Putin’s speech On the 1030th Anniversary of the Baptism of Russia
On July 28, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a speech which I would take the liberty of calling his “ideological Munich speech 3.0” or “worldview Munich speech 3.0.” To recall, Putin delivered his famous Munich speech in 2007, in which he for the first time criticized and condemned the unipolar world system – or, to put it more bluntly, American globalism. I called Putin’s March 2018 Address to the Federal Assembly his “Munich 2.0”
Despite the revolutionary nature of Putin’s appeal at that time, there was no spiritual or ideological alternative to Pax Americana. He demanded only one thing from the number one superpower: respect for the legitimate and natural right for human societies to develop in their own diverse paths.
Eurocentrism, a form of spiritual and cultural racism, has undergone strong mutations since it emigrated to the United States. It has lost the “European elegance” and taken on primitive and mercantilistic forms. If Eurocentrism has some justification in the charm of European culture (as the Russian Byzantine philosopher Konstantin Leontiev believed European Romano-German culture to be the highest cultural achievement of mankind, then Americanism relies only on rough and primitive, military and economic force. It is the reign of the cultural savage, not civilization.
That is why it is not appropriate to compare the US to the Roman Empire. The Ancient Romans might have looked culturally primitive in comparison to the Hellenes (Greeks), from whom they borrowed their high culture. But in general, Rome was the cultural center of Europe and the Mediterranean. What kind of cultural superiority can we talk about in the case of the US?
On July 28, Vladimir Putin continued and developed his Munich speech with a declaration of his ideological program, his worldview. This date was not chosen by chance.
On this day the Russian Orthodox Church and all of Russia celebrated the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus. Even from the point of view of a secular historian of culture, this date was of crucial importance. If in 862 (in many respects the conditional date of the beginning of the Russian statehood with the calling of Rurik to kingship) the state body of Russia was born, then it was in 988 that the soul of Russia was born.
Arnold Toynbee believed that the core of any civilization (what his predecessor Danilevsky called “cultural and historical type”) is religion, around which culture forms like skin over fruit. Therefore, the year 988, when Russia was baptized at the hands of the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the birthyear of Russian culture.
Let us cite a few crucial passages from Putin’s speech.
“The Baptism of Rus was a major turning point in our history, an event accelerating civilization, transforming spiritual strength. It determined Russia’s further centuries-long path and influenced global development.”
This is an absolutely correct statement of an historical fact.
“Baptism was the starting point for the development of Russian statehood, the true spiritual birth of our ancestors, the definition of their identity, the heyday of national culture and education, as well as the development of multifaceted ties with other countries.”
These politically correct formulations can be reduced to one simple essence: Orthodoxy is the Russian faith and the basis of Russian culture, the formative core around which the cultural traditions of the small and big peoples of Russia were strung.
What does this statement mean? To whom is it addressed? How might it be perceived by Russia’s friends who do not belong to the Orthodox spiritual tradition or consider themselves agnostics?
Frankly, many voices in Russia have criticized Putin’s statements with hostility, as can be seen on the pages of one of Russia’s largest news agencies, RIA Novosti. However, I believe that attacks on Putin’s Orthodox speech can be explained in the context of the general ideological war against Russia waged by forces outside and inside the country. Such critics are representatives of the “one-dimensional man” generation (Marcuse), spiritual primates in the likes of Ksenia Sobchak and the fifth column in the face of the many liberals in government. These people could not take Putin’s speech otherwise by virtue of their ideology and goals.
Many years ago, in an interview with the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, I read a deep and, of course, right idea: Dostoevsky’s Russia is worse for the West than Lenin’s Russia. Paradoxically, much of the modern Russian left has combined the ideals of Dostoevsky and Lenin, and their “leftism” is inseparable from the traditions of Russian state patriotism and Orthodoxy. Only some radical Russian leftists are motivated by anti-patriotism and anti-Christian sentiments, and have nowhere else but to join with the liberals in opposing the Russian state and Russian spirituality. Today’s liberals are in no small part the heirs of Russophobic atheists. If we look at the biographies of the modern leaders of the Russian liberal camp, we will see that most of them are children and grandchildren of the Soviet party nomenclature or the repressive Cheka–NKVD. Today, the ideological form of expression of their Russophobia is liberalism – yesterday it was atheistic communism.
Therefore, I believe that the struggle for historical Russia is a struggle against liberal internationalism. The Russian patriotic camp has integrated the traditions of not only Russian statehood and spirituality, but also the traditions of “Russian socialism”, a term belonging to Dostoevsky which I myself identify with. The combination of Orthodox spirituality, socialist ideas, and popular movements could be seen in the Donbass uprising, whose ideals were at once “left” and Orthodox Christian.
Meanwhile, to provide an antithesis, post-Maidan Ukraine, through the mouth of “President” Poroshenko, has said that the “Baptism of Ukraine” is “evidence of Ukraine’s European choice”, which emphasized the anti-Christian essence of the regime, insofar as Christianity for them is only of an instrumental value serving as a transition to modern non-Christian Europe. The “baptism” has thus been twisted to justify Ukraine’s “aspiration” for the “liberal European paradise” that the Kiev regime has forced to the point of waging war on half of the country.
The Russian Federation was part of the liberal Western project. But President Putin, the new generation of Russian politicians, and society as a whole are moving in the direction of the opposite of liberalism and the death of Russian statehood. Vladimir Putin has done a great deal to revive the state body of Russia, first and foremost the army, navy and military industry. But there is an even more difficult task ahead of us: the revival of Russia as an independent spiritual force, its liberation from the terrible spiritual and ideological yoke of the West.
It is no accident that voices in Russia have already started talking about replacing the Constitution of 1993, which was written under the diktat of American “consultants” and prohibits any state ideology or identity.
I think that Putin’s speech on July 28, 2018 was historic. It was addressed at once to the ideological majority of our society – those who consider themselves to be Orthodox or of an Orthodox culture – and representatives of Russia’s other traditional faiths – Islam and Buddhism, as well as Russia’s friends abroad. Putin’s Orthodox speech was a program for restoring the unity of the Russian people, including those oppressed by the regime in Ukraine, which is an integral part of the Russian Orthodox world.
Putin’s speech was also a message to Russia’s foreign friends concerning the fight against the quasi-religion of liberalism which blurs the line between good and evil and has served as the worldview of oligarchic capitalism and the domination of transnational corporations. Putin’s unabashed recognition of Russia’ spiritual identity is an outstretched hand towards the peoples of Europe who are losing their identities amidst spiritual decay today. It was a triumphant salute to the values of spirituality and civilization by the President of the country leading the resistance to the modern unipolar world. As such, Putin’s baptismal address, given all the background we have presented, can be seen as a demonstration that peoples have the right to embrace their age-old identities that made them who they are.
What Putin left unsaid in his 2007 Munich speech, he thus expressed in a subtle, but spiritually profound way in his 2018 “baptismal Munich.”