Why the Russians are still laughing about Europe
For centuries, Europe has been a shining example for many Russians. It’s over. The ideal is replaced by dangerous feelings of cultural superiority – with President Putin as a great idol.
“Jewroremont” was in the first years after the end of the Soviet Union the great trend, to German: “renovation in a European way”. At that time, when private property was allowed to come into being, and the multi-family dwellings called Kommunalkas began to dissolve, their own four walls became the true realm of all dreams for many Russians.
The collective who started in front of the apartment door did not interest anyone and looked down on it in a rotten way. Inside however the shine shone and was renovated to the best possible standards. Europe was the model from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok.
This did not come by chance; after all, the supposedly old continent, which was supposedly the old continent, was considered young, dynamic, modern, forward-looking – yes, simply as an example. “One tried, as a counterbalance to the road, where it was rather rude to build an inner Europe”, the actor and writer Jewgeni Grischkowetz from Siberia is quoted in a remarkable essay by Kerstin Holm in the current “Zeitschrift fur Ideengeschichte” . “Western Europe was the vanishing point for which one sought to learn from which one sought to learn, an unattainable ideal, which was nevertheless more important than one’s own existence and one’s own country.”
Sanctions and oil price declines impact the economy
This all reads like a reminiscence of a distant time. Two decades later, little is left of this infatuation in Europe. Two decades later, Europe has been discredited in Russia as hardly ever before. It is still known that on the old continent most of the work works better than at home on the Volga. And yet we do not mean to recognize Europe again with its development. What remains is disappointment.
And as is so often the case in Russia, she expresses herself in a preposterous mockery: “Gayropa” is one of the new terms for the current point of view because the West equates homosexuality with heterosexuality and wants to force Russia to impose this new order.
The journey from “Jewroremont” to “Gayropa” was a short one. In part, the new disrespectful readings of Europe in Russia are a result of warping with the West due to the Crimean annexation. In part, they are also a result of the sanctions or the Russian import bargos on Western agricultural products – actions which, in association with the decline in oil prices, have led to the most severe recession since the 1990s and also to a caesura in economic relations.
Trade with Europe was fragile, and Western experts left the country, as a calculation by the Russian personal mediator Unity shows. According to her, the number of firms hiring foreign specialists has decreased from 30% to 5% between 2014 and 2016. And because the ruble has drifted drastically since 2014, the middle class is now far less likely to travel to the West than before.
The Europaliebebe was a phenomenon of the elite
But the process of alienation began earlier. The removal of Europe has been going on for at least fifteen years since the takeover of power by the former KGB officers around Kremlinchef Vladimir Putin, Lev Gudkov, head of the leading Russian opinion research institute Levada Center, writes in a sociological analysis with the title “The Russians do not love Europe any more”. If 71 per cent of the population had been held for Europeans in 1997, only 21 per cent in 2008. “The orientation of public opinion towards Europe has slowly weakened and ended practically in the spring of 2014,” says Gudkov. Russia annexed the Crimea.
This is all the more remarkable given the fact that Europe was not only in the first years of Soviet Russia, but de facto over centuries the model horizon, in which Russia was oriented. Sometimes in the form of the competition, as under Soviet dictator Stalin, whose slogan “Capture Europe” was engraved in Russian abbreviation on “DIP” (dognat ‘i peregnat’). Alone in the relationship with Europe, which had functioned as a miracle mirror, Russian national culture had formed itself and became aware of itself, according to Gudkov.
Even before Tsar Peter the Great, Russia took an example of Europe. In 1700, however, he made a full program before the German-born Tsarina Katharina settled the great masses of Germans in Russia and at the same time declared the country a “European power”. Certainly, the “Europeanisation of Russia was forcibly imposed, and took place only in the enlightened class,” says the Russian writer Viktor Yerofeyev in conversation. One hundred kilometers outside of Moscow, Peter had not even reached Peter the Great.
In fact, the Europaliebe was often an elite phenomenon and later one of the middle class, which began with the end of the Soviet Union and began to travel abroad, from where it brought home European standards such as the stop before the zebras. And indeed, Europe was not only an example for the centuries, but at least so much a counter-revolution.
It never became clearer in the middle of the nineteenth century, when the so-called Slavophiles and the so-called Westerners were digressing whether Russia was now in front of or behind Europe, and who had both the ancient heritage and the Christian faith Of European civilization – in a purer form.
Discrediting Europe by means of state propaganda
Europe as a miracle mirror also had a negative side: The comparison had shown Russia’s own backwardness, creating a catch-up competition from the feeling of inferiority that the Russians had temporarily compensated with a sense of moral superiority, according to the sociologist Gudkov. The idealization of Europe was always turned into a fear that Europe would endanger the survival of Russian culture.
So at the latest the mass demonstrations after the parliamentary elections in 2011, when the recent departure from Europe reached a first climax. Until then, Putin “really believed that he has friends in the West,” explains the writer Jerofeyev. However, the fact that the West supported the “peculiar revolution of the middle class against the authoritarian” had put Putin’s betrayal. Also in the Maidan protest in late 2013 in Ukraine.
What followed was an ever more targeted discrediting of Europe with all the means of state propaganda. The process reached another peak in the confrontational period before and during the Olympic Winter Games in early 2014 in Sochi. And even though he was far from expressing himself in the homosexual question, she was symptomatic of him.
Putin, the West, had a great deal of trouble. With the legal prohibition of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors, he could be sure that the outcry in Europe would be great. Perhaps he underestimated that there would also be boycott calls against the Olympics. But he had achieved a goal: he could gather his own people behind him in the same way as he had done for a long time. An equal or perhaps even greater coup to the internal consolidation succeeded only a little later with the annexation of the Crimea.
Europe is calculating and cool
If you want to summarize today’s picture of Europe in Russia, it looks as follows: On the one hand the traditional family is destroyed – among other things by homosexuality. The admission of the refugees also makes it possible to destroy their own culture. In any case, since the beginning of the twentieth century, Europe has been approaching its downfall. In addition, Europe is calculating and cool, while Russia is animated by spiritual values and emotional.
Europe hates and fears the Russians, and finally Europe is perhaps politically correct, but it is no less mendacious. Not surprisingly, the deterioration in the relationship with the West in the past two years has been accompanied by a sharp increase in patriotic pride, writes Gudkov.
All this, as well, is expressed as a regret that the model has sunk so far. What was still attractive a few years ago suddenly comes to an end. It is the European lifestyle which irritates. Yes, even more irritated, that he propagates and – together with the USA, from which Europe wants to emancipate to the regret of the Russians – is brought into the world.
The Russians had wanted to get from Europe what they thought they needed from Europe. And they had wanted to get it at the pace, in which the new development could be digested accordingly. But to be missioned? No.
Russia’s special path is Putin’s path
Even intellectuals like Grischkowetz have carried out the turnaround. In the “Zeitschrift fur Ideengeschichte”, he brings the drama to the point: since Europe has gradually abandoned its own culture, one can not love it anymore, he says. And just as little can one love it, that it would dictate to other countries its gender doctrine and political correctness, no matter in which development phase they are.
And what does one love and prefer? According to the polls conducted by the Levada Center, a total of 55 percent claimed a “special path” in 2015, while in 2013 there was only 37 percent. In 2013, a further 31 per cent of the European civilization had been declared, and only 17 per cent in 2015.
“No one knows which way to be your own, the main one is your own,” says Gudkov. One’s own way was to build a barrier between themselves and the West. According to Gudkov, however, the barrier weakened the inferiority complex resulting from the unpleasant awareness that “Russia is not ready to become a modern, developed state of justice.”
Today, the Kremlin, as Igor Bunin, head of the Moscow Center for Political Technologies, says: “People identify their own special path with Putin.”