August 1, 2017 – Fort Russ News –
Op-ed by Padraig Joseph McGrath – “The Irish Crimean”
Yesterday, I had a sit-down for about 90 minutes with Yakov Slytsky, director of the Crimean Council of Ministers’ Department of Inter-Ethnic Relations. Yakov is always a fascinating man to talk to – informative and deeply experienced in Crimea’s machinery of government, both before and after the unification. The details he conveys are always highly illuminating.
He made one point, in particular, which struck me as deeply resonant. He framed it something like this:
The western powers have always wanted to destroy Russia – during both Tsarist and Soviet times, and up to the present day – because Russia’s eternal tradition of power-verticality means that no level of power higher or more sublime than the power of the government can exist. In Russia, there is no sublime realm of power which operates above politics.
As previously stated, this holds whether we’re discussing Tsarist Russia, the Soviet Union, or present-day Russia. It’s one of the historically stable defining characteristics of Russian modernity.
In practical terms, either the government holds absolute power, or big business and the financial sector hold absolute power.
Forget about liberal and libertarian daydreaming – in practice, our only options are;
1. Statist authoritarianism,
2. The tyranny of capital.
Russia’s traditional political authoritarianism has always prevented scenario #2. Russia has oligarchs and former oligarchs, but their property-rights have never been treated as sacrosanct by the state. This is a key point – whether we’re discussing Tsarist Russia, the Soviet Union, or present-day Russia, Russian society has never seen property-rights as morally axiomatic, or as central to its conception of freedom.
Russians have a much deeper conception of “freedom” – building a conception of freedom around a principle like “property-rights” would seem absurdly trivial to them.
And apart from its absurd triviality, it should be obvious to anyone, whether they were Russian or not, that building a conception of “freedom” around property-rights would mean freedom only for the rich.
Anybody who wasn’t deliberately obtuse would see that.
Yes, Russia has oligarchs, but this point was key in Yakov’s view – Russia has no trans-national corporations. In Russia, the most sublime level of power has never been commercial or financial power, but political power.
And that, in Yakov’s view, is most centrally why there has been an ongoing project to dismember Russia harboured by Russia’s westerly neighbours. This project has been ongoing for 200 years or more. We can trace it at least to the early 19th century, and possibly all the way back to the 16th century.
Padraig McGrath was born in the Republic of Ireland in 1973. He has lived in Britain, Germany and the Czech Republic, and has published journalism and commentary on social and philosophical issues for a number of media for 15 years. He moved to Simferopol, Crimea in December 2013, 3 months before Crimea’s re-unification with Russia, and still lives there.