About Russophobia

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By RUBENS FIGUEIREDO*

Prejudice as yet another weapon for the annulment of Russia

There may be exceptions, but as a rule the origin of prejudices is not natural, spontaneous, cultural or even directly political. Prejudice is the result of material interest or pressure, the impulse to reduce competition and, in a way, it is an aspect of the dispute over scarce resources: women, people from the Northeast, the poor, blacks, etc. are excluded. of the most advantageous sectors, the chances of those who are none of these are greater. The procedure can manifest itself at various levels, from the private sphere to the state order. It depends on the intensity of the dispute.

Some of the prejudices I mentioned above are, today, in certain cases, fought with State honors. But there are others that are also authorized and promoted with state honors. Proof that the problem is not the prejudices or injustices themselves, but who exercises the prejudice and against whom it is exercised. The problem is not morals or law or the law, but who exercises them and against whom they turn, a background theme, by the way, of the novel. Resurrection of Tolstoy, for example

In our time (speaking on a large scale), one of the prejudices fostered, undisguised and even in a festive tone, is precisely the so-called Russophobia. In movies, books, news, comics, cartoons, a person like me, for example, from birth, spends decades being indoctrinated to despise, distrust and fear these people. Otherwise, by identifying with them in some way, the person will feel threatened with also suffering the damage they are the target of.

When it comes to someone who is interested, with a special affection, in the culture, art and history of the Russian people, that person, at best, will have to pay penance, making it clear that the qualities of the works that he so appreciates constitute either a exception or, preferably, represent a veiled accusation, directed against the very country that, after all, engendered them.

But what is the origin of this prejudice? From the point of view of the US ruling class, Russia cannot exist. The American president Woodrow Wilson (expanding the initial thesis of General Pilsudski, president of Poland) stated, in the second decade of the XNUMXth century, that Russia should be divided into several small countries (the so-called balkanization). The thesis made a fortune over the years and Zbiegniew Brzezinski (US State Councilor) restated the same program several decades later in more detail. Adding, by the way, that the US was not interested in the Baltic countries: what mattered, in fact, was to dominate (or “lead”, according to his euphemism) Ukraine.

But why encourage such prejudice? Here, too, it is about eliminating competition. It is necessary to prevent Russia from developing, as its development potential is too great: the fact, perhaps unique in history, proves this that Russia has been destroyed three times in 80 years and has risen three times again, practically by itself. I am referring to the periods between 1914 and 1922 (World War I, Revolution, Civil War and foreign intervention), between 1941-1945 (Nazi invasion) and the 1990s (end of the Soviet Union, neoliberal shock – the most devastating of the three situations).

It is also verified, in this process, that the character of the political regime or the economic system in force at the time is completely indifferent. That is, the target is not a specific ruler, but the mere existence of a minimally organized and stable state and political regime. What is serious, moreover, is the proven capacity of the country to develop and, even worse, largely with its own resources, that is, independently. Though he never got the chance, or the time it took, to take that ability further.

Let's change perspective and look at a smaller example. Under the military dictatorship in Brazil, there was a brief period of strong development in the 1970s. In US governing circles, a wake-up call was given and a repeated phrase was: We don't need a new Japan in Latin America. As for Japan, they were already taking care to put the brakes on. Against Brazil, they used foreign debt mechanisms to push the country backwards. In the case of Russia, however, it is not just about economic growth, however limited, but also about the parallel development of a considerable cultural, political and military strength, despite the fact that the resources available for this are incomparably smaller. Here, prejudice is also a weapon of war: once dehumanized, the enemy can be destroyed with impunity. This has been the project reserved for Russia for more than a century. And this is not even a secret, as we saw above.

By the way, I remember that when Joe Biden beat Donald Trump in the 2020 elections, I watched a debate on Russian TV between two elderly historians on the internet. One of them made a statement that impressed me a lot. He said, with Trump, we had a four-year reprieve, a break to organize a little bit. But now they will want to finish what they failed to do in the 1990s. The historian had in mind the fate of countries like Lebanon, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria. All these countries have considerable historical or cultural relationship with Russia and all were destroyed by the same political force.

Observing today, in retrospect, it seems to me that Russophobia was just an embryonic prejudice, when I started to be interested in Russian literature, in the 1970s, when Russia was part of the Soviet Union. Because, in recent decades, it has even gained the status of pseudoscience, in a line that recalls the arguments of Gobineau, one of the philosophers of racism at the end of the XNUMXth century. It is quite revealing that such experiments have been exacerbated precisely in Ukraine.

There, the thesis prospered that Kievan Rus (medieval) preserved the purity of the Russian race, while Moscow Russia became contaminated with Tartar blood, due to the Mongol occupation. Not by chance, in more than one American essayist, I have read that Lenin and even the current president of the Russian Federation have Mongolian traits, as if that were an explanation. However, this classic colonial-style racism is not the spontaneous creation of Ukrainians: it was implanted there artificially, almost like in a laboratory, by external pressures, sponsored by US organizations such as the NED (National Endowment for Democracy, a nice name), which recently deleted from its website the funding it distributed in Ukraine. After all, it wasn't just “biological research” laboratories that the US built in that country.

Lastly, the recent repudiation of Russian musical and literary works, the banishment and euphoric persecution of Russian conductors and singers, if they do not sign texts of a political nature contrary to their convictions, the exclusion of Russian operas and films from programming, the blackmail on artists and intellectuals who, on the one hand, are threatened with having their careers destroyed and, on the other hand, receive promises of promotional impulse if they comply with a political program that is not part of their own initiative – processes that we are witnessing in countries that call themselves civilized and who consider themselves unique bearers of civilization – I compare this simply with the historic monuments of Palmyra, Syria, destroyed by the Islamic State in 2015. With different clothing, language and skin color, it is the same fanaticism of a power that it believes itself invested with the authority of a superior civilization and that, therefore, it has exceptional and exclusive licenses.

Dostoevsky and Tolstoy deal with this theme. For in their time both were, from different angles, bitter critics of Europe's pretense of superiority. They used literary forms imported from Europe as a mirror in which those foreigners who thought themselves superior would end up seeing themselves reflected with a much less flattering image than they would have liked. As it is difficult (but not impossible) to pretend that such works do not exist, they have to be forcibly reinterpreted, so as to say almost the opposite of what is written in them. Technique well known among judges, prosecutors, journalists, historians and literary critics, when properly sponsored.

* Rubens Figueiredo, writer and translator, he is the author of The Book of Wolves (Companhia das Letras).

 

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