East or West, Russia is Russia

Russia, located at the crossroads of East and West, the country that shares both eastern and wester traditions, has always looked towards Western countries - supposedly in a belief that there is true civilization in the West. Yet, history has taught Russia the opposite. The wise, spiritual East has always been very close to us.

Russia is neither West nor East. So what is Russia? Does the huge country that embraces a large part of Eurasia have its own, "third" way? Is it better for Russia to be Russia, rather than any other part of the world?

East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet. Russia has long been the junction of East and West - not the bridge, but the junction, the meeting place. Not only a geographical place - Eurasia -  but also the meeting place of two great cultures. There are differences between East, West and Russia, and it is worth noting something about those differences.

It is the eastern mentality that explains the usual scheme of the West always being a colonizer, and the East always a colony. It is a peculiar feature of the East not to roughly impose its "truth" to other nations. It goes about unnecessary missionary outreach under the skin of Western Christians, who invade any part of the world carrying their sword and cross. The cross would very often be put on top of destroyed cultures and civilizations. The West has taught the world to borrow its culture by sheer force. Those who did not want to take it would be destroyed. Forever.

Being aware of such a revolting peculiarity, Europeans would say tons of nonsense and myths about Asian hordes. They were trembling when the horses of Attila or Batu Khan were approaching European borders. What were those brats afraid of? After three days of looting, Asians would return to their traditional lifestyle. They would leave Christian priests alone, they would not bring foundations of their lifestyle into everyday life of the conquered nation either. They would not change the canons of a foreign culture.

The West is a completely different matter. No matter where the West comes, it never leaves and remains there for good. The previous culture would be uprooted completely, together with its carriers. An epic story of the people of Quiché, figuratively referred to as "The Bible of Central America", "Popol Vuh," was preserved absolutely accidentally, because Spanish conquistadors had not killed one person, who managed to recover this "book of the people." This is a highly rare exception to the general rule.

In the beginning of the last century, there was a saying among the Baltic peoples: better to be a slave of an American planter than a slave of a German. The West would torture both the body and the immortal soul of the conquered peoples. Holy Prince Alexander Nevsky would destroy the Teutons and then go to the Horde to ask for the permission to reign. Mongol invaders left Orthodox shrines as they were. The Russian people did not live under the law of Genghis Khan. However, if the knights won, the Russian people would be kissing the pope's shoes. The question of religion would arise solely in the relations between Russia and the West, and never with the East.

One could lose self-identity only being enslaved by the West, and Russia had to beat the West to defend itself from destruction. Time does not stand still. The Catholic faith in Europe is being actively displaced by bourgeois and business people. A lot has changed, but not the brash desire of the West to dictate its will to all and sundry.

For some parts of Russian, Soviet and now Russian intelligentsia, thinker Peter Chaadayev, a friend of Pushkin, is a ray of light in "the kingdom of darkness." Emperor Nicholas Pavlovich declared Chaadayev an insane individual, and Chaadayev, a convinced Westerner - revised his attitude towards Europe in his mature years. He was disappointed in the French as they were staging one revolution after another during the second half of the 19th century.

Some believed that Napoleon Bonaparte wanted to liberate the Russian Empire from serfdom. Poland, in turn, hoped that the French Emperor would give freedom to their country. Was Hitler going to give independence to the Slavs too?

Astute compatriots have long noted that Russia is feminine in nature. Prominent Russian philosophers were writing about it on the eve of World War I. In contrast to the masculine beginning of the West, the feminine nature of Russia was passive.  Yet, it could easily turn any sort of masculinity into a miserable rag. The feminine soul of Russia perceives and borrows, but mostly from the West. This has been a strong tradition.

That is why we know so little about the East. There is a fashion for the East, which the West brought. The ancient treatise by Sun Tzu, "The Art of War," is studied not only by the military, but also by managers in many prestigious schools around the world, not just in Asia. During the second half of the last century, religions and martial arts of the East became very popular, even though Europeans learned to borrow from their neighbors during the era of crusades.

The foundation of Western civilization is antiquity, although science and philosophy of the ancient Greeks came to Europe with Arabs' help: bath houses and fragrances, navigation tools that would stand in good stead during the Age of Discovery, and much more. Europeans were very good students. Russians were not bad either: from the unknown land of Muscovy, they created the Russian Empire.

The West continued to learn from the East even after it was already flying high. It is about time Russia should change its "western traditions" and study the legacy of ancient civilizations of the East.

Russia is a link between East and West, the legacy of which is reflected, in particular, in the architecture of St. Basil's Cathedral in the center of the Russian capital. Russia is a bridge and its supports shall not be lopsided.

Igor Bukker

Read the original in Russian 

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov