Today finishing with this piece from VZGLIAD, written by reporters Andrei Rezchikov and Oleg Moskvin. Yesterday we discussed a couple of theories about the rise in levels of Russian patriotism in the last couple of years, as opined by various people interviewed by the reporters. This discussion is based on a public opinion poll taken by the Russian company ВЦИОМ on June 3-4. Participants of the poll were 2,000 adults (older than 18) interviewed by telephone. Statistical margin of error not exceeding 2.2%.
So, we come to the definition of the word “patriotism” which I believe is the major issue here. Arriving as an immigrant and dwelling as I do in a nation (the USA) where “patriotism” is pretty much one and the same thing as flag-waving. Which, in turn, rarely resolves to positive accounts of America’s actual accomplishments and gifts to humanity (of which there are many); but rather, in the popular mind, devolves to a hardened feeling of superiority over other peoples and nations. Ask any ordinary American walking down the street and (unless the randomly-selected person is some weirdo outlier like myself) this person will tell you most assertively, that people in other countries are poor and miserable; that everybody yearns to live in America; that America is the greatest nation in the world (without supplying specific metrics to support that claim), etc etc. Ask them what has America actually done for the world? Will they list the real accomplishments, such as inventions, manufacturing, scientific discoveries, etc? Probably not, because the uneducated masses don’t know about these things. Instead, the person will most likely repeat their claim that America is better than the other nations. When pressed for specific metrics, they will become confused and sometimes belligerent. Mocking American ignorance is like taking low-hanging fruit; but, alas, the delusion is on a very large scale! One derives absolutely no satisfaction from besting such people in a debate. It’s like torturing an animal: They just stare at you and don’t understand why you are doing this.
In contrast, if this poll is correct (and it must be, because the margin of error is only 2.2% !), the Russian people (россияне – citizens of the Russian Federation, not necessarily ethnic Russians) appear to have a healthier notion of “patriotism”. A notion which does not necessarily require feelings of superiority, overweening pride, or the demeaning of others. Oh, to be sure, there is such a thing as the Great Russian chauvinist. But these creatures barely exist any more and, when they do, they are more likely to be racialists than patriots. Like (hint hint) the type of people who identify themselves as white-skinned Aryans. Thankfully, these types are a teensy tiny minority in Russia, despite the fact that the American State Department has attempted to cultivate them as a special kind of Fifth Column within a state that it regards as a geopolitical enemy.
Returning to the Russian survey, only 12% of respondents consider that “patriotism” means “regarding one’s country as betters than the others”. Whereas 77% of the respondents reckoned that the definition of “patriotism” was “the desire to change things in the country and work to make it blossom. At the same time, a majority of respondents (59%) make no distinction between “patriotism” and “love of country”.
When it comes to the concept of “My country right or wrong”, only 29% of the Russians polled believe that patriotism requires one to defend one’s country against all accusations. Whereas 19% believe that it is necessary “to tell the truth about one’s country, however bitter that might be.” Only 3% believed that one should overlook the deficiencies of one’s country.
Even better: Where American patriotism involves raw emotions and frequently rage, Russian patriotism appears to be evolving away from “emotionality” and more towards a rational concept. In other words, if my country is doing good things, then I should be supportive and even accept some of the credit, since I live here, pay taxes, and contribute in other ways as well.
Sergei Lvov again, whom we met in yesterday’s post: “Earlier the irrational, emotional side of things was prevalent; but in the past few years we have been able to pin point a [more] rational attitude towards patriotism.” According to Lvov, Russians are more likely nowadays to link their patriotic feelings with specific accomplishments of their country.
Ekaterina Shulman, whom we also met yesterday, agrees with this assessment of “patriotism” as a more “active”, less passive and less emotional response to what is going on in the country and the world. Shulman: “It is infantile to regard patriotism as a feeling of pride and superiority. It is necessary to pass through this stage of development, this is the level of a person who can’t do anything [useful] but feels within himself: What do I do? I feel pride! It is natural that when society progresses not only in the physical sense, but also in the social sense, that people start to have an accurate sensation of what is going on around them.” Shulman also expressed the hope, that this contradiction will be resolved in favor of a society of people “who want to participate [actively] and not just experience some kind of emotion.”