09 03 06


Oleg Kireev

There had been many attempts of representing Russia for abroad, as well as many discussions about the essence of Russian character, soul etc. Here the quite notorious Boris Groys' contributions - like a Frankfurt exhibition on soc-art and socialist realism* - seem to be the most erroneous attempts, equalizing and relativizing everything in Russian history in a way which I would call "vulgar postmodernism".

Now masses of people try to rethink themselves in conditions of a new historical convolution, and this results in a nationalist rise. Realization of deep bitterness of defeat in the Cold war is supplied by bad old pan-Slavonic fantasms, a USSR nostalgia combined with an obscure Orthodoxy. Exotic parties and yet unknown heresies arise: such is "Eurasian Youth Union" which propagates a label "neo-oprichniki" ("oprichniki" is an armed force of the first super-repressive Ivan Grozny's regime in XVIth century) and proclaims its main agenda "hatred towards everything American". Sensationally, it appears that some of their activities are supported directly from the presidential administration...

Reactionary governments had ever been using nationalist forces against revolutionaries. Since the state propaganda started to convince us, that “orange revolutions” in Ukraine and Georgia are done by the US, it became clear who is the true target: the public opposition capable of mobilizing urban crowds to gather on the streets, self-organize through the internet, introduce tactical media etc. Its voice can be heard through institutions of civil society, through magazines and books (book publishing is now on its highest peak), and of course can be very easily traced in the Runet (take for an example a current LiveJournal mania). But, from the governmental information war strategists' point, it has to be shown as sponsored by foreign NGOs, preferably American. That's what the widely discussed recent NGOs legislation is about.

But on the other side, from the classical Marxist point of view, some nationalist movements can have a certain anti-capitalist liberatory potential. And today's situation demands from us developing all possible bases for solidarity. In order to do that, we have to understand each other's Otherness. Therefore the question arises, how within the contemporary nationalist movements the “nation” is understood. We must go to the very sources, to the very roots of patriotism - to the point of national identity.

Discussions of Russian identity in the sense of geopolitics are actual since XVIIIth, a century of westernization of Russia. Some voices insisted on "originality" and "uniqueness" of a path of Russia, some were saying that Russia should have been taking more from the West. But from the contemporary multi-culturalist point of view, most of them seem obsolete. Why look for the illusory "noumenal" entities? Why seek the super-idea buried deep under the surface of reality? You better look at your history. Many ways of making decisions and solving conflicts (as well as provoking them) are shown there. Your identity is your history.

Let me also remind a talk with my German friend Gerhard Wolf who, a historian of fascism and a member of a group “anti-deutsch” in the past, insisted that “there is and can be nothing good related to an idea of nationality”. But since an amount of people share the same language and the same memories, one has to deal with that! From that point, one of key features of Russia is its habit to, almost ritually, break with all the previous experiences as soon as a new one is gained. So was with October, as well as with 1991. Repressed ghosts of the past are desiring for the return! A dialectical solution would be - in spite of all today's zealots objections - to say, that some portion of a traditional patriotism would be not that bad, if it serves as a transitory step to an internationalism of bolsheviks.

* Traumfabrik Kommunismus. Die visuelle Kultur der Stalinzeit. Curated by Borix Groys and Zelfira Tregulowa, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, September, 24, 2003 – January, 4, 2004

Oleg Kireev