If you please, I shall be bold. Bold enough to utter the word. The word that describes Russia in a nutshell. The one word. Because that one word is what is going to affect the entire world, now that Donald has won the Western Emperor’s crown. And then to share it with Vlad, the Eastern Emperor. The only question now is which of these two Caesars will be the actual Augustus? You do remember I told you this would happen, eh? And that as a result of Donald’s victory, there would be a new relationship with Russia, correct? A relationship based on peace. But not peace through strength. At least not on our part.
And so, what is this word? This word that describes Russia in her essence? The Russia described by Churchill as ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’? Well, it’s very simple, actually, and you’d think a man of Churchill’s dark brilliance would have understood it, if only he would have looked. But he was too busy destroying the evidentiary trail linking the Teutonic bonds that joined Angland and Germany for almost a millennium. He had to. Why? So no one would notice the similarity of their actions. Russia was just an afterthought to him. He thought the Great Game would last forever. The game Russia could never win. Winnie never saw that the Empire would one day have to reckon with the C-zar. Why? Because he thought Angland had already destroyed him, in the person of the K-zar, back in WWI. Bad move, Winnie. Clean your glasses, old boy. Kaiser Bill was only the warm-up. And Adolph was just a pretender to the would-be Anglo-Saxon world throne.
But now that Germanic chimera is gone. Berlin is not the locus. And neither is Berlin-on-the-Thames. Only Moscow matters now.
And so, back to our word puzzle. The word that unlocks the intentions of Russia. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to Nikolai Berdyaev. Just who was Berdyaev? Well, he was an intellectual, philosophical, religious Leftist Orthodox reformer who knew every Russian of importance, from Solovyev to Tolstoy to Trotsky to Stalin. In fact, when he was arrested by the Cheka (forerunner of the KGB), he was personally interrogated by Felix Dzerjinsky, the head of the Cheka. Attended by Lev Kamenev, if you know who he is. Huh? Well, Lev was one of the first seven members of the Politburo. Buddies of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin. Here’s how Alexander Solzhenitsyn describes the interrogation in his opus The Gulag Archipelago:
[Berdyaev] was arrested twice; he was taken in 1922 for a midnight interrogation with Dzerjinsky; Kamenev was also there….But Berdyaev did not humiliate himself, he did not beg, he firmly professed the moral and religious principles by virtue of which he did not adhere to the party in power; and not only did they judge that there was no point in putting him on trial, but he was freed. Now there is a man who had a “point of view”.
Berdyaev later left Soviet Russia for the West, where he spent the rest of his life trying to educate the rest of us as to what Russia really is, and what she represents in the family of man. Not many have listened. But they didn’t listen to Solovyev either. It’s probably a cosmic joke on God’s part that these two Russian geniuses both wrote a book entitled The Russian Idea.
Nobody listened the first time (except Berdyaev). And nobody listened the second time. Oh well. They’ll listen this time. But it’s too late, of course.
Anyway, Nikolai Berdyaev, like Solovyev, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Pushkin, Gogol and every other great Russian writer, says the defining term that describes all Russians is Sobornost. And that this word is untranslatable to any other language. Just as the concept of the orientation of the Orthodox Church towards the Holy Spirit is inexplicable to the West. And the reason it is inexplicable is that we in the West do not have the benefit of the experiences that gave birth to the nation of Russia. Or to Orthodoxy.
So just what does this term mean? What does it roughly equal in Western thought? Well, nothing really, but here’s a sampling of the attempts to find a Western synonym for Sobornost; togetherness; brotherhood; unity; one-ness; solidarity; communion; and so on.
And really, until you understand the real meaning of Sobornost, you will never understand the Russian mind. Because Sobornost is the heart of Orthodox ecumenism. Which is at the heart of most Russian philosophy, whether it be implicit or explicit. It is the soul of the Slavophiles and the Tolstoyan Universalists. Of Dostoyevsky and Solovyev. And of course, Berdyaev and Solzhenitsyn. In other words, all of them. And there is the key word, from our Western perspective. Them.
Just who is it that we mean when we talk about them? Well, let’s look at it from their perspective. When we say ‘them‘, they think ‘us‘. Us, as in all Russians. Every Russian, from serf to czar. From sinner to saint. From East to West and North to South. All bound together in one Holy Empire, each member having the same cosmic value as the other. Each member worth the ultimate sacrifice. As the Marines would say, ‘no man left behind’. This kinship is larger than the concept of family. It is nationality, writ large. It is hyper-nationality. Its people value the life of the criminal as much as the life of the judge. Which is why the Western notion of capital punishment is abhorrent to every Russian. Just ask Dmitri Karamazov if you don’t believe me.
But remember not to confuse the past actions of the Bolsheviks with the actuality of true Russian values, as Berdyaev says. Why is that? Because the commies weren’t really acting as Russians. They were acting as hyper-Internationalists, who also professed a belief that all men are equal. Equally worthless, actually, if you disregard their words and look only at their actions. No Russian worth his salt mine would conflate the value of a Left Bank pinko with the life of any true Russian, even a Kalmyk.
So here it is, Komrade. Here is what Sobornost means to a Russian. Every Russian. It means Us. All of Us. But this meaning does not exist in a vacuum, my friend. It’s not the religious concept of the All-One that was proposed by Solovyev. Nor is it the concept of a universal brotherhood of man proposed by Fedorov. And it’s certainly not the ‘Three Branch’ theory of Christianity posed by Palmer and Blackmore in their Oxford Movement pilgrimages to Russia in the mid-1800’s. No, Komrade. In the final analysis, it’s just Us. And furthermore, it’s Us against Them.
So there it is; they see themselves as separate from the rest of humanity. Why is that? Is it because they have suffered at the hands of every rapacious Horde of marauders from the East? Yes. Is it because they have suffered at the hands of every Scythian scourge from the South? Yes. And from every Viking overlord from the North? Yes. And of course, let’s not forget the Western waves of misery, whether it be Polish, Lithuanian, Swedish, Anglish, French or German. Yes, again. In other words, the defensive Russian psyche sees itself as having bravely borne the brunt of every unjust onslaught the world could throw at it, for a thousand years.
But there’s more to it than that. That’s the defensive part. There’s the converse of the coin as well. And the other side of the kopeck is this: that there was a reason, a divine reason, that Russia has survived, unchanged for a thousand years. And there is no doubt in their minds that it was truly divine protection that has kept them intact until today. Inert but intact. And here is the root of Sobornost; that the divine reason for this preservation of the Russian people is because of her faithful embrace of Orthodoxy. Eastern Orthodoxy, to be exact. As contrasted to all of those decadent and/or apostate fools in the West. Especially those silly Western Orthodox idiots that call themselves Anglicans and try to peddle their Three-Branch hokum to the Patriarch. And as a reward for their faithfulness, Russians will be God’s instrument of salvation to mankind. All Russians. To all of mankind. In other words, the Universal Salvation of all mankind.
But this is not The Russian Idea of Solovyev, or Berdyaev, or of the Father of Russian philosophy, Peter Chaadayev in his seminal work Apology of a Madman. No, this Orthodox Russian Idea means something completely different to the Russians. The idea is this; that Russia is divinely destined to be the source of the salvation of the world. The entire world. Period. Just listen to Nikolai Fedorov, in his Religion of Resusciative Resurrection. Listen to Berdyaev in his paean to Fedorv at his funeral in 1903.
Now I know this sounds crazy, but we’re talking about Russia, right? So it should sound crazy, no? And it wasn’t just Berdyaev that was influenced by Fedorov. Solovyev and Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy were all enthralled by the concept of this universal salvation. And a whole host of others. As long as it was brought about by Russia, of course. And let’s be clear; this salvation includes everyone, both past, present and future! Salvation for every last man, whether he be Orthodox, Muslim, Confucian or Shaman. And even those idiot apostate Westerners.
Well, how can this be? After all, if it’s us vs them (from either perspective), where is the unity of mankind in that? How can there ever be peace, let alone universal salvation in that kind of paradigm? Well, there can’t Komrade. At least not yet. We have to add the magic ingredient first, you know. And just what would that be, my friend? How can there be peace without unity? And how can there be unity without peace? Which must come first?
Now we’re at the tipping point. Chicken or egg. Which is it? Well, let’s slow down a bit. Let’s have a drink. Let’s have a think. If we accept (as every Russian does) that there is only One Humanity, then any subdivision of this body is equivalent to amputation. In other words, assuming the body is alive, this severing of limbs is a crime. A crime against humanity. A crime against the All-One. It must not be allowed.
Therefore, in the world of Slav-Think, there must be a cessation of thought that divides mankind. And of course, since the Slavs are the only ones who think this way (in spite of the horrific suffering they have undergone at the hands of the rest of mankind), they must be the ones God intends to choose as the nation that leads all other men to peaceful co-existence, right? Remember that term?
And this leads inexorably, in the mind of all Russians, to the conclusion that if mankind is a unified organic whole, with each nation having an organic (that is, systemic) role, then Russia must indeed be the head of this body. After all, she is the only one that seems to see this organic unity of mankind. She is the only one who really thinks! She must be the head. Get it, Komrade? The only problem, historically speaking, is this; this head has been asleep. This vision of human unity has only been a dream. A hesychastic dream. For a thousand years.
But now this putative head of humanity has awakened. And it seems to think it is the answer to all mankind’s problems. Can’t believe it? Then ask yourself this: does Vlad Putin seem to be animated by this spirit? Does Patriarch Kyrill seem to be animated by it as well? By this attitude of Russian-Orthodox chauvinism? So then, who is the crazy one here, me or Vlad? Or Kyrill? Or is it you, in your disbelief that this could possibly be the true portrayal of Russia?
I know, you think I’m rambling here. But remember, I’m talking about Russia, the riddle, the mystery, the enigma. Did you think this would be totally linear? Is anything of this size that simple? Well, actually, yes. Simple in the sense that the trajectory has already been set. The missile has already been launched. The question is, what were the launch co-ordinates? And who set them? Here’s a hint. The target is Rome. And the programmer, as Chaadyaev clearly saw, was Photius. The Father of Schism.