21 October 2018
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The opinions expressed by the authors of the articles in this section are for discussion purposes only and may not coincide with the position of the Russian Government and the Embassy


Pussy Riot in Post-Culture Context

The ado about Pussy Riot seems to be subsiding now that the story has led to a court verdict. Speaking in Finland, Russian diplomacy chief S. Lavrov warned the media against hysteria over the case and urged respect for the legitimate judicial decision, while in Russia the Orthodox Church called for clemency towards the offenders. The call was appropriately timed as the besieged church hierarchy refrained from influencing the situation ahead of the ruling. Believers across the country do worry that the soft sentence might leave churches vulnerable to another round of vandalism.

The controversy prompted by the hearings and the resulting sentence should not obscure the key fact – the Russian society had to face a serious maturity test, and since, in the words of D.P. Moynihan, “it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society”, the scope of the gauge was broader than politics. As of late, the trendy vocabulary centered around the concept of post-modern incorporated the term ”punk prayer”, a bizarre verbal compound which popped up amidst the current Russian debates. From a wider perspective, the phenomenon encountered is best described as post-culture. That should not be mixed with anti-culture, which is the reaction of the type "When I hear the word 'culture' I reach for my gun" known to have surfaced in the nominally civilized world. The post-culture is the rebellion of a black hole, a revolt put up by sheer nothingness. There is a long way to go from shooting at icons or demolishing churches as “vestiges of the past” in the name of skewed ideals to installing one's inner hideousness in the middle of a shrine. The division of atheist labor in the communist epoch implied that commoners do the job of primitive destruction, while it was the mission of the Bolshevist intellectuals to invent rites intended to replace baptism, to compose coarse anti-religious rhymes, or to stage carnivals with characters dressed as priests, monks, and other “unenlightened” Christians. The policy thus combined distastefulness with a fairly systemic approach, the assumption being that crude propaganda appealed most to the populace.

The above should explain why Stalin's extensive and continuously updated library held no place for the unsophisticated Soviet atheistic literature. The communist leader with a seminary background used to call the domestic anti-religious pamphlets total pulp but - as historian B. Ilizarov discovered in a study of the notes Stalin scribbled in book margins - wrote a Voltaire-style comment “Served it right!” atop the page with Anatole France's invective that the Christianity's idea of redemption was a return to utmost barbarianism.

Nowadays, invading and desecrating a church in Russia is punishable, and we owe the order of things to the sufferings of the Soviet-era martyrs rather than to the human rights advocacy contributed by the Voice of America. This is something worth keeping in mind, considering that, occasionally, you would come across the “cultured” types in Russia who admit that vandalizing a church is unacceptable yet find nothing profoundly wrong with staging a punk prayer plus a masquerade in it.  

Modernity and even postmodernity are, each to its own extent, interwoven with the system of values built by humanity over ages and depend on them even for the forms of interpretation or protest. These days, the assertive post-culture, like a neutron bomb, erodes culture from within, erasing its purport and annihilating the atmosphere that sustains it. The black hole absorbs meaningful content, leaving nothing but hollow shells and reducing culture to a “precious graveyard” vividly portrayed by Dostoevsky's character. Maintained in an outwardly proper condition, the world's cultural necropolis would easily be taken over by a completely necrophilic culture, with the children of Cain spoon-feeding those of Abel (Russian poet A. Voznesensky).

In today's Russia, the post-culture still runs into a barrier of historical and genetic nature. “There is a disconnect in the country between the culture and the socioeconomic relations supposed to modernize it. The relations fail to get entrenched in the culture”, observed sociologist A. Davydov back in 1999. So far, the paradigm has carried enough inertia to hold on.

The Pussy Riot case served to sound out Russia's ability not to capitulate when confronted with the post-culture. Handing out the sentence was not the point, and the determination of the Russian society to withstand the pressure was the real issue.

It is clear regardless of the well-coordinated media campaign  that Pussy Riot backers are a minor fraction in Russia. Due to the reason, Innsbruck University professor of political science Gerhard Mangott suggests that the protest movement in Russia should resist the temptation to throw support behind the punk rock trio. First, he says that a rift may open within the opposition if protests in Russia take an anti-church turn. Secondly – and that is a more revealing part of Mangott's argument – the protest movement which rose in Russia's major cities appears to meet with an unreceptive audience in the provinces where the level of support for the church tends to be higher than in Moscow or St. Petersburg, and if harsh criticism is leveled at the church over the Pussy Riot case, the platform for the protesters' engagement with the conservative population of villages and small towns would shrink further. Suspicion creeps in that Mangott glosses over the principal circumstance – he is likely aware that an average European, with his or her practical and cultural instincts, frowns on the post-modernism and post-culture triumphant in the present-day Europe and would rather side with Russia's conservative majority. The picture drawn by the mainstream media, which shows the punkers as martyrs to the cause of progress, hardly reflects a typical European's inner perceptions.

The Austrian scholar echoes a cohort of Russia's commentators who hold that the Pussy Riot case will create a gap between the Orthodox church and educated young urbanites. Sociologist N. Zorkaya cast the view into a stronger statement, her version of the forecast being that the polarizing episode will alienate many of the thinking people from the church. I find it hard to believe that the educated and thinking people – religious or not – favor punk prayers, but even if it repels some of those perfunctorily involved with the church, so be it. After all, it makes no sense advising the blind to set the glasses straight. 

Article by Armen Oganesyan, Editor-in-Chief, International Affairs



The current round phase of Russia’s pivot to the East was conceived in the second half of the 2000s as a largely belated economic response to the rise of Asia, which opened up a plethora of opportunities for the development of the country and primarily its eastern regions. This rise offered a chance to turn the territory beyond the Urals and the Russian Far East from predominantly an imperial burden or rear in the confrontation with the West, and sometimes the forefront in the rivalry with Japan or China, into a springboard for the development of the whole country.


Oleg Barabanov, Timofey Bordachev, Fyodor Lukyanov, Andrey Sushentsov, Dmitry Suslov, Ivan Timofeev, Moscow, February 2017

18.02.2017 - Global riot and global order. Revolutionary situation in the world and what to do about it - report by Valdai discussion club

(Report in Russian, English version to be published shortly) Спустя много лет после студенческих волнений, которые охватили практически весь мир в 1968 году, активист тогдашнего движения Даниэль Кон-Бендит так вспоминал суть происходившего: «Это было восстание поколения, родившегося после Второй мировой войны, против общества, которое военное поколение построило после 1945 года». Бунт проявлялся по-разному– в зависимости от места действия. В Варшаве и Праге люди протестовали против коммунистического режима, в Париже и Франкфурте клеймил и буржуазно-консервативное засилье, в Сан-Франциско и Нью-Йорке возмущались милитаризмом и неравноправием, а в Исламабаде и Стамбуле отвергали власть военных. Всех объединяло нежелание житьпо-старому.«Мы были первым медиапоколением. СМИ играли большую роль, потому что они передавали искру жгучего неприятия, и она воспламеняла одну страну за другой», – вспоминал Кон-Бендит.

03.02.2017 - Sergei Karaganov, Dean of the School of International Economics and Foreign Affairs of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Honorary Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, "A view from Moscow"

The victory of Donald Trump reinforced international tendencies, which had been obvious for Russians and which had been guiding Russian behavior for last few years. Among them – deglobalization led by forces, which previously created it, but started to retreat from it, when they saw that it benefits others equally or more. The change in correlation of forces against the old world and towards Asia will continue, though at somewhat slower pace than in previous decades. China will continue to become in the very foreseeable future an equal to the U.S. in cumulative power. Europe of the EU will continue to muddle down. (Hopefully, not towards a collapse, but something leaner, more stable and healthier like a Common market, Schengen minus, two Eurozones or a Eurozone minus). The rivalry between the U.S. and China will continue to exacerbate. The confrontation between Russia and the West will continue, but will gradually dampen.

20.08.2015 - The Interview: Henry Kissinger

The National Interest’s editor, Jacob Heilbrunn, spoke with Henry Kissinger in early July in New York.

10.08.2015 - "Shame on UK for Sham Litvinenko Trial", by William Dunkerley for "Eurasia review"

What started off as a massive fabrication in 2006 just received a great boost from a complicit British government. The mysterious polonium death of reputed former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko is the focus. An inexplicably long series of official UK hearings on this nearly 9 year old case has just concluded. That’s prompted a new flurry of sensational media reports.

02.06.2015 - Eurasian Way Out of the European Crisis (Article by Sergei Karaganov, to be published in late June in "Russian in Global Affairs")

I have already written before that having emerged victorious from the Cold War, Europe lost the post-war peace. The continent is on the verge of strategic degradation that may either become a caricature of military-political division into opposing blocs or a time of disquieting uncertainty. The military-political conflict over Ukraine can escalate as well.

13.03.2015 - NEW RULES OR NO RULES? XI Annual Valdai Discussion Club Meeting Participants' Report

In Search of an Order For those who believe in the magic of numbers, the year 2014 was further proof in its existence. The World War I centenary had been anticipated in awe and History, by taking another dramatic twist, confirmed the worst of expectations. It pronounced that centuries-old conflicts are still with us and that such concepts as the balance of powers, borders, and sovereignty are still relevant even in the era of a global interdependence.

15.09.2014 - Western delusions triggered this conflict and Russians will not yield (by Professor Sergey Karaganov for FT)

The west is without direction and losing sight of moral convictions, writes Sergey Karaganov

29.05.2014 - It’s not just about gas: why China needs Russia (by Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor in chief of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, Chairman of Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy)

In a pre-election article published a little over two years ago, Vladimir Putin wrote that Russia wanted to harness the Chinese wind for its sails of development. Every sailor knows that in stormy weather, and the world is a stormy place today, controlling a sailing ship is incredibly difficult. But by working skilfully there is a chance of inching one's goal much faster.

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