Kholmogorov is always fascinating. You can find his work on RI here. (Highly recommended)
When in Moscow a few weeks ago, I met the Russian conservative thinker Egor Kholmogorov.
Unfortunately, my interview of him was cut short after only about 5 minutes, but I was able to record an impromptu talk he gave at the conference we were both attending. So, below are the transcripts of both the short interview and Egor’s speech. In both of these, he explains his philosophy of ‘offensive isolationism.’
Paul Robinson (PR): I am writing a book on Russian conservatism and want to ask you to comment on several things that you have previously said. For instance, you say that Russia is an island and you speak of the necessity of Russian isolationism, but at the same time you talk of the strategy of ‘offensive isolationism.’ Can you comment on this apparent contradiction?
Egor Kholmogorov (EK): The point is that strategically, in terms of culture, as a civilization, as a state, Russia is interested in isolation. That is, as much as possible it shouldn’t intervene very much in world affairs. It shouldn’t be continually supporting the global balance by means of interventions in far away lands, especially as these are taking more and more absurd forms.
An example is the geopolitically-founded intervention in Syria. Now Russian Muslims are demanding that Russia should punish the regime of Myanmar. But Myanmar is completely irrelevant to the majority of Russian citizens. But there’s a problem connected with the fact that what we now call Russia came into being in 1991 in rather an absurd manner.
Russia as a subject of international law was decidedly smaller than Russia as a historical fact, as a historical territory, as a territory inhabited by Russians. Consequently, in our current objective circumstances, isolationism is impossible as we are under continual threat. American tanks are in Estonia, 100 kilometers from St Petersburg. NATO military bases might appear in Ukraine. Thus Russia is currently obliged to attack or counter-attack in some way, because it is objectively threatened.
PR: What do mean by the word ‘attack’?
EK: Spread our influence.
PR: Using soft power?
EK: Not necessarily. In some matters, I’m known as a fierce interventionist. When Ukraine is being discussed, I’ve always supported the firmest resolution of this problem, for the use of the Russian armed forces against the regime which has taken power in Kiev. Because it’s objectively criminal. It’s a country, a state, which can’t exist in its current form. Ukraine will either be an aggressor, which drags the West into war with Russia, or something will happen to it, like it will fall apart into two or more pieces.
Overall, this is indeed soft power, it’s about building a system of diplomatic coalitions, it’s about building a system of cultural influence, what’s called ‘the Russian world.’ For large parts of Asia and Europe, Russia culture is the means by which those areas are included in world culture. Take Moldova, for example. Moldova hasn’t joined the highest level of world culture via Shakespeare or Goethe, but via Pushkin, who lived for a long time in Kishinev, and so on.
If we talk about raising the quality of culture, the quality of life of the whole area known as the post-Soviet countries, a phrase I don’t like as I find the whole theme of the Soviet Union problematic, then their movement upwards, their development, are in one way or another connected with Russia, with Russian influence. Any attempt to orient them towards the West, or let’s say towards Saudi Arabia, will end in degradation, in catastrophe.
PR: But you were against the intervention in Syria.
EK: I wouldn’t say against. I was simply sceptical about it. So far nothing terrible has come of it. When I was asked if it would become a new Afganistan, I immediately replied that no, it wouldn’t, it’s a different geography, a different country. It’s just that in circumstances where Russia has a large number of urgent problems, in circumstances where it has the burdensome and still unresolved Ukrainian crisis on its borders, flying off to far off lands is senseless.
PR: What do you think of the idea that Russia is a distinct civilization? Are you are Russian nationalist who thinks ‘Russia for the Russians’ or are you a Eurasianist?
EK: I am definitely not a Eurasianist. I am a nationalist.
Egor Kholmogorov speech:
Given that I’ve been a political journalist for quite a long time, it seems to me that I can say a couple of words which won’t be at all trivial. Some time ago, about two years, I wrote an article in the journal Notebooks on Conservatism about Robert Kaplan’s book The Revenge of Geography. Robert Kaplan formulated a quite aggressive thesis that the difference between liberal political idealists and conservative political realists in American foreign policy debates is the difference between cannibals.
One cannibal asserts that we should take only the most beautiful and tasty young girls. And the other says that, no, we all share the same principles, we should eat everybody always. The first position is that of the typical realist. The second is that of the typical liberal: let’s eat everybody because we have principles, ideas.
We can see this in the difference between the two approaches towards, say, Yugoslavia or Iraq. One says that it all depends on how far our drones fly and how confident we are that we can carry out air strikes. The other says that, no, we should at all costs bring democracy to this or that region.
At the start of this year, after President Trump’s inauguration, there was a period in which we hoped for dialogue with American realists. Henry Kissinger was usually named as a sort of guru of this approach. And at the peak of these raptures and hopes I decided to study his latest book World Order, in order to understand the principles we could observe among American realists. And these principles were indeed revealed.
The first is unconditional orientation towards interests and the correlation of these interests through a pluralistic, so-called Westphalian system, which allows a large number of small states to form coalitions among themselves against any hegemon. In reality, this isn’t a very historical conception, because if we recall the countries who signed the Treaty of Westphalia, we notice that they all disappeared from the scene in the next 250 years and were replaced by large national states with imperial elements.
The second thing that I noticed in Kissinger was that he clearly doesn’t understand how to integrate his imagining of Russia into this Westphalian system. Russia is too big, and it’s like a big elephant suddenly entered the sandbox in which little kids are playing and tells them ‘I’m going to play with you.’ And when the elephant begins to play in the sandbox, according to the same rules, we observe that on that side of the box where he’s playing, he immediately begins to win. And so the question arises of how to get the elephant out of the sandbox and in general how to cut him up into little pieces which can’t play any games at all or at any rate would cause such a sense of anxiety.
And when Kissinger speaks about Russia, he suddenly slips into the language of the Cold War, with his key thesis being that Russia is always afraid and so is always aggressively expanding in all directions. This is an absolutely irrational process, which can’t be stopped, and so it’s quite impossible to play a high-grade game with Russia according to the rules.
Kaplan talks about the same thing, but more subtly, which surprised me. It surprised me that a man like Kaplan, who is aggressively inclined towards the world outside the borders of the USA, understands Russia with some subtlety. In particular, he understands that any collapse of Russia is only a temporary phenomenon and that after the cycle of collapse there will be a cycle of reconstitution.
We have to understand and recognize that things look very different when viewed from Russia. In the past 400 years Russia has endured four large-scale European interventions: from Poland in the 17th century; from Sweden in the 18th, which we have to admit we started; that of France and the entire European coalition in the 19th century, and that of the German Reich in the 20th. Given this, it’s somewhat comic to say that Russia has an irrational fear of invasion. It would be much more sensible to tackle the reasons which keep inducing this or that intervention into the depths of Russia, and which generally don’t turn out well for the intervenors. Nevertheless, history is coming round full circle again.
When people say that it’s impossible to reach agreement with Russia on foreign policy, I think that they are completely wrong. What do we mean by Russia? A geopolitical subject? Political subjects have no reason, no intellect, only geographical borders. Correspondingly, they can’t talk about anything. But if we’re talking about governments, or the ideological units which make up the governments, then we can see that in the second half of the twentieth century Russian foreign policy ideology drifted towards a rejection of any form of interventionism, towards an acceptance of isolationism as Russian civilization’s basic foreign policy principle.
Here, it’s enough to mention names like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Vadim Tsymbursky. In the first case, a national ideologue, who in his Harvard speech sought to produce a global understanding of the Russian perspective. In the second case, a great geopolitical thinker who is sadly not well known in the West.
Reading Kaplan, I unfortunately observed that he doesn’t at all know the Russian geopolitical tradition and refers to completely unimportant figures when he interprets Russian views of geopolitics. If we look at the global interventionist conception of Eurasianism, as interpreted by Dugin, we see that it too is quite isolationist.
It’s based on the inevitable contradiction of the ideas of sea and land, and crudely speaking claims no more than half the world. If you compare it to the global American concept which in principle doesn’t recognize any borders, it’s quite moderate in its pretensions. I still find it unacceptable and quite absurd, but all the same it’s comparatively quite moderate.
It’s worth remembering the story about Solzhenitsyn, when he was invited to breakfast with President Reagan and he refused in a really sharp form, because they wanted to seat him among dissidents with decidedly anti-Russian views. The Russophobic Richard Pipes was meant to be at this meeting. And Solzhenitsyn wrote a really interesting letter to Reagan, which it’s worth reading, which is one page long.
In this, he says:
Mister president your closest advisors like Pipes are systematically discrediting me saying that I’m a Russian nationalist and am preaching aggression. But if my ideas triumph, the first thing Russia will do is reject this crazy imperialist policy in the far reaches of the world. What would I put in its place?
I came here thinking that America would help free Russia from communism, and what do I see? I see American generals discussing plans for a nuclear strike on the Russian parts of Russia, in this way hoping to weaken the Soviet Union.
I had thought that you wanted to free us from a regime which carries out genocide, but you’re thinking about how best to carry out this genocide.
So, Solzhenitsyn always thought from a purely ethnic Russian point of view and this was the sense of his geopolitical thought and his disillusionment about the possibility of a dialogue with the West, which you can see in his texts, and which is very characteristic. If you’re interested in a path which leads Russian thought away from love of the West and towards alienation from it, towards what might be called a defensive point of view, then simply read Solzhenitsyn.
Today, we have to recognize the simple fact that when people talk of the revival of Russian interventionism, and say that Russia wishes to interfere in the affairs of the whole world, that Russians are once again trying to seize something, this is in reality a reaction to the fact that when Russia in 1991 ridded itself of communism, Russia was if not destroyed in a geopolitical sense then at the very least converted in part into one of these victims of the cannibals.
Large parts of it were roasted on a slow fire in order then to be eaten. And now Russian thought, which is wholly isolationist in orientation, finds itself feeling that if it makes any compromise it will be immediately attacked, and then again, and then again. A year ago, Gingrich said that Estonia is a suburb of Petersburg. Today we see tanks there. Recently we said don’t insult Russia, Ukraine is very close to it. Now we see an American naval base in Odessa.
It’s not a question of global politics. It’s that when the nation sees that it’s not master in its own house, of its borders as it understands them, then its natural aspiration is some sort of counter-attack. And we have to recognize that this urge to counter-attack isn’t a product of the reigning ideology in Russia. It’s a reaction to the feeling that that’s far enough, one step further and we’ll be eaten, destroyed. I think that we need to look for some sort of ideological and geopolitical compromise.
We are facing the problem that the West chose a very arbitrary starting point from which to orient its policy – the year 1991 – and it wants to preserve that world order at any price. And anything Russia does is interpreted as an assault on this holy world order, as a manifestation of aggression, as a game contrary to the rules. And that’s why they close their eyes when the discussion turns to Kosovo or Iraq. But in these circumstances it’s impossible to carry out any sort of dialogue with Russia, and so a mood of irritation is growing in Russia and the present isolationist trend is being replaced by an external policy based on spite. Spite towards those forces which aren’t letting us live. And it is being replaced by ideas that we must destroy the American empire with all our power and not allow the grass to ever grow again. So I’m sad that we have this situation in which Russia is being attacked.
Returning to Kissinger, in one of his previous books, Does American Need a Foreign Policy?, he says that the sole condition for dialogue with Russia is that it recognizes its current boundaries.
In other words, crudely speaking, the realistic condition is in fact an entirely unrealistic one, and the idealistic condition is the idea ‘Let’s eat you now in full.’ It seems to me that if we don’t dismantle this attitude towards Russia, then dialogue will be impossible.
Picturesque site with ties to Lermontov
This article is from a series by the invaluable William Brumfield, (Wikipedia), Professor of Slavic Studies at Tulane University, New Orleans, USA.
Brumfield is the world’s leading historian of Russian architecture. He makes frequent trips to Russia, often to her remote regions, and records the most unusual examples of surviving architecture with detailed, professional photography.
His most recent book is a real treasure, Architecture At The End Of The Earth, Photographing The Russian North (2015). (Amazon). This truly beautiful book was made possible by the support of a US philanthropist, and its true cost is 3 times its retail price, and we can’t recommend it highly enough. Here is our 2015 review of it.
Bravo to RBTH for making Brumfield’s work possible, and providing such a great platform for his beautiful photography. We recommend visiting the RBTH page, which has a slide show for each article with many more pictures than we can fit in here.
Don’t believe in miracles? Well, we can assure you, Brumfield’s work is undoubtedly just that. You can find a complete list of his articles on RI here.
The original headline for this article was: St. Avraam Gorodetsky Monastery: Picturesque site with ties to Lermontov
On the way to Soligalich in the northern part of Kostroma Region lies one of Russia’s most picturesque monasteries, located on a steep bluff overlooking the deep blue Lake Chukhloma. The monastery is dedicated both to the Intercession of the Virgin and to its founder, St. Avraamy of Gorodets. Also known as Avraamy of Galich and Avraamy of Chukhloma, this venerable sage led a monastic existence for much of the 14th century until his death in July 1375.
Avraamy was tonsured at the Nizhny Novgorod Cave Monastery, but he soon moved to the renowned Trinity Monastery to the north of Moscow. Like other Russian monastic pioneers in the 14th century, Avraamy was a disciple of St. Sergius of Radonezh (1322?-1392), founder of the Trinity Monastery and the avatar of Muscovite monasticism.
At some point in the middle of the century, Sergius gave his blessing to Avraamy’s departure for the Galich principality, far to the northeast of Moscow. In the area of Lake Galich and its nearby town, Avraamy established three monasteries, all of which would be reduced to simple parishes during the monastic reforms of Catherine the Great.
Seeking greater isolation, Avraamy moved to the north shore of Lake Chukhloma, where he built a log chapel at the water’s edge. As other monks asked to join him, Avraamy gave his blessing to a community to be established on the bluff above his hermitag and a wooden church dedicated to the Intercession of the Virgin was built there. Sensing his impending death in the summer of 1375, Avraamy moved a short distance from the monastic community and passed away. His remains were interred at the Intercession Church.
During the 15th century, the monastery received donations from the region’s nobility, and from the princes of Galich and Moscow. Much of its income came from salt refining derived from the area’s many brine pools. Grand Prince Ivan III (the Great) also gave the monastery exclusive fishing rights in the late 15th century.
By 1553, Avraamy was locally venerated at what had become known as the Intercession-Avraamy Gorodetsky Monastery. (The Russian Orthodox Church has a system of locally venerated saints in addition to those whose sainthood is venerated throughout the Church.) In 1981, his sainthood was acknowledged by the church as a whole.
As was usual in Russia, the Gorodetsky Monastery for the first centuries of its existence was built entirely of wood. The monastery’s original masonry structure, the modest Church (Cathedral) of the Intercession, was begun in 1607 and consecrated in 1632. It is one of the few churches initiated during the brief reign (1606-1610) of Tsar Vasily Shuisky, who had the misfortune to rule during the dynastic crisis known as the Time of Troubles and died in 1612 as a prisoner of Polish King Sigismund III Vasa.
The Intercession Cathedral also contained a chapel dedicated to the Prophet Elijah, as well as the remains of the venerable Avraamy. Vandalized during the Soviet period, the church itself survived, and its interior has been sensitively restored both with wall paintings and with a new icon screen.
By the mid 17th century, the monastery gained another brick church, dedicated to St. Nicholas and built over the Holy Gates, or main entrance, on the west side of the monastic compound. This church, with an additional altar to St. Paraskeva-Pyatnitsa, has also been restored.
During the reign of Catherine the Great, the Avraamy Gorodetsky Monastery was stripped of its landholdings, but continued to survive on local donations. In the 19th century, it further benefited from the large trading fairs (the Avraamy Fairs) that were held near the monastery several times each year.
Indeed, the monastery’s regional prominence and favored location led to a surge of construction in the latter half of the 19th century. The first phase began in 1857 with the dismantling of the Chapel of the Prophet Elijah attached to the north wall of the Intercession Cathedral. In its place, a large cathedral dedicated to the locally revered Tenderness Icon of the Virgin was built during the decade from 1857 to 1867. Fortunately, the 17th-century Intercession Cathedral was preserved, and the two structures were connected by a passage.
The design of the new cathedral followed the Russo-Byzantine style developed by the prominent architect Constatine Thon, author of the original Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. The structure, crowned with four large cupolas, has extensive paintings on its white facade. The interior is well illuminated and has a new icon screen.
After the completion of the Tenderness Icon Cathedral, work began in the 1870s on a grand four-tiered bell tower over the North Gate. Together with new cloisters, the 19th-century buildings transformed the monastery’s appearance.
Following the Russian revolution, the monastery was subject to harassment throughout the 1920s and closed in 1929. During the Soviet period, the buildings were used for various purposes, including as a village school, but vandalism and lack of maintenance took their toll. The monastery walls and part of the St.Nicholas Gate Church were dismantled for brick by local villagers. An attempt to conserve the monastery in the early 1970s had only limited effect. Under these circumstances, it is something of a miracle that the historic structures were preserved at all.
A sustained revival of the Avraamy Gorodetsky Monastery began in 1990, and in 1991, the first liturgy was held. Since then, the monastery has regained its active status and attracts numerous pilgrims. Its three churches have been beautifully restored and the cloisters refurbished. Parts of the monastery cemetery, which was desecrated during the Soviet period, have also been reclaimed.
One of the most interesting discoveries in the cemetery is a wooden chapel consecrated in 1997 to honor the 400thanniversary of the birth of George Learmonth, a Scottish mercenary who entered the service of Polish King Sigismund III Vasa during the Polish-Muscovite War (1609-1618). Captured by Prince Dmitry Pozharsky at the siege of the Bely Fortress in 1613, George Learmonth decided to enter Russian service, and after years of loyalty, was granted land in the Chukhloma area. Killed in battle against Polish forces in 1633, he was buried at the Avraamy Gorodetsky Monastery.
George Learmonth’s most famous descendant was one of Russia’s greatest writers, Mikhail Lermontov (1814-1841). There is no evidence that the young poetic genius and author of the psychological masterpiece A Hero of Our Time (1838-1840) visited the monastery, yet its connection to his courageous Scottish forefather is now commemorated.
Thanks to the efforts of the “Lermontov Heritage” Association (which includes Lermontov family descendants in the United States) as well as the support of the Diocese of Kostroma and Galich, a chapel-monument to the Lermontovs now stands on the sacred territory of the Intercession-Avraamy Gorodetsky Monastery.
Porterhouse group loses trademark row over ‘Port House’ name for tapas chain
The Porterhouse group has expressed confidence that it can continue to use “The Port House” as the name for its chain of tapas bars, despite losing a legal row to register it as a trademark within the EU after running foul of a body established to protect the reputation of Port wines.
The EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) ruled that the use of the name The Port House by the Irish brewing and bar/restaurant group could cause confusion among consumers who might think the tapas bars were associated with the famous sweet fortified wine.
EUIPO upheld a challenge by a Portuguese public institute established to certify and protect the use of the name “Port” for wine products made in the Douro Valley in Portugal.
The Porterhouse group’s business development director, Elliot Hughes, said the ruling was disappointing but added that further legal advice was being sought to see if it would be appealed.
“We hope that we will be able to retain the name but it is not something we will be able to register as a trademark if the ruling stands,” Mr Hughes said.
He added: “The trademark has been refused. However, this makes no impact on the restaurants going forward. We don’t expect to have any negative consequences from the decision.”
The Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto (IVDP) claimed the name “Port” and other variations including “Port wine” have protected status under EU regulations since December 1991.
It claimed the protection also applied to products not belonging to the wine sector when use of the word “Port”, without due cause, would take unfair advantage of the distinctive character of Port.
The IVDP said the protection provided by the EU was the result of a long history that dated back many centuries, with wine specialists recognising the superior quality of wines protected by the protected designation of origin (PDO) “Port”.
The IVDP said it had made continuous and significant efforts to promote the PDO “Port” throughout the world and had spent significant amounts of money in the promotion and advertising of wine protected by it.
It claimed the Porterhouse’s proposed use of “The Port House” was “confusingly similar both visually, aurally as well as conceptually”.
The IVDP said the average consumer who saw the sign would be left wondering if the establishment in question was related to wine protected by the PDO “Port”.
It claimed the sign would lead to the exploitation of the worldwide fame and reputation of the Portuguese wine.
“The contested sign aims to benefit from the image of quality and tradition of the good protected by the PDO,” the IVDP said.
The Porterhouse group, which applied in 2019 to register “The Port House” as a trademark, argued that the word “port” had several meanings including its most common understanding as a place where ships could take shelter from storms or where cargo from ships was unloaded.
It said such a meaning prevented the public from thinking of the Portuguese wine, and its proposed trademark was incapable of exploiting the reputation of Port wines.
Guarantee of quality
However, EUIPO said it was clear that EU regulations recognised “Port” under its protected designation of origin list and its protected geographical indication list, which offer a guarantee of quality due to their geographical provenance.
It also observed that the word “porthouse” was the name given to a facility where Port was produced.
EUIPO said the fact that the Irish company wanted to register a two-word mark “Port House” does not prevent the public from associating it with the meaning of “porthouse”.
It ruled that the contested sign would be perceived by some consumers as a reference to an establishment where Port was either manufactured, sold or served.
EUIPO agreed with the IVDP that the use of “The Port House” sign would allow the Porterhouse group to take undue advantage of and exploit the exceptional reputation enjoyed by the Portuguese wine among European consumers.
Mr Hughes said the group hopes to reopen all its outlets in Dublin soon as all its branches have outdoor dining facilities.
The Queen’s Church Wants Trannies to Be Priests, Russian Church Suggests They Visit a Psychiatrist
One man’s mental health diagnosis may be another man’s ticket to the priesthood, according to recent developments in one of the world’s largest Protestant denominations. The Anglican Communion has 85 million members worldwide, all of whom have ties with the Church of England.
The guidance, titled “welcoming and honouring LGBT+ people”, warns that the church’s reputation as being unwelcoming towards gay and transgender people is stopping young people attending.
“We very much hope that they, like everyone else, feel encouraged to serve on PCCs, or as churchwardens and worship leaders, for instance, and are supported in exploring vocations to licensed lay and ordained ministries,” the guidance says.
“Nobody should be told that their sexual or gender identity in itself makes them an unsuitable candidate for leadership in the Church.”
Queen Elizabeth, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, has not yet commented on this development. Historically, she has supported legislation which favors sexual deviants. Pink News gives the Queen credit for decriminalizing sodomy, allowing sodomites to adopt children, and reducing the age of consent for homosexual sex to age 16. Thus, it is plausible that she also approves of transgender priests in her church.
Meanwhile in Russia, the Orthodox Church influences society to accept a more traditional perspective on human sexuality. Marriage is only permitted between one man and one woman. Homosexual activity is forbidden.
And according to Metropolitan Hilarion, a top church leader and spokesperson for the Russian Orthodox Church, transgender people suffer from a mental disorder.
Presumably, this would make them unfit for the priesthood.
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