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Russian immigrants argue about a letter condemning the West and supporting Putin’s policies
The Rossiyskaya Gazeta published a declaration of Solidarity with Russia, which received the support of more than a hundred representatives of princely and noble families from different countries. The authors of the appeal are the spouses Prince Dmitry Mikhailovich and Princess Tamara Georgievna Shakhovsky – prominent descendants of the Russian white emigration. “We can’t put up with the slander that daily rages on us of modern Russia, its leadership and its president, who are being sanctioned and mixed with dirt in defiance of elementary common sense,” the authors of the letter emphasize. The declaration has caused controversy in the Russian diaspora. There was another appeal calling not to support Putin’s policy.
Dmitry Shakhovskoy – Doctor of Philology, teacher at the St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute and the Russian Theological Seminary in France, vice president of the Union of Nobles, author of numerous works on the history of Russian society and the nobility. In an interview with Radio Liberty, he said that their writing with this spouse was primarily motivated by the biased, in their opinion, Western media coverage of the events of the last year in Ukraine.
We felt a sense of indignation because of the gross interference of foreign powers in matters that, in essence, did not concern them. I understand that this is partly a great difficulty for many European countries, including France, which have ceased to be sovereign states. Many talk about sovereignty, but sovereignty, since the time when Serbia was bombed, is not respected. And they directly dictate to other countries what they should do. You should always try to be objective. But when in a state that says it is sovereign, ministers from foreign powers are appointed, this is completely unbelievable. It is unbelievable that some meetings, as we have seen, are being held under the American flag.
Do you mean Ukraine?
Of course. After all, who suffers in this case, in the foreground? This is poor Ukraine. Its territory is ruined by civil war, and completely innocent people, children are bombed and subjected to all kinds of violence. Where are the European values? That is, those values that are proclaimed. I do not see them.
In the declaration, you speak of your obligation, by virtue of your origin, “to expose the explicit historical falsifications that led to the current drama in Ukraine.” What falsifications are we talking about? – Thanks to my parents, in addition to the French language, I also speak Russian. And I noticed that those who do not speak Russian do not have access to the whole part of the information. And of course, an objective attitude and access to information are necessary. More information about everything is published in the Russian media than, for example, in the Ukrainian media. I’m not talking about the French media, where there is nothing at all. And here I want to emphasize that history is completely ignored. Everyone argues as if history begins in the mid-twentieth century. But this is not so.
That is, events until 1917 are not mentioned?
Oh sure. They completely ignore what happened before the age of 17. But it is impossible to explain the situation precisely without reading the story. I will give you one very simple example. You probably remember when Ukraine joined the UN. In 1945. Crimea was then in the Soviet Union. He was by no means in Ukraine. This is not mentioned by anyone. And also that – and this is generally absurd – that the exact borders of Ukraine were not legally, following the norms of international law, fixed. And those borders that are accepted are those borders that were established by Lenin. Note the paradox: the statues of Lenin are being felled, and it was he who created, in part, this situation.
In the month since the publication of the declaration, it was signed by more than a hundred prominent representatives of the Russian diaspora in France and in other countries. Who are these people and what unites them?
Sense of history. There are a lot of nuances, and not all of these people, of course, agree with each other. But they are united by a sense of history. They are brought up on the same basis.
And what about the attitude to today’s Russia?
Everyone sees basically that everything that is being done is directed against Russia. And that poor Ukraine is simply used as an instrument of this hatred and hostility, this policy that does not want Russia to get on its feet. Not that she has become particularly strong. Not. So that she gets on her feet, like any state. And it did not appear today. It has been planned since the 18th century. We know that, we remember that. We have neighbors, about our generation, a little younger. And when there was a reunion – not annexation, as they say – of Crimea, they said, “We congratulate you. For us, Crimea is Russia. And by the way, Ukraine too.” This does not mean that Ukraine is Russia. But this means that Ukraine is perceived as part of Russia. It is perceived as something one with Russia. Like it or not. If we are talking about the past: we must not forget that the very foundation of all this is the Old Russian State, which has a huge difference from all other European countries. In all other European countries there were different dynasties, if you carefully examine the history. As for our country, this is one space, from Novgorod to Kiev, and it is ruled by the same dynasty. First, these are brothers, then – cousins, then – second cousins, but still they are all connected by the same origin.
Speaking directly about France, do you find that, despite historically special relations with Russia, anti-Russian sentiments prevail here today?
One of the leading newspapers in France is the Figaro newspaper. Articles are published that are clearly directed against Russia. But when you read these articles on the Internet, there are comments. And you see with defeat that most of the comments are directed against these articles. And the impression is that the newspaper ignores these voices, does not hear. And what happens? What is born, and not only here, is a certain indignation over the fact that the feeling of freedom, the right to a word, is ignored.
You see this open letter as an expression of your personal position. Is it possible to say that there is a certain position of the descendants of white emigrants in France in relation to today’s Russia? Is there criticism, is there sympathy that prevails?
As you can see from the subscribers, there is a certain feeling of sympathy. But everyone brings his own. Sometimes letters come, and people say that they don’t agree with certain points. But they sign anyway. Because we tried to emphasize the most important thing. Emphasize what seems undeniable to us.
If you go beyond the Ukrainian context, what is your position and the position of the Russian intelligentsia in France regarding current Russian politics?
I can say that everyone has a feeling of love for Russia. Here, of course, there are a lot of nuances, but Herzen’s words are involuntarily recalled to me. When Herzen found himself in the West, he wrote the following: “Faith in Russia saved me.” It is necessary to consider how a person who was the embodiment of liberalism and political criticism could say these words. In addition, he has another statement, about the same period. “Why is believing in God ridiculous, but believing in humanity is not ridiculous, believing in the kingdom of heaven is foolish, and believing in earthly utopias clever?” Please note: we did not indicate for each surname which associations they belong to. This is just a personal attitude to the issue. And in this case we do not pretend to represent all emigration or Russian intelligentsia abroad. “We are certain individuals who have united around a certain position, preserving our face, with all possible reservations,” said Prince Dmitry Shakhovskoy in an interview with Radio Liberty.
Art historian living in Germany Alexander von Gahn, grandson of one of the associates of Admiral Kolchak, Baron Konstantin Gan, prepared another appeal on behalf of “the descendants of those who left Russia after the Bolshevik coup of October 1917, found themselves in a foreign land during World War II, was forced to leave a country recently, to the citizens of the Russian Federation “:
Another year that we spent outside of Russia is drawing to a close. It was not our choice. For us it was made by those who have been ruling Russia for almost a century.
For almost 70 years, the Bolsheviks systematically destroyed everything Russian, everything connected with the glorious past of our Motherland. Bolshevik executioners, fans of the Cheka, OGPU, NKVD and the KGB brutally tortured millions of Russian people. The Russian Orthodox Church was crushed. All, without exception, the entire Russian aristocracy, nobility, merchants were completely exterminated or expelled, most of the peasantry was destroyed. Workers turned into slaves.
In the cellars and dungeons of the Cheka, in the ditches and trenches, by all available means, on the fields of the civil war, officers, soldiers and sailors devoted to the oath and debt were destroyed. Thousands, tens of thousands of civilian hostages were shot. As a result of the bloody Civil War and the Stalinist repressions, millions of children who died of hunger and cold, were subjected to daily, hourly violence in orphanages and shelters were separated and orphaned – two generations of Russian people were almost completely exterminated in the name of building a “socialist paradise”.
KGB colonel Putin, who came to power 14 years ago, continues the policy of systematic destruction of Russia. Allegedly, on behalf of the Russian people and in the name of their national interests, a bloody Chechen war was unleashed, the territory of Georgia was occupied, the invasion of the territory of fraternal, Orthodox Ukraine continues.
Forcing Russian people to kill each other is the goal of the current generation of “Kremlin dreamers”. Nationalist propaganda, launched by the media controlled by the administration, poisons minds and souls with the poison of hatred, nationalism, hostility and suspicion. Under the guise of the “Russian World”, Russia, Russian culture, the Russian people are opposed to Europe; the cultural, spiritual ties, which they have suffered through blood and blood, are declared to be harmful – the fables about the Western corrupts have been extracted from the storerooms of history. Like seventy years ago, during the time of war communism, Moscow threatens the world with total destruction. We resolutely and with all possible confidence declare that these plans are doomed to failure. They are sure that emigration will not become a foreign residence of the OGPU. Neither White, nor New, no. Nor will she become the “conductor of politics” of the Kremlin.
Our task is to remove the curse of Bolshevism, hold free and fair elections, convene a Constituent Assembly, revive Great Russia in accordance with the will of the Russian people, as well as all the peoples inhabiting our country.
Russia will be free!
Here’s what Alexander von Gan thinks of the Paris declaration of Solidarity with Russia:
The people who signed this letter are well aware of the emotional charge that their names attach to this letter. The people to whom I belong with tremendous trepidation, Dmitry Mikhailovich Shakhovskoy, a man of extremely honest, crystalline soul, and many others from this list are really Russian people who are very worried about Russia. But once again, as it was in the 20s, and in the 30s, and in the 40s, they are used in the most shameless and cynical way. This is what excites me the most. Of course, huge mistakes were made in the West. I worked in Moscow as a financial consultant and representative of a German bank, and I remember well how Western financial and state institutions helped create a network of corruption that entangled the Kremlin in the very first years after the perestroika. But this does not mean that the West should be blamed. I was 21 years old in perestroika, and were confident that we were united with Europe and with the whole world. Russian cultural, spiritual space is a very important element of world culture. We never wanted to be in charge, everyone was really looking forward to overcoming this isolationism. This opportunity has been missed, and now we are offered nationalism. What is nationalism for Russia? This is the end, this is the collapse of the country. We cannot divide the Russians into very Russian and non-Russian – this is a crime against our common historical, cultural heritage, against the memory of our ancestors who built our country. And now we are offered to unite and support Russia and its leadership in a single impetus, which is consistently introducing extreme forms of nationalism, which will lead (and I think some of the signatories of the letter to this) to colossal victims, to the death of the Russian people as a people- creator. You want to set some people against others, you have already pushed Russian people with your foreheads. I can not imagine anything more criminal and more short-sighted than this kind of letter. I am very afraid that the print of this letter will lie not only on themselves, but also on their descendants. Because this is a crime, this is a betrayal of Russia, unfortunately. I am very sorry to say these words, but it is very difficult for me to perceive this in terms of philosophical and abstract.
What, in your opinion, was guided by the people who signed this letter? Is there an element of self-interest? Can we talk about the penetration of agents into this environment?
No, of course not. In no way can I even suspect that there is some kind of undercover work. I am sure that most of the signatories to this letter are fond of Russia. But, you see, love is blind. These celebrations, the annexation of the Crimea – are not related either to Russia or to the revival of the Russian people, but are related to momentary political considerations. But I can’t argue with them, because I know that they want the best for Russia, that they want good for Russia, that they want a true real, genuine revival of Russia, but they are looking for it not there. And this has always been, in my opinion, the biggest problem of emigration. Emigration is a largely distorted view and understanding of the reality of Russia. There were a lot of people who sincerely believed that they were helping the Russian people, Russia, and worked for the NKVD. They were sincerely sure that they were helping. In 1948, my great-grandfather returned with his family from Shanghai, he was the consul general of Russia, took over Soviet power, represented the interests of the Soviet government, although he was a tsarist diplomat. In 1948, they decided to return. My grandmother’s brother was a jazz musician, one of Shanghai’s best saxophonists. When they stood at a Shanghai raid, preparing to set sail, his orchestra for emigrants returning to Russia played the blues. It was a joyful mood. At the same time, an American steamer, which had just arrived from Vladivostok, stood on the same roadstead. From there they shouted to them in English: “What are you doing? Come back! You are crazy, don’t make this mistake. You are committing a crime in front of you and your children. Stop it, this is absurd, you are going to a country where there is none of this.” Of course, my uncle and my great-grandfather were sure that this was not so, although my grandmother was at the camp at that time, my grandfather was shot in 1937. And they came back. My great-grandfather was in a village in the Southern Urals, he was not shot, he was not put in a camp, but the rest of the days he lived in a village near Nizhny Tagil in a wooden hut. Although he graduated from Petersburg University, was in friendship with Roerich, he had an excellent diplomatic library, one of the best in Asia at that time. All this was destroyed. So I’m sure that there are no other urges and impulses, there is only a love for Russia and a desire to help Russia. And the fact that the letter was written not only by those who signed it, but people from the presidential administration took part in this, in my opinion, can not be doubted. The very style of the letter suggests that it did not come out completely from those stables.
Was your counter letter interesting? Do you expect many signatures?
It bothers me a little, honestly. I speak on my own behalf, on behalf of my family and on behalf of my children. Who else will sign it – I do not know. Sign – thank God, do not sign – the Lord will judge them. I just do not want to be among those who supported the policy of Russia. And I do not want people to say that white emigration supports the course of the president of the Russian Federation.
Crimea was called the “pearl of the Russian Empire.” Did you get any sentimental feelings when you heard that Crimea had returned to Russia?
“Russian world” is a reality. It seems absurd to me that people from the NKVD-GPU-KGB are engaged in the protection of the “Russian World”. – I believe that we live in a completely different world, there is no longer any idea of borders, that this pillar should be here, and this moat should be there – these are all past centuries. We live in completely changed conditions, everyone has the Internet, I can talk with friends in New York, with relatives in Germany or with friends in Moscow. Borders do not exist, borders exist in our minds. It seems to me that this clumsy attempt to take over Crimea from the back door is made in order to extend this sweet existence, this illusion that we will put up another fence and erect another wall. This year is 25 years since the day the Berlin Wall was destroyed. So, this is an attempt to build the Berlin Wall, but now in our heads, in our minds. There is absolutely no need to conquer the Cote d’Azur, attach it to the Russian Federation in order to live there, speak Russian, eat dumplings and drink vodka. Nobody bothers you to come to London, walk around Piccadilly and speak loud Russian – this is your right. You can buy a football club, for example. What could be more absurd than Roman Abramovich, who owns the Chelsea football club, is about the same absurdity as the joining of Crimea to Russia by some kind of “green people”. But it does not change anything. Anyway, someone has to pay for it, all the same, people have to live there, wherever they live, they drink water, they use electricity, they need to be themselves. It seems to me that the annexation of Crimea does not add anything to them personally, it does not make them better, it does not make them kinder, it does not make them more Russian people. We must stop somewhere. Then let’s move on, let’s get into California, join Alaska again, cancel the agreement, pay the Americans 7 million gold rubles and heal. Let us then follow this logic. But this is the logic of the absurd. When 200 years after the conquest of Crimea by Catherine, they conquer him again, after which they declare some kind of spiritual homeland of the Russian people, let me say, this is pure pathology.
Does the idea of the Russian World, which is now being formulated as Putin’s state ideology, also seem absurd?
Under the guise of the “Russian World” Russia is being opposed to Europe, fables about the Western corrupts have been extracted from the storerooms of history
No, of course, “Russian World” is a reality. It seems absurd to me that people from the NKVD-GPU-KGB are engaged in the protection of the “Russian World”. This is the most complete absurdity. “Russian World” was not created by them, they were, remain and, apparently, will soon be its destroyers and degraders. These people have never created anything for this “Russian World”; they are consistently, purposefully, systematically destroying it. Therefore, when I hear from the mouth of the KGB officers with experience that they are patriotic and are going to somehow develop and popularize this “Russian World”, you know, the apple tree is recognized by its fruits. As stated by Kremlin political scientists, “Russian World” rests on the pillars of Orthodoxy, nationality (Russian culture and the Russian language) and the poorly camouflaged autocracy, presented as “historical memory and common views on social development”. Vitality, power are extolled. Violence – submission to the will of the majority both inside and outside – is declared the norm. Society ascends over personality. In fact, the genuine basis of the “Russian World” was and remains a reverent attitude towards the human soul. In contrast to the Kremlin’s simulacrum, an authentic Russian World can only be created by free people, “in the image of freedom, not in the image of the rule of power and strength, but in the image of solidarity and mercy. Only such a society would not be slave, ”said the outstanding Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev. And further: “The source of human freedom cannot be in society, the source of human freedom in the spirit.” It is this freedom that we intend to defend.