Historical Philosophy and Geopolitics of the Russian Conservatism: the Analysis Experience

Russian conservatism is still a relatively understudied phenomenon1 The article wasprepared with thefinancial supportfrom the RussianHumanitarianScientific Foundation(project N 06_03_00310a).1. In the first place, it can be explained by the fact that the conservative value system is beyond the rationalistic tradition that is rooted in the political science, within which most Russian political scientists work. Moreover, during the first post-Soviet decade when neoliberal paradigm held a predominant position in Russian establishment and intellectual circles the conservatism was regarded nearly as a synonym to the reaction and did not deserve any attention among the political scientists.

However, as the ancient Greek philosopher noticed, everything flows... At the beginning of the 21st century Russian society started to turn to conservative ideas and values. Conservatism is step by step becoming a popular political “brand”. All the political parties present in current Duma more or less refer to the ideology of conservatism. The viewpoint that the successful modernization of Russia is possible only by maintaining an adequate balance between the westernization and the national uniqueness is gaining its momentum. Such a shift in the conservatism perception makes the research of this topic extremely relevant.

While clearly Russian national conservatism is understudied, it is even more obvious in relation to its geopolitical component. In this article we will try to fill this gap. The Russian conservative geopolitical conceptions will be studied in connection with their historico-philosophical constructions as well as other aspects of the conservative worldview — to an extent that is necessary for the analysis of the geopolitical attitudes.

The early Slavophils such as A.Khomyakov, K.Aksakov, I.Kireevsky (although, their worldview definitely contained a strong liberal component) might be considered the precursors of the Russian conservatism. Their ideas were picked up by the late Slavophils (pochvennichestvo, or return to the soil) such as K.Leontiev, F.Dostoevsky, and N.Danilevsky. After the 1917 October Revolution the Russian conservative idea could be developed only in exile. Importantly to note is that the emigrational conservatism almost from the very beginning split into two main movements — the left one seeking synthesis between tradition and revolution (smenovekhovtsy, Eurasianists, mladorossy and others) and the right one that was of an absolutely anti-Bolshevist character. The second half of the 1960s and the 1970s when the repressiveness of the Soviet regime transforming from the totalitarian into the authoritarian one significantly decreased saw some reactivation of the conservative and pochvennistic ideas in the USSR. Last, in the years of perestroika and postperestroika a great number of parties and organizations appealing to the left, social (almost socialistic) as well as to the right, or anticommunist conservatism emerged.

Although the Russian conservatism development was far from being linear and the conservative tradition in Russia (as well as the tradition in general) was disrupted through the 1917 Revolution for a long time, it’s possible to talk about certain continuity of the conservative idea in our country. The key value principles of the Russian conservatism have always been the same: family, nation, Orthodoxy, a strong centralized state. Russian conservatives typically perceive the society in an organic manner (by the way, such view was also shared by the founders of the classic geopolitics such as F.Ratzel and R.Chellen) and denied liberal individualism. Their geopolitical views emanated from the ideas about the unique (that is non-western) historical way of Russia, contrasting Russia to Europe (which often took the shape of a more or less expressed anti-Western character), the belief in the messianic destination of the Russian people and quite often pan-Slavism.

The birth of the tradition: classics of Slavophilism

Some of the attitudes listed above one can find already by the early Slavophils. Kireevsky insisted on the core distinction between the old Russian and Western civilizations: “Russian society had grown uniquely and naturally, under the influence of an inner belief, the Church and the tradition nurtured within the everyday practices”2 Kireevsky 1911:206.2. He argued that the medieval Russian society was based on the communal ownership of land and did not experience the social and political conflicts typical to the medieval Europe. Russia lacked neither the class contempt nor class envy nor unrestricted ownership of private property nor the abstract rationalism of the Roman law. At the same time he explained the supremacy of the Old Russian civilization exclusively by its Christian foundations that retained their original pureness and escaped those perversions the Western Christianity had undergone and not by the peculiar features of the Russian national character.

Another leading representative of the early Slavophilism, A.Khomyakov, also explained the contrasting natures of Russia and the West by religious principles difference. Classifying the world religions into the Cushitic (the religions of the necessity) and Iranian (the religion of the free creative spirit) he ascribed the Western Christianity to the Cushitic tradition, whereas the Eastern one to the Iranian. He claims that Catholicism inherited the Cushitic nature of the Ancient Rome, while the orthodox Russia keeping the tradition of the free spirit entirely embodied the Iranian principles. The struggle between the Christian East and the Christian West is “a struggle between the Cushitic and the Iranian natures within Christianity, the struggle between the spiritual freedom and the material necessity, the moral and the magic”3 Berdyaev 1997a:1383. The historical mission of Russia as Khomyakov viewed it is about disclosing to the WesternEuropean world a secret of freedom (“Tell them the mystery of freedom!” — he appealed to Russia in one of his poems).

The future of the world, according to Khomyakov, belongs to the Slavic people who preserve “for the humanity if not an embryo, then an opportunity of the renewal”4 See Slavophilism1992: 20.4. The purest representative of the Slavism are the Russian people that to a greater extent possess the spirit of brotherhood, communion and love that are typical of the Slavs. Russia as the bearer of the moral-religious principles that are designed to renew the world is destined to play a crucial role for the humanity. The mission of the Russian people is to realize the Christian social ideal. It is important to notice that the national messiah described by Khomyakov was not linked to the idea of Moscow as the Third Rome since the philosopher viewed the Ancient Rome as the triumph of the Cushitic principles that are alien to the Russian people.

However, Khomyakov by no means belonged to the radical anti-Western scientists: he admired England and called the Western Europe “the country of sacred wonders”. In contrast to Kireevsky, Khomyakov was a pan-Slavist and dreamed of uniting all the orthodox Slavic peoples headed by Russia. As the Polish researcher A.Walicki noticed, the ideology of Khomyakov was “something in between the classic Slavophilism of the 40—50s and... the great-power pan-Slavism of Ivan Aksakov, Pogodin and Danilevsky”5 Ibid.: 24.5. Indeed in the future the pan-Slavic ideas were introduced by the late Slavophils (I.Aksakov), the representatives of the “conservative wing” (M.Pogodin, M.Katkov) as well as such an individualistic conservative thinker as N.Danilevsky. It is worth mentioning that already Aksakov demonstrated the instinctive Western hatred against the Slavic world, the reasons for which lie in the “antagonism of the two contradictory spiritual, educational foundations and the decrepit world’s envy of the new one that the future belongs to”6 See Baluev 1999:135.6. In the future a lot of derivative writers among the Slavophils developed the idea of an almost ontological Western confrontation with Russia.

According to N.Berdyaev, in the 1860—80s “Slavophilism gradually obtained the flavor of naturalism and positivism, while the messianic idea degenerated into the nationalism”7 Berdyaev 1997a:190.7. The historico-philosophical conception of N.Danilevsky might be regarded as the link between the constructions of the early Slavophils and the late nationalism8 Solovyev 1990:406.8. We’ll specifically talk about the views of this thinker that laid a basis of the Russian conservative geopolitics.

Geopolitics of N.Danilevsky: “The struggle with Europe is inevitable...”

Historico-philosophical views of N.Danilevsky worded in his main book “Russia and Europe” (1869) in many respects anticipated the conceptions of the local civilizations of O.Spengler and A.Toynbee. Danilevsky stated that the universal civilization does not and can not exist. Only unique civilizations are possible (“cultural-historical types”) with each of them inevitably undergoing the stages of birth, growth, boom and decline. The European, or the GermanRoman, civilization is just one out of many: it was preceded (in the chronological order) by the Egyptian, Chinese, Assyrian-Babylonian-Phoenician, Indian, Iranian, Jewish, Greek, Roman, Arabian as well as the two American ones — Mexican and Peruvian that had died through violence with their unrealized potential. It is ‘the people that constitute those cultural-historical types that were protagonists in the history of the humanity; each independently developed the foundation consisting of its spiritual nature as well as the special external life conditions... and thereby contributed to the common treasury”9 Danilevsky 1995:74.9.

According to Danilevsky, Europe is bound to decline. The German-Roman civilization is going to be replaced by the Slavic one. It is high time for the Slavism to turn into the unique cultural-historical type. The author of “Russia and Europe” supposes that this civilization will differ from the others because all the four types of the cultural activity will be developing within it: cultural itself (scientific, artistic, technical), political and socio-economic. In the original cultures (Egyptian, Chinese, Babylonian etc.) all these types of activities were mixed. The Jewish civilization was based exclusively on the religious activity, the Greek one on the cultural (primarily artistic), the Roman on the political sphere, which means that all of them were monobasic. The German-Roman (European) civilization developing its political and cultural (scientific and industrial) forms of the cultural activity is a two-layer one, while the Slavic type will be a truly complete one with all four bases.

Remarkably, Danilevsky stated that one of the Slavic historical-cultural type unique features was “for the first time ever the satisfactory solution of the socio-economic problem”10 Ibid.: 430.10. His key argument that underpinned the ability of the Slavic world to outstrip the West in solving the social problem was the communal ownership of land and peasant holding in Russia that secured “the healthy socio-economic order”11 Ibid.: 417—418.11.

Not only did Danilevsky deny that Russia belongs to the West, but he also stated that they face inescapable antagonism. “The hostility of Europe is too obvious, — he wrote, — it is the European basic interests that this phenomenon lies in and not the coincidental combinations of the European politics”12 Ibid.: 340.12. This no less than ontological hostility is linked to the fact that Europe “views Russia and Slavs as something totally alien to it. Nor can it simply serve as a material for gaining profits as China, India, or Africa do... the material that one would shape and polish in its own image and likeness”. Europe understands that under the loose outer layer of the Slavic world there is the “strong, solid core that can not be chapped, crushed, or dissolved and thus, assimilated... that has both strength and claim to live in an independent and unique way”. It is hard if not impossible for Europe being proud of its achievements to bear that”13 Ibid.: 40—41.13.

Danilevsky firmly believes that Russia can not be part of the European states and must serve as a counterweight to Europe. Therefore, it has only two options: either together with the other Slavs create a special and unique cultural unit, or lose any cultural-historical meaning and turn into nothing”14 Ibid.: 337.14.

“Sooner or later, whether we want it or not, a struggle with Europe... is inevitable because of the Eastern problem that is the problem of the Slavic freedom and independence, and control over Tsarigrad”15 Ibid.: 369.15, — Danilevsky wrote. — Conquering Constantinople, or Tsarigrad, is viewed as the most important prerequisite for the emergence of the Slavic civilization. The annexation of Constantinople would have been beneficial for Russia from several standpoints: it would have facilitated the defense of its southern borders, would have allowed reducing military forces and the corresponding costs, and would have created favorable conditions for developing the navy. Lastly, “getting control over Constantinople, the center of Christianity, the focal point of the great historical reminiscences, would have provided Russia with the significant influence over all Eastern states. It would have gained its historical heritage and would have restored the Eastern Roman Empire — similarly as the Frankish monarchy had once renewed the Western Empire — and therefore, would have started a new, Slavic era of the world history”16 Ibid.: 324.16.

According to Danilevsky, Constantinople (Tsarigrad) had to become the capital of the All-Slavic Union rather than Russia. Apart from the Slavic people, this Union would include Greeks, Rumanians and Hungarians who “had become historically tied to us being squeezed into the Slavic body”17 Ibid.: 308.17. The states that constituted the Union (The Russian Empire and the CzechMoravian-Slovakian, Serbian-Croatian-Slovenian, Bulgarian, Rumanian, Hellenic, Magyar kingdoms) would be united by rather close federative connections under the hegemony of Russia, while the official language of the Union would be Russian.

As regards to the ways to create the Union, Danilevsky advocated the hardest and systematic Realpolitik denying the application of the Christian moral to the international relations. “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth” is the strict rule, Bentham’s principle of utility, or a benefit that is evaluated in terms of the common sense, — he stressed. — There is no room for the law of love and self-sacrifice. When misapplied, this supreme moral law takes the shape of mysticism and sentimentality”18 Ibid.: 27.18.

Danilevsky points out that one should treat the European issues only from one standpoint: how a person or an event can impact the promotion of the Russian-Slavic goals, whether it encourages or inhibits them. “With neither hate nor love (since in this alien world nothing can and nothing should provoke neither our sympathy nor antipathy), being indifferent towards red and white, demagogue and despotism, legitimacy and revolution, Germans, French, British, Italians, Napoleon, Bismarck, Gladstone, Garibaldi, we should be a faithful friend and ally to those who are capable of and want to contribute to our sole and true goal. If at the price of our Union and friendship we are getting closer towards liberation and unification of Slavs, does it really matter whether at the same price France or England will get Egypt, French will occupy the Rhine border, Germans will get control over the Vosges Mountains border, Napoleon will conquer Belgium, and Bismarck get Holland?”19 Ibid.: 375.19.

It is worth adding that Danilevsky did not believe in the possibility of solving the “Eastern problem” through diplomatic negotiations. He supposed that the most important international issues can not be resolved in a peaceful way at all: “... If gales and storms are necessary for the physical natural order, direct clashes between different peoples are of no less importance since they take their destinies out of the sphere of politicians’ shadow and narrowly rational views... and transferred them to the direct government of the world-ruling historical Providence. If the great issues that provoked the hardest and the most violent historical crises had been solved through negotiations... what pitiful the historical results of these well-intentioned efforts would have been”20 Ibid.: 255.20. As the American researcher R.MacMaster emphasized, Danilevsky “linked the achievement of the spiritual goals to the practical, material and violent means. For him, power and violence were at the same time both Gods and ways to God”21 MacMaster 1967:16.21.

Danilevsky did not doubt that in the pending war with Europe the Russian Empire would be supported by the Slavic peoples, also due to the fact that Russia retained a peasant holding that was an optimal variant of the economic structure for Slavs. Moreover, he was sure that “the banner that would state Orthodoxy, Slavism and Peasant People, that is the moral, political and economic ideal of the peoples of the Slavic cultural type could not fail to become a symbol of victory... which would seed among us and our allies confidence in victory, while among our foes feelings of horror and disarray”22 Danilevsky 1995:397.22.

Danilevsky, undoubtedly, was a great conservative thinker who elaborated not only the unique historical conception, but also a subsequent cohesive geopolitical program. Although his views were influenced by the ideas of Khomyakov, in some issues they were different from the classic Slavophilism. The early Slavophils, in contrast to Danilevsky, didn’t deny neither the reality of the world history nor the universal solidarity. They also regarded the role of Russia in the humanity destiny in a different way. As V.Solovyev pointed out at his time, the former Slavophils “stated that the Russian people had a worldhistorical vocation as a true bearer of the universal final enlightenment; Danilevsky, on the contrary, rejecting the existence of any universal task in history, thinks of Russia as Slavism only in terms of a unique cultural-historical type, although the broadest and the most complete one”23 Solovyev 1990:408.23.

“...Conquering Tsarigrad and laying there a basis for a new culturalpublic building” (K.Leontiev)

K.Leontiev who is sometimes called the “Russian Nietzsche” considered himself a scholar and a follower of Danilevsky. According to his historico-philosophical conception, any state and any culture undergo three stages of their development: the initial simplicity (childhood), the flourishing complexity (adulthood) and the leveling interfusion (senility, death and decay of the organism)24 See Leontiev1991: 242—253.24. Viewing the liberal-egalitarian process in Europe in the Modernity epoch as a symptom of its leveling interfusion and decay, Leontiev saw the historical mission of Russia in confronting the decaying Europe and inhibiting the leveling progress. However, it could fulfill this mission only if it strengthens its conservative-byzantine foundations such as the monkish-ascetic Orthodoxy, strong statehood and a peasant commune and will culturally separate itself from the West. In other words, it’s needed to “frost Russia so that it does not fester”25 Leontiev 1913:124.25.

Leontiev believed that Russia should save the declining Europe and present a new supreme type of the flourishing culture to the world. “Russia is not just a state; Russia together with all of its Asian areas is a whole world of a special life, a special state world that has not found its peculiar statehood yet, — he wrote and called for the development of the “own, unique, SlavicAsian civilization”26 Leontiev: 1912:419—420.26 that would radically differ from the European one with its triumphing philistinism: “... We, Russians, should entirely slip out of the European rails and opt for an absolutely new way and after all achieve primacy in the intellectual and social life of the humanity”27 Ibid.: 441.27. It is interesting to notice that similarly to Danilevsky, Leontiev was confident in the ability of Russia to outdo Europe in solving the social problem: “Only one powerful monarchic authority... can find a practical way out of the intractable, as it seems to be, modern problem of reconciling capital and labor. It is the labor issue that we should outstrip Europe in and show it the way”28 See Berdyaev1997b: 538.28.

Leontiev, like Danilevsky, dreamed of conquering Tsarigrad, however, his goal was to lay in the ancient capital of Byzantium a basis for a new cultural-public building uniting the orthodox peoples on the Byzantine principles rather than to turn it into the center of the All Slavic federation. He thought that Tsarigrad should become “the cultural center of the cohesive Greek-Slavic union or the new Eastern world” under the leadership of Russia, in which the corporate-strata organization and the compulsory peasant commune would be restored”29 Leontiev 1912:422.29.

The views of Danilevsky and Leontiev had a significant impact over the geopolitical constructions of a number of neoslavophilist conceptual political movements in Russia and Russian abroad (from Eurasianists to some ideologists of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation). Russian conservatives of the right as well as the left wing used to and continue to appeal to the spiritual legacy of these thinkers. Let’s start with the phenomenon of the Russian.

The left conservatism: from “Smena vekh” to national bolshevism

Despite the widespread opinion about the incompatibility between socialism and conservatism, they possess a lot of contact points. In the 19th century, in particular, both of them denied the liberal-bourgeois civilization based on individualism and money power. One should also remember that “originally, socialism was founded on two different and probably complementary forms of conscious: nostalgia and utopia”30 Millon-Delsol 1995: 138.30. Aimed at modernization of society, it also promised to its adepts to find a solution of the social problems caused by the modernization and to restore the lost (communal) values. In this sense one can even draw a parallel between K.Marx and N.Danilevsky: as R.MacMaster fairly noticed, neither of the thinkers “wanted a return into the past, but rather the end of the traditional through its all-round synthesis with the modern”31 MacMaster 1967:128.31.

One could also observe some concurrence between the conservative romantics and the revolutionaries of the second half of the 19th cent. Neither of them accepted the West with its inherent market-capitalist relations, bourgeois — philistine spirit, cult of money, individualism and liberal law order. Both idealized the Russian peasant commune. The western philistinism was invidious to the socialist Herzen as well as the “reactive romantic” Leontiev. K.Leontiev even dreamed that “the Slavic Orthodox Tsar would sometime take control of the socialist movement” and “establish the socialist form of life instead of the bourgeois-liberal one”32 Leontiev 1993:473.32. Both Slavophils and revolutionaries believed in the messianic role of the Russian people, although they regarded the historical vocation of Russia in different ways: while Slavophils saw it in the maintenance of the religious-moral ideal of the Sacred Russia, the revolutionaries (A.Herzen, M.Bakunin etc.) were confident in the historical importance of the pending Russian revolution.

Under such circumstances, it is hardly surprising that some Russian right thinkers understandingly accepted the 1917 October Revolution: they were attracted by the antibourgeois and antiparliamentarian character of the bolshevists as well as their hatred towards the “bourgeois” Europe. It is also why the “reconciling” attitudes or even some sympathy towards bolshevism among the Russian nationalist emigrants emerged. In 1920s, in the Russian abroad a number of political groupings combining nationalism with the partial approval of the October Revolution (the group “Nakanune”, smenovekhovtsy, Eurasianists etc.). This position was clearly articulated by the authors of the famous collection “Smena vekh” (Change of Landmarks) that was published in Prague in 1921. All the collection’s materials were permeated with the idea that under the existing conditions there was no national Russian power other than the bolshevist one and it is only this power that could recreate the Russian state and return its previous might. The internationalism of the bolshevists was interpreted by the authors as the camouflage.

The most discernable expression these ideas have received in the article of N.Ustryalov “Patriotica”. Ustryalov insisted on the national character of the October Revolution pointing out its link to the Slavophilism, Herzen’s revolutionary romanticism and other movements of the Russian thought. He viewed the bolshevists’ service to Russia in the fact that “it is only bolshevism, regardless of all vices of its hard and darksome way of life, that managed to become the true Russian government and it is the only one that according to K.Leontiev “frosted” tainted waters of the revolutionary flood”33 Ustryalov 1999:183.33.

Ustryalov argued that Russia must retain the status of the great power, the great state, and “since the power of the revolution (from now on being the only one) can restore the Russian absolutism, the international prestige of Russia it is our duty for the sake of the Russian culture to admit its political authority... The Soviet power will make all the efforts by any possible means to reunite the center and the periphery in the name of the world revolution idea. The Russian patriots will seek the same in the name of the great and united Russia. No matter how endless the differences within the ideology are, there is only one practical way... The bizarre dialectics of history all of a sudden ascribed the Soviet power with its ideology of the internationalism the role of the national factor of the modern Russian life”34 Ibid.: 184—185.34.

The worldview of Ustryalov who declared himself a “national bolshevist” was shaped under the strong influence of Slavophils, K.Leontiev, J. de Meistre and F.Nietzsche. Ustryalov in many respects proceeded with the Slavophilist intellectual tradition, although he was a proponent of a strong state and denied freedom-loving, almost anarchic attitudes of the early Slavophils.

Like other adepts of the Slavophilist thought, Ustryalov believed that the Russian people “are to say a world-historic word”35 Ustryalov 2003:457.35 and shared Leontiev’s idea that Russia would present the world a new culture, which would replace the Western one. Being the champion of the country’s unique way of development, he thought that it should not copy the Western political forms and if there is a strong, hard, autocratic and even ideocratic power that is organically derived from the depth of the people’s life, it could itself become the pattern to be followed by the West. “The Revolution brings Russia to the front of the international arena, — he wrote in 1922. — Against the darkening background of the Western culture the “Russian sphinx” stands out almost as a gleam of the universal hope. Would its role come down to the symbolic memorials of Marx with their sacramental beard? Would it appear as no more than the epigone of the Western epigones?.. or Russia does not have its own face that is now being scrutinized by the best people in Europe, does it?”36 Ibid.: 247—248.36

Ustryalov viewed the transition to the NEP (New Economic Policy) as a proof that in Russia life itself got the upper hand over the bolshevist extremist and utopist tendencies and that bolshevism has already embarked on the “way of Thermidor” and will become more and more national. He treated the shifts in the Soviet foreign policy the same way evaluating the replacement of the Communist International by the People’s Commissariat for foreign affairs and denial of the revolutionary methods in favor of the “national and peaceful ones” as an important step towards transforming the bolshevist diplomacy into the instrument for the protection of Russian national interests”37 Ibid.: 226, 345.37. As regards to Stalin’s foreign political course, Ustryalov directly labeled it national bolshevist38 Ibid.: 44.38.

A lot of ideas that constituted to the foundation of Ustryalov’s national bolshevism such as denial of the “formal” democracy and liberalism, etatism, nationalism, belief in the messianic vocation of Russia in the world, its unique historical way and national character of the 1917 revolution, positive attitude towards Stalin as an adept of a strong state were also shared by other Slavophilist groups. These ideas can also be found in the works of some nationalistically tuned Russian emigrants as well as the national bolshevists of the 1970s and even in the constructions of the Communist Party theorists.

Furthermore, the ideas of the national bolshevism gradually penetrated into the official Soviet ideology. The opportunities of “constructing socialism in one country” declared by Stalin and the exclusive role of the Soviet Union in the struggle against the world capitalism marked the merge of communism with the imperial nationalism and national (Soviet) messiahism. As a result, in the 1930s communism in fact turned into national bolshevism becoming a pseudomorph and at the same time a radical perversion of the Russian national idea and the Russian messianic nature. After that the imperial nationalism being an integral part of the Soviet ideology since Stalin’s times was destined to become one of the essential sources of the Russian left conservatism.

Eurasianists: Eurasia’s mission

In the 1920—30s a number of emigrant groupings that mostly consisted of the epigones of Slavophilism evolved in the direction of national bolshevism or “postrevolutionism” more or less accepting the 1917 October Revolution and the bolshevist regime. Along with smenovekhovtsy, this evolution was also made by mladorossy, “utverzhdentsy” and of course Eurasianists who soon became one of the most influential “postrevolutionary” groupings”.

The Eurasianist ideology was elaborated under the strong influence of N.Danilevsky and his conception of the “cultural-historical” types. The pillar of the Eurasianist thinking was an idea about Russia being the unique culturalgeographical world, Eurasia, with its own destiny that is different from those of the countries lying to the West (Europe) and to the East (Asia) from it. According to the Eurasianists, Russia can not choose the European way since it has its own route and its own mission. While thinking that Russia-Eurasia is the link that bonds Europe and Asia39 See Aschenkampf,Pogorelskaya 2005:43.39, the Eurasianists viewed Europe as its deadly enemy and considered that its fight against the bolshevists was driven by the geopolitical and not the ideological imperatives.

The Eurasianists’ attitude towards the October Revolution was ambivalent. On the one hand, they regarded the revolution as a disaster, but on the other hand they recognized its beneficial character since it terminated the perilous process of the country’s Europeanization and set the stage for the Russian turn to the East40 It is worth noticing,that the firstmanifestof Eurasians wasthe collection“Iskhod k Vostoku”that was publishedin Sophia in 1921.40. They also evaluated the lands’ “gathering” after the chaotic collapse of the Empire in the 1917—18s years as the bolshevists’ achievement.

The Eurasianists ideology contained a lot of elements that made it look similar with the national bolshevist or smenovekhovskaya, although it differed from them being more oriented towards Orthodoxy as a religious-moral base of the Russian culture. Eurasianists believed in the messianic role of Russia: they point out that Russian people are destined to save the world from the German-Roman domination and the Western pernicious impacts. Eurasianists shared the intellectual tradition belief, which is traced back to the Slavophilist, that the Western world is declining and it will be replaced by the Russian one. The foreword to the collection “Iskhod k Vostoku” (“Journey to the East”) stated that “We show honor to the past and present of the Western-European culture... With thrilling happiness... we think together with Herzen that today “the history is knocking our door”. Knocking... so that through the great act of labor and deeds Russia can disclose a universal secret to the world as the greatest peoples of the past and the present did”41 Politicheskayaistoriya 1999: 239.41.

It is important to emphasize that in contrast to Slavophils, Eurasianists were concerned with the mission of the Eurasian world and not the Slavic one with the subject of their nationalism being “a number of peoples of the “Eurasian” world, which the Russian people is in between, rather than just the Slavic people”42 Ibid.: 241.42. As the outstanding Eurasianist theorist N.Trubetskoy underlined, “the national substrate of the state that used to be called the Russian Empire and now the USSR can only be the whole complex of the peoples who live in this state that is viewed as the multinational nation and therefore possesses the special nationalism”. It is this nation that Trubetskoy and his associates banked on calling it the “Eurasian”, its territory Eurasia and its nationalism — Eurasianism”43 Mir Rossii 1995:196.43.

National conservatism: I.Ilyin

Obviously, there were not only “postrevolutionary” movements among the nationalistically tuned Russian emigrants. The right Conservative thought also received its development with the Hegelian philosopher I.Ilyin being one of its leading representatives. While the advocates of the national bolshevism, smenovekhovtsy, Eurasianists and other left nationalists sought synthesis of tradition and revolution, Ilyin viewed the 1917 Revolution as an entire break with the Russian tradition flatly denying the identification of the USSR (“Sovetiya”) with the national Russia: he considered that after 1917 “Russia disappeared and the abusing and torturing Communist world center started to speak out in the name of Russia”44 Ilyin 1992: 125.44. In contrast to the left nationalists, Ilyin did not see in the revolution and bolshevism any social truth and evaluated both the USSR domestic and foreign policy in unequivocally negative terms as well as harshly criticized Stalin’s expansionism.

At the same time, Ilyin along with other conservatives stood for the organic understanding of a society and a state and the civilization uniqueness of Russia. He argued that Russia is the geographic, spiritual, linguistic, cultural and state cohesion, “the bulwark of the European-Asian and therefore universal peace and balance”, and its dissolution under the motto of the national self-determination (the philosopher had forecasted the possibility of such scenario after the collapse of the Soviet Union already at the end of the 1940s — the beginning of the 1950s) would become a historically unprecedented political adventure, the fatal implications of which would affect the humanity over a long time”45 Ibid.: 255.45. According to Ilyin, the West has always been and still is hostile towards Russia. The Western peoples do not comprehend and tolerate the Russian uniqueness. “They exploit the united Russian state as a dam for conquering and spreading their trade and language. They are going to split the one Russian broom into single rods, break them one by one and rekindle the smoldering fire of their civilization. They have to split Russia in order to... destroy it”46 Ibid.: 256.46. In his works Ilyin always plays out with the idea about the intrigues of the “world backstage” that seeks to ruin Russia. It is to be noted that the same idea is immanent in the works of G.Zyuganov, although in contrast to Ilyin, the leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation does not ascribe the 1917 October Revolution to the intrigues behind the world scene.

Conservatives in modern Russia

The 1960—70s saw some sort of revival of nationalism in the USSR. Along with a number of illegal nationalist groups that were persecuted by the authorities there was the semi-official national communism (the “Russian Party” in the Communist Part of the Soviet Union) that from the retrospective standpoint was a link between the official Soviet patriotism and the modern ideology of the CPRF.

National communists (or communists-“neoslavophils”) tried to link the Russian idea to the communism, the values of the absolutism and patriotism to the Marxism-Leninism. They interpreted the 1917 October Revolution as a great national revolution, Stalin as a national Russian leader, and the USSR as a successor and continuation of the historical Russia. Within Brezhnev’s epoch the national communism commanded support not only among the intellectuals, but also in the party-state nomenclature of the RSFSR.

In the future the advocates of the “Russian Party” within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union constituted the leading core of the RSFSR Communist party and then the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. The ideology of the CPRF “absolutist-patriotic” wing (G.Zyuganov, Yu.Belov) that is dominating within the party’s leadership combines the reminiscences of the official Soviet ideology, the national communism, the people’s (communal) socialism and the legacy of the Russian conservative philosophers. It is this unique synthesis that gives grounds to speak about the left conservatism of the CPRF. As V.Vuyachich shrewdly noticed, the CPRF leader with his views is somewhere in “between the Soviet left and the Russian right”47 See Urban,Solovei 1997: 62.47.

The Russian conservative thought of the 19th—20th centuries exerted a significant influence over the political philosophy and geopolitical views of G.Zyuganov. In his works the leader of the Russian communists traced the genealogy of the CPRF not only back to Marx and Lenin, but also to the Russian conservative philosophers such as N.Danilevsky, K.Leontiev, I.Ilyin, the Eurasianists.

The worldview of Zyuganov contains a lot of ideologems that are inherent in Slavophilism as well as the Eurasianists. First, the leader of the CPRF insisted that Russia is the unique civilization: “We view Russia as a special world, the great “social Cosmos” with its specific historical, geopolitical, world-viewing, national and economic features”48 Zyuganov 1995a:70—71.48. The Russian world is confronted with the Western that is arrogant and intolerant towards other peoples’ life values and tries to impose its own ones on them. Referring to Danilevsky and Leontiev (and also Spengler), the CPRF leader forecasts the pending “demise of Europe”, crisis and decline of the Northern-Atlantic civilization. Moreover, he writes about the Russian messiah to embody in the reality the ideals of Faith and Love, Mercy and human Brotherhood49 Zyuganov 1998:19.49. It might be of interest that Zyuganov supports the organic conception of a society that is usually advocated by the conservative thinkers. He used the words of I.Ilyin that “Russia is an organism of nature and spirit — evil be to one who splits it”50 Zyuganov 1997: 7.50 as the epigraph to his book “The geography of victory. The foundations of the Russian geopolitics”.

The Eurasianist ideologems also play an important role in the worldview of Zyuganov. Thinking of Russia as well as the former USSR as the Eurasian power, he stands for the revival of the renewed USSR as a great Eurasian state. Similarly to the Eurasianists, Zyuganov is confident that the geographical position determines the Russian “variant of development with its basis being an aspiration... to return its traditional centuries-old role of a special “geographical balancer” — the guarantor of the world geopolitical balance of power and fair adherence to the mutual interests”51 Zyuganov 1995b:72.51. In particular, the Eurasianism is attractive to the ideologists of the CPRF since the Eurasianist nationalism — the nationalism of the Eurasian “multinational nation” — overlaps with the official “Soviet patriotism” that comprised, as the philosopher G.Fedotov truly noticed, “the imperial Russian (not Russian in the narrow sense) consciousness”52 Fedotov 1992: 99.52.

Along with the left conservatism, in the modern Russia there is also the right, “white” conservatism (V.Aksyuchits, N.Narochnitskaya, K.Myalo etc.). The representatives of this direction also refer to the legacy of conservative philosophers of the 19th century, but in contrast to the left ones evaluate the communism and the Eurasianism critically.

The right conservatives are inclined towards the organic understanding of a society and a nation, pointed out the inherent incompatibility of the Russian and Western civilizations (emphasizing the confrontation of the Orthodox Russia with the Catholic-Protestant West) and the unique nature of the Russian historical destiny (“we are fated to go our own way rather than catch up with or overtake the West”53 Aksyuchits 2000.53. They also stress the Western deep denial of Russia as an “equally great... geopolitical power and historical personality always independently seeking the universal sense of the macrocosm — the hindrance to the crash of the multipolar world that is turning through the current project of the liberal globalization into the cultural and economic province of the AngloAmerican world”54 Narochnitskaya2003: 214.54. It is such denial that from their point of view (which, by the way, was also shared by G.Zyuganov) was the gravest cause of the Cold War: “...The fact that it was Russia and not the communist Russia that was destined to be ruined was obvious to the West from the very first days of this war”55 Myalo 2003: 59.55.

At the same time, the “white” conservatives view bolshevists as a hostile force that destroyed “the foundations of the great Russian civilization such as Orthodoxy, monarchy, statehood... rather than the spiritual heritors of the historical Russia or the restorers of the Russian state. Everything that constituted the peculiarity and uniqueness of Russia was sequentially annihilated by the Communists”56 Aksyuchits 1995: 15,16.56. N.Narochnitskaya supposes that bolshevists used Russia only as a “fagot” in the fire of the world revolution as well as for the social and ideological experiments”57 Narochnitskaya 2003: 217.57.While the CPRF leadership thinks that the “Russian idea” is deeply socialist”58 Programma 1999: 12.58, the “white” patriots emphasize that “the utter contradiction of the international communist ideology and the Russian idea has already been proved through the unprecedented blood”59 Aksyuchits 1995: 171.59. They argue that the collapse of the USSR in 1991 was caused by the national-territorial division of the country that bolshevists performed in the 1920s and not so much by the intrigues if the “world backstage”.

While the left conservatives are disposed towards the national Eurasianism, the right ones are mostly Russian nationalists. The “white” conservatives are rather negative towards Eurasianism that according to them underestimates the state-creating role of the Russian people in Russia and threatens to subvert the Russian identity. V.Aksyuchits states that the notion “Eurasia” can be fairly used only for defining the geopolitical space “that can not be the subject of the historical action. This role within the Eurasian spaces is assumed by the Russian people”60 Aksyuchits 2002.60. Therefore, it is not surprising that the geopolitical aspirations of the right conservatives in the first place are targeted at the reunification of Russia with the Slavic and Orthodox Ukraine and Belarus”.


All in all, we see that there has been and there is a unique tradition of the conservative idea in Russia with the entrenched peculiar historico-philosophic and geopolitical conceptions. Studying this tradition is important not only because it helps to trace the “times connecting thread”. What is more, the reflection (even critical) of the works of the conservative philosophers helps us to find the answers for the crucial questions of human beings — who we are? where did we come from? what is the point of history and what is the purpose of a person? It is what seems to be their eternal value.



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