are around the russian mentality, this article adds up by simple logic, putting 2+2 together. And it's in perfect alignment of my own reasoning, as in "what could Putin possibly want from the west, that his own country doesn't already have plenty of?" Nothing.
By the way, if Tolkien had not himself said that the name his dwarf warrior, Gimli, came from a poetic Old Norse word, gimm, presumably meaning "fire", I’d have sworn he was modeled rather on this ancient Slavic god god Zimnik…
Europeans have very stupidly put themselves under Washington's thumb while alienating a natural ally in Russia.
As a Canadian I am outraged at how our government and the media slanders and propagandizes Putin's Russia. I am also mad at my fellow Canadians who so gullibly lap this BS.
An excellent history lesson, something Americans haven't a clue.
A quick story on the US vs.Russian tolerance of religion. My father, Bill Grutzmacher put up a life size Nativity scene at Chicago's Daley Plaza 29 yrs ago. Maintenance workers from the Daley Center accompanied by Daley Center security guards dismantled the creche with crowbars and sledgehammers, removed the stable along with most of the 21 figures.
My father and a handful of friends and passersby saw the city workers stealing the statues and were able to grab 7 of them, the city stole the rest.
The ACLU stepped in to close the creche down permanently, threatening my father with court. Being a Christian, my Dad fought the good fight and met them in court. The fools at the ACLU didn't know my Dad was bringing "The Advocate" Jesus Christ the Lord. He beat the ACLU and the creche went up. The creche was up again last Christmas, it's 29th year.
Now, consider this, my Dad decided to take a creche to Russia. He set up an approx. 30 ft creche in Red Square. He said all he had to do was simply fill out a form for a permit. It took all of ten minutes. Unfortunately, the Internet/google has removed all articles and pictures of my Dad's Christmas visit to Red Square, I wonder why.
That was an absolutely fascinating read. I'm an American and I hate the way the morons in our government have tried to vilify an entire nation and their leadership. It is reprehensible, we could do so much more together, as real partners as opposed to the malicious efforts by a corrupt regime to denigrate a strong, bright and resilient people.
Thank you for a interesting article. I find your descriptions of western and Russian mentalities quite striking and rather deep.
Mentalities live very long, the millenia are their timescale. Quite persistent, they change rather slowly.
After describing the Russian and the Western mentality, you have given an explanation of their origin which I find especially interesting. It coincides with my thinking on that theme, so 'I agree' is the least I could say
my warm regards,
thanks for brightening up my morning!
You article is priceless!
Как говорится "Из песни слов не выкинешь!".
What an insightful article. I have long observed and applauded the wisdom and patience of President Putin and regard him as the only current stateman. He is doing a wonderful job of making the West look totally stupid and exposing their contempt for the interests of their populations. Again he is setting a good example by treating his population properly and sets an example to the West of where they have gone wrong. A Russian woman impacted my life wonderfully when I was a child in Australia and now I understand her even more. Thank you.
Here is the interview with Dr. Paul Craig Roberts. People are more likely to follow actual hyperlinks than something they have to copy in paste into their browser's address window, IMHO. :-)
Excellent article:precise and witty; thank you.
I am Turkish and know about Russia through our common history. Anybody taking Russia lightly will eventually regret it.
The worst calamity which befell on Russia was the jewish designed and imposed communism. Now,there is only one direction for Russia: its going up.
I have learned so much from this excellent and most readable article.
Some terrific comments also.
Sincere thanks. :)
John in UK.
Excellent article! Too bad most Americans lack the brains to comprehend what damage the district of criminals has done to America and its real national interest. No industrial base,rotting infrastructure,worn out and demoralized military with obsolescent weapons. The biggest debtor nation in the history of mankind and no real ability to take the kind of casualties the Russians can take and prevail.
And dc wants war with Russia! MADNESS!
Thank you for the article, if real change ever happens, it will be fueled by information such as this.
Washington and company are a cultural-cancer on the body of humanity and hopefully will be be dealt with accordingly. I am personally tired of living in a culture that is ran by clinical psychopaths from Hell!
Thank you for the interesting analysis and insight into Russia. There's a reason why the world's best chess players come from your part of the world.
I finally got my wife to read something that is of interest to me. She kept laughing and telling me with:"Hah, that is you! Now I understand".(she's not Russian -> mexican-american) B
Instead of getting her interested in into bigger, maybe geopolitical outlook, I got myself in a funny jam of being a russki...nonetheless, thank you for your writing, Dmitry, it hits every string of this balalayka.
Comparing the US with Russia in a lot of ways is comparing apples and oranges. Take militarily: the US is an island continent that has a strong navy, air force and marines whereas Russia is mostly land locked, has military superiority with its army and along with Europe isn't afraid of the US when it comes to land combat. In terms of strategy, the US still relies on game theory, which explains the US tendency to bully and bluff its opponent, since game theory underpins the wish to win without many casualties. Russia, on the other hand, is more of a rope-a-dope opponent, such as what Muhammad Ali did to George Forman in boxing, wearing an opponent out before counterattacking. Russia also has the world's best chess players and some of the best scientists. The US had Bobby Fischer, who opened some games with the poison pawn tactic, which looks almost foolish but is difficult to beat by the uninitiated. I personally find Russia easy to understand but many Americans can't get beyond the cultural differences with anybody whatsoever, being exceptionally xenophobic in their attitudes. With Switzerland now joining China in currency swaps, it is just a matter of time before more of the EU bypasses NATO in trading with the yuan and indirectly trading with Russia. The US has lost the cultural and propaganda wars with even realizing it. Russia is actually a capitalist country, along with China, but the old guard in the US hasn't caught up to the reality.
If you want confirmation of this article, I recommend to read book Fighting in Hell.
The German Ordeal on the Eastern Front.
As I understood it was written by German generals with purpose to legitimize themselfs for NATO and US:-)
Yet another confirmation of this article, for anyone who is able to understand Russian.
Press conference of Novorussia civic society.
Many speaker mentioning this is attack on Russian civilization.
I guess there was question from foreing corespondent about relations of White and Reds. Reply both lost 1922 and 1991 but we will be united for soverinigty of Russia. :-)
Funny enough, the French in 1812 were also complaining about too hot summer (Adam Zamoyski, Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March). As Russians say, a bad dancer can't perform any better because his own balls prevent him from doing so. As for the "General Frost," a British historian (can't remember his name just now; Max Hastings?) of the Second World War commented once that reading some of his colleagues one can get an impression that harsh conditions existed only on the western side of the front line.
…Anyway, if I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd suspect that the U.S. government ignores global warming precisely to strip Russia from its best natural defense ;)
Estou no Brasil, você não está sozinho.
Dmitry, thanks so much for the insight, people understanding each other can help build kinship. And if it matters, there's a large (and growing larger) difference between at least US leadership and the sentiment of its people.
I think Orlov overlook the problems of infrastructure that disappeared along with the Soviet Union. The necessary logistics and infrastructure have not been restored but decomposed remains in rural areas. Salt cucumbers are the most Russian imaginable and I was somewhat surprised once when I bought salt cucumbers in Murmansk (where I have worked through a number of years) and discovered they were made in India. There is still a long way before Russia can Producing groceries for the domestic market. But first Russia must eradicate CORRUPTION and the Mafia and rebuild infrastructure. I hope it will succeed.
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