Russia’s gender identity
Russia's problem is the uncertainty of its position, an unresolved fluidity between East and West, North and South. It is unable to find a true unity, as evinced by its institutions, but also as seen in the diatribes among Soviet dissidents of old and today's pacifists.
Moscow’s newly re-elected mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, a Putin loyalist in office since 2010 (re-elected in 2013 and 2018), is a native of a border region between Europe and Asia, the Khanty-Mansi district. Speaking at the recent Moscow Financial Forum, he said: “Russia cannot trust Asian countries on the market of modern technologies because, when it comes to their interests, they act even more rigidly than the West."
Putin picked Sobyanin when he was governor of Tyumen, Siberia, on the border with Kazakhstan, to replace the last great opponent from the previous Yeltsin regime, Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who ruled the capital on the principle of Pax Mafiosa, leaving each gang its own turf.
His dismissal was the last step in Putin's “power vertical" building process; any group, political, economic or criminal, can survive in Russia only as a vassal to the Kremlin.
Sobyanin’s idea that Asia, like America and Europe, is also waging "an economic war against Russia", advanced by someone who embodies the submission of every corner in Eurasia to its "mother city”, lays bare the contradictions of a country that no longer knows which way to turn.
To further underline this malaise, just as the mayor of Moscow expressed his concerns, a video was released showing the meeting in the Kremlin of President Salva Kir Mayardit of South Sudan, with his typical wide-brimmed hat and cane, with Putin who clumsily tried to teach how-to put-on earphones.
The scene is indicative of total incomprehension and a broad ethnocultural gap, as Russia turns to exotic lands outside any geopolitical, economic and military context, since its only connection with South Sudan was the Wagner Group dissolved with Prigozhin’s tragicomic death.
Africanised Russia must realise how much the coveted East "tries to take full advantage of the situation that has been created," Sobyanin explained, by the mad war against Ukraine and the entire West.
If American and European sanctions are a burden on Russian society, depriving it of money and materials, "the Asians use inverted dumping against us, selling us at twice the price not what we need, but what suits them, while they buy our oil at half price,” said the Muscovite vassal. Either lose everything or take it all at fire-sale prices.
This seems to be the prospect of the Russian economy for the coming decades, but that is not the only problem, however crucial it may in people's lives, or for ending wars. Russia's problem is the uncertainty of its place, paradoxically its "gender identity", in an unresolved fluidity between East and West, North and South.
Choosing sides changes from day to day, depending on which "friendly", "fraternal", "enemy" or "not friendly" leader it must embrace or attack, at the UN or at the G20, at forums in Europe, like the one in St Petersburg, or in Asia, like the one in Vladivostok.
This goes back to the fact that Russians are the only people living in two distinct continents, with the largest territory in the world, united by a new revelation of universal love, but always unable to get along with their neighbours, from the borders of Ukraine to those of Japan, scenes of Russia’s wars at the start of the last two centuries.
Russians are a people incapable of expressing true unity, as evinced in both the diaspora and from their institutions. Abroad, Soviet dissidents, and today's pacifists, were and are never able to work together.
At home, things are even worse, as shown by the latest message from the camp holding Putin’s opponent, Alexei Navalny: "Go to hell you and your coalitions, we do not need your coffee breaks with croissants ... At home, joint oppositions are a pure waste of time, among those who only know how to boycott, like Garri Kasparov, or who say to vote anywhere if it seems useful, like Maksim Kats, or who seek a useful vote, participating only in elections that can annoy Putin.”
According to Navalny "we have tried many times, and we have not achieved any results; now it is enough, it is just a show, an imitation of real political activity; when the time comes, we will choose our candidate for the presidential elections," thus closing the door to all his "friends".
Even among Putin's supporters, "great unity" is based on divisions, the only reason for the use of force as a system of government.
In Russia everyone knows that the consent of the people to the tsar is pure fiction and conformism; it is not the mutual love of the narodnost dreamt by the Slavophiles in vertical form like Putin's today, or the sobornost in the horizontal sense preached by the monks of Optina Pustyn (Opta's hermitage), like the current patriarch, Kirill.
It is the imposition of Siloviki, Putin’s enforcers and all his henchmen, to annihilate internal enemies and traitors, and even friends, like Prigozhin and Kadyrov.
Putin himself explained the motivation, at the Eastern Economic Forum in 2022: “Of course, a certain polarisation is taking place, both in the world and within the country, but I believe that this will only be beneficial, because everything that is unnecessary, harmful and everything that prevents us from moving forward will be rejected."
From the religious point of view, it is the literal interpretation of "Orthodoxy", understood as distinct from "heterodoxy", from heretics condemned at the time of the councils of the patristic era, when the term was coined.
The true Orthodox need an enemy to assert their faith, as in the medieval prophecy of the Third Rome that saves the world from "heretics, invaders and sodomites."
Declaring Patriarch Kirill himself a heretic, as many would like to do by accusing him of "phyletism", religious nationalism, is actually the best definition to which Russians aspire: being alone against everyone, both in a real and a spiritual war, the true guarantee of one's moral, political and religious superiority.
At this point, it is not necessary to explain what one's identity really is, what one's "traditional values" consist of; it suffices to say that we "are against the collective West", which tries to "impose its pseudo-values".
Even the "turn to the East" has never been accompanied by any indication of "common values" with Asians, whether it is cohesion around the chief, the capacity for sacrifice, or who knows what harmony between Orthodox Christianity, moderate Islamism and Confucian communism.
Russians do not want war, but they do not want to give in to their enemies. They despise dictatorial power, but do not tolerate factional divisions. They abhor homosexuality and gender fluidity, but they change orientations on everything on a daily basis.
Democracy is a deception, ecumenism is a conspiracy, liberalism is the domination by strong powers... and Russia remains an enigma in history.
The question of gender reveals a condition that Russia paradoxically makes evident with the sum of its contradictions, but it is perhaps time to recognise that this is an epochal and universal issue, and certainly not only at the level of personal and sexual orientations.
Today's world is characterised above all by the loss of identity, individual and collective, political and cultural, moral and religious; democracy is in crisis in all its variants and in every latitude, the globalised economy is in crisis, the system of values that was considered fundamental for social development is in crisis, and the list of crises could go on.
Russia exalts the family, the birth rate, and the defence of unborn life, while it is the country with the most divorces and abortions in the world percentagewise with a demographic crisis that appears increasingly irreversible.
Moreover, even China is trying to run for cover against the decline in residents in all its megacities, while Europe is certainly no better, rejecting the masses of migrants who could be a hope for the future.
As it was often in the past, Russia sacrifices itself for the whole world, certainly not with its victories and dreams of conquest, but with its powerlessness to achieve its dreams, thus awakening everyone from East to West.
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