RUSSIA AND THE "EASTERN ISSUE"
. Fedor Dostoeyvsky and Nikolai Danilevsky were the first to discover that Europe did not know, understand or love us. Much time has passed since then. We should have experienced themselves and confirm that these great Russians were far-sighted and correct in their conclusions.» I.A. Ilin, Protiv Rossii. Nashi zadachi, Moscow, 1992.
It was the talent and erudition of Sergey Solovev, the great Russian historian that urged him to discuss the subject in a broader context than that suggested by the political and diplomatic frameworks of the second half of the nineteenth century. At that time this was merely the question of the Straits and the future of the Slavic and Greek territories freed from the Turkish yoke. He saw as the Worldwide Eastern Question the millennium-long historical rivalry between Europe and Asia, «between the European and Asian spirit.» His panoramic view of history produced a realization that the contest and rivalry of civilizations were an important moving force of history: «There were Xerxes hordes that invaded the Peloponnese; there was Alexander the Great with his phalanxes and Homers «Iliad» on the shores of the Euphrates, there were the Huns on the Catalonian fields, there were Crusaders in the Palestine, or Tatar baskaks collecting tribute in Moscow… Finally, there were the Mongol invasion, Russian flags in Astrakhan, Kazan, and Tashkent. All of this was the sign of the same contest that went on in the wars against the Ottoman Empire up till the twentieth century.» S.M. Solovev, Istoria Rossii s drevneishikh vremen. Vol. 1, Moscow, 1959-1966, p. 56.
In the West the «worldwide Eastern question» was developed in classical geopolitics that looked into the historical patterns of mutual deterrence and the «vast spaces» contest. This school proceeded, to a great extent, from the idea of the struggle of states as the struggle for survival in the organic world. To some extent this can be described as social Darwinism. In classical geopolitics and H.J. Mackinders schemes Halford J. Mackinder, «The Geographical Pivot of History,» Geographical Journal, Vol. 23, No. 4, London., which provide the foundation for the Western containment policy vis-a-vis Russia, Eurasia is termed the World Island. Those who control it control the world. The southern Europe-Asia border with the center near Taurida is described as the Heartland, the center of Earth. Those who control it hold the key to the World Island.
This abstraction is a purely naturalistic interpretation of history that cannot explain all the moving forces. It resurfaced time and again in the fight between and cooperation of the nations, Russia in the first place, living in this heartland. The same can be said about another problem of the nineteenth century — control over the Straits.
The strategy of solving the Europe-Russia contradiction through making her member of European coalitions and part of Europe is false and doomed to a failure. A larger part cannot be integrated by a smaller — it should be first made smaller. (Witness the fate of the Soviet Union, Yalta, and Potsdam as the price Russia had to pay for a place in the Gorbachev-Sakharov common European home.) This is explained by a millennium-old rejection by the West of Orthodox Russia in all her hypostases that is reflected in the Worldwide Eastern Question. Russia is the vehicle of Byzantine legacy the West hates so much. At the same time, as a geopolitical force and a historical personality looking for her own universal meaning of world existence Russia is equal to the West. The worldwide Eastern question can be seen not only in the great powers policies but also in philosophical interpretation of history. Hegel who crowned West European philosophy with his Philosophy of History wrote that only the West had «the right to free creation in the world stemming from subjective consciousness.» He failed to discover other «world-historical nations.» Russia developed into a vast geopolitical and historical entity viewed as alien to the West. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Western historiography offered an extremely hostile interpretation of Russian history and policy.
All social strata in the West, from court historians to liberals and Marxists, demonstrated nihilism in relation to Russias historical existence. The deeply-rooted Western phobias of Orthodoxy and Russia took on various forms yet they existed in Papal Rome and were voiced by atheist Voltaire, Marquis de Custine and Marx, the ideologists of early Bolshevism, and Andrei Sakharov, the idol of Moscow liberals. There is no doubt that the classics of Marxism lead in the nihilist interpretation of nineteenth-century Russian history and foreign policies. Back in 1848 Engels wrote that the revolution had only one really frightening enemy which was Russia.
Marx and Engels agreed with the denigrating descriptions of Russian policy and borrowed their arguments from British publications which said that Britain had had to conquer India to prevent Russians from crossing the Himalayas. In their works the «classics» followed all the trends of nineteenth-century Western thinking that shaped anti-Russian sentiments. Everything was concentrated in these sentiments: hatred of the aristocratic principles of statehood and the czars typical of the Third Estate and the lumpens, rejection of the religious principles of supreme power and sobornost, an open hatred of Orthodoxy as an embodiment of Christianity. Marx who lived and worked in Britain was obviously enslaved by Anglo-Saxon foreign political propaganda
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