“Russia is the least statelike, the most anarchistic land in the world. And the Russian people is the most apolitical of peoples, never having managed to set its land right.”
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
I despise all wars, especially those of the initiatory variety. I’m not exactly a pacifist but I am a very strong believer that there is never a good reason to throw the first punch. With that being said, when it comes to understanding warfare, it is of the utmost importance to understand the so-called enemy, especially when you exist within the walls of an empire that thrives on assigning them daily like math homework. Sometimes this means struggling to comprehend what can bring even the most honorable of people to throw that first punch that initiates a war.
Imbeciles on the right have long condemned this form of politically incorrect critical thinking as sympathizing with terrorists and dictators but sadly, increasingly, once wise people on the left have joined these imbeciles in rejecting the hard work of asking ‘how the hell did it come to this?’ When I was first initiated into the antiwar movement as a pissed-off teenage dirtbag, I was enlightened by left-wing firebrands like William Blum and Ward Churchill who dared to put themselves in the uncomfortable shoes of the men who hijacked four planes on September 11th to initiate a holy war.
They weren’t justifying such clearly despicable violence; they were attempting to provide context on how it became inevitable. Now, whenever I attempt to do the same thing by comprehending the equally despicable actions of Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, I get accused of being an apologist for authoritarianism and, all too often, the person hurling this insult at me is a fellow self-described anarchist.
The most frustrating thing about this is that the motives that inspired the unspeakable acts of barbarism on 9/11 are actually shockingly similar to the ones that convinced Russia to commit the unspeakable act of invading their own brothers and sisters in Ukraine. Islamic fundamentalists don’t hate the West’s freedom any more than Moscow does. What they hate is the decadence we obnoxiously flaunt as the world’s indispensable empire and our insistence on pushing this morally bankrupt culture down their throats at the expense of the traditions that they hold dear.
I may disagree strongly with both of these people’s values regarding my sexuality and my gender identity but I’m not going to sit here in posh first world judgement and pretend that these people aren’t 100% right to fear the modern world when that modern world has brought us all nothing but pain and misery with the Westphalian nation state and global capitalism. The truth is that what inspires Pashtuns to join the Taliban is precisely what inspired a Queer pagan anarchist like me to join the antiwar movement. I don’t want to see my people assimilated into a soulless empire any more than they do. And this is also precisely what drives your average Russian, who once raped and pillaged the Pashtuns, to support a decadent neoliberal ass wipe like Vladimir Putin in raping and pillaging Ukraine.
Russian culture is one that is uniquely defined by its deep and almost mystic reverence for its own history. Your average Russian does not live in 2022 alone. They live among the Pagan Rus of 922 and the Orthodox Old Believers of 1322 and the Bolshevik jihadists of 1922. The Russian soul exists in a museum in which time is not linear but rather a seamless continuum. This existence stands in direct opposition to a world that has long since lost any use for history.
A world defined by a mutated interpretation of progress that valorizes an endless and often mindless push forward into the abyss of monolithic global universalism and endless technological expansion. The Russian soul looks upon the modern world with its paved forests and stadium temple marketplaces with horror and sees the western imperial forces pushing it towards their borders with righteous fury. It is this fury that has been the driving force behind most Russian aggression towards the outside world, whether justified or not.
This includes the supposedly modernist Russian Revolution. What ultimately convinced the devout serfs to back the godless Bolsheviks in their putsch against the Tsar was the Tsar’s embrace of modern globalism at its baptism by blood during the First World War in which the Russian people were demanded to forfeit the lives of their children on the altar of some western global order that was totally alien to them. Your average Russian didn’t give a flying fuck about internationalism or dialectical materialism. They were revolting against the imperial schemes of modern warfare and the spiritually bankrupt specter of capitalism that possessed it.
This honorable spirit of resistance to the demonic forces of progress defines Russian Orthodox culture but it also transcends and predates it. It is the spirit of the lonesome heathen who first tamed those wild steppes. It is the spirit of the village resistance to the Mongol Hordes and the Nazi Stormtroopers. And tragically, it is also the spirit that was abused to build a state and an empire that stood in utter contradiction to these values. The same spirit that serves Vladimir Putin in his suicidal conspiracy to build a new one on the graves of his own people.
Outsiders have conspired to destroy the Russian people for centuries specifically because they are a people so resistant to conquest who have had the misfortune of building this culture on the most strategically valuable piece of real estate on the planet, the land bridge that unites Europe and Asia. For this sin, the Russian people have rarely known a day in which they weren’t under threat of foreign subjugation, and it was this existential fear that inspired the Russian people to build a state in the first place. For centuries, the majority of the Russian people existed in insular communal farming villages divided amongst city states known as Uzeyds. These city states were ruled by a hereditary line of princes though the majority of this royalty’s subjects existed far beyond their reach and their rule was largely symbolic in nature.
It is this age of pastoral isolation that most defines the Russian national character. A rugged spirit that embraces the hardships and toil of farm life in order to embrace a deeper spiritual freedom that only exists in the shadows cast by tight nit families around a roaring fire or tribes performing ancient pagan rites in reverence to Orthodox saints in the torchlight. A stateless existence shattered by the Mongol Yoke who ravaged this sacred countryside for centuries and burned many of these villages to the ground.
The first organized Russian state which would eventually give birth to the venal reign of the Tsars was built to resist this conquest but many of its institutions were actually modeled after the Mongol Yoke and would ultimately corrupt the Russian way of life with its roads and cities and centralization of power into fewer and fewer hands.
This state would ultimately hijack the Russian Orthodox Church and purge it of much of its Slavic pagan character in order to bring it into uniformity with Greece. This state would also give rise to Peter the Great who would finally bring an end to the conquest of the Khans only to build an equally bloodthirsty empire of his own to take its place. This empire was sold to the Russian people as a fortress for their nation’s greatness but as it expanded in all directions, so did the Russian spirit until it was warped and torn beyond recognition.
Peter may have made Russia a world power to be reckoned with, but he did so at the expense of everything that made Russia unique. In order to compete with his rival European contemporaries, Peter forcefully westernized Russia into a modern European superstate. He enacted harsh social reforms that required the Russian people to embrace Franco-Germanic cultural traditions and he built a massive gilded city called St. Petersburgh modeled on the decadent palaces of Paris and Vienna to serve as his new empire’s capitol.
But like all empires, Russia grew too big to sustain its own autonomy and then it grew some more. The growing addictions to western excess by Russia’s shrinking master class would ultimately lead to both constant war and towering debt. Meanwhile, the serfs became slaves in all but name, creating a perfect playground for western capital to expand its toxic Industrial Revolution. By the First World War, Britain, France and America essentially owned the Tsars like toy poodles and ran most of the factories and railroads that polluted what Trotsky once called the “pristine roadlessness” of the Russian countryside.
Disgusted by the shameless prostitution of their vain leaders, the Russians revolted but tragically only embraced different forms of western statism that continued to find them subjugated and divorced from the spiritual world that defined their own uniquely Slavic vision of liberty. The Soviet Union collapsed after the Carter Administration fooled them into attempting to enslave their fellow stateless traditionalists in Afghanistan and the west circled in to pick the bones.
After being savagely ravaged by Boris Yeltsin’s shock capitalism and encircled by an ever-expanding NATO empire bent on nothing short of world domination, Vladimir Putin was able to unite the Russian people in their darkest hour with allusions to Russian nationalism, but Putin himself is the product of the very excesses he has pledged to fight. Yeltsin’s boy wonder may have overthrown the old drunk and his fat rich entourage of pig fucking oligarchs, but he has only replaced them with his own entourage of fat rich pig fucking oligarchs who continue to shock the Russian poor with the soulless neoliberal gutter capitalism Putin picked up from the visiting Wall Street elites of the Clinton era.
The west is undeniably a threat to the Russian people. It is a threat to all people. But the only force that poses an even graver threat to the Russian soul than the Atlantic empire is a man like Putin who seeks only to replace them in the region. Russia’s limited resources pretty much guarantee that Putin’s insane plot to fight western imperialism with western-style imperialism will only lead him to the same fate as Tsars, only this time he will be inviting the offspring of the Mongol Yoke in Beijing back to carry the weight of his imperial predilections.
The fastest way to destroy a culture is to try to export it by becoming an empire. You cannot conquer another man’s land without sacrificing your own land’s soul in the process. The best hope for the Russian people to resist western imperialism is to reject its manifestations within the motherland along with the state that birthed it.
Russia’s greatness lies not on the battlefields of Europe but in the windswept plains and birch tree forests that inspired men like Peter Kropotkin and Leo Tolstoy to seek the kingdom of heaven within. It is this culture, a culture of asceticism and mercy, a culture of Cossack drifters and solitary dreamers, that continues to inspire those of us who resist assimilation into a modern world starved of reverence for the beauty of the old one. Russia must once again become too wild for princes to tame and invite the world to join her around the fire. Then and only then will the conquest end.