Russia’s Real Enemies
December 1, 2008
Translated from the Russian by The Other Russia
I know now who is yelling the loudest and the most forcefully about those “cursed nineties,” when Russia was “trampled in the mud,” and people “wiped their feet” on her, during the epoch of Russia’s Great Humiliation by the Horrible West. I know, who strains themselves most of all while hysterically recounting the Worldwide Russo-phobic conspiracy. [A conspiracy] led, as is easy to guess, by that infernal America, for whom Russia’s undeniable greatness– as a country with unrecognized constructive-destructive possibilities and an inexhaustible oil-and-gas-based spirituality– is the single, though insurmountable barrier to global domination. I know who they are.
These are more or less the same guys, who at the very start of the “wild nineties,” that is to say the years of their adolescent passion, merrily hung around Intourist [(international tourist)] hotels, asking those who were differently dressed for chewing gum, Marlboro cigarettes and Bic pens. I remember them very well. It was them who, for a couple “green slips,” wouldn’t be averse to take any “dumb American” around by piggyback to the historic places of their native capital. It was them who called the local rubles “wooden” [(worthless)] and dripped servile contempt for the mundane landscape surrounding them.
They called the unfortunate grannies selling white bread by the metro, or the aging PhD with the ragged briefcase in his hand “sovok” [(A sarcastic way of saying “Soviet citizen,”) or someone bearing the worst marks of the Soviet mindset, see Homo Sovieticus)]. I also used this not-quite-elegant word back then. But I used it to describe them.
Afterwards, coming through the “abyss of humiliations,” and surrounding themselves with tokens and symbols of “prestige,” or objects from western culture (while the notion of any other culture was always outside their comprehension), they decided in concert that all of this had always existed, and that all of it was produced in the V. V. Putin factory.
It is them who now groan on from morning to night about Western charity, about the Washington cabal, about fifth columns, about grant-suckers and agents of influence.
It is them who say that Russia has been humiliated. That is to say, they are Russia.
And you, friends, would do well not to stoop so low. Then you wouldn’t have this throbbing splinter in your heart. You would live, like normal people, in harmony with the world and the times. You wouldn’t look for enemies in your own closets. And most importantly –you wouldn’t have this pernicious fervor for clinging to this government. Having bloated a bit on petro-dollars, it has replaced those who you would have scrounged your precious can of Heineken from in the early 90s. This regime is bolder, richer and most importantly, far more understandable. Your own, native, from the neighboring yard.
Coming from their mouths, the word “humiliation” is not the same word said by a person who thinks the idea of “personal dignity” is more than just an empty sound, or further, a malicious invention by those who believe in universal human values. I for one, have also felt humiliation. Waiting in line for milk, for instance, was humiliating. The butcher’s insolent mug at the neighboring deli humiliated me. The dolled-up bimbo at the passport counter humiliated me. The hotel doorman humiliated me, when I came to visit a friend who traveled to Moscow from France. But all of them combined were not the West. They were my country, Russia. At least that’s what they thought. And all those who speak about “Russia’s humiliation” think the same thing.
I read an article somewhere, that Serbia’s government had offered an apology to all those it had wronged during the recent Balkan wars. “The national humiliation of the Serbs continues,” the article’s author passionately commented on the event. What can one even say here. This crooked ethics is familiar to me. Too familiar. Till it hurts, as they say. Following this logic, he who is rude left and right and who points fingers in all directions is, naturally, a proper lad. And the one who says “thank you,” “you’re welcome” and “sorry” from time to time, is of course demeaned to the utmost.
The Serbs, thank God, got lucky. They have neither fuel-oil under their feet, nor long-range missiles. They have a chance to rid themselves of that imperial paranoia and become a dignified modern government, where an individual’s life and dignity is many times more valuable than stinking “greatness.”
We are less lucky, and that’s why our humiliated and insulted [people] have given in to a sweet collective hallucination. Miracles happen in their magical day-dreams. The forest spirit wanders there; America’s long-awaited collapse approaches there; Europe’s sunset is seen easily there from unknown paths; palm trees grow there in Red Square, and mermaids sit on their branches, while underneath thirty three bogatyrs keep getting off their knees under the direction of the national leader. It is no good, inhumane even to interrupt these hallucinations with one or another tactless call to look around yourself. In these instances, the hallucination turns into unmotivated rage and will designate you an enemy of Russia. But who else to do it!
In fairy tales, not only animals, birds and trees, but also objects can speak the human language. Wait long enough and the hut, stove or well can unexpectedly start talking. In our times, we more and more often hear the voices of the cop’s billy club, or the mop in the soldier’s bathroom, or the heap of sunflower seed-hulls on the doorstep of the suburban barracks.
And they all speak on behalf of Russia. On who else’s behalf [could they speak]– their own? And it’s them who are Russia’s detractors. They are the russophobes, trying to create an image of Russia as a country of hateful idiots with blunt persistence.
But all the while, Russia is not them. Russia is me. This is my country. And I know this as resolutely as I know that rain falls from above and not below; that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West; that the Volga [river] still flows into the Caspian sea; that the smell of kerosene mixed with the smell of national-patriotic armpits isn’t called spirituality at all; and that there is no such thing as sovereign multiplication tables, nor a sovereign law of universal gravitation.