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Russia’s Moral Nihilism

kremlin_st._basils russiaby Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi  

In the book entitled “The Documentary History of the Roots of the German Hanseatic Cities” it is stated that already in the 14th century the Hanseatic confederation laws absolutely prohibited the citizens of its member cities to provide Russians goods on credit; lending them money under any circumstances, including humanitarian assistance; or even borrowing money of them, under the threat of speedy and drastic punishment. This draconian criminal provision was inserted in the law as a consequence of frequent complaints by German merchants about serial Russian dishonesty in the form of sham furs; false trademarks; lying about the existence or non-existence of contracts; tinkering with quantity and quality of exported goods; forced bribes that were pocketed by ruthless bureaucrats; and other unimaginable deceits perpetrated with impunity by Russians of all walks of life.

That this kind of nihilistic immorality had been completely ingrained in the Russian psyche is best illustrated by Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky’s famous novel “The Idiot” in which he contrasts the honesty, straightforwardness and veracity of Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin, who lived for many years in Switzerland, and thus internalized Western moral values, against the universal deceit, dishonesty and trickery of the entire Russian society. The essence of Dostoyevsky’s thesis is that a Russian is taught from his or her birth to be a liar by everybody – the ancestors, the parents, the teachers, the church, and the government. Dostoyevsky concludes by asserting that the vast majority of Russians are constitutionally and mentally hopelessly incapable of grasping the relationship between spoken words and obvious or proven facts.

Indeed, Russian history bears out Dostoyevsky’s glum verdict on his countrymen. A certain German by the name of Stadten, who served as a mercenary, describes the conditions in Tsar Ivan IV court thus: “The Muscovites ….. reciprocally accuse and slander each other in front of the despot (meaning the Tsar). They attack each other with venomous hatred in a way that causes their own demise. For the despot, nothing is sweeter than to listen to the slanderers and the denouncers. He does not care whether what they say is true or false. All he cares about is to find some pretext to exterminate people.” Equally illuminating is the long line of so-called “false Tsars” that stretches throughout Russian history.

After 1917, Leninism and Stalinism were typical Russian phenomena. Russia suffered a devastating defeat in World War I. Its great power status came to an abrupt end, even before it could have been realized. The foul labels of socialism and communism were designed to restore the old Russia – and not to reform the Soviet Union, as was hailed by the “useful idiots” in the West. Mikhail Gorbachev, the last General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, or the last communist Tsar, was an embarrassing failure, because his convoluted and incoherent vision of glasnost and perestroika suffered from total dissoluteness, leaving no room for moral discipline, and practically emancipated itself from reality. Boris Yeltsin, or Boris Tsar, presided over the de jure dissolution of the Soviet Union. Russia’s second attempt at maintaining its great power status again came to an ignominious end. The big lie of the 1990s was that his regime attempted to Westernize and modernize Russia. In fact, like all his predecessors, he too was a revanchist, busy at restoring Russia’s lost glory.

Under Vladimir Putin’s first and second presidential eras, the world had witnessed the uniquely shameless Russian spectacle of the most ruthless attempt at the restoration of the darkest despotism in the guise of enlightened absolutism. The United States, Europe and the rest of the world should not confuse the reestablishment of order with democracy and Russian aggression with justifiable national interests. Personally, Putin is the quintessential hypocrite. And as all hypocrites he is a comedian. From George W. Bush’s judgment of having seen the soul of a good man to Barack Obama’s belief that by the sheer force of his personality he could turn Putin into a cooperating partner, misunderstandings prevailed. The world has actually seen a fundamentally dishonest, conniving and even evil man.

In the Russian language, “durak” is a word with a double meaning. “Durak” is the name of a well-known Russian card-game. On the other hand, “durak” is also the word for idiot. Non-Russian politicians, journalists, scholars, and even common folks must understand that Western rules of conduct do not apply to Russia. The smart perspective should take into account the hazardous nature of the Russian character. As the chain of current events indicate, Putin and most of the Russians lead a double life. One life is for the foreigners, and another, absolutely different life is led internally. The world must also understand that Putin is not a civilized and cultured individual, and Russia is not a normal country. For this reason, the world must be ready for the most incredible monstrosities in the future, and for the complete absence of respect for human life, the rule of law, and public or private property. The downing of MH Flight 17 and the subsequent behavior of all Russians, including Putin and his subordinates, prove that today’s Russia is a menace to its neighbors and a curse to all of mankind.

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Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi is the Vice President of Frontiers of Freedom.