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The New Russia Must Embrace the Old

The very worst college student, the one most hopeless, is the student who comes to college to recreate himself. This young man decides that he will no longer be John Mark, but J.M. The new J.M. will ditch his old wardrobe and get all new togs. No longer will he be his parents’ child, instead he will be College Man with a beard and new opinions. If his parents were Republicans, he joins the Green Party. If his parents were socialists, he becomes a monarchist.Why is he so hopeless? His “old life” is part of who he is. Until he comes to grips with his past, he will never be able to make positive change in his present. He will always be reacting to what he was without thinking about it.Nations are similar to people in this respect. They have histories and cannot escape the past without coming to terms with it. This is especially true of nations that try to change quickly through revolutions. The revolutionary believes he can change his nation quickly. The new and improved country will make up for all the sacrifice required to get to this Promised Land. Just like the young man in college, the sacrifice is never worth it and history comes back to haunt the nation.First, the old remember. Even after one hundred years pass the old remember the stories their grandparents tell them of the time before the revolution. Second, the monuments of the old order are almost always preserved. Russia is full of buildings, art, music, and literature from tsarist days. Third, the scars of revolution last for generations. The great-grandparents are displaced. The grandparents struggle to survive. The parents finally fit into a culture they have been taught to have ambiguous feelings toward. The children, now that they are part of that culture, are free to despise it. The antipathy of the great-grandparents finally has the social space in which to flourish.Is there blood guilt for a nation? If we accept that there is a spiritual dimension to reality, then Holy Mother Russia murdered tens of millions of her children. She starved children and worshipped strange foreign gods. Her rulers were butchered for their mistakes and their virtues. No person took care to condemn the first and laud the second. As often happens, she embraced the vices and forgot the virtues.Repentance is the only possible answer and repentance involves not words but real return. Is it an accident that England repented of her regicide and thrived? Perhaps, but many Englishmen thought it important to change organically. They worked hard, even in their glorious revolutions, to make the old order part of the new. Whether because of a spiritual dimension, as Shakespeare argues in Richard II, or merely because it is what is best for men it worked.Russia has never come to grips with the horror of the Revolution of 1917 and the Civil War that followed. The wreckage of the old order is all around the visitor as Hugh Hewitt recently pointed out. Russians are still capable of great bravery as the Second World War attests, but she has never returned to the robust growth and dynamic culture of the Silver Age before World War I. If that war had never happened, we would face a vigorous Orthodox state fully modern in its economy and culture.Russia cannot pretend the Soviet Union did not happen. That evil empire scarred the soul of the nation of the lifetime of an entire generation. Sadly, Russia cannot pretend that the Tsarist order was without fault and simply “go back.” The world has changed and the Tsarist order was no utopia. It was the old order that managed to be sucked into the hell hole of the Great War. It was the old order that become impotent in the face of the need for great change. No person would wish to go back to things exactly as they were. One thinks especially of the pogroms and official anti-Semite attitudes of the government as one such vice. Repentance must be made here as well. However, there must be a going back to the virtues of what was with an accounting for the vices.I believe that Russia is dying. She is producing few children and fewer great deeds. Her government is corrupt enough to compare with the worst Tsarist ministers, the Protopopovs, venal and mad oldsters. Only there is no virtue at all at the center of the government and no patriotism. Nicholas II would die for his country however foolish his plans. He was an excellent head of state if a dreadful head of government.Putin is drifting into becoming merely a Protopopov in a business suit pushed up by gangsters and the darkest forces of the Soviet regime. The mob rules Russia and is draining her dry sending her treasure and future to Monte Carlo and Las Vegas. There is no patriotic core and no head of state.What is to be done? We cannot hope Russia will muddle through. In her history, there are periodic dark times when the people cannot stand anymore folly and rise up. Such revolutions are bloody, useless, and leave the nation ever weaker. It also will be dangerous for the world community since a Russia in chaos will still be armed with nuclear weapons. A weak Russia will be even less ready to protect those weapons and a chaotic Russia might be tempted to use them on herself (Is any war worse or more brutal than a Civil War?) or others.Russia must return in an organic way to her past. She must pray that Putin can give way to a Juan Carlos as the aging Franco did in Spain. She must hope that her Orthodox churchmen have the wisdom of the Spanish clergy to allow change and freedom of thought. Unlike Spain, she must reject becoming merely a vacation ground for New European values and business. Russia needs leaders who will break the mob and bring in constitutional government.Where will such leaders come from? They cannot come by right-wing revolution. Revolutions from the “right” are as bad as revolutions from the left. Is there no person in the Duma who can move above party politics and press for a Russian constitution and a new head of state? Can England become a better model for government and Ireland for economics? Is there a patriot who will give this change an organically Russian feel? Can the Patriarch shake off years of service to brutal, evil men in the Soviet era to speak as the Byzantine churchmen would speak to bad rulers? Can the village priests resist the worst abuses of the tsarist regime, while restoring the glories of the faith?If not, then what hope is there for Russia? Some great crisis will come, internally or externally, and the criminals will flee. Who will be left to rule?We know the answer and it is the thriving Islamic communit
y. Some of them have embraced the extremism of the Taliban perversion of Islam. The Islamic extremists within her borders have a plan, a world view, and believe they have a mission from their god. No Russian Mafia can stop them only an alternative vision of reality worth a man’s life.A few of those college students who try to change who they are do so. Those are the ones most to be pitied. Cut off from who they are, they fade away. Having rejected who they are, they become nothing. God help Russia. God save her from such a fate.

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