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How to Understand Russia?

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How to Understand Russia?

15.12.2016

What is the Russian World? What are its values? How do Russian people react and assert themselves in the modern world? Aleksey Gromyko, Director of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Science, Head of European programmes of the Russkiy Mir Foundation, attempted to answer these and other questions during the "Russian World and Russian Truth. Understanding Russia" round-table discussion.

Many of us might think that understanding the Russian World is very easy, and it is – for those, who know it, its culture and who speak its language. On the other hand, one may reasonably argue that understanding the Russian World is very difficult, as for many of those, who try understanding, it comes out to be very complicated. The Russian World itself has many controversies, discussions and debates. It is a very difficult World.



It should be understood, that there are many other worlds, apart from Russian. Why don’t we speak about the German, French, Italian worlds and so on? All of them want to assert themselves, to choose their best competitive advantages and to fight for their place in the sun. We should understand that competition in the 21st century is going to rise more than ever and we are to develop our competitive advantages.

In case we want to say something general about the Russian World, we will discover that everything was already said in philosophical and other works of the Russian Middle Ages. Take, for example, the work of “Seven Wise Men of Greece” it is from 76 centuries BC. We use many phrases from it without knowing they belong to the Wise Men of Greece. Common sense is what unites all of these phrases. Common sense from my point of view is an alloy of idealism and pragmatism, when you have a spiritual aspiration, but at the same time, you also understand you cannot make this world spiritual, unless you make your life comfortable and safe for yourself, your children and for all the country.

In my opinion, the Russian World is neither a besieged fortress, nor a rolling stone. It is a world, which is indeed opened to the entire world, but which knows its roots, at the same time. It understands well what the core of the Russian World is. The majority of us would say it is the language and culture.

We often hear an expression that the only friends of Russia, or expressed wider, of the Russian World, are the army and fleet. I think this expression is now used too often and too automatically, that this stereotype has even started doing more harm, than helping, as the Russian World does have many friends, and those, who live in other countries, know about it best. There are very much friends of the Russian World and narrowing everything down to the power of Russian weapons is impossible and the greatest power of the Russian World are - again its language and culture.

It is very important to understand for those, who live outside of the Russian World and are not immersed into it, that the Russian World is a multicomponent civilization. Hardly anybody abroad understands it.

The Russian World extends back over 12 centuries if we are speaking about a state status. It is a huge time segment and we has seen many situations that are in our genes. We have a difficult history, so it is very complicated to explain our image of life to a person, who is not a part of the Russian World.

Russian World is a transcontinental civilization, it is a huge territory and limitless resources, it is not only a blessing, but also a great challenge we have to develop and defend all of this.

I think that the most interesting thing is a weak geopolitical situation of the Russian World. We are used to people, saying right the opposite Russia is so strong and powerful that everyone should be afraid of it. Only we know that for 12 centuries Russia was open to invasions from everywhere such a geography we have.

Russian World is the great culture and language, but the worlds majority does not know them too well, so we should not consider others are to automatically value us. We should bear our culture and language and many of you know what difficulties it may bring with it.

What are the values of the Russian World? They are, certainly, freedom, truth and solidarity. But it is important to add intelligence. In what a sense? Russian culture is an intellectual culture. At the same time, it is not only intelligence, as a Russian person has may it sound snobbishly an ache for the world. A Russian person is interested in and worried about the problems, which, as many would think, are not to worry him or her at all. This is how many or even the majority of the representatives of the Russian World are wired.

There are plenty of legends about the values of the Russian World. I am not speaking about Russophobia now its all clear about it. But there are such legends, which can have both swings and roundabouts and create a stereotypic, caricature image of the Russian World, making Russians seem more like blessed fools, but not complicated people, who, as I have already mentioned, are an alloy of spiritualism and pragmatism.

It is usual to hear that spiritualism is dominating over everything else in Russian people. I think it is wrong. Spiritualism in the Russian World is a kind of motivation and environment, but a Russian person is a very pragmatic one. A Russian person wants to make his or her life comfortable also in the material world, but it is not an end in itself. I think this is the thesis, on which the Russian philosophy is built upon.

There is a concept that the truth is overwhelming legitimacy. We should not be too straight about it. Russia needs judicial system as much, as all the other countries. It is not the point. But the point is that in the Russian World, legitimacy is not to be free of moral and ethics. In case you have enough money to pay for the most expensive attorney and win, are you to consider you are right and the judgement was legitimate? In Russia, if a person believes the judgement was unfair, he or she may continue fighting.

And the last thing. There is a stereotype about a mysterious Russian spirit, massive paces of our country and openness to all and sundry. But I will repeat: I think, that Russians have a very difficult character, which has been determined by quite a long and complicated history and considering a Russian person a plain fellow is wrong. No, it is not a person, who will open to everyone right away. It is a thinking person and I consider we are more of introvert type. I suppose that a Russian person is mainly a doubter not the one, who thinks there is nothing left to learn and teach the children.

It is absolutely no use trying to make the Russian World understandable to everyone, but we are to try making the truth of the Russian World, no matter how difficult it might be, understandable for those who want to understand it.

It is usual in Europe that politicians and journalists are the less respected professions. Opinion polls tell that young people rarely believe and doubt everything written in newspapers and spoken on the radio or TV. I believe we are to fight for the young generation in our country and other countries, as well.

(Extract from speech at X Assembly of the Russian World, Moscow, November 3, 2016)
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