The Battle for History: Part I

Author: Vladimir Karpets

Translator: Yulian Orlov

 Zavtra no. 20 (913), 18 May, 2011. 


“The battle for history.” What does this mean? What battle could we be speaking of, if history is the past and, as we are told, we cannot return any further?

Actually, the simplest inferences convince us that time is, at best, a very grand convention. The past has passed, and it’s not anymore. The future can only be yet to be, and it is also not. The present is a unit that tends to zero. But we know that zero is identical to infinity. From the point of view of infinity, there is neither a past nor a future. To be more precise, all is one. Everything always is and is in everything. History is a myth. According to A. F. Losev, the myth is an “open magical name”; he also held that “myth is miracle” without a human origin.

The popular myth (also known as true history) is an absolutely living and fundamentally unchangeable reality. It is born along with its people in a miraculous fashion out of the depths of Divine Wisdom. It is reflected in “positive history” but cannot be reduced to it. In defining ourselves in our relation to history, we define ourselves in relation to our myth, to our blood and to our spirit, which are all one. History is blood and spirit.

Not only peoples (that is to say, living creatures who inhabit their land, which is always blood, the keeper of the popular myth), but also essentially international associations (religious, political, economic societies ripped from the earth, but at times possessed of a clearly ethnic tint) militantly affirm their myths and history.

The world is the battleground of a permanent “Heraclitean” war, a war of all against all without which becoming and redemption are impossible. In this war, each seeks the total and unconditional confirmation of his myth, and, consequently, the downfall of his opponent’s myth: this is the meaning of any war.

But everything is more complex as far as the Russian myth is concerned. In unconditionally confirming itself, it destroys something else. It is open. The great, unique trait of Russian history and the Russian land is the capacity to absorb and deeply integrate myths that are either autochthonous or separated from the earth. This is related, among other things, to our “vastness.” This happened with Christianity, as well as Socialism (partially). Today, Russian Orthodoxy and Russian socialism (the latter is meant in a broad sense as entirely irreducible to “Marxism-Leninism”) are being rebelled against by “all blasphemous minds, all wicked people” (F. Tyutchev [1]). This is not by chance.

“For a true Russian, Europe and the fate of the entire great Aryan tribe are just as dear as Russia itself, as the fate of his native country. This is so because our destiny is universality, and it is not by the sword of acquisition but by the strength of brotherhood and our brotherly drive towards the unification of mankind that we will win it” – as F. M. Dostoevsky said in his “Pushkin Speech” [2]. We have all reason to assume that we need only to “dig down” to the Russian myth itself and its oral expression. This is partly the subject of professor A. G. Dugin’s latest books, “Sociology of Russian Society” and “Martin Heidegger and the Possibility of Russian Philosophy” [3]. However, it is possible that our myth remains inexpressible and ineffable.

Emperor Alexander III wrote to his son (the future martyr Tsar): “They are afraid of our vastness.” Today, the battle for history is above all else a battle for our “vastness.” Without such, we will cease to be Russian; we will lose our Russian name that is “magically developing” into a “myth.”  The greatest danger today (and the last hope of Russia’s enemies) is the “dethroning” of the Russian myth into a bourgeois nationalism of the “Baltic type.”  All of these “Zalesyes” and “Ingermanlands”, “Kazakias” and “independent Siberias” are the last wager of Russia’s enemies [4]. Vlasov against Stalin, prince Andrei Kurbsky against Tsar Ivan, Novgorod against Moscow…

Alas, Stolypin against the obshchina as well… [5]

Why were all these “alternative variants” of our history, which are so praised nowadays, broken up? They did not “grow together” with the pre- and ex-temporal Russian myth, guarded as it is by our beautiful and damp earth. The ore rid itself of the dross. The ability to accept life as it is – that is the most important trait of he who claims to think. I have in mind Pushkin’s utterance in his famous letter to Chaadaev: “I honestly swear, that I would not for the world change my fatherland or take on a different history but the history of our forefathers, the one that was given to us by God…” 

Any attempts to “break the thousand-year Russian paradigm” (the sinister words of Politburo member Yakovlev) ultimately turn the Russian myth and Russian history to the “dark”, “terrible” side that each and every myth has: the liquidation of the farmers’ obshchina ended in the Holodomor (which was by no means limited to Ukraine); the slogans of an “Orthodox republic” and “a free Church in a free state” without the Tsar ended at the Butovo Firing Range [6]; the fight against “nomenclature privileges” ended in a government of the ultra-rich…     

Why is this so?

All of these questions, as well as those in the likes of “why is ‘de-Stalinization’ failing?”, “who is scared of Ivan the Terrible and Grigori Rasputin?”, “what is the reality behind the “New Chronology”?”, “what is the revision of Christianity (from “Qumranomania” [7] to Dan Brown) fraught with?” and many others are among those questions which we will attempt to pose and, as far as we are able, answer in our new column: “The Battle for History.” 


Translator’s notes:

[1]: Fyodor Tyutchev (1803 – 1873) is one of the greatest Russian Romantic poets after Pushkin. The poem cited here is “You’re Not in the Mood for Verses” (Теперь тебе не до стихов…), which can be found in English translation here under header 213.

[2]: The full speech in English translation can be found here.

[3]: Neither of these books have been translated into English.

[4]: Various regions of Russia. See “The Battle for Russia – Part III” for a more in-depth discussion of this issue.

[5]: A reference to the conflict between reformist prime minister Pyotr Stolypin (1862 – 1911) and peasant communities. Stolypin introduced a land reform that made the total buying and selling of land available. In order to quell dissent, he then had to introduce Draconian martial law throughout large sections of Russia. He eventually fell from the Tsar’s favour and died at the hand of an assassin in Kiev.

[6]: The Butovo Firing Range is a former private estate that was turned into an NKVD hub after the October Revolution. Roughly 20.000 political prisoners were executed by gunshot in a span of 15 years. Many Orthodox clergy who had earlier supported the Bolsheviks were among those who were murdered.

[7]: A reference to the Qumran archaeological site in Israel, which was the resting place of the Dead Sea Scrolls until they were discovered in the period between 1946 and 1956.

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