As I have alluded to dozens of times before, politics in Russia and Eastern Europe tends to revolve around alliances. You don’t like Putin, so now your allies are: Georgia, Maidan, NATO, the EU, and Pussy Riot. You like Putin so your allies are: Cossacks, religious nuts, Yanukovych, etc. You cannot compromise or waver on any of those points. Admit that Yanukovych was a shitty president and you might as well go join Praviy Sektor. Admit that Maidan was in fact heavily influenced by far-right nationalism, in ideology if not in actual numbers of people, and presto! You now support Putin, Yanukovych, and Eurasianism. There is no in between. There is no judging individual subjects on their own merit or looking at their contradictory sides. That’s too complicated. Slide a little and you’re a Western liberal degenerate who wants to destroy Russia and sell it piece by piece to America, or you’re an unethical Putin apologist who has no regard for human rights. Hundred percent or nothing.
Since my time is limited today, I will be providing the readers with this handy chart to show them what their political positions would or should have been like, had they applied today’s Russian/Eastern European alliance politics to previous eras.
-Don’t like European colonialism? Support Imperial Japan. They were openly against that, and their victories in the East did indisputably influence the post-war anti-colonial movements.
-Don’t like religious nuts trying to impose their will on society? Oppose abolitionists. Yes, yes, some of you internet atheists out there have probably flipped your fedoras having read this, but it’s true. While slave-owners used the Bible to justify slavery, abolitionists historically based their arguments on theological grounds. Many abolitionists were also seen as more fanatically religious than those who supported slavery. Of course in the West you could appreciate staunch opposition to slavery while also supporting a completely secular society, but now you’re in the Russian/Eastern European political realm, so you need to pick sides.
-Hate racism? Support the late Reverend Fred Phelps. He was a civil rights lawyer who received awards from groups like the NAACP for representing black clients. Then again, if you support LGBT rights, you absolutely must side with Phelps’ racist opponents, because again, Russian politics. Pick a side.
-Like the idea of personal liberty and republican government? In that case you’d better support slavery. Few people realize that liberalism’s ideological founders were usually either slave owners or people who profited from the slave trade. One of the most important tenets of liberalism was one’s right to their own property, which in those days happened to include human beings. Whereas other forms of historical slavery usually recognized the humanity of slaves and thus regulated what could be done with them, liberals saw this kind of restriction on property rights as an abomination and deprivation of the individual’s liberty. American loyalists and British monarchists used to beat their American separatist opponents over the head with this issue all the time, noting how ironic it was that those who cried the loudest about freedom and liberty demanded total life-or-death authority over their slaves. Now in a logical world, we could separate the progressive, good aspects of liberal ideology from its darker side. But not in Russia, however. Either support slavery and be a liberal, or go monarchist, ultra-conservative, fascist, etc.
Obviously I could list many more examples of these fucked up alliances, but I’ll stop here because by now the non-Russian reader is probably exasperated. If you grew up in the American political system, for example, the idea that you should have to take up the cause of people or groups you find to be reprehensible seems ludicrous. If you’re a left-wing radical opposed to the US government, you’d scoff at the idea of attending a Tea Party rally. “Just because I oppose the policies of the government doesn’t mean I’m going to make common cause with a bunch of conservative militia nutcases,” you’d probably say as you ponder weather the person who suggested such a political alliance is either utterly insane or profoundly ignorant.
Alas, in Russia you aren’t afforded that luxury, the luxury of judging things on their own merit, of acknowledging the reality that common parts don’t make a common whole. You must pick sides. It’s hard to determine exactly how this system of politics developed, because you can’t really go back and analyze it in isolation from various factions who engage in this sort of politics. I’d probably say you could lay more of the blame for this at the feet of liberal oppositionists, since they are notorious for this kind of thinking. Putin and his TV channels don’t like Maidan and claim it’s a fascist movement? Well then Maidan must be a natural ally and the claims about fascism must be totally false! Brilliant! That’s just the sort of rational thinking which distinguishes Russia’s worldly, enlightened liberals from the pro-government rabble of “vatniks” who hang on every word out of news man Kiselev’s mouth. Whatever Kremlin says, just support the 180 degree opposite. That’s the path to a new, successful Russia! The same idea has worked oh so well in Ukraine, hasn’t it?
I say that a more nuanced, less idiotic approach to politics isn’t allowed for Russians or Eastern Europeans, mainly because the Western narrative doesn’t really allow for it. Much of the West, in terms of governments and media outlets, gave their seal of approval to Maidan, ignoring or downplaying the role nationalism played in the conflict. Russia is compared to a new Soviet Union, so that keeps socialists and other leftists out of the debate. The supposedly more enlightened West, where citizens are allowed to form their own opinions based on a more careful analysis(not that many people actually do this, of course) of the various issues does not allow those in Eastern Europe or Russia the same luxury. Therefore Russian liberal oppositionists are encouraged to laud the years of Yeltsin and shit all over the history of the Soviet Union, two things which are quite offensive to many people for a variety of reasons. When more people fail to flock to their cause, the blame falls on the masses themselves, who are duped by Russian state-owned TV. It’s never the fault of the opposition that people don’t understand their message, or that they don’t even seem to understand “Western values” themselves. A sober, realistic, but altogether balanced look at Soviet history is out of the question, especially in former Soviet republics like Ukraine.
Whatever side is responsible for starting or maintaining such politics is irrelevant though. What is certain beyond any shadow of a doubt, however, is that alliance politics are idiotic, and Western cheerleaders for either side are morons throwing fuel on the fire and denying their audience the same rights which they claim for themselves, i.e. the right to make informed decisions and analyze their world in detail.