Essence of Time. Chapter 8

(If you haven’t already, please read Chapters 123456, and 7 first)

March 22, 2011

We will slowly go about solving the central problems which separate us from our intended undertaking. But we will solve them, one by one. Just don’t try to make us out to be more naïve, than we are. Don’t try to transform the tasks that we set for ourselves into other goals, which are related, but which are not ours.

However, this is being done. Sometimes it comes from the best of intentions, sometimes from those of another sort. And I have to discuss precisely this in the prologue.

I have always lived as though everyone hears my every word. All 140 million people who live in Russia, all 300 million who live in the USSR, all of progressive humanity, and even its non-progressive part.

There were people who lived otherwise. They were afraid of their own shadow, looking for the KGB under their beds and under their pillows. They spared no effort to close themselves off, to encrypt themselves, to hide. And ultimately, they ended up getting “nailed” to the fullest extent. It happened because of this hide-and-seek game, which was often led very unprofessionally, contained some kind of purulence, some kind of ambiguity. Ultimately, this purulence poured out, what was concealed would be discovered, and nothing good came of it.

If I was trying to build a secret organization with secret goals, I would not be giving lectures on television; I would not post them on my website. I would have acted differently. Certain situations probably require us to act differently. I for one, in keeping with what I see to be right, would start acting this way if the country was occupied,  if I had to report to the American or Nazi’s commandant’s office, or if the corresponding ground forces were marching through the streets and dictating what I was supposed to do. In this situation, I would probably try to create an underground, or some other sort of closed organization for combat.

But there is a smell of something entirely different in the air. And the methods of our work and our actions correspond with this smell. Breathe in this smell. Read the newspapers, watch the TV. Draw the political air in through your nostrils, and you will catch the stench of what I began talking about back in 2008: perestroika.

“Perestroika-2”: it permeates the air. It is as though it permeates every molecule of our contemporary social, political and even metaphysical existence. It has started again. Or more precisely, it has been started again. And the first task, the widest task, which unites people who think and feel very differently, is to combat this perestroika. To put up a real fight against it. To combat it both intellectually and ideologically, to answer it with such a width of civic action that will make it come crawling back into its hole. It will return to its hole and wait for the next right moment to come out. But hopefully, we will not give it such a moment.

This is not enough to save the country, to defend its historical future, to lead the country and the whole world to new horizons. This is not enough, but it is absolutely necessary.

I considered the program “Judgment of Time” as an answer to the challenge of perestroika-2. Our enemies wanted to start a new perestroika and to once again have their way with Soviet history. We had to stand up to them. And together, we managed to stand up to them using a unique combination of certain circumstances.

And we did, in fact, succeed! Television poll results, a huge number of letters that viewers sent to our Experimental Creative Center, something that has now started beyond these simple forms of activity, in the depths of social psychology; all this suggests that we can prevail in the war that has been declared against us, a new merciless war. We have plenty of reasons for that. If we fail to make good use of these foundations, then we will be to blame.

But the question is not what needs to be done in the context of the country’s real occupation, when patrols are on the streets, a curfew is imposed, a police state is functioning, and all the screws are tightened. Such activities are of no use now: secret rendezvous, ciphers, passwords, conspiracy, but a completely different kind of activity, open civic activity. Respectable activity, which requires not to be skilled in hiding under beds or underground, but to have the ability to go in front of the public, and speak openly with the public. To tell the masses the truth. And conquer the hearts and minds of these masses.

That is the task. There is no other task. Had the task been different, then forms of activity corresponding to a different task would have been chosen. But we have chosen forms of activity appropriate for this task.

Yes, I can spend a long time discussing what exactly and in what region our supporters are planning. All the while understanding that they can conjure up both creative and destructive activities. I’ve spent a long time making sense of this. My team of associates, who must act, is not necessarily geared up to address such issues “on the spot”, at the drop of a hat. But the fact that my associates and I are acting slowly does not mean that we cannot distinguish between right but awkward actions, and those which are meaningless, unnecessary, and counterproductive.

What can and should we do? And why do I believe that all this has a serious future?

We must win a systemic war, which is being waged in the setting of growing social openness.

The enemy cannot wage the war he wants to wage in a closed environment. He needs to loosen the screws, to open the political system. And he believes that he will take advantage of this openness. And we believe that we will take advantage of it.

Why should we assume that our enemy has an overwhelming advantage over us? What do we not believe in? In our people? In our own ability to convince? Do we not believe that we have, over the years, accumulated information that allows to discuss with people the issues that concern them with a different measure of clarity and intelligibility?

If we do not believe in all of this, we ought to go to the bushes, and hide in there forever. But if we believe in it, then we do have a chance, and so do our enemies. They are stronger; they are more organized; they have international support funds, so what? This territory is alien to them. But we live on our own land. And our land gives us support, let’s say, 1000:1. There is something we love, something we believe in, something we want. We have the experience of our mistakes …

With all this in mind, and having preserved (and perhaps even strengthened) love in our souls, we are quite capable of moving towards victory. No, it is not guaranteed, a guaranteed victory is nonsense. But we can win. The odds are slim? Even a small chance has to be used! Only someone who uses every chance deserves to be called a human. A human fights to the end. One who breaks at some point is no longer a human. Maybe, a human-like creature…

And so, let us imagine some forms of activity that could have an overwhelming effect in this secondary openness which is rotten, purulent, and planned with anything but our good in mind.

Do you know that people who now want to wage such an intellectual war have no sociology at their disposal? Do you realize that there is no sociology whatsoever? That everything that is now called sociological data, including data of well-known sociological centers, is nonsense. There are no real networks, no capacity to carry out more or less deeply focused studies, nor methodologies that meet real contemporary demands. All this is lacking.

Tens of thousands of people are watching this program, who want to create an Essence of Time virtual club. If those tens of thousands of people did not spend their time looking for ciphers and passwords under their beds, or constantly thinking about how to engage in activity which is currently irrelevant, but instead looked the approaching reality in the eye, and sought out answers to the terrible and real challenges, which would be appropriate for this terrible reality, they could carry out a kind of sociological study (which would be perfectly legal and normal), that no sociological center in the country can now carry out. None of the existing centers can do so by definition. And armed with the results of such a study, they could act ten times more accurately than their adversary, with a firm understanding of what kind of society they are dealing with.

Yuri Andropov’s phrase, about how we do not know the society we live in, always terrified me. I always saw something dubious about it. For example, “we don’t want to know it, because we are going to build a different society.” Or “this society is circling the drain anyway, so why bother knowing it?” Or “we’re so stupid that we are incapable of knowing anything about it.” I am sure you would agree that the meaning of this phrase is unclear. If you, having absolute authority, want to know what the society is that you live in, you can find out… What does “we don’t know” mean? Why “don’t we know”?


Hide and Seek by Konstantin Makovsky, 1890


I see only one normal explanation, unrelated to conspiracy theories, “We lack a method, which would allow us to study our society. We live in a system of simplified Marxist prejudices. We lack a ready methodology to truly comprehend a new social process.”

And it means that, in addition to the goal of simply exploring different aspects of society, it is necessary to develop an understanding of its real homespun truth, the real mindset in the countryside, which, for some reason, is not of interest to anyone, and which we care deeply about. For its name is the Country.

Let me close the books on the squabbling between Moscovites and non-Moscovites which, fortunately, has now stopped. Does Moscow exist separately from the country? Of course, Moscow is not a country, who would argue? Of course, Moscow lives according to a set of peculiar and very strange laws. Of course, it now does not so much resemble Paris, London, or New York, nor much less so itself, as much as it does Las Vegas. Paris has practically no street-advertisement, but Moscow is decked out with advertisements like a Christmas tree with ornaments. And it resembles a normal city as much as a Christmas tree with ornaments resembles a pine tree standing in the forest.

Of course, Moscow is Moscow, and Russia is Russia. But the scary thing is that anti-Moscow sentiments (like any sentiments based on “anti-“) will only exacerbate the situation and add another conflict. I have already quoted Fromm, saying that Hell is a place where alienation cannot be overcome even through love. There is not enough love to overcome alienation, alienation in all aspects: alienation between regions, between social groups… Alienation of all and all. And this is what we have to overcome.

And when you work to overcome it, you flex the muscles of love, not the muscles of hate. The last thing I need is to have people start quarreling with each other under the roof of one club: Moscovites vs. non-Moscovites, then people from Krasnodar vs. those from the northern cities, then Siberians vs. people from Leningrad, and so on. One of my very wise acquaintances said that the quality of spiritual community is a beautiful characteristic of our society, but very often spiritual community turns into “disunity.”

So you see, if Moscow won’t know Russia, if it will not try to move closer to Russia, then that Moscow is not worth a plugged nickel. But if Russia will not have a capital, then neither will Russia exist.

If Moscow behaves itself in an ugly fashion, by alienating itself from the large body of its own country, sucking the blood from that body and so on, then there must be another Moscow. We need not the indignation of all the provinces over having such a heinous capital. Rejecting one’s capital is nonsense. We need a different Moscow. Let us, in unity with the periphery, create a capital that will not be disconnected from the periphery, that will not neglect, or make arrogant comments towards it, but a capital that will love the periphery and feel what it feels. That is why one step is sociological research of what the country feels, what the periphery feels.

The second step is a chronicle of current events. We must always have news from the periphery. The periphery needs to feel that others need it. Novgorod has to feel that Vladivostok needs it. Vladivostok has to feel that Novgorod needs it. Every cell of the country has to feel its unity with the other cells of the country. This needs to be done not only at the levels of sociology and other scientific research, although they are endlessly necessary. Not only at the level of studying real regional processes, although they are also necessary. This must be done at the level of informing people about what is unfolding.

Then this means that in addition to the intellectual, social, sociological, and political wars, we will have to also wage an informational war. The war for the unity of this complex organism. The organism has gain the capability of building an informational dialogue inside of itself, to unite with other cells of the body, to see for real what life looks in the different parts of this organism because it is a higher form of super-complex unity. Without knowing itself, without understanding the nature of the pain that is nearby, it will never understand anything about itself. It will live cocooned off each into a separate provincial self-sufficiency.

All the enemy needs is for us to replace our country’s history with the history of separate regions. To replace it with regional studies. With ethnology.  With ethnography. With the study of local customs. Local customs are a wonderful thing. The history of a small region is a wonderful topic, and it certainly deserves to be researched. It is all very important. But we cannot allow it to distract us from the larger process, in such a way that each cell becomes closed off inside itself, because when the cells become closed off in this way, the organism will be ready to disintegrate. And our task is to prevent this disintegration.

We need research, we need vivid (scientists call it “phenomenologic”), graphic information from the localities. We need informational infrastructure that would allow us to share this information. All of this must be done in accordance with 21st century standards. Otherwise, there will be no victory. Why can’t we do this as we organize our club? Why can’t our club’s active members take part in a study of our society which, for the first time in 20 years, will tell us something about the real situation in the country?

Do you think it is a minor task? It is a tremendous task, if we can solve it. A tremendous one. It can turn many things around by itself.

What is keeping us from taking the initiative, providing real information from the field, making television and video reports on location, so that we can then post these reports on our website and comment on them? What is stopping us from creating a large, living, normal structure without ciphers and passwords, without hiding under beds or underground, without fleeing from one’s own shadow, without constantly murmuring, “Oh yes, we know: as soon we start acting, the provocateurs will appear”?

Of course, provocateurs will appear. And that is the next question. They simply can’t help but appear. First of all, they always swarm in on any new undertaking like flies on honey. Secondly, their “swarms” are sent not necessarily even to destroy something, but to check: who has gathered? Are they idiots, or not? What are they going to do? Are they complete losers, or not? This could be quite a reserved and friendly probing, a “test of integrity”, so to say.

And if these provocateurs appear, rude, blatant, and rampant, we must cut them off. It is a matter of self-defense. It is a criterion of how serious the people are, who engage themselves in a grand undertaking.

But it is unacceptable to hide in underground or under one’s bed, or to bury one’s head in the sand for fear of this. We must simply do the real work that is possible now, for which new fields are opening. It is like martial arts… I was not the best Sambo fighter, but I was taught by a wonderful man, very kind and smart, Anatoli Kharlampiev. He would always say that the foundation of this kind of art is to use your opponent’s power. If the opponent is very strong and very heavy, but you know what a sweep is, then the heavier and the stronger your opponent is, the more painfully he falls.

We will gradually solve all of the problems facing us, be they informational, intellectual, or having to do with forming a worldview. Perhaps slowly, don’t be angry. But we shall certainly solve them.

But when the moment comes, and it becomes clear that perestroika-2 is taking to the streets as it did in the days of perestroika-1 … For one has to agree that no one was stopping people from assembling when the Soviet Union was being dissolved. Or when the Belavezha Accords became the groundwork for the final disintegration of what was left of the Greater Russia. They could assemble and speak out in defense of the Soviet Union or against this outrageous disintegration, when Ukraine and Belarus were torn from the body of Russia. But people did not come out to the streets. Why did they not come out? Why? Because they were not ready for it. Then why were they not ready?

We must answer these questions calmly and appropriately.

If you remember, I ended the previous program with the words of Sergey Yesenin: “Lead me to his presence, lead me to him! I want to see the man in the thick of it.” [from the poem “Pugachev”, about the leader of the eponymous 18th century peasant rebellion – translator’s note]

What was I talking about? I said that we are at a crossroads. That, theoretically, we have an immediate task: to try to more or less normalize the society that emerged after the citizens decided they wanted capitalism. Just don’t tell me they didn’t want it. They desired capitalism.


The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Henry Marsh after John La Farge, 1868


I am repeating this, but not because I want to pour salt on the wound; in June of 1991, the RSFSR, i.e. today’s Russian Federation, held direct elections to the Presidency, which was vested with quite moderate powers, not the superpowers of today. The candidates were Vladimir Zhirinovskiy, Nikolai Ryzhkov and several other people, including Boris Yeltsin.

I knew everything about that electoral process. In particular, I can swear that the process was normal, democratic, and without serious manipulation.

All applications had already been made. In June 1991, Boris Yeltsin did not hide his desire to build capitalism de facto. He was then triumphantly elected president. And I cannot believe that the people who elected him, let’s say 70 million of my fellow citizens, are all listed agents of the CIA. Because if I believe it, then I should hang myself. Why shall I work with the public then?

Then I should think something else about these people… That they were deceived, that they fell victim to shock technologies, etc. I have already talked about this many times.

In the 1993 referendum the same compatriots, whom Yeltsin and Gaidar had already robbed, and who were brainwashed with the classical formula of “yes-yes-no-yes”, voted this way:


Do you trust the President of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin? Yes
Do you approve of the socio-economic policy which the President
of the Russian Federation and the government of the Russian
Federation have been implementing since 1992?
Do you think it is necessary to hold early elections of the President
of the Russian Federation?
Do you think it is necessary to hold early elections of people’s
deputies of the Russian Federation?


Within the “Yes” responses was trust in the direction of  Yeltsin’s reforms.

In 1993, after Yeltsin had promised to lie down on the train tracks if prices would rise threefold as a result of the reforms, after everything had already happened, after the people had already been robbed because their bank savings had become worthless, when everything was already clear, when Gaidar was already smacking his lips, and everyone else was already crying over the Soviet past, our citizens voted for the Gaidar government’s economic policy to be preserved. Why? Because they were hoping that capitalism would bring salvation once built.

Later they lost their trust not in capitalism, but in Yeltsin. They spent a long time looking for a replacement. Gennady Zyuganov (who presented himself as such an absolute alternative to Boris Yeltsin and to all of the zealots of capitalism in general) never dared to speak even about revising the results of privatization, much less about building a state on the basis of the previous form of ownership of the instruments and means of production or about returning to social consumption funds. He said nothing even remotely close to this.

Anatoly Chubais comments the situation very arrogantly and peculiarly, “Yes, in 1996 we saw that Zyuganov does not aim to revise any results, he doesn’t say a word about it. Then we realized that he was broken inside.”

1996 saw peculiar elections. They were not nearly as mutated as some say now. But they were peculiar… I assure you, if 80-90% of citizens wanted Yeltsin to be removed from power at all costs in 1996, Zyuganov would become President.

But something different happened. Were some additional administrative capabilities used or not?.. Even if they were, they could have represented 10-12%, no more. There was no overwhelming anti-Yeltsin movement.

Then, disappointed with Yeltsin, people turned to Alexander Lebed. Did they turn to him with the hope of returning to Stalinist socialism? Please… Quite the contrary!

And then they turned to Putin. What hopes did they delegate to him? Hopes that capitalism would be saved, that the problem was Yeltsin: people trusted him, but he turned out to be a drunkard, a bad person, and so on and so forth. And now, finally, an athletic and reasonable person has come to power; he will strengthen power, stabilize the situation, and we will have normal capitalism.

What then is the real volume of hope that our compatriots had that it was worth it to abandon the USSR and all that they had in Soviet society in exchange for this very capitalism? They keep grabbing at every possibility to somehow preserve capitalism!

Yes, there is a gigantic potential for disappointment. But it is not pure disappointment, but rather a mix of disappointment and hope! A ruling class exists that will not give up all it has so easily. There is an international situation. And, of course, if one could find a normal way to turn capitalism into something compatible with life for the country, then it ought to be done.

But we live in a peculiar world of false mirrors. We live in a country that has been ripped apart into separate social zones. We have no society in the strict sense of the word. These are social environments. Each environment has “its own tyranny and law”. And one of these environments, called the “elite”, sees it all in a different light. They think that everything is fine. That capitalism is blooming and giving off a wonderful scent. That it must be protected and developed. That it doesn’t have to be radically rebuilt, that it is already good.

Having said,  “Lead me to his presence, lead me to him! I want to see the man in the thick of it,”, I suddenly saw this man. And everyone saw him. It is the First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Igor Shuvalov, who made some statements which were clearly far from economic in nature (if we are to believe Kommersant from March 17, 2011), and engaged in an argument with Igor Yurgens.

Mr. Yurgens says that everything needs to be “smashed” pretty damn quickly in order to create something new, otherwise modernization does not pan out.

But Shuvalov says, nothing needs to be “smashed”, that we have to slowly and calmly transform it all into something else. He writes the following: “Russia-2020 is a Russia that is economically powerful and a comfortable place to live.” A comfortable place to live for whom? We are now in 2011. For whom is Russia-2020 a comfortable country to live? Where does this word “comfortable” come from? We in Russia have a hard time grasping the different kinds of comfort, especially when we are talking about comfort 5% of the country’s population.

First of all, it is very uncomfortable to live comfortably if 95% of the country’s population lives uncomfortably. And secondly, we have the word “happiness”. But people are scared to pronounce it, because everyone wants to talk about comfort. “Comfortable!” It just tears out from the inside.

Moreover, what does “economically powerful” mean? “Economically powerful” in what sense? Mr. Kudrin, who is also trying to save capitalism in Russia, said that there is no money in the budget. Did I mishear him? There’s no money in the budget! We haven’t enough money. This will return us to the situation of the Washington Consensus. That is, to borrow large sums and fall into economic (and therefore political) dependence from our creditors. We are already piling up these loans.

Well, why is there no money? Can you explain to me why we have no money if the budget was planned based on oil prices at the level of $40-50 per barrel, while today the price of oil, as well as of all other energy commodities, exceeds $100 per barrel? Why then is there no money? We are all talking about this type of modernity, that type of modernity … Why is there no money in the budget? Well, can we not ask a simple question?

There is no money, because our industry and everything else is collapsing. Literally collapsing. And the budgeted funds are needed to stop up the gaps, which this collapse is creating. Of course, part of this money gets stolen, “there is no law against living the good life”. Against living “comfortably”, I beg your pardon. But beyond that, new gaps simply continue to open, and they require assets to stop them up, which come from surplus oil prices. And now these surplus prices are not enough! Why so? Because the gaps keep multiplying. We see fracture lines appear, and the gaps continue widen and multiply.

And are all these mantras called saving capitalism? Mr. Shuvalov writes, “If we talk about property and protecting the institutions of property, about the judicial system, about business infrastructure, about other issues, then politicians need to articulate these very values.”

Why are business infrastructure and the like being called values? What kind of axiology is this? I worked in axiological research for about a year and a half, including proto-axiology in the ancient world, the classical axiological period which some believe started with Kant and some with others. What do values have to do with this?

But if we are talking about worldview, then this group has its own worldview of some kind of blessedness. It does not hear how other groups are howling in despair. It does not hear what is gathering around it, what others think about it. The powers that be do not understand that it is not possible to become the “President of Hope” after four years of presidency, and much less so after eight or ten. That you have to explain things to your people, and not in this gibberish.

They threw together the stupidest possible form of peripheral capitalism, that is why it has begun to collapse. A peripheral and helpless capitalism, at a time when capitalism has begun to collapse across the world, when it is losing its legitimacy. We have begun to talk about modernization at a time when something is going awry with Modernity. And so on and so forth.

What kind of elite does all of this? It is the elite that lives in the deepest isolation from the popular masses. What are we to do? Are we supposed to pit these popular masses against the elite? But the masses can do nothing. They are fed up with voting, and hoping has gotten them nowhere. And now, when they go from hopes to disappointment, they will simply smash everything to pieces.

We have a disgusting state, one that is rotten, not just corrupt, but criminal in nature. It is wrought with the most wretched of characteristics. But it exists. Its only justification lies in the fact that something healthy can form within the womb of all this horridness, believe me. Large social communities, new classes, new large social groups. A society exists within this horridness, which is not terminally ill and not dead.

Russia as a country is very much alive. It is alive to a much greater extent than countries like Germany or France. And it is possible to create new and large social communities within it. But if the state ceases to exist tomorrow, then these communities will not have time to form. A mother carries a baby in her womb; she might drink and do God knows what else; she might be sick, but if she dies not in two years, but in eight or six months, then the baby is not born. Nothing will happen. There will be no future.

Decay cannot be justified by calling it “getting up from our knees” or anything of the sort… It’s disgusting. All this down-sliding and decay is disgusting. But if the alternative to this is a quick collapse, then let it better decay. And in this sense, it is appropriate here to quote not sublime classical literature, but the well-known Soviet movie “The White Sun of the Desert”, in which a thug from the warlord Abdullah’s gang asks Sukhov [a demobilized Red Army soldier who was walking back home through the sands of the desert, but turned around to save some innocent people from the warlord’s gang – translator’s note], “How do you want to die? Right away, or do you want to suffer?” Sukhov responds, “It’s better to suffer for a bit.”


Red Army soldier Sukhov. Still from the movie “The White Sun of the Desert”, 1970


It’s better to decay for a bit than to collapse all at once. And when I started to realize in 2008 that the situation smells like a new quick collapse… then it’s better decay for a bit. But “it’s better to decay for a bit” does not mean that we need to rot. We need to shoot up into the sky… And no one is talking about this. Neither Shuvalov, nor Yurgens [then Russian President Medvedev’s radically liberal advisor – translator’s note]. It is just that when Yurgens talks about his democratization and modernization “without which we cannot live,” in the language of perestroika, which would demolish everything in two years. Shuvalov, on the other hand, speaks the language of decays.

There is no split between a national capital and an anti-national capital! There is a quiet debate between people who came to Gaidar’s anniversary. It is a debate between Gaidar’s Institute for the Economy in Transition and Yurgens’ Institute. There is nothing else. They are all “Good ol’ boys, tried and true.” They all represent about the same company. It is a group of victorious liberals, a part of which want the process to unfold slowly (so that the decay would continue like this), while the other part prefers to collapse everything quickly.

Furthermore, they have opponents who say that it is desirable to import the elite from other countries. And they are dead serious when they say it. And they call themselves the nationalist opposition. Do you understand? This is the picture! Here is the real map lying on the table. And we must confront all of this.

Consequently, we are discussing our project as well as the project of Modernity and others. Why do we need this conversation? Why do we even need to talk about Modernity and its alternatives? Moreover, in a social and political situation with any semblance of normality, such a conversation is really the province of small philosophical groups. And that is why we need it, because the situation is anything but normal.

The country has lost its supports of meaning, its body of meaning. Its spine is really broken. Its brain is in chaos. This is called cognitive chaos, axiological (when speaking of values, Mr. Shuvalov means business infrastructure, but we know that values are something different, “axio” is something that fills our lives with spiritual and human content), cultural and other types of chaos. People are thrashing about in the midst of this chaos, in the midst of this vacuum. They have lost the supports that exist in a healthy society with an unbroken spine. They realize that they are drowning, and they try to find their footing, to find some bearing points. They grab at any straw, because they are not ready to form a body of meaning to replace this whirling muddle (in the era of the campaign against cosmopolitanism, Shostakovich was described as “Muddle instead of music.”)

In these circumstances, foundations of worldview are very hard to find. We must help. We have to win this fight in time. We must restore order to our consciousness before our adversaries succeed in sowing absolute chaos. And the fact that this chaos will be something other than the pseudo-liberal variety, will not make things better. It just won’t.

Our pseudo-nationalists, or as I call them, “shrinking nationalists” say that they are still waiting for the moment when 2% of the population will take to the streets and establish a new state. Now if this 2% of the population will take to the streets with this in their brains, with these “rats in the attic”, which have already been given a home there (for the new post-pseudoliberal rats are no better than the pseudo-liberal ones; they are even worse)… If these 2% begin to establish a state with all this in their brains, then there will be no state. Neither a bad state, nor a good one. Neither a fascist state, nor a liberal one. Nothing. And this needs to be understood.

Why is it necessary to discuss the project Modernity in this situation? Because the ideological basis, for which our people are searching, must be authentic. They must be full-fledged. And the map, which we provide them, the road map with the routes that they can follow, must not be a fake. It must be not a tale of Alice in Wonderland, but an accurate map of the ideological terrain that exists today: regions, territories, seas, and rivers. We need a real, intellectual, and ideological topography without which we can neither survive, nor build a worldview.

We are talking about communication between people. But communication requires language. Language is not simply the language bestowed upon us. In order for communication to be political or intellectual and political, an intellectual and political language is needed. We lack it. We lack it as a comprehensive communication tool with those like us. But we keep talking about how we are going to create a myriad of superstructures… We can blow all kinds of bubbles, but one does not go about creating structures this way. First comes language, then comes the structure. Language comes first.

Consequently, the project of Modernity is important to us because it points to the basic and fundamental quality of ideology. Ideology cannot be tied to a territory, because territory is material. No matter how much special meaning one assigns to it, no matter how sacred one makes it, it is still material. Ideology cannot be tied to the cycles of nature, because the human being is a creature that exists outside of nature to a substantial degree. Ideology can only be tied to what separates the human being from nature, both animate and inanimate: with spirit, with meaning, with the ideal, with grand social and cultural projects.

The project of Modernity is an ideology, because it refers to the social and cultural foundations of life.

“Eurasianism”, however, is not an ideology, because it refers to a territory, on which one social order or another is established.

Fascism is an ideology. A disgusting one and absolutely destructive for Russia. Must Russia also repent that it defeated the “wonderful” fascist ideology in 1945? But it has no desire to repent of this! Then what are we discussing? But fascism is an ideology.

Nationalism, however, is not an ideology. It just isn’t! Because it is unclear what is being discussed. Let’s get the understanding of it in accordance with the same Modernity project.

Through history, human communities have undergone a certain evolution. They have transformed themselves, and this has left its imprint on the body of humanity, both in culture and in real life of the peoples that exist today. Ancient “micro-elements” exist, through which humanity, before it developed full-fledged nation-states, had already declared of itself as something unprecedented and unmatched among the rest of the animate and inanimate.

There first was the clan. The clan would structure itself in accordance with its progenitor. For example, the Bible tells us about the clan of Abraham with Abraham its forefather. If one refers to the same Bible, then there is a smaller unit, a descent [the Old Slavonic and Russian translations of the Bible refer to the Twelve Tribes of Israel using the word “koleno”, meaning “descent”, to differentiate  them from “plemya”, meaning “tribe” – translator’s note]. Like Jacob’s descent. It is a significant element in a clan. The clan, in general, existed not only among the nomads, who began to build the state of Israel. In Scotland, for example, one can still find the Clan MacGregor and other clans. They exist as traces of those forms of human existence, which existed long ago. In Russia, there is the saying “What clan and tribe are you?”

Tribe is the next, larger unit than the clan. Because for a tribe to form, there needs to be a structured exchange of brides between different clans. There is a groom in one clan and a bride in another. And they need to exchange brides and grooms with each other in some institutionalized, ritual fashion. Then the tribe emerges as a stronger unit.

The next larger unit is an ethnicity, which is a collection of tribes. If classical clans (nomadic or not), before the emergence of world religions, are characterized by the simplest forms of religion, often resembling shamanism or the like, if tribes have more extensive but primitive types of paganism, then an ethnicity is a kind of an Olympic pantheon in which a central god emerges, they have their own Zeus, around whom the gods of individual tribes and clans group themselves according to some sort of subordination. If one examines all these Olympic gods, one can see that they were once the gods of separate tribes inhabiting the territory on which these tribes later united to form an ethnicity.

When does a people emerge from an ethnicity? In some poem, the lines of which have fallen into my head by coincidence, it was said, “And the tribe becomes a great people.” When a great religious form arises, a monotheistic one, then peoples emerge. Not the French ethnicity, not the ethnicities and tribes inhabiting the territory of the Middle East, but a people as the unity of faith and ethnicity. The ethnicity gains faith. It gains a great faith. And it becomes a people.


The Baptism of Russia by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1885 – 1896


I spoke in “The Judgment of Time” program, “A state is a means by which the people extends and develops its historical purpose.” A historical purpose emerges. Historically, I apologize for the tautology, it emerges only together with a great monotheistic faith, with a history that reveals some vector, not a cyclicity, but a temporal vector. Along with all of this, a people emerges, which is a very high-level form of community.

And then this form of community begins to collapse.

How does it collapse? The people are united by a single faith. The French were Catholics. But then French Huguenots appeared. And a Huguenot no longer understands why the king, the sovereign ruler, is such a sacred figure on his land, if he was anointed. Who anointed him? The Pope? Who is the Pope? For a Huguenot, he is Satan… With the beginning of a religious war, the religious identity of the people begins to lose its footing.

Furthermore, another even scarier and stranger element appears: secular people, who believe in neither the Pope, nor Luther. They believe in neither one. What shall one do with them? They appear to speak French, to tread the same ground, and to pay taxes, but they do not believe in God. As long as they are few and far between, one can burn them at the stake of the Inquisition. But then more and more of these people appear, and the Inquisition sputters out… It then turns out that secular people, non-believers, make up nearly the majority of the urban population. What is one to do with them?

How can one bring this all back together? The traditional society is collapsing. All the bonds are breaking. But the people want to preserve their community and their state. Then what do they invent? They invent a new, very powerful form of community, which in many ways is unprecedented in relation to all that came before, which is called “the nation”.

A nation is not a people. A nation is a kind of “people minus faith”. It is an identity that is no longer built on faith. What is it built on then? A nation is kind of “people minus tradition”. Pushkin wrote, “The habit is the soul of states.” If there is no habit of the soul of the state, then what is there? A new regulator appears. This regulator is the law, written and strict. The new identity no longer appeals to faith. It appeals to history, culture, language, citizenship and to “the sacred stones of the past”, i.e. the ethos.

And at this moment, when the people as a form of community is coming apart at the seams, everything goes backwards: ethnicities take the place of peoples, and tribes take the place of ethnicities. Everything nearly degenerates to the clan structure. States fall apart.

Abbé Sieyès, addressing the French in 1789 in his famous pamphlet What is the Third Estate?, said something close in meaning to, “Is it not time for us to banish the Franconian oppressors from our land? We are Gauls, not that Germanic tribe; we are the great Celts, the Gauls. But those damned Francs have subjugated us. So let us expel the Francs!” He meant Marie Antoinette and her royal clan. But subsequently, the French Convent never again sanctions this kind of speech, because referring to Gauls and Francs already means referring to tribes. Celts … Francs … Germanic tribes … It is taboo to speak in those terms. One cannot emphasize: “We are Provence”, “We are Languedoc,” “We are Occitania”, “We are Vendée.” These lands often speak languages that are quite different from each other, and exhorting this “local” origin is strictly forbidden.

When the bourgeoisie, together with Jacobins, comes into the world, it brings with it the idea of the nation. And it starts beheading everyone, who tries to break territory away, on the guillotine. To not only break Corsica away from France, but also Normandy, Provence, etc. It is obsessed with creating of a new territorial integrity, a great nation state. In this state it is forbidden to discuss who is from what clan or tribe, it is forbidden to speak of Gauls, Francs, Occitanians, Aquitanians, and God knows who else. Because when this all comes alive, the community of the people falls apart.

A people is obsessed with empire, however, one chooses to call it. A nation begins to obsess itself with the new form of the nation state. And this nation state, which was finally established in Europe in the late 18th and early 19th century, subsequently begins to conquer the whole world. But it is a nation state, rather than a tribal or clan-based community.

I returned from Vietnam two months ago. I clearly see a map in my head of all the Vietnamese ethnicities, who are different, and who speak different languages. They are all united in the nation state of Vietnam.

Sun Yat-sen, realizing that China was falling apart, that the Han are the Han, that the Manchus are the Manchus, and that the Uighurs are something completely separate, formulated the principle of “Five Races Under One Union”. He forbade squabbling between the Han and the Manchus, and anyone else. And he united them. They all formed a single great Chinese nation.

India has its own Indian nation, Indians. In India, they do not say, “We are Hindus,” because Hindus are a religion. And there are several hundred million people who profess Islam (India is a state with a very large Islamic population). Indians very often do not understand each other, southern and northern tribes speak different languages. But the unified state is bonded together by the concept of the great Indian nation!

Modernity brought with it the nation as a framework, the nation state, the law as a regulator, and classical secular culture as a way of life. The project brought with it a great many things. And these great many things were becoming rooted in every cell of the body called humanity, continuing to gradually spread throughout the world. It became the dominant type of state.

In this sense, everyone is a nationalist. There are no non-nationalists.

The question lies in whether there is a nation. In order for a nation to emerge in Russia, it must go through modernization. The nation is both a principal actor and the product of modernization. If modernization does not take place, there is no nation.

For centuries, Russians have never been a nation. They were a people with a great Orthodox mission, an imperial hyper-ethnos. In the Soviet Union, they still became the imperial focus of the Soviet structure. There can be many various forms of empire, as I have said many times. It can be democratic, even liberal. It can be authoritarian, theocratic, or monarchist. It is simply a form, which includes a “ceiling”, a great idea, from which hang the “chandeliers” of individual ethnicities and tribes, which this idea brings together.

If the “ceiling” of communism collapses, then the Soviet empire disintegrates. What common cause did the peoples, who gathered in a single empire, decide to achieve? To build communism. If there is no common cause, then why must they stay together?

So what state are we creating? Do we want to create a nation state? This is an enormous challenge. Why is it enormous? Because there are enclaves where people live, who do not wish call themselves Russians. Even in the sense of nationality…

Nationalism is not a tribal protective reflex; the heart of nationalism lies in the unity of language, citizenship, political identity, historical identity and “the sacred stones”. There is nothing else; everything else is banned from consideration. Nationalism begins from this. Look at France. It is a classical national or nationalist state that clings to these foundations, because it realizes that it will fall apart without them. And these foundations were laid down by the Great French Revolution.

But Chechnya, as well as other parts of our state, and not only border regions, for example, Tatarstan and Bashkiria, do not want to become elements of a nation state in this sense. They were an organic part of the empire.

In order to remake Russia into a nation state, one needs not only Modernity but also Jacobins in the 21st century. But this is the 21st century! It is easy to talk about purges and deep clearing operations over a glass of beer and then make jokes about the fraternity of peoples. We know this from the Soviet era. One may make light of the topic, when a strong body of the state exists. And when it does not? And when this 2% of the population having these “rats in their attic” start trying to reestablish something, they will simply destroy everything! And that is all.

It is enough to understand that if the North Caucasus is separated from Russia, then the Volga becomes exposed. Once an explosion happens along the Volga river, then the territory breaks in two, because all the pipelines converge between Bashkiria and Tatarstan. That is the end. It means famine on the European plain. It means chaos throughout the country. Moreover, any normal nationalist dreams of expanding the state. But what kind of nationalism dreams of shrinking it? What does that mean?

It is all very simple. I have already described this “pyramid”.

It has a top brass, which must be overthrown.

Below it is a repressive apparatus that will, sooner or later, be turned off.

Next is a thin layer of pseudo-liberals.

Next, one has to create quasi-fundamentalists, the “color” fundamentalists [for color revolutions – translator’s note]. If they were created in Egypt on the basis of Islamism, then here they need to be created on the basis of “shrinking nationalism”. Because God forbid if nationalism would turn out to be far from shrinking, and instead of destroying the country, it will begin to recreate it. Therefore, it is being given this shrinking quality, and it is already being programmed for self-destruction and occupation. It is all prepared in advance. Therefore, shrinking nationalism resembles the nationalism of the Jacobins to the same degree that I resemble a ballerina.

Why is this whole discussion on the project Modernity even necessary? It is necessary, because it allows one to understand how the world is structured. The world is built on the basis of certain regulators that we do not have. These regulators are called “the law”.

The law… But we were always built differently. Russia, since the times of Peter the Great, or perhaps even earlier, had no regulators based on tradition, because Peter made a rather sharp break with tradition. Whether he was right or wrong in doing so is not the topic of the present discussion. Peter is a great man who made many mistakes. It doesn’t matter at this point. Tradition was done away with. But neither did the law arise, as it exists in the classical modernist state. We can simply see it in the Russian sayings, “The law is like a telegraph post…” or “One law for the rich, and another for the poor…” and so on, and so forth.

But if traditional regulators do not work, and neither does the law, then what does work? Culture does. Russia has shown that culture can assume the role of a regulator. And already with this, it demonstrated that does not follow the path of Modernity, when the main regulator is the law, but instead that it would go a different path. A fundamentally different path. From this point of view, neither Catherine, nor our other rulers are classical modernizers. And Stalin’s collectivism is too the consequence of Russia’s culturocentrism; it is a return to a culture-centered tradition. It is not a tradition of Modernity, but a tradition of alternative forms of development of macro-human communities, macro-social communities.


Bread by Tatyana Yablonskaya, 1949


Is it now possible to return to building Modernity with its regulators in the form of law, to forming a nation based on ethos, culture, language, and citizenship, that is, on the basis of elimination of tribal reflexes? Here in Russia some say, “Russian nationals or ethnic Russians?” [In Russians, two different words exist for “Russian national” – “Rossiyanin” and for “ethnic Russian” – “Russkiy”. “Rossiyanin” is a relative neologism, which saw little use before the 1990s. – translator’s note]. Russians, yes. But Russians and Russes are different. No one forbids one to be proud of being a Russ by heritage, of belonging to a specific tribe or clan, please let him be proud of it. But one’s clan and tribe belong to the one’s private life in a nation state. They cannot be a tool for programming the state’s identity. As soon as they become this, the identity collapses. And this is the so-called shrinking nationalism wagers on.

That is not all. What does a political system with two parties assume? Why do these parties, Democratic and Republican, not fight each other to death; or more precisely, why did they not do so in the past? Because a framework exists called the “Consensus of Modernity”. And as soon as that framework collapses, these two parties find themselves looking at each other through the scope of a rifle. I see it everywhere. From England, France, and Germany to the United States and Israel. It is the same everywhere. If there is no framework of Modernity, then that is the end, and the bipartisan consensus collapses.

This means that Modernity is a highly complex structure based on certain fundamentals, certain principles of existence. It is comprehensive in the sense that one can build a map of ideology on its basis. One can build on it in giving definitions to what is Counter-Modernity, what is Postmodernity, and what is Supramodernity. But if one does not start from a comprehensive beginning, then there will be no ideology, no worldview. The cognitive chaos will not be overcome. Then we will not complete this very discussion group phase. We will create nothing. We will be hiding under our beds, underground, sending coded messages to each other. And creating “bubbles” in the form of pseudo-structures.

We need to reach an agreement on the foundations of our worldview. It is necessary to understand how full-fledged ideologies differ from those that are not. We have to understand the ideological starting points for completely rebuilding one’s worldview, for freeing oneself of the ideological clutter, of the vacuum of meaninglessness, of one’s crisis, of the cognitive chaos in one’s consciousness,clearing it all away, transforming oneself through political education and self-education, through political and intellectual activity, through the process of creating a language capable of serving as the foundation for building communities of people who think the same way you do.

All we want is not to catechize, but to provide one with a map, a high-quality map, a compass, and say, “Look: here is a river, and here is a bridge. Here is a mountain, and there is a cliff, and a swamp. You want to go from point A to point B? Then go! Choose a route.”

It is an enormous challenge of great responsibility. Can anyone keep us from beginning to address it? Don’t be ridiculous.

We are free to solve this problem along with the ones that I have listed above. So let us start solving it. If we have the necessary spiritual strength, if we have the patience, if we possess a certain internal willingness to do so. Those who were to solve it are not doing so. They are busy having discussions at the Gaidar Institute about whether they need a gradual transition or a sudden transition to achieve comfort.

They are a party of decay and a party of collapse. The elite are not having a full-fledged intellectual debate. The elite has no desire to search for a deep and profound worldview that existed in the age of Enlightenment. And which created the Great French Revolution and the Jacobins as the sons of this Enlightenment. All this is nonexistent.

Then it must emerge in what everyone across the world calls the “counter-elite.” A big community needs to emerge, one that would be ready for such a conversation, for such reformatting, a community that loves the people and that is connected with the people. The rest will follow, all the forms of real political activity will appear. As of today, they are defective. Just think, why have they turned out to be so defective over the past 20 years? But this is the fact of the matter.

If, so to speak, the Gaidar Institute is still teaching us how to live, then that is the real situation. If everything has scattered into small social environments that cannot reach any mutual agreement, then that is the real situation. If instead of a grand ideological project, all that exists is this cacophony of micro-projects, some kind of random ideologemes, and ideological dissonances, then that is the real situation.

If we have been given the historical time and complete freedom to put it all into action, but we refuse to do so, then who are we? Then that means we have to do it. And the whole point of our discussion is to put these words into action. To study our society. To attain the necessary apparatus for such a study. To change our worldview, to expand it and to base it on a solid foundation, on real footing, to develop a political language. And by combining it all together and all the while waging an informational war, to rebuild our society from within, not based on the destructive recommendations of perestroika-2, but on a constructive basis.

And let them plan their perestroika, we will block it. And we will respond to it with new social construction, with forming an identity, with resurrecting the worldview of the nation, or the people, or the imperial community. That actually depends on what we plan to do.

Therefore, these conversations, which are superfluous in any other situation, are the only possible and only lifesaving tool for today. Confucius said, “To call things by their proper names, and to say them aloud in all the marketplaces.” The Essence of Time virtual club’s sections, regional and otherwise, have to become such “marketplaces”. It should not be given unnecessary functions by refusing to do the necessary. If you believe that Russia will be not only resurrected, but that it break through from its current condition of semi-slumber, then this is what we must do. There is nothing else can be done in the midst of the regress and the profound trauma that our society was subjected to during the times of perestroika-1, and which some now want to repeat and to exacerbate.

To prevent this from happening and to overcome the trauma; these are two objectives. Because not only must we thwart any attempts to exacerbate this trauma. We must also overcome this trauma. These are the two tasks. The immediate task is a political one: to challenge perestroika-2 together with all who oppose it (and these are people whose thoughts differ widely). And the other task, the chief and ultimate one, which we are discussing in “Essence of Time”, is to carry out a revolution of worldview. To create a community around this worldview. To use the moment and to think everything through to completion. And to move from this completeness of identity to strategic action.


People by Konstantin Yuon, 1923


Source (for copy):


Essence of Time: The philosophical justification of Russia’s Messianic Claims in the 21st century

Sergey Kurginyan

Experimental Creative Centre International Public Foundation


Essence of Time is a video lecture series by Sergey Kurginyan: a political and social leader, theater director, philosopher, political scientist, and head of the Experimental Creative Centre International Public Foundation. These lectures were broadcast from February to November 2011 on the websites, and .

With its intellectual depth and acuity, with its emotional charge, and with the powerful mark of the author’s personality, this unusual lecture series aroused great interest in its audience. It served at the same time as both the “starting push” and the conceptual basis around which the virtual club of Dr. Kurginyan’s supporters, Essence of Time, was formed.

The book Essence of Time contains the transcriptions of all 41 lectures in the series. Each one of them contains Sergey Kurginyan’s thoughts about the essence of our time, about its metaphysics, its dialectics, and their reflection in the key aspects of relevant Russian and global politics. The central theme of the series is the search for paths and mechanisms to get out of the systemic and global dead end of all humanity in all of its dimensions: from the metaphysical to the gnoseological, ethical, and anthropological. And as a result, out of the sociopolitical, technological, and economical dead end.

In outlining the contours of this dead end and in stressing the necessity of understanding the entire depth, complexity, and tragedy of the accumulating problems, the author proves that it is indeed Russia, thanks to the unusual aspects of its historical fate, which still has a chance to find a way out of this dead end, and to present it to the world. But, realizing this chance is possible only if this becomes the supreme meaning of life and action for a “critical mass” of active people who have in common a deep understanding of the problems at hand.

Dr. Kurginyan’s ideas found a response, and the Essence of Time virtual club is growing into a wide Essence of Time social movement. In front of our very eyes, it is becoming a real political force.



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