September 2, 2008

English summary

This issue of Diplomaatia is devoted to Russia, more specifically to Russian philosophy and especially to the concept of the Russian idea. Andres Herkel, a member of the Estonian parliament, gives an overview of the rise and development of the Russian idea, starting with Petr Chaadayev and following it to contemporary times and contemporary thinkers such as Alexander Dugin and Alexander Panarin.

This issue of Diplomaatia is devoted to Russia, more specifically to Russian philosophy and especially to the concept of the Russian idea. Andres Herkel, a member of the Estonian parliament, gives an overview of the rise and development of the Russian idea, starting with Petr Chaadayev and following it to contemporary times and contemporary thinkers such as Alexander Dugin and Alexander Panarin.

English summary

This issue of Diplomaatia is devoted to Russia, more specifically to Russian philosophy and especially to the concept of the Russian idea.
Andres Herkel, a member of the Estonian parliament, gives an overview of the rise and development of the Russian idea, starting with Petr Chaadayev and following it to contemporary times and contemporary thinkers such as Alexander Dugin and Alexander Panarin.
Herkel concludes that, while throughout its history the Russian idea has been seen in many different ways, its current shape and status can be considered quite dangerous: for the first time in history, the development of the Russian idea has left the philosophers’ domain and become state policy, with real prospects of implementation. Also, the current shape of the Russian idea includes relatively little in the way of likeable metaphysics, but lots of aggressive geopolitics. There is very little talk of democracy, humanism and human rights; the focus instead is on Russian interests and Russia’s global mission, all rooted in a great deal of fanaticism.
“The Russian idea is more dangerous than ever, because Russia’s rulers are tempted to transform it into policy,” concludes Herkel. And, according to him, an understanding of Russia and the Russian idea is absolutely essential for Estonians: “The question of “what becomes of Russia” has always been important to Russia’s neighbours.”
Vladimir Jushkin, the director of the Russian Studies Centre in Estonia, takes a closer look at the search for idea and ideology in and around the Kremlin today. He detects the emergence of what he calls “Putinist conservatism”, which includes many components from the works of earlier Russian thinkers; monarchist Ivan Ilin seems to be especially popular. Jushkin concludes that the new Russia may soon adopt as its idea a new version of an old slogan: “Orthodoxy, monarchy, closeness to people.”
The Russian philosopher Igor Chubais, however, is critical of the Kremlin’s current ideological approach, claiming that “it is a mix of everything that makes possible to justify anything.” In his opinion, Russia’s first and foremost task is to reconnect with its pre-revolutionary roots. This process has happened quite smoothly in Central and Eastern Europe, but is complicated in Russia, where Soviet power – which destroyed basically all the layers of society, except perhaps bureaucracy – lasted for 70 years, rather than a mere 50 as in Central and Eastern Europe. Chubais disagrees with the famous Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyayev, who saw Russian communism as something that had roots in Russia’s history. According to Chubais, there was a “red curtain” that cut Soviet Russia off from its own history, in the way that the “iron curtain” isolated it from the rest of the world.
Mihkel Kaevats, a student at Tartu University, describes life in Voronezh – a town that competes for the title of “the capital of Russian xenophobia.” Kaevats observes that while students from the Baltic States do not suffer from local xenophobia, students from outside Europe had better not venture out of their dormitories on their own.
Erik Terk, the director of the Estonian Institute for Studies on the Future, looks at scenarios for Russia’s future written around ten years ago and decides that these sound like “this week’s papers”. However, Terk still finds it somewhat difficult to assess exactly which scenario Russia is moving towards – “the Russian bear” or “the Russian eagle?” While the first envisaged the emergence of a quite severe form of authoritarianism with an aggressive foreign policy, the second envisaged that certain freedoms would be retained and that Russia’s self-assertion with respect to the outside world would be more modest.
Kaarel Tarand, the editor-in-chief of Sirp writes about Russia’s demographic trends, recalling that, as well as ideas and scenarios, Russia’s actual future is under question because its population is decreasing at a rate of 100 people per hour. Furthermore, he states that “in the case of Russia, things normally end up getting worse than even the darkest scenarios foresaw.” Therefore, “soon much of the Russian army will have to be disbanded due to a lack of soldiers.”
And finally, Artur Laast, an Estonian diplomat, writes about the history of the Estonian Embassy in Moscow – the first embassy that the newly born Republic of Estonia opened 85 years ago and also the only embassy building that has remained connected to Estonia through all the following years.

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