It is worth knowing better the country we view as threatening

Moscow, Russia
Moscow, Russia Reuters/Scanpix

Lithuanian news media was left surprised with V. Putin’s ratings in a sociological survey being almost equal to D. Trump’s. The two politicians, who make appearances in the world’s information space every day, received positive evaluations from around 23% of our country’s citizens each. V. Putin’s positive evaluations have even increased compared to prior surveys. What happened. Mečys Laurinkus asks in

To answer without philosophical speculations – the Lithuanian public has grown weary of V. Putin’s name being trampled day and night as if a discarded cigarette. This always happens in our country when things are taken too far.

This does not at all mean that Lithuanian citizens like V. Putin’s policies. They dislike the many years of unchanging and, honestly, blunt criticism. Publicists should take heed of this.

The Kremlin’s policies deserve serious criticism, but it should be well-argued. Unfortunately, most analysts writing about the Kremlin, the man at its top and his circle believe that analysis is a waste of time. But such readings have started to wear on the public.

To the world, Lithuania often presents itself as a Russia expert, but unfortunately, over the past five years, I have not seen any expertise. Only stereotypes and clichés. To be frank, few read such texts or listen to them.

I would not at all be surprised if in a few years, the survey results are even more shocking. As someone from the older generation, I can remember – the fiercer the criticism was during the Soviet era of the West, which was summarised as capitalist countries, the more people took an interest in it.

This is somewhat akin to the current attitude of most of our news media to Russia. After reading, one is left with the impression that you only have accidents, catastrophes, looming famine and plague there, that soon people will start falling dead like flies when the colds come. Given that the Nostradamus-like prophecies keep getting postponed, curiosity slowly grows – so what is happening in that country?

I recently visited Moscow. It’s a megapolis. I might be criticised that I disregard the province. I haven’t been to the province. Perhaps it’s worse than bad there. Nevertheless, it is a big country, Lithuania trades with it and based on statistics, reasonably successfully.

It would be worth to know better the country we have for years now identified as the greatest threat to our national security.

How did it happen that the country, whose President B. Yeltsin made no effort to hide his sympathies to Lithuania, has become our enemy twenty years later? Solely because V. Putin came to power? Will this situation change after 2024? What if it doesn’t? And what if the West comes to terms with the current situation and lifts sanctions against Russia? Will Lithuania erase Russia from the threats list?

I Believe that the USA will adjust this list before all others. US Secretary of State M. Pompeo’s words about Crimea, which he said Ukraine had lost forever, are not coincidental, nor are they without any through behind them.

The US is filled with insightful political scientists. Still, even those less acquainted with political subtleties are long aware that the problem of contemporary Russia is not just V. Putin, but this country’s history itself.

Had B. Yeltsin handed over power, not to V. Putin, some other prominent political figure of the time, I believe that processes similar to the current ones would have occurred in Russia. It was naïve to believe that with the fall of the Soviet empire, Russia too would lie down beneath its ruins.

Soon there emerged ideologists and politicians, who took to the idea of reviving the empire, albeit not the Soviet one. “Revival” works, as Russian ideologists now put it, are happening right in front of our eyes.

The Perestroika is described as a betrayal of the state. There is a severe rejection of B. Yeltsin and his companions’ pro-Western inclinations. The concept of Eurasia is increasingly popularised. There is regret that the Chinese path was not followed.

Various predictions can be made of Russia’s future, but it is already clear that it will not turn Westward. There is need to halt Moscow’s expansionist policies, come to an agreement within the EU on sanctions to a country, which does not recognise rules, but at the same time, it is worth looking more in-depth at what can be found in the minds of that country’s people.

In this regard, the musings of famous historian and ethnologist, former political prisoner L. Gumilev found in the book From Rus to Russia are impressive: “The mechanical transfer of Western European traditions into Russia did not lead to anything good. And this comes as no surprise because the Russian super-ethnos formed 500 years later. Both the Westerners and we have always felt this difference and never viewed one another as fellows. As we are 500 years younger; however, we may try to take on the Western experience, we will never reach an understanding of European welfare and values.”

Many historians and Eurasianists, who influence Russian intellectual circles, think similarly. The ideas of Eurasia are also being spread in schools. By the way, V. Putin has also begun increasingly often quoting them. Does this justify his policies? It does not, but Russia will persist even when V. Putin leaves. What will it be like?

For us, who are chasing the West, everything not related to the European tradition seems backward. However, the world is varied, and not all countries go and will go down the path of Western civilisation.

Globalisation is possible in economics, in technologies, but to seek sameness and convergence in the world of values would be foolish. I think that Russian will never be Western in the sense we perceive.

Of course, when shots are fired, and blood is spilt, with Russia performing deplorable policies, cultural musings are a luxury.

On the other hand, the more detailed understanding of our neighbours, their uniqueness may help build foundations for future dialogue, when a positive evaluation of a Russian head of state will cause neither surprise nor anger.
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