Saturday, October 21, 2017

150 Years Ago, Tyutchev Invented ‘Russophobia’ to Describe the Attitudes of Some Russians to Other Russians

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 21 –Russian poet Fyodor Tyutchev writing in French first used  the term “Russophobia” on October 20, 1867, to describe the hostility some Russians feel toward their own country and its problems and their willingness to overlook any difficulties in other states, Russian blogger Sergey Tsvetkov says.

            This week thus marks the 150th anniversary of that event and, as a round date, should become “Russophobia Day,” a holiday that is unlikely to catch on in Putin’s Russia despite the ever greater frequency with which the Kremlin leader and other Russians to denounce the criticism by Russians and others of Russia (

            But Tsvetkov did express pleasure in the fact that this year on this anniversary, even Vladimir Putin made use of the term in a public speech, albeit using it to attack not primarily other Russians as Tyutchev had but foreign critics of Russia and the Russian people, two categories both inevitably bracket together as one.

Moscow’s ‘Sleepers’ TV Serial a Disturbing Wake Up Call for Russians, Kirillova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 21 – A new Russian television series, “The Sleepers,” which suggests the CIA is behind murders and terrorist acts in Russia and elsewhere and that its actions justify, indeed require an equally forceful response by the FSB is far more disturbing than programs like “The Anatomy of Protest,” Kseniya Kirillova says.

            In an essay for Ukraine’s Gulyai Pole, the US-based Russian journalist and commentator says that this latest case of Russian “’agitation via films’ is “not simply to strengthen already existing ‘rules of the game’ but to warn there are going to be new ‘games’ and in the future they will be conducted by [new] rules” (

            The premise of this series is that “Russia is flooded with ‘sleeper’ agents of the CIA” who are operating as officials of the foreign and energy ministries and as “’moles’” in the FSB, as teachers and students at MGIMO, and “what is most important practically all opposition bloggers, journalists and human rights activists.”

            These agents are involved not in the “’banal’ theft of secrets,” she continues, but rather with “constant murders, terrorist actions, kidnappings and torturing of people, the overthrow of regimes, and other evil actions.”  The series says the CIA “trains terrorists,” and kills people to create “’sacred victims,’” and is limited only by the heroic actions of the FSB.

            Any reports that blame the FSB for these crimes, the series insists, is “fake news, created in the CIA to discredit the Chekists and undermine international contracts which completely correspond to the interests of the much-suffering motherland.” The real culprits in all cases are the CIA “sleeper” agents, it says.

            Indeed, Kirillova continues, it is the CIA “and not the Kremlin” which uses troll factories to stir up trouble and then blames the Kremlin for everything. As one can see, “in this series, literally everything is turned upside down,” and that extends to bloggers and opposition figures who are shown to be fabulously wealthy and beyond the reach of the Russian authorities.

            The FSB of course is just the opposite too. It is full of real knights who fight for Russia “without fear or favor and are prepared to defend at the price of their own lives to defend the ‘liberals’ who hate them from the cynical American intelligence service, the Russian journalist writes.

            The writers of the new serial – and it is not the first of its kind although it does go further than earlier ones – insist that “’the story is based on real events,’” thus suggesting that Russians should view what it says not as fantasy but as lightly fictionalized reality and thus act and support those who act on the basis accordingly.

            And those who have created this series go further: they suggest to viewers that “if you enclunter such things in reality, don’t believe your eyes!” Everything that looks real is in fact manufactured by the CIA to promote dissatisfaction and disloyalty.  Its sleepers and not the FSB are killing people for its purposes.

            It turns out, Kirillova continues, “in Russia where the special services track even the Internet mail of single mothers and sales clerks inclined to opposition, the American intelligence officers feel themselves at home: they kill, they kidnap, they blow up, they torture and they lie.” If one “decodes” the series, then its message is truly frightening.

            That is because, the commentator concludes, the implication is that in this brave new world, the FSB can use such things confident that it can blame them on the CIA and that it is even justified in doing so because its opponents did these things first.   

Russia Will Never Be an Orthodox Iran Because It has ‘Traditionalism without Traditions,’ Krashennnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 21 – Many Russians fear that nationalist radicals are on their way to transforming Russia into an Orthodox Christian version of Iran; but their fears are misplaced, Fyodor Krasheninnikov says, Russia has officially promoted “traditionalism” without the traditions in the population such a state would require.

            In a Snob commentary, the Yekaterinburg analyst says that “throughout the world, conservatism is the struggle for all that remains of what was the case in the good old days.”  It agenda is relatively fixed over long periods of time because it reflects the values, views and agendas of a significant segment of the population (

            But because of the Soviet system’s attack over seven decades on what might be traditional values, Krasheninnikov says, the situation in Russia is very different. There isn’t the widespread support for traditional values; instead, there is the promotion of traditionalism by elites to defend their own power positions.

            And that explains, he continues, why those behind the promotion of traditionalism, Russian clericals and conservative intellectuals, have not been able to come up with any clearly defined or attractive political program. They can offer “fantasies about the rebirth of monarchy,” but “there is no program, only a desire to continue to dominate society.”

            What is going on can be easily seen if one considers the nature of traditionalism and conservatism in the US and the nature of the 1979 Iranian revolution and its consequences, Krasheninnikov says. 

            “In the US, traditionalists of all kinds operate not on bureaucrats and ‘siloviki’ but on millions of those who in the evenings read the Bible and each Sunday go to church, perhaps with a gun in a holster but at the time of elections vote for conservatively inclined politicians.” They have values, and they support them.

            “In Russia,” in contrast, the commentator continues, “there are hardly any clerical conservatives in the form of a multi-million-strong community of socially active people.” What does exist are attempts by those in power to link post-Soviet behavior with religious ideas. Not surprisingly, this kind of conservatism is “fruitless” despite enormous effort by the authorities.

            That can be clearly seen in what is happening now: those opposed to the film Mathilda are calling on prosecutors and officials to stop it because they appear to understand that ordinary people are completely uninterested in this “monarchist cargo cult” and would not respond to appeals to block its showing in theaters.

            But the appeals of the opponents of Mathilda have been so dramatic and have been given so much coverage by the government’s media, that ever more Russians and perhaps others fear that “soon Russia will become ‘an Orthodox Iran.’”  People who say that only display their ignorance of Iran and of Russia as well, the Yekaterinburg analyst says.

            “The truth consists of this: in Iran at the times of the pro-Western Shah Mohammed Rez Pahlevi, the absolute majority of the population consisted of practicing Muslims. Feel the difference: it was not Ayatollah Khomeini who on coming to power forced Iranians to go to the mosques. It was just the reverse” because the Iranians were committed Shiites.

            “The Iranian revolution occurred not because the religious leaders called the population to submit to the shah and his regime and it imposed Islam on the people from above. On the contrary, Islam in the shah’s Iran became a banner of mass social, political and even moral protest against the shah’s corrupted, westernized and repressive regime.”

            According to Krasheninnikov, “present-day Russia is more the shah’s Iran in reverse: we have a small stratum of churched officials, siloviki, major enterprises, and clerics drowning in wealth who … are calling millions of their fellow citizens who are scarcely making ends meet to repent before the emperor who was overthrown a century ago.”

            Orthodoxy, of course, is full of martyrs and saints, “who lived all their lives in poverty and squalor, but the oligarchs and the prosecutors aren’t trying to unite people in emulation of them.” Moreover, as some appear to have forgotten, “in the final analysis, the symbol of Christianity, including Orthodoxy is not the last emperor but Jesus Christ.”

            Those living in luxury today prefer to forget that but it may be that “perhaps they themselves do not understand that the clerical-conservative version of Imperial Orthodoxy with all this carnival cult of the overthrown tsar, rickety Cossacks and officials who have only recently been baptized is least of all suitable for mass consumption?”

            In some respects, their lack of understanding is a good thing. “If after 20 years of fat life in a regime of maximum well-being, our clericals and conservatives can offer society only a caricature scandal about the intimate life of Nicholas II, there really isn’t anything to be afraid of” from that direction. Instead, all this deserves only bitter laughter.