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.
Census 2022 – what difference does it make?
Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.
But what it is it all about?
At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.
The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.
The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.
Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.
Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.
And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.
Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture
Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”
The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.
At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.
During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.
When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”
He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”
“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.
During the commercial break, Will Smith is pulled aside and comforted by Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry, who motion for him to brush it off. Will appears to wipe tears from his eyes as he sits back down with Jada, with Denzel comforting Jada and Will’s rep by his side. pic.twitter.com/uDGVnWrSS2
— Scott Feinberg (@ScottFeinberg) March 28, 2022
The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”
On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.
House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022
House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.
Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.
The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.
Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.
This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.
MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.
It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.
“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.
“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.
“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.
“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.
He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.
Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.
Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.
The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.
“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”
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