Tuesday, January 17, 2023

What makes Russia what it is?


In a lengthy article by a Finnish intelligence officer who spent much time in the former Soviet Union and Russia, we find that there are many layers in the latter country, and many answers to that question.  It's a fascinating look at a nation that Winston Churchill once described as "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma".  Here's an excerpt.

We kind of have many layers of Russia. Different historical layers still influence the thinking of the Russians about how the Russians work today. If we start from that very first movement, that is, Slavic Russia. Language and entity and Russianness were born there. Also the belief that all Slavic people, as it were, are one was created there. And the Russian people, the largest of the Slavic peoples, have the duty of keeping them all in check and protecting them.

When we go further in history. With the fall of Constantinople, the traditions of Eastern Rome were transferred to Moscow. Moscow uses the term “Third and Eternal Rome” for itself. The Russians are, as it were, followers of the Eastern Roman tradition. Religion, conservatism, and the relationship to authority came from there. It means that one does not challenge authority. Authority is obtained from God. He who leads us has received authority from God to lead us. He is infallible. Authority will not be challenged under any circumstances. This idea comes from Byzantine Russia.

The third era that influenced Russian thought in a great manner is Mongol Russia. In the 1200s, the Mongols conquered Russia. They held Russia for years. That time was cruel. There are a lot of words in Russian, related to torture, taxation, and corruption that come from the Mongol language. Dominance under personal authority was rooted in the administrative culture of the Mongols. That is, there is only one khan that leads. It is he who leads, no one else. Others are passive followers. That one guy leads and takes responsibility and the initiative. When the belief of divine legitimacy to lead is attached to this, the leader will appear fairly tough in their worldview.

The corruption and cruelty also come from the Mongol era. During Mongol rule, the only ways to survive were lying, corruption, and violence. This still lives very deep in Russia’s strategic culture. When Mongol rule ended, the Mongols did not just pack their bags and disappear from Russia. Instead, they mixed with the locals. So the traditions also stayed with the people. In particular, to the leading caste. The Mongols who had previously ruled the country merged into the ruling layers, which is still visible today. When looking at genetic inheritance, they are pretty dark; dark eyes, for example. There are not many blondes in Russia.

Then came this era of turmoil. Although it was a short period of time, it had great importance to the Russians. Because then both external and internal enemies roared. The Poles who conquered Moscow and Russia did not have a strong leader. Romanov was then elected Tsar and the Russians realized that a strong leader was better than chaos.

In addition to all this, the authority comes from God and the autocrat is indeed a leader. It was stated there that only sovereignty will save Russia. It has been several hundred years in their genetic inheritance that autocracy is the only right solution. That is, autocracy is better than chaos and mayhem.

Then we came to European Russia. Peter the Great founded the city of St. Petersburg in the early 18th century on the Finnish swamp of the Neva estuary. After that, the Russians began to clash whether they were in the West or in the East. The Westernizers (Západniki) favored the West and the Slavophiles favored the East. This struggle is still going on.

Russia began to rise into a great power. As Russia modernized, they also started to mystify themselves. That is, Russia itself began to mystify itself through authors for example. They kind of built a smokescreen between us and them, consciously mystifying Russia.

Then came the great power of the Soviet Union and the Cold War. The power politics and the sphere of influence of Russia come from the Cold War era. World War II taught them that it is better to fight not in their own territory but on the territories of others. The Soviet Union lost more than 27 million people during World War II.

Authoritarian rule has followed Russian rule since the Mongol era. It hasn’t changed since then. The name of the leader has changed but authoritarian rule itself has always remained the same. Russia sees itself as the heir to the Soviet Union, as it is in some respects.

So these are the six layers of Russia.

There's much more at the link, going into detail about how those "layers" have translated into a uniquely Russian psyche and outlook on the rest of the world.  The background it provides helps us to understand how the current situation in Ukraine became what it is, and what might develop there.

The article is fascinating reading.  Highly recommended.



Gerry said...

I have a friend who spent some time in the USSR. His take away was Russians always lie. They lie about important things, not so important things and even when they don't have too. His opinion was it was a cultural response to authority, tell the boss what he or she wants to hear.

He said it made doing business almost impossible and social interaction difficult to deal with. He made quite a bit of money but said it was because he never ever trusted his partners and left when he thought things were going bad,

Anonymous said...

thanks for the russian history read

James said...

The hardest thing for people to learn is that other people have systems and organizations and truths that are real to them ans insane to others. The American insistence on their version of personal rights for example.

boron said...

If you don't mind, I'd like to copy myself from another blog today
"Quite a few writers (and commenters) are confusing Stalin’s Soviet Republic(s) with Putin’s Russia; they are not the same, not even that similar, nor are the goals of either leader analogous: don’t conflate or confuse the two."

Rob said...

That was good!
243 years of Mongol rule (1237–1480) "During Mongol rule, the only ways to survive were lying, corruption, and violence". And that was all before Columbus found the Americas.

We're talking about a long time having a single strong man in charge... That does start to explain Putin & his place in Russia and Russia in general.

Beans said...

To condense it all down, Russians don't trust anyone. They don't even trust themselves. Especially their very own countrymen. And they are paranoid to a level we in the 'free' world just don't understand. More paranoid than a shopkeeper covered in 100 dollar bills at 3am on the New York subway.

And as Gerry said, they lie. Everything is a lie. This is, after all, the country that gave us the phrase 'Potemkin Villages.'

Aesop said...

What makes Russia what it is?

Vodka (and the attendant Fetal Alcohol Syndrome), paranoia, a massive inferiority complex, delusions of grandeur, multiple generations of rule by serial rapists and thugs, and a healthy annual dose of seasonal affective disorder. Probably in equal parts.

Since you asked.

MrGarabaldi said...

Hey Peter;

Very good article, i will add a couple of things, Like everyone else said, "The Russians will lie when the truth will serve them better", the Minsk sinking reinforced that. Also there is a certain fatalism to the Russian character, they expect bad things to happen to them because they are Russian, but they will endure because they are Russian. Does that make sense? Odd, but it is a Russian attitude because they are Russian ;)

Chris Nelson said...

What makes United States what it is?

Drugs, insanity, apathy, laziness, multiple generations of rule by pedophiles and kleptocrats and the most gullible, propaganda believing idiots following the latest thing as long as they have their sportsball and porn.

Zaphod said...

OK Boomers. Now go read Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, and Tolstoy. It's all so simple, isn't it? Goebbels would be proud of the 'Asiatic Hordes' riffing.

Anonymous said...

Remember the 1984 book New Lies for Old by defector Anatoliy Golitsyn? He argued that a breakup of the Soviet system was coming as part of the long term strategic plan of the USSR.

Unknown said...

This article begs for an old-fashioned fisking.

1. Churchhill made that statement during Commie period.

2. Best way to end the nightmare in the Ukraine----how about we, that is the West stop shoving money to a comedian who plays the piano with his dong so the people he rules people can die? We started this after all. We could end it right quickly.

3. ----prevent Russia from moving further west------hahahaha, oh, wait, the author is pretending to be serious.

4. A near naked assertion that the Tsar is infallible. Not what I was seeing from my little peek into Russia. Strong, competent, loves his nation---sure.

5. So someone complains to Vlad on National TV about a governor. You know what, ten thousand times a day in America someone complains to the manager at a store about the service or goods given to them by a store clerk. A lot of the time the store manager just says ‘fix it or make them happy’ or something.

Am I losing IQ points reading this?

6. Russia is corrupt. Well, yes. So is every other nation in the world. Most corrupt…...well, not America because there is Haiti, but America has to be pretty high. Or maybe not America, just DC, Wall Street, and Hollywood.

7. NATO is besieging Russia….well, considering that we started the war in Ukraine, and we’re legally at war with Russia right now (sending in troops and weapons), this seems like a reasonable thing for the Russians to believe.

8. The Filthy Rooskies want a –gasp—buffer zone. Y’know, if China was putting missiles into Mexico, we in America would be very upset. There would be explosions. Lots of them. Very tense words. Tank columns crossing the Rio Grande. That type of thing.

Why? Because we want a buffer zone.

9. Truth---hmmm. We’re the people who tell the world that a girl can be a boy. That gay marriage aka ceremonialized perverse deviancy is A OK.

The Russians look at us and see, supposedly, a nation that one cannot make a deal with because we are unable to keep our word, or so I’ve heard.

We should ask the varied Indian tribes about the US gov’ts honesty.

10. Russians have doublethink---hahahahaha! I live in a land where people get in trouble for saying obvious facts in public, or even not quickly condemning the sayer of such truths quickly enough. Maybe in Finland, plain spoken honesty is the standard, but it sure is not in America, not among our lords and ladies anyways.

Finns I suspect need to fix their own problems. I definitely know that America does. We have no business going about as if we are the Light of the World when our Lamp is spewing toxic gasses. First turn to Christ, and fix your own land, and pray for peace.

PeterW. said...

Other peoples and other cultures are different.
Which means that we CANNOT approach them with the idea that they are like us, and want the same things we do.
(Ergo, the multiculturalists are idiots, but that’s another discussion).

Yes, the Russians are serial liars. “Maskirovka” is a formal part of their military and political doctrine. Judge them according to how they ACT, not according to what they say…… unless the two correlate. One of the reasons that they have done so poorly in Ukraine, is that tendency to bullshit.
It is also why they MUST lose , and lose in a very obvious manner. They do not respect honesty, only strength, and retaining Ukrainian territory after this war will be presented to the arussian population as a success, while treaties and ceasefires will be regarded as evidence of weakness on the West’s part, and opportunities to rebuild and rearm.
There are no easy and safe ways out of this.

On military lying. https://youtu.be/Fz59GWeTIik

They are also inherently corrupt as a society. Yes, there are levels of corruption here and in the US, but anyone who thinks that there is some level of moral equivalence is bullshitting themselves.

Enjoy the video. The author has just the right level of Australian irony.

Unknown said...

I hope they don't want the same thing we do because WE, that is our so called elites, want to shred Russia and turn it into a gay disco. I don't think that is their goal with the Ukraine and the Donbass.

In fact, we can ask them what their goal is:
1. Secure the lives of Russian speakers in the Donbass from terror attacks by their'own' gov't.
2. Demilatarize Ukraine.
3. Keep Ukraine out of NATO.
4. Get rid of the Nazis in Ukraine.

#4 is the only one that leaves me a bit uncertain. All of the above would apply if Mexico was doing to the USA what Ukraine was doing to Russia.

I'm told that the Russians are serial liars. Good thing I didn't just go through the Covid mess with Fauci lying right and left, the Russiagate hoax, the clot shot getting forced on people, the 'J6 Insurrection' which was nothing of the kind, and giving Trump's job to a mannequin when everyone knows Trump won.

If I had I might start to think that the USG was the enemy of the American People and not to be trusted at all.

The Russians offered a Christmas Truce which I think Zelensky rejected. Was that a sign of weakness on their part, or humanity?

Let us be clear. The Globohomo Clown World Establishment is the bad guys. They run America as their personal oligarchy, and our votes don't matter. And they desperately want war with Ukraine, even after Russia negotiated for years for its very reasonable desires not to be threatened.

This war is done by Biden's handlers.

PeterW. said...


Russia signed multiple commitments guaranteeing Ukraine the Rights to Sovereignty and security of its borders…..
Neither they, not you are in any position to point the finger at others.

Security means a functional military - so Russia has broken its promise.
Security means that foreign nations don’t invade. - So Russia has broken its promise.
Sovereignty means that Ukraine gets to make its own internal laws and deal with it’s own problems - so Russia has broken its promise.
Sovereignty means that Ukraine gets to sign its own treaties and set its own foreign policy …. Yet another broken Russian promise.

One of the primary laws of war is that the problem that the war is supposed to solve, is greater than the problems caused by the war. Russia has killed more RUSSIAN-SPEAKING Ukrainians in the eastern oblasts than were killed previously, and that is without counting the casualties of the wider war.

It is hypocritical in the extreme to claim that Western nations supplying weapons to Ukraine makes them “at war” with Russia, while denying that the Russian supply of weapons to Donbas seperatists in 2014 was not Russia engaging in war against Ukraine.

froginblender said...

A Ukrainian on LinkedIn posts frequently on Ukrainian and Russian history. I have no way of judging how accurate his postings are, but they paint a very different picture than the one I had. Don't know if this link to his writings will work: https://www.linkedin.com/in/volodymyrkukharenko/recent-activity/shares/

What seems to be clear, in any case, is that this conflict did not start in 2014. Nor did it start with the Holodomor. The bitter grudges go back much longer than that -- many centuries -- and center around who can claim to be the more authentic inheritor of a culture that we in the West reflexively, without much consideration, believe to be Russian. Apparently many Ukrainians like Mr. Kukharenko think the Russians ("Muscovites", he calls them) are Johnny-come-lately additions to the culture, little more than hopped-up savages who speak a language that originated as a form of pidgin, or Creole-like, Ukrainian.

What a mess! Why ever did we get involved, why are we staying involved?

Unknown said...


I am willing to agree Russia was at war with Ukrainei n 2014 if you're willing to agree that America, Gemrany, England, and Poland are currently at war with Russia.

You pretty clearly don't care about any of the above in your post. You're just throwing up chaff. You want America and Europe in a war with Russia. The American Establishment, the Uniparty, wants the same thing.

America does not allow Mexico to do whatever it wants in regards to foreign policy. Nor should we. I guess that means Mexico is not sovereign.

I'd like to go back to the corruption of Russia point, which I have realized is more mental confusion. Does the USA go to war with a country because said country is corrupt? Well, I hope not, because that's a really dumb reason. We'd be at war with 3/4ths of the world.

Froginblender is correct.
Zaphod with his charge of OK Boomer is correct about this war. This is a Boomertastic adventure.

I will stop here.

Don't mind me. said...

Russia didn't start this war, we did in 2014. (admitted to by Victoria Neuland)
We have sabotaged every potential agreement between Russia and Ukraine. (admitted to by Angela Merkel)

The wack jobs in charge of the West have been using Ukraine as a money laundering mecca as well as the most profitable arms deal since WWII. And we're paying for it.

Criticisms of the Russian character and such is disingenuous; there are bigger more terrifying aspects to the whole debacle that we should be focusing on and the problem isn't Russia. It's Washington DC and NATO.