Oswald Spengler (Wikipedia) was a massive celebrity in pre-WW2 Europe and America, whose book, “The Decline of the West” was one of the most read ever at that time, selling millions of copies.
This is a longer scholarly article, but is not at all dull, and it is absolutely fascinating. Highly recommended.
This paper examines Spengler’s views on Russia as a distinct culture that had not yet fulfilled her destiny, while Western civilisation is about to take a final bow on the world historical stage.
His views on Russia as an outsider are considered in relation to the depiction of the Russian soul by seminal Russians such as Gogol.
Spengler regarded Russians as formed by the vastness of the land-plain, as innately antagonistic to the Machine, as rooted in the soil, irrepressibly peasant, religious, and ‘primitive’. Without a wider understanding of Spengler’s philosophy it appears that he was – like Hitler – a Slavophobe. However, when Spengler wrote of these Russian characteristics he was referencing the Russians as a still youthful people in contrats to the senile West. Hence the ‘primitive’ Russian is not synonymous with ‘primitivity’ as popularly understood at that time in regard to ‘primitive’ tribal peoples. Nor was it to be confounded with the Hitlerite perception of the ‘primitive Slav’ incapable of building his own State.
To Spengler, the ‘primitive peasant’ is the well-spring from which a race draws its healthiest elements during its epochs of cultural vigour.
Agriculture is the foundation of a High Culture, enabling stable communities to diversify labour into specialisation from which Civilisation proceeds.
However, according to Spengler, each people has its own soul, a German conception derived from the German Idealism of Herder, Fichte et al. A High culture reflects that soul, whether in its mathematics, music, architecture; both in the arts and the physical sciences. The Russian soul is not the same as the Western Faustian, as Spengler called it, the ‘ Magian’ of the Arabian civilisation, or the Classical of the Hellenes and Romans. The Western Culture that was imposed on Russia by Peter the Great, what Spengler called Petrinism, is a veneer.
The basis of the Russian soul is not infinite space – as in the West’s Faustian (Spengler, 1971, I, 183) imperative, but is ‘the plain without limit’ (Spengler, 1971, I, 201). The Russian soul expresses its own type of infinity, albeit not that of the Western which becomes even enslaved by its own technics at the end of its life-cycle. (Spengler, 1971, II, 502). (Although it could be argued that Sovietism enslaved man to machine, a Spenglerian would cite this as an example of Petrinism). However, Civilisations cannot do anything but follow their life’s course, and one cannot see Spengler’s descriptions as moral judgements but as observations. The finale for Western Civilisation according to Spengler cannot be to create further great forms of art and music, which belong to the youthful or ‘ spring’ epoch of a civilisation, but to dominate the world under a technocratic-military dispensation, before declining into oblivion that all prior world civilisations. It is after this Western decline that Spengler alluded to the next word civilisation being that of Russia. At that stage Spengler could only hint at the possibilities.
Hence, according to Spengler, Russian Orthodox architecture does not represent the infinity towards space that is symbolised by the Western high culture’s Gothic Cathedral spire, nor the enclosed space of the Mosque of the Magian Culture, (Spengler, 1971, I, 183-216) but the impression of sitting upon a horizon. Spengler considered that this Russian architecture is ‘not yet a style, only the promise of a style that will awaken when the real Russian religion awakens’ (Spengler, 1971, I, p. 201. Spengler was writing of the Russian culture as an outsider, and by his own reckoning must have realised the limitations of that. It is therefore useful to compare his thoughts on Russia with those of Russians of note.
Nikolai Berdyaev in The Russian Idea affirms what Spengler describes:
‘Prussian Socialism’, ‘Russian Socialism’
Of the Russian soul, the ego/vanity of the Western culture-man is missing; the persona seeks impersonal growth in service, ‘in the brother-world of the plain’. Orthodox Christianity condemns the ‘I’ as ‘sin’ (Spengler, 1971, I, 309). Spengler wrote of ‘Prussian Socialism’, based on the Prussian ethos of duty to the state, as the foundation of a new Western ethos under the return to Faith and Authority during the final epoch of Western civilisation. He contrasted this with the ‘socialism’ of Karl Marx, which he regarded as a product of English economics, (Spengler, 1919) as distinct from the German economics of Friedrich List for example, described as the ‘ national system of political economy’, where nation is the raison d’etre of the economy and not class or individual.
The Russian concept of ‘we’ rather than ‘I’, and of impersonal service to the expanse of one’s land implies another form socialism. It is perhaps in this sense that Stalinism proceeded along lines different and often antithetical to the Bolshevism envisaged by Trotsky et al. (Trotsky, 1936), and established an enduring legacy on Russia.
A recent comment by an American visitor to Russia, Barbara J. Brothers, as part of a scientific delegation, states something akin to Spengler’s observation:
The Russians have a sense of connectedness to themselves and to other human beings that is just not a part of American reality. It isn’t that competitiveness does not exist; it is just that there always seems to be more consideration and respect for others in any given situation.
Of the Russian concept of property and of capitalism, Berdyaev wrote:
Here again, we see with Berdyaev, as with Spengler, that there is a ‘Russian Socialism’ based on what Spengler referred to as the Russian ‘we’ in contrast to the Late Western ‘I’, and of the sense of brotherhood dramatised by Gogol in Taras Bulba, shaped not by factories and money-thinking, but by the kinship that arises from a people formed from the vastness of the plains, and forged through the adversity of centuries of Muslim and Mongol invasions.
The Russian Soul – Русская душа
The connections between family, nation, birth, unity and motherland are reflected in the Russian language.
род [rod]: family, kind, sort, genus
родина [ródina]: homeland, motherland
родители [rodíteli]: parents
родить [rodít’]: to give birth
роднить [rodnít’]: to unite, bring together
родовой [rodovói]: ancestral, tribal
родство [rodstvó]: kinship
Russian National Literature starting from the 1840s began to consciously express the Russian soul. Firstly Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol’s Taras Bulba, which along with the poetry of Pushkin, founded a Russian literary tradition; that is to say, truly Russian, and distinct from the previous literature based on German, French and English. John Cournos states of this in his introduction to Taras Bulba:
The spoken word, born of the people, gave soul and wing to literature; only by coming to earth, the native earth, was it enabled to soar. Coming up from Little Russia, the Ukraine, with Cossack blood in his veins, Gogol injected his own healthy virus into an effete body, blew his own virile spirit, the spirit of his race, into its nostrils, and gave the Russian novel its direction to this very day.
Taras Bulba is a tale on the formation of the Cossack folk. In this folk-formation the outer enemy plays a crucial role. The Russian has been formed largely as the result of battling over centuries with Tartars, Muslims and Mongols. Cournos writes of the Gogol myths in reference to the shaping of the Russian character through adversity and landscape:
(Cournos, ‘Introduction’, ibid).
Their society and nationality were defined by religiosity, as was the West’s by Gothic Christianity during its ‘Spring’ epoch. The newcomer to a Setch or permanent village was greeted by the Chief as a Christian and as a warrior: ‘Welcome! Do you believe in Christ?’ —‘I do’, replied the new-comer. ‘And do you believe in the Holy Trinity?’— ‘I do’.—‘And do you go to church?’—‘I do.’ ‘Now cross yourself’. (Gogol, III).
Gogol depicts the scorn in which trade is held, and when commerce has entered among Russians, rather than being confined to non-Russians associated with trade, it is regarded as a symptom of decadence:
(Spengler, 1971, II, 113).
Here we might see a Russian socialism that is, so far form being the dialectical materialism offered by Marx, the mystic we-feeling forged by the vastness of the plains and the imperative for brotherhood above economics, imposed by that landscape. Russia’s feeling of world-mission has its own form of messianism whether expressed through Christian Orthodoxy or the non-Marxian form of ‘world revolution’ under Stalin, or both in combination, as suggested by the later rapport between Stalinism and the Church from 1943 with the creation of the Council for Russian Orthodox Church Affairs (Chumachenko, 2002). In both senses, and even in the embryonic forms taking place under Putin, Russia is conscious of a world-mission, expressed today as Russia’s role in forging a multipolar world, with Russia as being pivotal in resisting unipolarism.
Commerce is the concern of foreigners, and the intrusions bring with them the corruption of the Russian soul and culture in general: in speech, social interaction, servility, undermining Russian ‘brotherhood’, the Russian ‘we’ feeling that Spengler described. (Spengler 1971, I, 309). However, Gogol also states that this materialistic decay will eventually be purged even from the soul of the most craven Russian.
And all the Setch prayed in one church, and were willing to defend it to their last drop of blood, although they would not hearken to aught about fasting or abstinence. Jews, Armenians, and Tatars, inspired by strong avarice, took the liberty of living and trading in the suburbs; for the Zaporozhtzi never cared for bargaining, and paid whatever money their hand chanced to grasp in their pocket. Moreover, the lot of these gain-loving traders was pitiable in the extreme. They resembled people settled at the foot of Vesuvius; for when the Zaporozhtzi lacked money, these bold adventurers broke down their booths and took everything gratis. (Gogol, III).
The description of these people shows that they would not stoop to haggling; they decided what a merchant should receive. Money-talk is repugnant to them.
The Cossack brotherhood is portrayed by Gogol as the formative process in the building up of the Russian people. This process is, significantly, not one of biology but of spirit, even transcending the family bond. Spengler treated the matter of race as that of soul rather than of zoology. (Spengler, 1971, II, 113-155). To Spengler landscape was crucial in determining what becomes ‘race’, and the duration of families grouped in a particular landscape – including nomads who have a defined range of wandering – form ‘a character of duration’, which was Spengler’s definition of ‘race’. (Spengler, Vol. II, 113). Gogol describes this ‘ race’ forming process among the Russians. So far from being an aggressive race nationalism it is an expanding mystic brotherhood under God:
! (Golgol, IX).
The Russian soul is born in suffering. The Russian accepts the fate of life in service to God and to his Motherland. Russia and Faith are inseparable. When the elderly warrior Bovdug is mortally struck by a Turkish bullet his final words are exhortations on the nobility of suffering, after which his spirit soars to join his ancestors:
. (Gogol, IX).
The depth and duration of this cult of the martyrs attached to Holy Mother Russia was revived under Stalin during the Great Patriotic War. This is today as vigorous as ever, as indicated by the celebration of Victory Day on 7 May 2015, and the absence of Western representatives indicating the diverging course Russia is again taking from the West.
The mystique of death and suffering for the Motherland is described in the death of Tarus Bulba when he is captured and executed, his final words being ones of resurrection:
The characteristics of the Russian soul that run through Tarus Bulba are those of faith, fate, struggle, suffering, strength, brotherhood and resurrection. Tarus Bulba established the Russian national literature that articulated the Russian soul.
A significant element of Spengler’s culture morphology is ‘Historic Pseudomorphosis’. Spengler drew an analogy from geology, when crystals of a mineral are embedded in a rock-stratum: where ‘clefts and cracks occur, water filters in, and the crystals are gradually washed out so that in due course only their hollow mould remains’. (Spengler, II, 89).
Then comes volcanic outbursts which explode the mountain; molten masses pour in, stiffen and crystallize out in their turn. But these are not free to do so in their own special forms. They must fill out the spaces that they find available. Thus there arise distorted forms, crystals whose inner structure contradicts their external shape, stones of one kind presenting the appearance of stones of another kind. The mineralogists call this phenomenon Pseudomorphosis. (Ibid.).
Russia is the example of ‘Historic Pseudomorphosis’ given by Spengler as being ‘presented to our eyes to-day’. A dichotomy has existed for centuries, starting with Peter the Great, of attempts to impose a Western veneer over Russia. This is called Petrinism. The resistance of those attempts is what Spengler called ‘Old Russia’. Spengler, 1971, II, 192). Spengler described this dichotomy:
(Ibid., II, p. 192).
Spengler’s view is again in accord with what is spoken of Russia by Russians. Nikolai Berdyaev wrote in terms similar to Spengler’s:
With the orientation of Russian policy towards the West, ‘Old Russia’ was ‘forced into a false and artificial history’. (Spengler, II, 193). Spengler wrote that Russia had become dominated by Western culture from its ‘Late’ epoch:
(Spengler, 1971, II, 193).
Berdyaev also discusses the introduction of Enlightenment doctrines from France into Russia:
The hatred of the ‘West’ and of ‘Europe’ is the hatred for a Civilisation that had already reached an advanced state of decay into materialism and sought to impose its primacy by cultural subversion rather than by combat, with its City-based and money-based outlook, ‘poisoning the unborn culture in the womb of the land’. (Spengler, 1971, II, 194). Russia was still a land where there were no bourgeoisie and no true class system but only lord and peasant, a view confirmed by Berdyaev, writing:
The cities that emerged threw up an intelligentsia, copying the intelligentsia of Late Westerndom, ‘bent on discovering problems and conflicts, and below, an uprooted peasantry, with all the metaphysical gloom, anxiety, and misery of their own Dostoyevski, perpetually homesick for the open land and bitterly hating the stony grey world into which the Antichrist had tempted them. Moscow had no proper soul’. (Spengler, 1971, II, 194).
The spirit of the upper classes was Western, and the lower had brought in with them the soul of the countryside. Between the two worlds there was no reciprocal comprehension, no communication, no charity. To understand the two spokesmen and victims of the pseudomorphosis, it is enough that Dostoyevski is the peasant, and Tolstoi the man of Western society. The one could never in his soul get away from the land; the other, in spite of his desperate efforts, could never get near it. (Ibid.).
Berdyaev likewise states of the Petrinism of the upper class:
Berdyaev states that while Petrinism introduced an epoch of cultural dynamism, it also placed a heavy burden upon Russia, and a disunity of spirit. (Ibid.). However, Russia has her own religious sense of Mission, which is as universal as the Vatican’s. Spengler quotes Dostoyevski as writing in 1878: ‘all men must become Russian, first and foremost Russian. If general humanity is the Russian ideal, then everyone must first of all become a Russian’. (Spengler, 1963, 63n). The Russian Messianic idea found a forceful expression in Dostoyevski’s The Possessed, where, in a conversation with Stavrogin, Shatov states:
. (Dostoevsky, 1992, Part II: I: 7, 265-266).
Spengler saw Russia as outside of Europe, and even as ‘Asian’. He even saw a Western rebirth vis-à-vis opposition to Russia, which he regarded as leading the ‘coloured world’ against the white, under the mantle of Bolshevism. Yet there were also other destinies that Spengler saw over the horizon, which had been predicted by Dostoyevski.
Once Russia had overthrown its alien intrusions, it could look with another perspective upon the world, and reconsider Europe not with hatred and vengeance but in kinship. Spengler wrote that while Tolstoi, the Petrinist, whose doctrine was the precursor of Bolshevism, was ‘the former Russia’, Dostoyevski was ‘the coming Russia’. Dostoyevski as the representative of the ‘coming Russia’ ‘does not know’ the hatred of Russia for the West. Dostoyevski and the old Russia are transcendent. ‘His passionate power of living is comprehensive enough to embrace all things Western as well’. Spengler quotes Dostoyevski: (Spengler, 1971, II, 194). Spengler cites Dostoyevski’s The Brothers Karamazov, where Ivan Karamazov (Dostoyevski, 1880, 34: II: V: 3) says to his mother:
. (Spengler, 1971, II, 195).
To the ‘Slavophil’, of which Dostoyevski was one, Europe is precious. The Slavophil appreciates the richness of European high culture while realising that Europe is in a state of decay. Berdyaev discussed what he regarded as an inconsistency in Dostoyevski and the Slavophils towards Europe, yet one that is comprehensible when we consider Spengler’s crucial differentiation between Culture and Civilisation:
It is notable that while this differentiation between Kultur and Zivilisation is ascribed to a particularly German philosophical tradition, Berdyaev comments that it was present among the Russians ‘long before Spengler’, although deriving from German sources:
Tolstoi, who sought to overcome the problems of Civilisation by a ‘return-to-Nature’ in the manner of the Western Enlightenment philosopher J J Rousseau, on the other hand, is the product of the Late West, ‘enlightened and socially minded’, and sees only a problem, ‘whereas Dostoyevski ‘does not even know what a problem is’. (Spengler, 1971, II, 195). Spengler states that the problematic nature of life is a question that arises in Late Civilisations, and is a symptom of an epoch where life itself has become questionable. It is a symptom of the Late West transplanted as a weed onto the soil of Russia, represented by Tolstoi who, stands midway between Peter and Bolshevism, and neither he nor they managed to get within sight of Russian earth…. Their kind of opposition is not apocalyptic but intellectual. Tolstoi’s hatred of property is an economist’s, his hatred of society a social reformer’s, his hatred of the State a political theorist’s. Hence his immense effect upon the West – he belongs, in one respect as in another, to the band of Marx, Ibsen, and Zola. (Ibid.).
Dostoyevski, on the contrary, was indifferent to the Late West, looking beyond the physical, beyond questions of social reform and economics, and to the metaphysical: ‘Dostoyevski, like every primitive Russian, is fundamentally unaware’ of the physical world and ‘lives in a second, metaphysical world beyond’. The living reality is a religious one, which Spengler compares most closely with ‘primitive Christianity’. Dostoyevski is a ‘saint’, Tolstoi, ‘only a revolutionary’, the representative of Petrinism, as the forerunner of Bolshevism, ‘the last dishonouring of the metaphysical by the social’, and a new form of pseudomorphosis. The Bolshevists and other such revolutionaries were ‘the lowest stratum of … Petrine society’. (Ibid., II, 196). Imbued with ideas from the Late West, the Marxists sought to replace one Petrine ruling class with another. Neither represented the soul of Russia. Spengler states: ‘The real Russian is the disciple of Dostoyevski, even though he might not have read Dostoyevski, or anyone else, nay, perhaps because he cannot read, he is himself Dostoyevski in substance’. The intelligentsia hates, the peasant does not. (Ibid.). He would eventually overthrow Bolshevism and any other form of Petrinism. Here we see Spengler unequivocally stating that the post-Western civilisation will be Russian.
For what this townless people yearns for is its own life-form, its own religion, its own history. Tolstoi’s Christianity was a misunderstanding. He spoke of Christ and he meant Marx. But to Dostoyevski’s Christianity, the next thousand years will belong. (Ibid.).
To the true Russia, as Dostoyevski stated it, ‘not a single nation has ever been founded on principles of science or reason’. Dostoyevski continues, with the character Shatov explaining:
(Dostoyevski, 1872, II: I: VII).
Here we have the expression of the Russian soul, its repudiation of Petrinism, and in a manner similar to Spengler’s, the identification of faith, not darwinian zoology or economics, as the premise of culture-nation-race-formation, and the primacy of rationalistic doctrines as a symptom of decay.
‘Conflict Between Money & Blood’
Spengler states that at the Late – ‘Winter’ – epoch of a Civilisation where money-thinking dominates, a point is reached where there is a reaction: a ‘Second Religiousness’ which returns a decaying Civilisation to its spiritual foundations. There proceeds a revolt against oligarchy and a return to authority, or what Spengler called ‘Cæsarism’, and from there the fulfilment of a destiny before being eclipsed by a new high culture.
The Second Religiousness is the necessary counterpart of Cæsarism, which is the final political constitution of a Late Civilisation… In both phenomena the creative young strength of the Early Culture is lacking. But both have their greatness nevertheless. That of the Second Religiousness consists of a deep piety that fills the waking-consciousness… (Spengler, 1971, II, 310).
Spengler states that the ‘profoundly mystical inner life feels “thinking in money” as a sin’. The money-thinking imposed on Russia as Communism was ‘Western’ insofar as Marxism reflects the economic thinking of Western civilisation in its Late epoch, (Ibid., II, 402):
(Ibid., II, 495n)
Spengler states above that the Russians do not ‘fight’ capital. (Ibid., 495). Yet their young soul brings them into conflict with money, as both oligarchy from inside and plutocracy from outside contend with the Russian soul for supremacy. It was something observed by both Gogol and Dostoyevski. The anti-capitalism and ‘world revolution’ of Stalinism took on features that were drawn more from Russian messianism than from Marxism, reflected in the struggle between Trotsky and Stalin. The revival of the Czarist and Orthodox icons, martyrs and heroes and of Russian folk-culture in conjunction with a campaign against ‘ rootless cosmopolitanism’, reflected the emergence of primal Russian soul amidst Petrine Marxism. (Brandenberger, 2002). Today the conflict between two world-views can be seen in the conflicts between Putin and certain ‘oligarchs’ and the uneasiness Putin causes among the West.
The conflict that arises is metaphysical, but oligarchy and plutocracy can only understand the physical. Hence, ‘money-getting by means of money is an impiety, and (from the viewpoint of the coming Russian religion) a sin’. (Ibid.). ‘Money-getting by means of money’ manifests in speculation and usury. It is the basis upon which the economics of the Late West is founded, and from which it is now tottering. That this was not the case in the Gothic era of the West’s ‘high culture’ is indicated by the Church’s strident condemnation of usury as ‘ sin’.
Spengler predicted that in answer to the money-ethos a ‘third kind of Christianity’, based on the ‘John Gospel’, would arise, ‘looking towards Jerusalem with premonitions of coming crusades’. (Ibid.). The Russian also eschews the machine, to which Faustian man is enslaved, and if today he adopts Western technics, he does so ‘with fear and hatred of wheels, cables, and rails’, and will ‘blot the whole thing from his memory and his environment, and create about himself a wholly new world, in which nothing of this Devil’s technique is left’. (Ibid., II, 504).
Has time proved Spengler wrong in his observation that the Russian soul is repelled by the materialism, rationalism, technics and scientism of the Late West, given that the USSR went full throttle to industrialise? Spengler also said that Russia would adapt Western technics for her own use, as a weapon. Anecdotally, in our time, Barbara Brothers, a psycho-therapist, while part of a scientific delegation to Russia in 1993, observed that even among Russian scientists the focus is on the metaphysical:
Again, Spengler’s observations of the Russian soul are confirmed by this anecdote: the true Russian – even the scientist and mathematician – does not comprehend everything as a ‘problem’ in the Late Western sense. His decisions are not made by Western rationalism, but by metaphysics and instinct. It is an interesting aside to recall that under the USSR, supposedly predicated on dialectical materialism, the metaphysical and the psychic were subjects of serious investigation to an extent that would be scoffed at by Western scientists. (Kernbach, 2013).
By the time Spengler had published The Hour of Decision in 1934 he was stating that Russia had overthrown Petrinism and the trappings of the late West, and while he called the new orientation of Russia ‘Asian’, he said that it was ‘a new Idea, and an idea with a future too’. (Spengler, 1963, 60). To clarify, Russia looks towards the ‘East’, but while the Westerner assumes that ‘Asia’ and East are synonymous with Mongol, the etymology of the word ‘Asia’ comes from Greek Aσία, ca. 440 BC, referring to all regions east of Greece. (Ibid., 61). As an ethnic, historical, cultural or religious designation it means as little as as the World War I propaganda reference to Germans as ‘Huns’. During his time Spengler saw in Russia that,
Race, language, popular customs, religion, in their present form… all or any of them can and will be fundamentally transformed. What we see today then is simply the new kind of life which a vast land has conceived and will presently bring forth. It is not definable in words, nor is its bearer aware of it. Those who attempt to define, establish, lay down a program, are confusing life with a phrase, as does the ruling Bolshevism, which is not sufficiently conscious of its own West-European, Rationalistic and cosmopolitan origin. (Ibid.).
Of Russia in 1934 Spengler already saw that ‘of genuine Marxism there is very little except in names and programs’. He doubted that the Communist programme is ‘really still taken seriously’. He saw the possibility of the vestiges of Petrine Bolshevism being overthrown, to be replaced by a ‘nationalistic’ Eastern type which would reach ‘gigantic proportions unchecked’. (Spengler, 1963, 63).Spengler also referred to Russia as the country ‘least troubled by Bolshevism’, (Ibid.,182) and the ‘Marxian face [was] only worn for the benefit of the outside world’. (Ibid., 212). A decade after Spengler’s death the direction of Russia under Stalin had pursued clearer definitions, and Petrine Bolshevism had been transformed in the way Spengler foresaw. (Brandenberger, 2002).
As in Spengler’s time, and centuries before, there continues to exist two tendencies in Russia : the Old Russian and the Petrine. Neither one nor the other spirit is presently dominant, although under Putin Old Russia struggles for resurgence. Spengler in a published lecture to the Rheinish-Westphalian Business Convention in 1922 referred to the ‘ancient, instinctive, unclear, unconscious, and subliminal drive that is present in every Russian, no matter how thoroughly westernised his conscious life may be – a mystical yearning for the South, for Constantinople and Jerusalem, a genuine crusading spirit similar to the spirit our Gothic forebears had in their blood but which we can hardly appreciated today’. (Spengler, 1922).
Bolshevism destroyed one form of Petrinism with another form, clearing the way ‘for a new culture that will some day arise between “Europe” and East Asia. It is more a beginning than an end’. The peasantry ‘will some day become conscious of its own will, which points in a wholly different direction’. ‘The peasantry is the true Russian people of the future. It will not allow itself to be perverted or suffocated’. (Ibid.).
The ‘Great Patriotic War’ gave Stalin the opportunity to return Russia to its roots. Russia’s Orthodox foundations were returned on the basis of a myth, an archetypically Russian mysticism. The myth goes that in 1941:
The Virgin appeared to Metropolitan Ilya of the Antiochian Church, who prayed wholeheartedly for Russia. She instructed him to tell the Russians that they should carry the Kazan Icon in a religious procession around the besieged city of Leningrad (St Petersburg). Then, the Virgin said, they should serve a molieben  before the icon in Moscow. The Virgin said that the icon should stay with the Russian troops in Stalingrad, and later move with them to the Russian border. Leningrad didn’t surrender. Miraculously, Moscow was also saved. During the Battle of Stalingrad, the icon was with the Russian army on the right bank of the Volga, and the Nazi troops couldn’t cross the river. The Battle of Stalingrad began with a molieben before the Kazan Icon. Only when it was finished, did the troops receive the order to attack. The Kazan Icon was at the most important sectors of the front, and in the places where the troops were preparing for an offensive. It was like in the old times, when in response to earnest prayers, the Virgin instilled fear in enemies and drove them away. Even atheists told stories of the Virgin’s help to the Russian troops. During the assault on Königsberg in 1945, the Soviet troops were in a critical situation. Suddenly, the soldiers saw their commander arrive with priests and an icon. Many made jokes, ‘Just wait, that’ll help us!’ The commander silenced the jokers. He ordered everybody to line up and to take off their caps. When the priests finished the molieben, they moved to the frontline carrying the icon. The amazed soldiers watched them going straight forward, under intense Nazi fire. Suddenly, the Nazis stopped shooting. Then, the Russian troops received orders to attack on the ground and from the sea. Nazis died in the thousands. Nazi prisoners told the Russians that they saw the Virgin in the sky before the Russians began to attack, the whole of the Nazi army saw Her, and their weapons wouldn’t fire. (Voices from Russia).
The message to Metropolitan Ilya from The Theotokos  for Russia was that:
(Russia before the Second Coming).
During ‘The Great Patriotic War’ 20,000 churches were opened. In 1942 the Soviet Government allowed Easter celebrations. On 4 September 1943 Stalin invited the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church to the Kremlin to discuss the need for reviving religious life in the USSR and the prompt election of a Patriarch.
This is the type of Myth that is nation-forming. It exists as a constant possibility within Russia. Spengler stated in his lecture to the German businessmen in 1922 that,
The arch-Conservative anti-Marxist, Spengler, in keeping with the German tradition of realpolitik, considered the possibility of a Russo-German alliance in his 1922 speech, the Treaty of Rapallo being a reflection of that tradition. ‘A new type of leader’ would be awakened in adversity, to ‘new crusades and legendary conquests’. The rest of the world, filled with religious yearning but falling on infertile ground, is ‘torn and tired enough to allow it suddenly to take on a new character under the proper circumstances’. Spengler suggested that ‘perhaps Bolshevism itself will change in this way under new leaders’. ‘But the silent, deeper Russia,’ would turn its attention towards the Near and East Asia, as a people of ‘great inland expanses’. (Ibid.). Berdyaev, discussing the Slavophil outlook, wrote:
There are no certainties. While Spengler postulated the organic cycles of a High Culture going through the life-phases of birth, youthful vigour, maturity, old age and death, it should be kept in mind that a life-cycle can be disrupted, aborted, murdered or struck by disease, at any time, and end without fulfilling itself. Each has its analogy in politics, and there are plenty of Russophobes eager to stunt Russia’s destiny with political, economic and cultural contagion. The Soviet bloc fell through inner and outer contagion.
What Spengler foresaw for the possibilities of Russia, yet to fulfil its historic mission, messianic and of world-scope, might now be unfolding if Russia eschews pressures from within and without. The invigoration of Orthodoxy is part of this process, as is the leadership style of Putin, as distinct from a Yeltsin for example. Whatever Russia is called outwardly, whether, monarchical, Bolshevik or democratic, there is an inner – eternal – Russia that endures and awaits its time on the world historical stage. We see it now with the re-emergence of Eurasianism, for example; not of the ‘East’ nor the ‘West’, but of Russia.
1. Ivan Sergyeyevich Aksakov (1823-1886) a Pan-Slavic leader, established the ‘Slavophil’ group at Moscow to restore Russia to its pre-Petrine culture.
2. Orthodox service for the sick.
Berdyaev, Nikolai. The Russian Idea, MacMillan Co., New York, 1948
Brandenberger, D. National Bolshevism: Stalinist culture and the Formation of Modern Russian National Identity 1931-1956. Harvard University Press, Massachusetts, 2002.
Brothers, Barbara J. Psychiatry Today, 1 January 1993, http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199301/russia-soul
Chumachenko, T.A. Church and State in Soviet Russia, M. E. Sharpe Inc., New York, 2002.
Cournos, H. ‘Introduction’, N V Gogol, Taras Bulba & Other Tales, 1842, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1197/1197-h/1197-h.htm
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov, 1880
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Possessed, Oxford University Press, 1992.
Kernback, S. ‘Unconventional research in USSR and Russia: short overview, 2013,http://arxiv.org/pdf/1312.1148.pdf
Russia before the Second Coming, Svyato-Troitskaya Sergiyeva Lavra Monastery, p. 239; Archbishop Alypy, ‘My thoughts about the Declaration of 1927’, 2 February 2005, http://www.stjamesok.org/ArbpAlypyBIO.htm
Spengler, Oswald. Prussian and Socialism, 1919.
Spengler, Oswald ‘The Two Faces of Russia and Germany’s Eastern Problems’, Politische Schriften, Munich, 14 February, 1922.
Spengler, Oswald. The Hour of Decision, Alfred A Knopf, New York, 1963.
Spengler, Oswald. The Decline of The West, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1971.
Trotsky, Leon. The Revolution Betrayed: what is the Soviet Union and where is it going?, 1936.
Voices from Russia, 15 January 2008, http://02varvara.wordpress.com/2008/01/15/the-wonderworking-icon-of-kaza…
6 Amusing Historic Stereotypes of Major Russian Cities
About the author: For lovers of Russian culture, folklore, and history, Kotar’s work is a treasure. The grandson of White Russian immigrants, the 34-year-old is an author of epic fantasy novels inspired by Russian fairy tales. You can see his four books here on Amazon.
He is also a deacon of the Russian Orthodox Church, a professional translator, and choir director at the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, where he lives. Here is his bio from his blog, where he writes about many aspects of Russia. We highly recommend following it and subscribing to his email list to get exclusive material.
He is currently running a remarkably successful crowdfunding on Kickstarter to be able to publish his upcoming novels. Please support him if you can!
Stereotypes are a funny thing. On the one hand, they’re often no more than caricatures. On the other hand, there’s a surprising amount of bitter truth to some of them. Like the Russians say with their morbid humor, “In every joke, there’s a bit of a joke.”
This is especially interesting when we consider old Rus. We don’t have much to go on, historically speaking, other than chronicles, treaties, and a few bits of birch bark.
However, Russians have preserved some interesting stereotypes about the inhabitants of old Russian cities. Whether there’s any truth to them or not is almost beside the point. They’re fascinating, revealing a window to a world long gone, yet still persisting in the habits and personalities of today’s Russians. (Here’s the original Russian article that I translated)
EVERYONE IN GREAT NOVGOROD IS A REBEL
Novgorod’s rebelliousness is legendary. The image of a brawling Novgorodian is almost a calling card of the city. The reason this stereotype came about has to do with the old chronicles. They were filled with illustrations of the constant arguments at the Novgorodian Veche, a kind of popular assembly that met in the central square. (See my translation of “Martha the Mayoress” for a vivid fictionalized example).
Of course, there were arguments and even fights during the Veche. However, they did not constantly devolve into fist-fights, as the legends suggest. Naturally, the chroniclers would choose the most vivid and bloody examples from history to illustrate their point. After all, Novgorod was often an opponent of Kiev and, later, Moscow. But in actual fact, the inhabitants of Great Novgorod were fiercely loyal to their government and loved their city. Compromise was the order of the day, not broken heads. Plus, they were more than usually literate.
EVERYONE IN PSKOV IS A THIEF OR A MORON
Even in modern times, Pskovians have had to endure countless jokes about their crudeness, stupidity, and their lack of good manners. This may or may not be true. As for their lack of manners, that is entirely a matter of hats. The inhabitants of Pskov, no matter what their social standing, hardly ever doffed their cap before anyone (which is extremely bad form in old Rus). However, this wasn’t crudity or bad breeding.
It used to be that a hat symbolized one’s personal dignity. In Pskov in particular, to actually take off your hat meant to be shamed. It may be a bastardization of the more generally accepted rule that if someone else took your hat off your head, that was a terrible insult.
EVERYONE IN NIZHNI NOVGOROD IS A DRUNKARD
The painful topic of Russian alcoholism became especially relevant in Nizhni Novgorod at the end of the 17th century. A kind of epidemic of alcoholism rose up, and it was normal to see women as well as men lying in the streets in a drunken stupor. Foreign travelers recounted after their visits to Nizhni Novgorod that “Russians don’t do anything but feast.”
Of course, they did more than feast. But on holidays, Russians have always allowed themselves some excesses. It’s not entirely fair to single out Nizhni Novgorod, when alcoholism still is the gravest problem facing Russia today, as in olden times.
EVERYONE IN VLADIMIR IS A CRIMINAL
This stereotype appeared very early. It’s easy to understand. Vladimir itself had five prisons, including the famous “Vladimir Central Prison.” From the beginning, Vladimirians have been considered con artists who like a dangerous life. It didn’t help that the path to Siberia for exiled convicts went through Vladimir. It was even called the “Vladimirka.”
Exiled convicts stopped in Vladimir to have half their heads shaved (a scene vividly recounted in the excellent Russian film The Siberian Barber). Then they’d be branded as exiles or thieves, clapped in irons, and set upon the road to Siberia. In old times, the path could take as long as two years, and those two years were not counted as part of their allotted time.
Vladimir itself, for all that, was a typical enough provincial town.
EVERYONE IN ROSTOV IS AN ARTISAN
When a Russian hears the word “finift’” (enameling), he immediately thinks of Rostov. Nothing could change the old stereotype that every inhabitant of ancient Rostov worked in the enameling guild. That’s complete nonsense, of course. First of all, the best enamellists in old Rus were as a rule in Kiev, the capital city. There were also some famous artisans in Pskov, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, and Great Novgorod.
The only difference is that Rostov alone has preserved the traditional techniques of enameling since ancient times. Even today, there is a factory producing enameled work. Perhaps for this reason alone, tourists still visit Rostov exclusively to see enameled boxes.
THE INDUSTRIOUS YARSOLAVIAN
The industrious muzhik from Yaroslavl is an image that we even find in Gogol. From the times of Rus, Yaroslavians were known as people who were never apathetic, lazy, or prone to tiredness. Instead, they’re known to be active to a manic degree. This may have something to do with the odd tradition that Yaroslav is a city of buried treasure.
Apparently, wherever you turn, you see someone uncovering a jewelry box or trying to break into an ancient chest of drawers. Perhaps a little more seriously, Yaroslavians have long been known as “chicks of the cuckoo.” In other words, they’re more than usually capable of leaving their homeland without much regret. This quality has a clear historical origin.
Yaroslav was built on the crossroads of ancient roads—a path used by merchants from Scandinavia all the way to the Arab lands. From the middle of the 16th century, Yarsolavl became the most important center for trade in all of Rus. This constant movement often inspired young Yaroslavians to try out their luck in foreign lands.
True or not, such stereotypes make for fascinating stories. For myself, the “myth” of the boisterous Novgorodian comes to life in my third novel, The Heart of the World, in a semi-fictionalized setting of the Veche that goes fabulously wrong for all concerned.
Source: Nicholas Kotar
Health officials warn of strain on hospitals but Covid-19 admissions remain low
Health officials have warned of mounting strain on hospitals as coronavirus infections increase, although the absolute number of admissions remains below previous surges of the disease.
Prof Philip Nolan, chairman of the National Public Health Emergency Team’s (Nphet) epidemiological modelling group, reported rising intensive care admissions but said the rise in hospital and ICU admissions was “far less” than “if we didn’t have so much of the population protected through vaccination”.
Dr Nolan said the expected pattern of infection in coming weeks was “really quite uncertain”. The background of exponential virus growth earlier in July “may or may not be stabilising” but the increase in hospital and intensive care admissions tracked the rising rate of infection.
While there was one intensive care admission every two days toward the end of June, Dr Nolan said the ICU admission rate in the past week was approaching three per day.
There were 152 people in hospital yesterday. The figure contrasts 1,949 during the January peak. There were 333 inpatients at the start of November 2020 and 862 in April 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic.
But admissions are again rising fast.
“We’re seeing on average 26 per day admitted to hospital in the last seven days and 30 today. You can see that that’s very significantly up, pretty much double what it was two weeks ago,” Dr Nolan told reporters at the Department of Health.
In a sign of pressure on the system, nurses in Limerick’s main hospital complained yesterday that overcrowding there is worsening despite the provision of more than 100 additional beds.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said called on Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to intervene directly to “look under the bonnet” and see why additional beds at University Hospital Limerick had not made a substantial impact.
More trolleys had been placed on wards and corridors in University Hospital Limerick in recent days as overcrowding continued, the union said.
Chief medical officer Tony Holohan said the uneven spread of coronavirus infections throughout the State meant some hospitals might be under more pressure than suggested by overall admissions data.
“It can happen that individual hospitals can be under quite a degree of pressure when the overall situation in the country might not suggest that’s the case. So we do know that maybe some hospitals in the west have already had a challenge with much more infections based on the most recent wave than other hospitals.”
He acknowledged reported pressure on hospitals in Limerick and in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, and cited pressure also on hospitals in Co Mayo.
“We have seen quite a wide variation in case numbers in individual hospitals,” Dr Holohan said. “We have 150 give or take hospitalisations. That’s not spread evenly spread across the 30 or 40 hospitals that might be admitting patients with this infection.
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said hospitals would be under pressure if there were no coronavirus admissions.
“The point that obviously the absolute numbers are much less than previous waves is very welcome,” he said.
“The reality is that if we had no cases of Covid in hospital tomorrow morning our hospitals would be under extreme pressure. Unfortunately that’s what we’re dealing with, both pre-Covid and now but particularly as a result of Covid in the last number of months
“Our healthcare workers are exhausted frankly. They’re facing into enormous backlogs in elective care, non-Covid care, non-Covid health plans, social care: both in acute settings and in community,” he confirmed.
“So while the absolute numbers are less than previously we’re very conscious that any increase in those number … has potential to be very significant to the health service that we’re trying to get back up to full function.”
How is Germany using Covid health passes compared to other European countries?
In France the health passport is already in use for venues including cinemas, tourist sites and nightclubs and from the beginning of August will be extended to bars, restaurants, cafés, some shopping malls and long distance train or bus services. Find the full list of venues where it is necessary HERE.
The health passport can show proof of either; fully vaccinated status, recent recovery from Covid or a negative Covid test taken within the previous 48 hours.
It is required for everyone at the listed venues – visitors and staff – but staff have until August 30th to get vaccinated. The passport is required for all over 12s, but children aged between 12 and 17 do not have to start showing their passports until August 30th.
There is no fine for members of the public who do not have a health passport, but you can expect to be barred from any of the listed venues if you cannot show your passport to staff. Venues found not enforcing the health passport face being closed down.
The passport can be shown either on the French TousAntiCovid app – find out how that works here – or on paper. The app is compatible with vaccine certificates issued in EU or Schengen zone countries, and the NHS app is also compatible. The situation for those vaccinated in the USA is a little more complicated, but they should be able to swap their US certificate for a French one that is compatible with the app.
Italy’s green pass, ‘certificazione verde’, will soon be required to access more leisure and cultural venues, including indoor restaurants, gyms, swimming pools, museums, cinemas, theatres, sports stadiums and other public venues.
Although it’s been in use since June, the Italian government announced on July 22nd that it would be extending its health pass scheme from August 6th.
From next month, people in Italy wanting to access most venues in Italy will need to show proof of being vaccinated – including those who have only had the first of two doses – having tested negative for coronavirus within the previous 48 hours or having recovered from Covid-19 within the last six months.
At the moment Italy’s digital health certificate is available to people over 12 years old who were vaccinated, tested or recovered in Italy.
The Italian version of the green pass is only for people who were vaccinated, recovered or tested in Italy. If that’s you, find out exactly how to claim it here. If you don’t fall into that category, here’s what you need to know about accessing Italy’s extended green pass.
If you’re from outside the EU, the rules are complicated or still being negotiated. At the border, Italy accepts vaccination certificates, tests results and medical certificates of recovery from the United States, Canada or Japan. However, there is currently no news on how travellers can access the green pass once they’re in Italy.
As for the United Kingdom, Italy does not currently have an agreement to recognise vaccinations performed in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Covid ‘health passes’ haven’t been imposed at a national level by the Spanish government, but two regions – Galicia and the Canary Islands – have opted to require proof of vaccination, testing or recovery for people to go inside bars, cafés and restaurants.
In both regions the scheme is only being applied in municipalities with particularly high infection rates, and although it seemed that it would initially only apply to the interior of hospitality establishments, the Canary government has extended the requirement to gyms and cultural events held indoors.
Other regional governments in Spain such as Valencia’s have shown interest in implementing a ‘health pass’ requirement, but this has been met with opposition from the hospitality industry for the economic losses and holdups all the checking could potentially cause.
The EU-approved Digital Covid Certificate issued mainly for the purpose of travel by Spain’s regions is the preferred means of proving Covid health status, although in practice bar and restaurant owners can accept other proof, paper or digital.
Neither the Galician nor the Canary government have announced what foreign tourists should show to access the interior of bars and restaurants in their territories.
Spain’s Digital Covid Certificate is only available to residents in the country but as the system is standardised across the EU, European tourists will likely be able to use their country’s Covid Certificates with a scannable QR Code to go inside hospitality establishments (not needed for terraces).
Sweden is part of the EU-wide vaccine pass scheme which means the Covid-19 pass can be used as an alternative to showing a negative test result in order to enter the country.
But aside from travel into the country, the pass is not used at all for access to things like events, museums, restaurants or bars. The government hasn’t ruled it out entirely, but has said the Swedish preference is to open up for everyone at the same time instead.
To access the Swedish version of the EU vaccine pass, you need to have either had both doses of your Covid-19 vaccine in Sweden, or at least the second dose, so it is not currently possible for people vaccinated elsewhere to receive it. Another group excluded from the pass is those without a Swedish personnummer or social security number; although the eHealth Agency has told The Local they are working on making it available to the thousands of people in Sweden who were vaccinated without this number, this is not expected to happen until September at the earliest.
Denmark controls access to certain activities and facilities – from indoor dining to cultural attractions like museums and sports games – using the scannable coronapas application, which tracks vaccination status, recent recoveries and test results.
The system is currently only available to Danish residents enrolled in the public health system, but it’s compatible with the vaccine certificates from other EU and Schengen area countries. People from outside the EU/Schengen area who received full courses of Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca can also use proof of vaccination in place of a coronapas. That documentation needs to meet a handful of requirements to be legally valid: the documentation must be in English or German and contain your name, date of birth, the vaccine you received and the dates for your first and second doses.
The coronapas scheme is set to twilight on October 1st, when Denmark is scheduled to fully reopen.
Norway’s domestic Covid pass is used to access large events such as concerts, festivals and football matches in addition to domestic cruises and tours.
To enter venues and events using the pass, you will need a valid certificate.
Certificates will be valid if three weeks have passed since your last jab, you are fully vaccinated, have had covid in the past six months and can prove so via the health pass, or have received a negative test result in the previous 24 hours.
The certificate is presented as a QR code and will scan green if valid and red if not.
It’s worth noting that a valid domestic covid certificate is not valid for travel as part of the EU’s health pass travel scheme. You can read more about how the Norwegian Covid certificate is used for travel here.
A paper version of the certificate can be ordered here.
Covid certificates in Norway require a national identification number and level four security electronic ID. Unfortunately, this means that it’s practically impossible for tourists and non-residents to access the Norwegian certificate and attend events that require a health pass.
Furthermore, as the Norwegian certificate’s domestic version is different from the version used for travel, it also means that EU health passes can’t be used as a substitute for domestic vaccine passports.
Austria was one of the first European countries to introduce a Covid-19 health pass system, having done so on May 19th as the 3G Rule.
The 3G Rule refers to ‘Getestet, Geimpft, Genesen’ (Tested, Vaccinated, Recovered) and describes the three ways someone can provide evidence they are immune to the virus.
As a result, the framework is relatively well established in Austria.
Austria’s Covid-19 health pass, known as the “green pass”, is needed to access bars, restaurants, hotels, hairdressers, gyms, events and a range of other venues.
For entering nightclubs, you need to be either vaccinated or have received a negative PCR test in the past 72 hours. This information will also be included in your green pass.
As of July 1st, masks are not required anywhere that the green pass is required.
In effect, this means masks are required in public transport, supermarkets and museums.
Austria is a part of the European Covid-19 pass network since July 1st.
This means that if you are visiting Austria and you have the pass from your EU country, you can use it in Austria.
Unfortunately, people with Covid-19 passes from outside the EU cannot yet use it in Austria, however they can use paper documentation.
Also, as an Austrian phone number is needed to get the green pass (other than in Vienna), foreigners with documentation of a vaccination, recovery or a test cannot download it and use it when they are in Austria.
Please read the following link for more information.
Switzerland also has a Covid-19 health pass, known domestically as a Covid-19 immunity certificate.
However, this is only needed at large events (more than 1,000 people), nightclubs or discos.
Some bars and restaurants can choose to ask for the Covid certificate, upon which they are allowed to dispense with other rules such as mask rules and social distancing requirements.
In mid-July, Switzerland became a part of the EU’s Covid-19 pass framework, meaning that you can show your EU country pass in order to enter Switzerland.
Switzerland as yet does not accept other Covid passes, but this has been flagged as a possibility in future.
If you arrive in Switzerland, you can show the evidence of your vaccination to the authorities in your Swiss canton and you will be issued a Covid certificate.
Unfortunately, this only includes Swiss-approved Covid vaccines. According to the Swiss government, this is only Pfizer/Biontech, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson, i.e. AstraZeneca is not accepted.
More information about getting the pass if you are visiting Switzerland is available at the following link.
Elsewhere around Europe
In Hungary immunity certificates delivered from the time of the first vaccine shot are required in health establishments and to attend sports and music events, as well as gatherings of more than 500 people.
In Luxembourg a pass is asked for in shops.
In Azerbaijan a health pass has been mandatory since the beginning of June to enter sports centres or attend weddings.
In Portugal such a certificate is required to stay in a hotel or play sport. It is also required to eat inside restaurants, but only at weekends in the most hard-hit regions.
In Ireland the health pass is for the time being only needed for indoor eating and drinking in restaurants and pubs.
In Russia the Moscow region in June imposed a health pass for restaurants but this was so unpopular it was scrapped three weeks later.
The British government is planning to introduce in September a health pass in England to enter nightclubs and other places admitting large groups of people. Professional football matches could be included, reports say.
The UK’s other nations — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — set their own health policies.
Georgia is also planning a health pass.
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