03/19/2022, 12.48
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Putin's new horde and the challenge of a non-hostile identity

by Stefano Caprio


Historical revisionism and appeals to popular conscience can no longer justify one system against another, one country against another, one ideology against another. Whatever the outcome of the war will be, it will be a different world for everyone and not only for Russia and Ukraine.


Where does the aggressiveness of the Russians come from, who nobody thought would invade and bomb Ukraine in such a massive and determined way, as only the Tatars in 1200 had done, arriving to raze Kiev itself to the ground? The polls of these days, even in the context of state propaganda and the blocking of free information, try to understand what is really the state of mind of the population. According to data published by various agencies, about 70% of Russians support the so-called "special military operation".

Analysts confirm that throughout Russian society there is a high degree of aggression, not only in tune with propaganda, but almost emerged from the "genetic heritage" of Russians. The Russian-American philosopher Mikhail Epstein defines the psychological condition of Russians today as "schizophascism," a form of "fascism disguised as a struggle against fascism." Under the term "fascism" Epstein means "an entire worldview that combines the theory of moral, ethnic or racial superiority, divine mission, imperialism, nationalism, xenophobia, aspiration to superpower, anti-capitalism, anti-democracy, anti-liberalism."

Schizophascism would be a dangerous and aggressive caricature of fascism, which expresses itself in a "hysterical hatred of freedom, of democracy, of everything that is different and foreign, and in the continuous search for the enemies and traitors of its own people." It is a post-Soviet legacy, but also a characteristic feature of a people that has always been dispersed over a territory that is too large, that struggles to determine and delimit itself, and to protect itself from invasions.

A decidedly schizophrenic aspect of this atavistic hatred is the one that leads to try to enjoy without limits the goods produced by the system of "strangers", as Tsar Peter the Great, the most westernized of all Russian autocrats, said: "we will open up to the West for a decade to take everything they have, then we will show them our backs", he said, using in reality much more explicit terms, such as those now typical of president-czar Putin. The more one despises the immoral West, called by the Russians the "Gayropa" or the "Pedostan", the world of the pederasts champions of immorality, the more one buys villas and castles on the French coasts or on the Tuscan hills, one opens accounts in Swiss banks and one sends one's children to the exclusive schools of the countries that teach perversion.

Epstein attempts to find a "scientific" explanation for schizophascism, recalling that the origin of this dysfunction lies in the composition of the human brain: "one hemisphere of our brain is in perpetual conflict with the other hemisphere, so that a man can be at the same time a romantic and a brigand, live the sincerity of the lie, or the lie without deception, as when we are told that the advance of the Russian armies is slowed down by the cowardice of the Ukrainian neo-Nazis." Russians lie to themselves by talking about themselves, they fail to conclude peace talks between the eastern and western parts of their "one people", their two-faced history, their soul torn between Slavophile and Westernist tendencies.

No one in his right mind should believe the propaganda of the Putin regime, yet the same propaganda does not care at all to correspond to reality ("we did not invade Ukraine"). Propaganda is based on ideal models, on worlds only dreamed of, and on the other hand it must excite the minds to violence and destruction, justify horror with honor. One difference between Russians and Americans, Epstein again observes, is that "the Russians adore those who lie, while the Americans cannot bear it, and for this reason the Russians consider them a mass of clueless people". To be imbued with lies to decipher is instead for Russians a source of pride, it means to be respected and treated as real men, able to understand things beyond words, as in front of Putin's bombastic announcement on unified networks: "a gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis in Kiev has taken the Ukrainian people hostage, and we must free them," or the solemn homily of Patriarch Kirill when he states that "they want to impose on us the parades of gays to be admitted into the civilized world, and we must defend the true faith."

Nazis do not exist in the Ukraine of the Jewish Zelenskyj, but this phrase brings to mind the followers of the traitor Stepan Bandera, who tried to sell Ukraine to Hitler, when many Ukrainians preferred the Nazis to the Communists, considering them less oppressive. Just as gay-pride parades are now an outdated ritual throughout the West, in the time of gender fluidity, but they evoke medieval times when the czars of the "Third Rome" considered themselves the last defenders of Christian civilization: "a fourth Rome there will be," the prophecy said, because if Russia collapses, the world will become prey to the Antichrist. These are categories of the awakening of secular instincts and complexes, ancient and recent, of offenses and claims of apocalyptic perspective.

The division of the Russian soul, on the other hand, is also evident in the intensity of the many anti-war people, who parade in solitude with placards recalling the biblical commandments or posters shown on television against war and lies, at the risk of their own freedom. They are certainly a minority, made up of young people without a guide, also because the guides have all been expelled or imprisoned, yet Aleksej Naval'nyj can challenge the "old fools who are destroying our country, invading that of our brothers", assuring that "you do not scare us, even if you put us in jail for a hundred years".

The Russian national anthem in the Soviet version (of which it retained the music and slightly modified the lyrics) reads, "Arise, immense country / Arise for the deadly struggle / Against the dark force of fascism / Against the cursed Horde!" Only that in the role of the Tatar-Mongolian horde today is Russia itself, and the words of the anthem seem rather to incite Ukrainians to defend themselves against the unprecedented aggressiveness of the Russians, as Maria Maksakova, an opera singer and former deputy of the Moscow Duma, who has been living in Ukraine for years, points out. In an interview with Radio Svoboda she recalls that "in a century we have gone from the ferocious Lenin to the cannibal Stalin, passing through the psychiatric asylums against Brezhnev's dissidents and arriving at Putin's special operations against humanity".

According to Maksakova, these excesses of violence can provoke reactions of enthusiasm for short periods, only to turn into resounding defeats and epochal catastrophes, leaving Russia perpetually behind the rest of the world. In fact, even if the end of the clashes in Ukraine is not yet in sight, the operation already appears to be a total fiasco: no lightning war, no embrace of the Ukrainian people by the liberators, total isolation at international level, an economic abyss opening up from the sanctions, which in any case will leave Russia for many years at the level of life of the Brezhnevite USSR.

The mass consent to the aggression is reminiscent of the days of 2014, that cry of exultation: "Crimea is ours!" before an oceanic crowd at the Kremlin. A wild joy that quickly dissolved. Already the following year for the "Crimean Day" on March 18, which became the sacred day of elections and patriotic demonstrations, to fill the squares the regime forced students and paid volunteers. Today this same solemn day of "Crimea-nostrism", as the Putin ideology of the last years is called, is celebrated directly on the field, and again there seems to be a lack of comprimarios, because beyond the official declarations, very few are the enthusiasts of Putin cannibalism. The Russians fall into the abyss with thunderous enthusiasm, knowing that they will lie in the dust for a long time.

Two years ago Putin tried to resuscitate the dull patriotic consensus with the new constitution and the big celebrations for the 75th anniversary of the Victory against Nazism, and was frustrated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Russian politics and history were brought back to the beginning, "resetting" even the successions of the previous twenty years, and allowing Putin himself to relaunch himself as leader of the nation for at least another twenty years. Now, whatever the outcome of the war operations, zeroing is becoming the determining factor in the life of Russia and Ukraine, and not in the sense of the passage to a "supratemporal" dimension, but as the need to reconstruct a destroyed world.

Historical revisionism and appeals to popular conscience can no longer justify one system against another, one country against another, one ideology against another. It will be a different world for everyone, and not only for the two countries involved, but for all of Europe, America and China, the West and the East. If the end of communism made some people say that we had come to the "end of history", today we must recognize that we are "at the beginning of history". The Russian war has been presented as a great struggle of good against absolute evil, but the patterns of totalitarianism of right or left, of fascism and communism against liberalism and capitalism, cannot be applied again.

Today's Russia is as capitalist as America and Europe, and the citizens of Kiev like those of Moscow are accustomed to a life of consumption and communication, which is now being challenged, but without a real alternative being proposed. Ukraine will be the mirror of this "new creation", which the Churches themselves invoke through the intercession of Mary and all the saints, but it will be men who will have to realize it. In the Soviet years, Kiev was a photocopy of Moscow, while Lviv retained its Austro-Hungarian appearance; today the capital is a heap of material and spiritual ruins, and the entire country is torn apart by fratricidal warfare.

Glorious cities such as Kharkiv, Kherson, Mariupol, Odessa, Lugansk and Donetsk themselves are "zeroed" and will have to indicate the new non-hostile identity of a "single people" in reality very mixed and composite, in which there is no "Russian-speaking part" clearly distinguished from the "pro-Western" one, just as in Ukrainian families it is often difficult to distinguish the ecclesiastical jurisdictions, Muscovite, Roman or Constantinopolitan.

For many centuries we all neglected Ukraine, with the result that we could not even understand Russia. Now we must defend the lives of children and families, stop the aggression and help reconciliation, but most of all we must pray together, that God himself may show the way to build a new world.

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