We were given an unseen beauty
And unheard richness,
This is Russia.
However, the stupid children spent it all.
These are Russians. (2)
V.V. Rozanov (1915)
Let’s start first with the myth. For already more than a hundred of years the idea of some mysterious Russian soul strongly established in Russian literature. I think it was Nikolay Alexandrovich Berdyaev who said about it best of all. Back in the beginning of the 20th century he wrote: “Russia will always stay an undiscovered mystery for us. Russia has contradictory and antinomic nature” (2). The lines of Fedor Tyutchev:
“Russia is baffling to the mind
Not subject to the common measure
Her ways - of a peculiar kind
One only can have faith in Russia”.
Then it was Berdyaev who wrote: “The antagonisms of Russian existence always found their reflection in Russian literature and philosophy. The creative works of Russian soul are as binary as Russian’s history”. Then he develops his observation: “The image of Dostoevsky is as binary as the image of Russia. It evokes the opposite feelings. The fathomless depth and immense height combine with some kind of meanness, baseness, lack of dignity and slavery. The immense love to people, indeed the Christ’s love combine with misanthropy and cruelty. Craving for absolute freedom in Christ co-exists with the slave obedience. It’s Russia, isn’t it?” – He makes the conclusion.
The amazingly apt analytic observations, which he called in one of his works with one single word - “absurd”. However, with time this absurd developed into the myth about some mysterious Russian soul. Slavophils particularly liked this revelation. They really slobbered savoring their mysteriousness, because they liked looking mysterious. In fact, it isn’t so difficult (according to Berdyaev) to explain this so called mysteriousness, but rather “super antipathy” if one traces down the history of the formation of Russian nation from the very moment of its birth. Though one should start its research not from Velikorosses of Moscow, but from the earlier period – uterine – Kiev Russia, when the history first heard of Ruses and Russians.
However, let’s address ourselves to more earlier analogies. The reader would understand soon the propriety of such retreat: the thing is that everything in this world could be understood in comparison.
Well, the Ancient Greece. In the 9th – 8th centuries before A.D. the belligerent Dorian tribe (ethnic group, people) came to the peninsular of Peloponnesus. They conquered the native inhabitants – Helots and founded here the state called Sparta. They started referring themselves as Spartans. So, what is so peculiar with this state that came to reading-books on history?
The peculiarity of this state was that first, the residents of Sparta were represented only by two ethnic groups: Spartiats and Helots; second, these ethnic groups never mixed, though they lived in one single state. Mixed marriages were not only welcomed, but were prohibited. This way they lived together fully depending on each other, but for many years they never violated the accepted rules. Helots were engaged in agriculture supplying the population of the state with food, and Spartans (Spartiats) kept away from farming and fully devoted themselves to military profession (3). Thus, the ethnic belonging defined the division of labor as well. However, the profession of a military belonged to high class. Though, in ancient and even medieval times the military caste took the highest hierarchic position in any state. That is why it’s no wonder that the mixture of ethnic groups didn’t take place when the class boundaries coincided with the ethnic ones.
The Spartan state existed for a little less than one thousand of years and then disappeared. However, it appeared that it wasn’t a single state of this kind. The history knows more examples when the whole ethnic group locked oneself in the class frameworks. Because of this for many centuries they got isolated and forcibly limited in development because people – class became incomplete for a certain historic period and consequently it became inferior as people acquiring the features and traits of only one class. As a result some people won (e.g. Jews) the others lost and disappeared from the ethnic map of the world. Only one people – class that went through the thousands of years preserved itself like an ethnic group, but only due to the successful escape from its historic native land where it expected nothing by complete physical extermination – these are Romas (Gypsies). However, this is a digression.
The Spartan phenomenon would repeat once more a few centuries later on Balkan Peninsula. In the 6th century a powerful state called Avar Kaganate appeared in the Basin of Danube River. Its political system was almost completely like the Spartan one. Then the Turk tribe union called Avar came to the Slavic lands of Dulebs and founded here the state in many respects similar to the Spartan one. Avars, who found Slavs as obedient slaves unable to military valor, keep oneself aloof from agriculture and completely placed the troubles of goods supply of the state on obedient Dulebs. As far as Avars concerned, they were engaged in military profession and made raids on the neighbor states. The history testifies for example how three hundreds thousand Avar army invaded Byzantium and for several months besieged Constantinople. However, what is interesting for us in this fact is that Avar army had no Slavic recruits. Avars made their devastating raids on European states without recruiting the conquered ethnic groups to their army. This very fact became the cause of collapse of Kaganate after the destructive defeat from Karl the Great. Avar Kaganate, like Avars (Obrs) themselves got lost at once from the surface of the Earth.
This is what the locking of the whole people in the frames of one single class, even one of the most privileged, could result in. Now it’s high time to draw our attention to the Slavic tribes.
It’s a common knowledge that they appeared somewhere in the centre of Europe (on the territory of present Germany) and step by step started spreading east and south taking free lands because they weren’t famous for their warlike nature and preferred occupying free lands. That is why the scarcely inhabited Eastern Europe became the main place of their settlement. Their natural economy was based on extensive farming. They burned the plots of forest and cultivated it as far as the land gave yield. They also practiced apiculture, collecting and hunting. Then they left the exhausted land and devastated surroundings and moved to another territory.
In the 8th – 9th century these very Slavs were found by Normans (north people) who headed from Scandinavia to the south by the system of waterways up to the fabulous Greece. Normans (or Vikings) had enterprising and warlike nature. In Middle Ages they felt cramped in their native land and they rushed on their boats to conquer Europe and even America.
Unlike Avars and other step conquerors the Viking’s army was quite small – only several hundreds worriers. Nevertheless, it didn’t mean a lot of work for them to conquer a vast territory inhabited by Slavic tribes. Slavs resign oneself to the enemy (Varangians) with obedience and not only agreed to pay them the tribute, but accept other conditions that limited their freedom. Thus, the first Slavic dukedom states were founded in Eastern Europe. The Scandinavian tribe that subdued Slavs who inhabited the territory on the way to Byzantium called themselves Ruses. Consequently, all the neighboring population was also started referring to as Russian, in other words belonged to Ruses. Thus, all Slavic population dependent on Ruses became Russian. This is where the ethnonim Russian came from. However, it wasn’t represented by a noun, but by an adjective. This ethnonim didn’t define the name of the ethnic group, but it’s belonging to the master whose very name the history preserved.
However, the case didn’t end with this incident. On the contrary, it had great consequences because the form completely satisfied with the matter. Like Sparta, Varangians-Ruses after they founded the state consisting of two ethnic groups (Scandinavians and Slavs) took the privileged social position leaving their subjects the role of a lower class. It is reasonable that the attitude to this lower class was corresponding. The Slavic word smerd that meant a person belonging to communal-rural profession in the language of the higher military class acquired the neglecting shade (this is from where the word smerdet’ (smell) came from). Like in Sparta, there were strict ethnic-class limitations in Russia. First of all there was aversion of mixed marriages between two ethnic groups. The higher class did not take brides among the subject Slavs because of disregard attitude to them. They took brides from the neighbor states observing the hierarchic principle. Varangian warriors took wives first from the military campaigns then started practicing matchmaking with the warlike step Turk neighbors, thus turning marriage into political unions. This practice became so widespread that the famous Duke Ihor of “The Word About Ihor’s Regiment” was himself of Polovets origin almost more than for a half because his mother and grandmother were Polovets. Khan Konchak against whom Duke Ihor started war was his relative. And it was not only because Ihor married Konchak’s daughter soon (6). In other words the tribe of Ruses already after several generations acquired such international nature that it recalled their Scandinavian origin only due to the annalistic sources. Nevertheless, any mixed marriages with the subject Slavs were out of the question: the class boundaries were irresistible barrier to such family ties.
However, the Spartan phenomenon transferred to the expanses of Eastern Europe acquired its own peculiarity. The thing is that Varangians, regardless their small number subdued the vast territory inhabited by numerous Slavic tribes. Holding such state in its boundaries required big money. For them it was easier to take this money in predatory campaigns. That is why one of the first Kiev Dukes Olgerd (Oleg) recruited the subject Slavs to his army and rushed with that big gang to the walls of Tsargrad. Indeed, he didn’t take the town, but inspired fear. In fact, it was his aim: he returned with the desired plunder.
However, making use of Slavs in military campaign Ruses didn’t violate the class laws: they didn’t take Slavs to their caste, but appointed them the role of common executors without the right to join the military class. These conditions, adopted by Duke Oleg were strictly observed for thousands year existence of Russian state. The initial ethnic groups that formed the Russian people were already forgotten, because not only Slavs started referring themselves as Russians, but Ruses themselves who forgot their native language. The capital of Russian State was already transferred from Kiev to Moscow where the governing caste proclaimed oneself Velikorosses and humiliatingly called Kievlyans Malorosses. Nevertheless, the class laws that were adopted back in the dawn of the formation of Russian state were observed as before: Slavs played the role of lower class and non-Slavic elite that represented almost one fifth or one sixth of the whole population of the state kept on governing. At this the people recruited to the army from the lower classes had no right to take key positions. Even in the times of distempers and people’s disorders only the person belonging to the higher class could lead the people’s army as it happened for example in “Distemper Time” when unknown Duke Pozharsky suddenly leaded the people’s Army that saved the state from the foreign conquest.
Later when Rurikoviches were changed by Romanovs whose relatives weren’t also of Slavic origin, but of Prussians, the class laws preserved the tradition of many centuries: recruits among Slavs – peasants as they came to the Army being an ordinary soldiers left it after 25 years of military service remaining the same ordinary soldiers. However, the noble non-Slavs – Russians acquired military ranks automatically from their very childhood. From the very birth they were enrolled in the Army according to their social origin.
Thus, ethnic – class division of two peoples united by one ethnonim kept on existing regardless many centuries co-existence in one single state. There wasn’t any mixing between them. In case there were individual cases this could raise the scandal that undermined the basis of the society and became known to the whole state (for example the marriage of Earl Sheremet’ev on his servant). Even among the representatives of the lower gentry that lived in their estates and inter-related closely with their serf peasants such excess were strictly blamed. That is why if something like this took place it wasn’t made public because of the fear of ostracism. The class isolation in Russia and in Tsarist Russia was so strict that it even didn’t allow the feudal “right of the first night” that was so widespread in Western Europe in Middle Ages in the times of existence of Feudalism. As we know the Feudalism in Russia lasted up to the middle of the 19th century. With all that lawlessness towards Slavic – peasant population taking place, the members of the gentry that is, non – Slavs like a plague avoided any intimate relations with their serfs. Only belles-lettres sometimes dared to touch this theme, but very carefully. For example Pushkin in “Belkin’s Stories” touched this theme in his story “The Station Inspector”.
Regardless these strictest conditions of class isolation of Russians from Russians the injection of foreign blood into both these ethnic groups – classes continued. As far as “Russian non-Slavs” concerned, in other words the class of gentry headed by Princes, it is a common fact that their kindly feelings towards their Turk neighbors started back in the times of the very foundation of Russian state. After the arrival of the new wave of Turks – Tatars who included the Russian Dukedoms into their empire the process of mixing with Turks got far more intensive. However, what is peculiar is that both “Russian non-Slavs” and “Russian Slavs” accepted Turks into their midst selectively. In other words noble Turks became Russian noblemen (it envisaged an obligatory adoption of Orthodoxy). The common Turks started forming the class of free Cossacks - military servicemen who were allowed to marry serf Slavs considering that both of them were of the same religion.
So it went on up until the beginning of the 18th century before Peter’s times. “Russian non-Slavs” at that time reinforced with 92 prince families, 50 boyars families, 13 earl families and more than half thousand of old noble families that had the Tatar ancestors. Three of these newly converted Russians who had pure Tatar blood (that is not Rurikoviches) became Russian Tsars (Boris and Fedor Godunov and Simeon Bekbulatovich). Only Ivan the Horrible appeared to be half-Tatar because his mother Elena Glinskaya was Tatar of Chingizid descent. This very fact gave Ivan the 4th the right to pretend to the title of Tsar, the title that only Chingizids had right to inherit. The mother of another one Tsar – Peter the 1st, Natalya Naryshkina was the daughter of Boyar Naryshkin the former noble Crimean Tatar (4).
However, starting right from Peter the 1st the heirs aimed their amorous and political efforts exclusively at the West. Since than only so called Germans occupied the Russian throne (5). Correspondingly, the Russian nobility reinforced by numerous immigrants from Western Europe. It’s natural that there were no Slavs among them.
Peter the 1st, after he “cut the window to Europe” also opened the gates that allowed all kinds of western immigrants to show the initiative on Russian expanses. Many of them after acquisition of Russian citizenship got russianaized very soon and started playing the significant role in the political life of the state. The class of “Russian non – Slavs” after they took fresh forces to their ranks lost their solidity. This resulted in appearance of so called “Westerners” and “Slavophils”. As long as all this went on within the class of “Russian non-Slavs” (Slavs – peasants were far from high politics) in fact Slavophils were represented by Russians from amongst newly-converted Turks such as the Aksakovs, the Elagins, the Sverbeevs, the Kirievskys and other descendants of former Tatars (1). Of course these “advocates” of Slavdom understood that “Russian Slav” could not accept the mentality of western Europeans: the conditions that formed these peoples were too different. They considered that the intrusion of the Westerner to Russian expanse would disastrous for “Russian Slav” who did not used to western pace of life. That is why they opposed the dominance of Westerners defending so-called Russia's "special way" of development. However, at this no “Slavophil” got around subdividing Russian people into these two separate peoples that de facto co-existed for almost one thousand years and never became one single people with common national traits and common mentality. Slavophils regarded Russian nation as a single whole and mixed in the common stock the qualities of completely different peoples. That is why the absurd that Berdyaev was mentioned took place.
Slavophils never understood that there are two different peoples that live in Russia. They called with one name, but they are completely different, though they lived together, even in a jumble, but for all that they never merged.
It was the revolution of 1917 that could violate these thousands year basis. The October revolution resulted in armed confrontation between two Russian peoples that lead to civil war in which Russian Slavs eventually overcame their conquers and oppressors of Russian non-Slavs (almost one thousand years later). In this matter the First World War played into their hand. It made “Russian non-Slavs” arm “Russian Slavs”. Taking advantage of the overwhelming majority “Russian Slavs” took the victory partly exterminating the armed enemy it battles, partly driving it out of the state. The rest of the representatives of the former mighty class were kept on repressing on class basis for tens of years by new “hegemons”. Only those who resigned, broke and were unable to resistance were left to carry out a miserable life. So it lasted for 70 years.
The next revolution of 1991 end this victorious triumph of “Russian Slavs” reviving the unlucky attempt of February Bourgeois Revolution of 1917. “Russian non-Slavs” revived regardless their destructive defeat in the civil war. Though they evidently were in minority and in a qualitative sense they also differed from the former Russian non-Slavs because they mixed with Slavs during the Soviet period. However, they won the last revolution not due to their power but rather because of the weakness of the enemy who was unable to govern the state. In fact the restorers seized power not in the result of bloody battle, but by means of intellectual overturn that Russian intellectuals loose because of their very low intellectual abilities. You see, after they took power in 1917 in fact they restored the feudalism with serfdom because the rebelled Slavs of Russia for all their thousand year history didn’t know any other way of life. In short, the intellectual abilities and political imagination of “Russian Slavs” appeared of not due level, to put it mildly. That is why the state of “Russian Slavs” became bankrupt because it did not stand the world’s economic competition. The former rural slaves failed to govern the great country. That was the result of the policy of genocide and removal of “Russian non-Slaves” from the governance. The thing is that the “hegemons” who first expatriated and then with wild hatred methodically exterminated “the rotten intellectuals” cut the branch on which they were going to sit for a long time. They thought that they could themselves acquire enough knowledge to compete with the rest progressive peoples. However, the slave who for thousands years of his history did not improve one’s mental abilities couldn’t become gifted at once. One should take the heredity into consideration. The heredity of the former slaves is the dependence and almost insane irresponsibility in every deeds.
The result of the civil war in Russia was the separation of Russian people who were divided by the frontier. The mentality and particularly the intellectual abilities of Russians living for already several generations abroad – these very “Russian non-Slavs” who made up the intellectual component of Russian people differ greatly from those Russians that live in Russia today. That is why today one couldn’t speak of Russians with terms of Slavophils and Westerners. People got divided and became more definite. There is no reason anymore to speak of some mysteriousness of Russian spirit. The first ones act one way while the others act completely another way. There is no single Russian people, as it had never existed before. However, before they lived together, now they live apart. One should call them with two different names.
Frankly speaking I would be thousand times wrong claiming that there are no “Russian non-Slavs” in Russia any more. It’s not true of course. There is no doubt that there are “Russian non-Slavs” in Russia today. However, it’s more difficult to find them now. First, because there is no official classes anymore and people live in an inter-ethnic surrounding. Second, because in Soviet times the process of mixing of these former isolated classes finally took place. Nevertheless, every Russian could trace one’s family-tree and find out who he really is. At any case, the revolution of 1991 sharply defined the existence of secret “Russian non-Slavs”. However, they don’t play the key role in today’s Russia anymore. That is my distressing conclusion.
What in this case is awaiting Russia? Nothing good, I’m afraid. The thing is that nothing changed after the removal of the communist dictatorship in Russia. People remained the same. Though, after the elimination of supremacy of proletariat peoples were stopped subjecting to repressions on the basis of class descent. However, the freedom of movement and democratic orders made the situation even worse because Russia’s best minds started leaving it quickly. Figuratively speaking Russia remained without brains. The number of fools grew to such extent that any sane idea could not find its way anymore. That is why young growing talents from the very beginning direct their efforts to increase their career somewhere abroad. Here we have the vicious circle. Russia is doomed to remain the state of fools with all the ensuing consequences: such as eternal poverty of the majority of the population, going from one extreme to another, dullard governors whose mentality makes them take decisions that could only make the present situation worse. Only Moscow appeared to be the exception to this rule. Not in vain Moscow is said to be not Russia. Brains make Moscow the successful city. What also indicative is that Moscow attracts brains not only from all over Russia, but from the neighboring countries. Moscow is packed with immigrants. Though, this process has its negative aspects (every medal always has two sides), but the positive aspect prevails significantly over the negative one anyway. The vivid example of this is the USA and the Western European countries that experiences the immigrant boom after the World War Two and this increased their economic development of these countries up to an unattainable level.
The draconian immigration laws still prevail in Russia. The result as the saying goes is evident.
As far as Crimea concerns here in fact we could see the same picture as in Russia.
Today Russians represent 65 percent of the Crimean population. However, before 1783 there were no Russians at all. After the annexation of Crimean Khanate by Russia the genocide of the whole Turk population of Crimea that made up 98 percent was started. First, Turk Christians were deported. They were exiled to Azov area where they founded the town called Mariupol. Then the terror of Muslims (Crimean Tatars), Jews (Krymchaks) and Crimean Karays (Karaits) was started. However, because of the incomprehensibility of Karaits’ religion they were left along soon and ensured with the full rights. However, the authorities centered out on Muslims, setting one's mind on sparing Crimean land of them. In order that these lands won’t remain empty they were settled with non-Turks Christians– Greeks, Germans, Armenians and Russians. As far as the last ones concerned, there were both “Russian non-Slavs and Russian Slavs”. They were forcibly moved to the estates of their masters.
As a result of these ethnic and religious transitions in the 20th century only 20 percent of Crimean Tatars remained in Crimea. Russians became the majority. By the way the ratio between “Russian non-Slavs” and “Russian Slavs” in Crimea was more than in Russia towards the first ones. However, the Revolution and civil war introduced significant amendments into this ration. According to the documents left by Maksimilian Voloshin, who lived in Crimea at that time, the revolutionary proletarians of towns and villages (read “Russian Slavs”) during 1921 – 1923 started the “Red Terror” methodically murdering “Russian non-Slavs in Crimea”, thus reducing the number of Crimean population to 98 thousand people (of 800 thousand of the whole population of Crimea of that time). This bacchanalia was headed by the “glorious son of Hungarian people, true Lenin’s follower” Bela Kun. In honor of these his exploits the grateful Crimeans immortalized him as a fighter against Russian intellectuals by naming one of Simferopol’s streets in his honor. This fact directly shows that Russian Slavs strongly established themselves in Crimea and took here all key positions.
It’s natural that now the question arises: is it good or bad for Crimea? To my mind the answer is evident. In case the governance of “Russian Slavs” in Russia leaded it to bankruptcy, both material and spiritual, so why the Crimea would have another fate? In this situation one more conclusion arises: if Crimea wants to come out of economic depression it needs personnel revolution, in other words, the change of communist leadership (read Slavs one because “Russian Slavs” were the bearers of communism in Russia). In other case this natural pearl would still remain wallowing in a pile of muck made by the efforts of dull Crimean leaders.
However, there is a beam of light in the end of the tunnel. The recent failure of “Russian Slavs” leader Leonid Grach showed that the Russian Diaspora of Crimea still has the intellectual potential that makes its way with great efforts. One left nothing but hope that these salutary sprouts won’t be crushed by Philistine crowd and will grow on the abundant Crimean land into progressive deeds.
1 Áŕńęŕęîâ Í.Ŕ. Đóńńęčĺ ôŕěčëčč ňţđęńęîăî ďđîčńőîćäĺíč˙. Ěîńęâŕ, 1993.
2 Áĺđä˙ĺâ Í.Ŕ. Äóřŕ Đîńńčč. Â ęí. Đóńńęŕ˙ čäĺ˙. Ěîńęâŕ, 1992.
3 Çíŕěĺíčňűĺ ăđĺęč. Čçä. «Ďđîńâĺůĺíčĺ», Ěîńęâŕ, 1968.
4 Ęŕđĺňĺĺâ Ě.Ä. Đóńü č ňŕňŕđű. Ęí˙ćĺńęčĺ đîäű. Â ęí. «Ŕđŕáĺńęč Čńňîđčč», 1994.
5 Ęóäóńîâ Ý.Ŕ. Ěîńęâŕ č Ęđűě. Ěîńęâŕ, 2002.
6 Ńóëĺéěĺíîâ Î. ŔÇčß. Čçä. «Ćŕçóřč», Ŕëěŕ-Ŕňŕ, 1975.
The article was published in newspaper “Golos Kryma”, edition 26 on June 27, 2003.