Pushkin, not Putin

I try to understand the present crisis in philosophical terms. I am alarmed about Russia and its culture being “cancelled” and demonised. Like most people in the part of the world where I live, I believe that Putin is wrong and is doing wrong by his lack of care for the innocent people who are dying under the bombs and bullets.

I invite you to watch these three videos:

An interview between Freddie Sayers and Marlene Laruelle who has studied Aleksandr Dugin and the “soul of Russia”

Another interview, this time between Gabriel Gatehouse and Aleksandr Dugin about ‘truth’, a new Cold War, and media control.

Bernard-Henri Lévy and Aleksandr Dugin as defenders of the Enlightenment and counter-Enlightenment. This dialogue is introduced by Rob Riemen of the Nexus Institute in the Netherlands.

The latter two videos date from before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. There is the prevailing thought that Putin may be influenced by Dugin.

For many years, I have admired the depth of thought of Russian philosophers going back to Dostoyevsky (and beyond) and his reaction against nihilism and what became Communism. I find the influence of German mystical Romanticism in this Russian traditionalism and integralism very interesting. When I was at seminary in the early 1990’s, I entertained the idea of going to Russia, once I would be ordained a priest, to minister as a Roman Catholic priest and celebrating in both Byzantine and Roman rites to people emerging from the yoke of Communism. It went no further than a few Russian lessons from a book and a tape, and of course, my love of Nicholas Berdyaev and others.

On the surface of things, I remained in the western world close to home. Are the things that inspired and enamoured me now to be cancelled? Is the Romanticism that motivates me to a new understanding of Christian spirituality a root of nationalism, fascism and the will to crush the human soul in favour of the collective? In the mind of Soloviev, is this not the salient characteristic of the eastern soul, the total passivity of the Slavic people?

Following a joking suggestion from the first video, I made it into the title of this piece. Pushkin, not Putin. The evil committed in a country, and even in that country’s name, should not cancel out the beauty and goodness in that country’s history. Should I hate Bach, Schumann, Beethoven, Novalis, Göthe and so many others because of the period under the Nazi tyranny of Hitler, Hydrich, Göring, Göbbells and the others. Germany lived under the shame from 1945 until now when the decision was made to help Ukraine by providing weapons to fight the Russian army.

We run a terrible danger of repeating the same nihilism of Dostoyevsky’s Demons or Notes from Underground as we collectively encourage and foster the Borderline and Narcissistic personality disorder.

When I was at university, I seriously considered conversion to Orthodoxy as I became disillusioned with integralist Roman Catholicism. Like culture, Christian spirituality and philosophy have to be detached from that lust for power and domination. The same temptations subsist in Orthodoxy or indeed any religious and political institution.

I have walked by intuition, and my eyes are being opened by this clash of two ideologies, neither of which are mine. The Woke movement shares many of the characteristics of the Russian nihilists of the 1860’s. This shadow must be faced within each of us if we are to hope for a future. I see more and more evidence that we as a people, humanity, are becoming conscious of something that will bring our salvation. May God, Our Lady and the Saints make it so, and may we heed prophecy and walk the ways of God.

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