Putin Regime Purging Western-Oriented Russians and Even Treating China as Russia’s Elder Brother, Shelin Says
Staunton, July 1 – Russian rulers in the past have often sought to remove those they viewed as too European or Western in orientation, Sergey Shelin says; but Vladimir Putin’s current efforts in that direction “promises to be a record one,” something that promises to have both short-term and long-term consequences.
Some commentators have suggested that Putin himself is “the only European” left among the leadership in Moscow, according to the Rosbalt commentator; but “the former ‘only European’ is cleansing his land of other simple Europeans in a planned way and with growing energy” (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2021/07/02/1909630.html).
The forced retirement of Yaroslav Kuzminov, the foundering rector of the Scientific Research Institute of the Higher School of Economics, is clear evidence of this. He is now a former leader precisely because of the sin of a European orientation, something the ruler in the Kremlin is no longer prepared to accept in his underlings.
Like many others of his kind, Kuzminov has been playing defense against the attacks of the Kremlin and its supporters for some time; but the situation has now become unbearable for people like himself. They have retreated as far as they can without completely betraying the principles by which they live.
The labelling of the Oxford Russia Foundation and Bard College as undesirable organizations is part and parcel of this Kremlin drive, one in which Europeanness or Westernness “has ceased to be a shortcoming and instead has become a stigma” the regime is no longer prepared to tolerate.
What is especially striking, Shelin continues, is that in the past Europeanness did not signify disloyalty but rather an openness to the West. But now under Putin, the two things are viewed as one and the same, something that has the effect of cutting Russia off from the advantages of such contacts.
Peter the Great was “much more repressive than his predecessors but he forced Russians to dress like Europeans, learn languages, study science and what was most important to build a modern military.” Other tsars and tsarinas did the same, taking what they could from Europe and then applying it to Russia.
According to Shelin, “’the Europeanism’ of the tsarist and Soviet empires consisted not in the absence of wars with European powers but in the ability to find among them allies for itself. All great victories were achieved with the help of coalitions and the failures, for example, in the Crimean War, happened when Russia struggled against the entire ‘West.’”
Just how far this turning away from the West has gone, the commentator continues, was reflected in Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s recent article in which he took pleasure in Western failures and celebrated Chinese achievements (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/07/putin-and-lavrov-have-left-russia.html).
In the past, Shelin points out, “the successes of others never became for our powers the subject of praise, but now the losses of the West have so emboldened them that they are able to forget about their own shortcomings.” But that is not the most striking thing about the new anti-Europeanness and anti-Westernism which informs the Kremlin.
The readiness of Russian leaders to sign on as “lesser brothers of China, Turkey or Iran … is something absolutely foreign to any previous Russian regime over the past 300 years,” the commentator says. It throws Russia back to its distant past, one that Russian rulers have struggled mightily in the past to escape.
Not only is the Kremlin’s current anti-European campaign deeper and more “rabid” than any in the recent past, it is far longer than any of those. (Stalin’s was deep but did not last long; Putin’s is in many ways deeper and has already lasted at least twice as long as Stalin’s and perhaps longer, Shelin suggests.
That is a civilizational shift against which Russians in the future will have to struggle against or suffer the consequences.
(c) Window on Eurasia