Note: The Taki post is up. I offer some unsolicited advice to the richest man in the world as he embarks on his Twitter venture. The Sunday Thoughts podcast is up behind the green door for subscribers.
In the eastern part of the European continent, today is Victory Day, which marks the surrender of the Nazis to the Soviet Union. The official surrender was signed on May 8th, 1945, but it was already past midnight in Moscow. It was the biggest public holiday in the old Soviet Union. Now it is celebrated in most of the former republics, with parades and public commemorations. Under Putin, the Moscow military parade was brought back after a hiatus under Boris Yeltsin.
It is hard for Western people, especially Americans, to grasp why Victory Day is so important to the people of the Russian Federation. The events of the war, when remembered at all, are recalled for the purpose of promoting current narratives rather than a sense of national pride. Of course, the memory of the war in Europe is highly stylized and fictionalized. For the people in the East, the war and the triumph over the Nazis is an important part of their national identity.
America lost about 400,000 soldiers in the war. The Brits lost about the same and the French lost close to 600,000. For narrative purposes, the Axis powers are not allowed to talk about their dead. The Soviet Union lost twenty million people. Countries like Poland, Hungary and the Baltic states lost close to ten percent of their population as a result of the Nazi invasion and then the Soviet invasion. This is why the war still looms so large in the consciousness of those people.
The war is why the word “Nazi” resonates much more with the people of eastern Europe than even the nuttiest social justice warrior in America. In America, the cartoon version of the past turns villains like the Nazis into hollow figures who represent whatever the current year harpies fear about themselves. For eastern people, the word conjures memories of an existential threat to their existence. The Great Patriotic War, as the Russians call it, was a war for the survival of their people.
This civilizational angst is what lies at the heart of the war in Ukraine. The Russians see themselves fighting a war for the survival of their civilization. Volunteers from all over the Russian Federation are now fighting in the Ukraine because they see themselves at war with a West that threatens their existence. Washington is not threatening genocide, but something almost as bad, the erasure of their national identity. The Chechens like being Chechen and they will die for it.
This civilizational sensibility is hard for Western people to grasp. America, of course, has no real identity. It is a collection of economic and political slogans that holds together a continent full of strangers. Europe still has some vestiges of national identity, but that has been anathematized by the ruling elite of the continent. Nationalism is now a synonym for fascism. In its place is the concept of European which is even less meaningful than American sloganeering.
Civilizationalism got the people of the East through the war, but it also carried them through communism. Despite the homogenizing ethos of Marxism-Leninism, the national character of the people of the Soviet Union survived. It was this sense of self that has been the basis of revival after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The same sensibility that allowed the people of Eurasia to survive the Mongol invasions has allowed them to survive the invasion of Wall Street bankers in the 1990’s.
Again, this is hard for Western people to fathom. Unlike communism, liberal democracy has been highly effective at reoriented its victims to see themselves in purely economic terms, shedding their cultural identity. Western people are baffled as to why Russians would give up drag queen story hour to seize the Donbas. Western planners even assumed the people of the Russian Federation would rather have McDonalds than a connection with their ancestors.
Washington’s war on Russia brings up two bits of irony. One is the people of the East overcame communism only to find the alternative was worse. The communists promised to steal your labor and the dignity that arises from it. Liberal democracy promises to steal your soul and replace it with consumerism. The communists built monuments to the workers while the liberal democrats destroy the monuments to your ancestors and replace them with planned developments.
The other bit of irony in all of this is that if the West is going to survive it is going to need to embrace civilizationalism as well. The promise of the EU was that it would unite the countries of the Europe for the common good. The trouble is the elites embrace the cancer of multiculturalism. That cancer will have to be removed and replaced with a civilizational sensibility that respects the variations within the culture, traditions and demographics of people with a common history.
This concept is not entirely alien to the West. Europe rallied to defend Christendom against the Muslims. It was not nationalism that led Sobieski to lead his men against the Turks at Battle of Khotyn. It was a civilizational identity that saw the Turks as alien invaders who must be repelled in order to preserve Western civilization. Into the last century, there was an understanding among Western people that despite their differences, there was a West and he had to be defended.
Perhaps the psychosis of liberal democracy will finally be beaten out of the West in what is looking like another futile and pointless war of choice. Despite the disparity in wealth, the Russians merely have to continue to exist in order to win. For the West, liberal democracy requires the unconditional surrender of Eurasian identity to the homogenizing forces of Liberal democracy. History shows that this is every bit as futile as the crusades against Islam.
The big difference between this civilizational war launched by the West and the one launched against Islam is that the East matters. The West has deep economic connections to the East. That means this war will have real costs to the people of the West, in terms of living standards. It is unlikely that the people will be willing to sacrifice the only benefit of liberal democracy for an abstract war against a people who they naturally see as civilizational allies.
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