N. A. BERDYAEV (BERDIAEV)
The Germanisation of Russia
(1917 – #286)
We live from day to day, not knowing, what tomorrow will bring. The dark abyss stretches open beneathe us and at any moment it can swallow up all our blessings and values. It would be difficult to establish some measure of law within the swirlings of these dark chaotic elements and foresee the future. Actually, all is occurring not thus, as we would think. But it would be improper to forget one thing. Russia — is not an isolated island. It — is an inseparable part of the world organism, connected by a thousand threads with the life of other peoples. The collapse and ruin of Russia cannot be a matter of indifference for the rest of the world, for all the great powers and for all the cultural peoples. All are interested in the fate of such a gigantus, as is Russia. If the weakening of Russia can cheer many, then its total collapse has to be disquieting. This collapse is disquieting not only for our allies, but also for our enemies. Germany has done all it could for the weakening of Russia and its collapse during the time of war: it has played upon Russian weakness and Russian ills, the Russian darkness and Russian baseness, it has stopped at nothing in deceitful struggle, has not been squeamish about stooping to the vilest, most repugnant methods. And it has succeeded, it has found a favourable soil in the passivity among elements of the Russian people, in the corrosive ideas of the Russian intelligentsia, in the betrayal by bunches of riff-raff. Germany will have defeated Russia in close alliance with the destructive and corrupt forces, acting within Russia itself, through a betrayal by the Russian people of itself, its native land and its idea in the world. But it mustneeds be said, that also for Germany itself the too far gone collapse of Russia is unsafe and undesirable. The Russian anarchy — holds great a temptation. For the intention of exploiting Russia, there would still be needed the preserving of some sort of power, though subverted and bereft of independence. Germany wants to germanise Russia and gradually transform it into its colony. Thus is its projected aim. But even Germany itself acknowledges the unsafe aspect of the experiment of the anarchistic communism in Russia. These efforts ought also to seem unsafe and not a matter of unconcern for the other peoples of Europe, friendly towards us. Too many interests are invested in Russia, it is too indebted, too many natural riches are hidden in Russia. The creditors indeed love us. The total impoverishment of Russia through its delirious anarchistic experiments and its ultimate disappearance from the world civil-legal order represents a danger and harm for all the world.
It is a great matter of shame and humiliation for every Russian, not bereft of a sense of national dignity, to realise, that Russia, the hitherto great Russia, the dreadsome Russia will enter into a period of international and forceful deciding of its fate. The worldwide balance of powers will not allow Russia ultimately to fall apart and perish. The clashing and opposing struggles of interests of the great powers will put limits to the dismemberment of Russia. But this is quite vexing a comfort, it likens Russia to Turkey, which long already has been propped up through a diplomatic balancing act. Prior to this limited humiliation and shaming of Great Russia, a world power encompassing an entire enormous world of East-West, it will be preceeded by those, who in a frenzy of revolutionary chauvinism have shouted, that the Russian revolutionary democracy will instruct all the peoples of the West with the light of internationalism and revolutionary socialism, the brotherhood of peoples, etc, etc. Those, who have demanded a speedy cessation of the war and by this having undercut the army, have terribly further burdened and prolonged the war. Those, who have proclaimed the slogans, “without annexations or indemnities” and “the self-determination of peoples”, are getting the world ready to make very grievous annexations and indemnities and without any self-determination of peoples. Those, who have wanted to ply all the world with revolutionary phrases, have surrendered Russia into slavery to the world. Such is a natural punishment for allowing lies and deception. The internationalist Germanophiles love to say, that having Russia threatened upon England and America is nowise better, than being dependent upon Germany. Better it be already dependent upon that, which one loves and serves, i.e. upon Germany. A power debilitated and inwardly dismembered will always be dependent upon others and in slavery. And indeed the idea of a mighty Russia and the unity of Russia is something our internationalists have always regarded as bourgeoisly imperialistic. There has not been a will to might with that revolutionary democracy, which wanted to lead behind it the peoples of Europe, and there has not been a consciousness of the worth of Russia. The poison of an international Bolshevism has been active throughout all the revolutionary democracy, in all these Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries, and it has afflicted he organism of Russia. All these people have been patriots of revolution, and not patriots of Russia. they have all sought to save the revolution, and not their native land. They have laid waste their native land, and each step towards the “developing and deepening” of the revolution has been transformed into a betrayal and treachery towards their native land, into a victory for Germany.
Russia has been rendered non-mighty and powerless to continue with the international struggle, not only as regards whatever the goals and ideas, but also as regards its fundamental inviolability and worth. The voice of Russia cannot be heard in the affairs of the world. The world will become shut off for us. And Russia can assist no one, liberate no one. Those very people, who in the international conflict have not admitted it necessary to have a strong army and regarded it sufficient to rely upon words, in an internal struggle will rely exclusively upon bayonettes. The disorganised and weakened army will become transformed into a weapon for a fratricidal civil war. The anti-militarists will become transformed into very extreme militarists. The goal, which Germany has pursued, will have been attained: the war will cease at the front and be carried on back at the rear, Russians will stop fighting Germans and start fighting Russians instead. After this, Russia would be ultimately weakened and the Russian people given over to the capricious whims of other peoples, their fate dependent upon some shreds of mercy. Internationalism will not lead Russia forth onto the world stage, but the rather shove it back into Asia. The world role of Russia would be done for. The Slavic world would fall back afront the Germanic world, separating us from Europe.
How to make sense of all that is happening, from more extensive an historical perspective? The catastrophe happening with Russia is merely one of the points along the way of a long historical Germanisation of Russia, a Germanisation of the Slavic East. This also is an historical aim of the Germanic world, posited by them in former times. Marx was conscious of this “mission” of the German people no less, than were the verymost rightist German imperialists. Germanism has striven by various paths towards the realisation of this goal: paths both spiritual and material. Germanism first of all set itself the task of weakening the Russian national will and the Russian national consciousness. And this has proven very successful over the span of two centuries. The Social Democratic internationalism — is one of the final steps towards the weakening of the Russian will, of the enslaving of the Russian mind. Germanism has long since poisoned Russian thought and undermined the Russian will. This has occurred both at the summits of the spiritual life and the lower aspect of the material life. Kant and Marx alike have Germanised the Russian soul. The Russian state powers have been Germanised. The Russian Church has been Germanised into a synodal structure, the Russian intelligentsia has been Germanised, Russian economic life has been Germanised. At the moment, when the war began and there occurred the clash of the German world and the Slavic world, already long before had been set in place the process of the Germanisation of Russia and it continued to the extent, that Russian resistance was weakened. We lost our own idea. We were all he time waging the war in a sort of moral ambiguity. This ambiguity was there alike both in the right, and in the left camps, and both prior to the revolution and after the Revolution. The genius of the nation had its revenge in the betrayal of the Russian idea. The Germanophiles have consisted of both the Russian Black Hundredists and Russian Social Democrats. Both the one and the other were ready to betray Russia in the name of he triumph of either reaction or the triumph of revolution, in the name of the old dynasty of the Romanovs or the new dynasty of the “Revolutionary Democracy”. We slid down the facets of separate a world. If one of the moral causes of the downfall of the old powers was manifest by its suspected treason and betrayal of Russia, then a thousand times moreso has happened treason and betrayal by the Revolution over the span of is developement — in the internationalism and Bolshevism.
And the most terrible thing of all is this, that the Russian people itself in its enormous dark masses has remained passive, it has become a weapon for the evil powers acting through it, directed upon the destruction of Russia. It has been taken in by the internationalist Bolshevik propaganda, as a line of least resistance for its unenlightened instincts. It went along with those, who proposed to be more dear to it, and surrendered its soul. It completely swallowed the German poison both unconsciously and passively, in a deep darkness, not knowing what would happen. It betrayed to Germany the Russia, which belongs not to it alone, but also to its fathers and grandfathers, its sons and grandsons, all the entire thousand year Russian people and the God-created Russia. And it, this dark people, is terribly responsible, since not totally without responsibility are average people, created by God. But the greatest responsibility falls upon that revolutionary intelligentsia, semi-enlightened and obsessed, which has accepted and spread throughout all the organism of Russia the German poison under the alluring guise of internationalism.
Russian internationalism is merely the reverse side of German nationalism, only one of the methods of the Germanisation of Russia. The Bolshevik turnabout is merely an aspect in the victorious Germanisation of Russia, an ultimate crash of the Russian will and dimming of the Russian consciousness. It is not by chance that our internationalists so love our enemy Germany and so dislike our allies England and France. They have all the time shouted about English capitalists and French imperialists and have said comparatively little about German capitalistic imperialists. The internationalist orientation in international politics in practice has always seemed a German bias and anti-English orientation. Internationalism is a vile gas, released by German imperialism upon other peoples, weakening them and forming a misty fog around them. Over Russia it is quite terribly criminal a thing, which will be bewailed for many a long generation. Our grandsons and great-grandsons will curse the criminal act of our revolutionary generation, for having consigned them to a miserable and paltry existence. This revolutionary generation in its social carousings and orgies has squandered riches not belonging to it, of the worth of all the Russian people in its past and future generations. Part of the present day generation has betrayed Russia, has doomed it to a miserable slave-like existence. The Russian utopias have ended up poorly, they have gone into serving the enemy of our native land, have been rendered into pliant tools. Russia could have merged from the war glorious, powerful, free and granting freedom. It would have brought to completion a matter of many centuries, would have realised the age-old aspiration of the Russian people — it would have received a free access to the Southern seas, so needful for the Russian grain-agriculture, it would have resolved the accursed Eastern question, an age-old source of wars, it would have liberated oppressed nationalities, it would have smashed the grip of German imperialism and kept it restrained. But the Russian people in the dark depths of its free will became callous to its concerns in the world, it succumbed to a diabolical temptation, it permitted evil powers to violate it, it succumbed to deceptive promises, to flattery with the greedy instincts of he present day. And Russia will emerge from the war dismembered, weak, miserable and dependent. After the orgies of the present day will follow a fierce reckoning. The great national totality is the source of life of all the parts. But the great totality has been forgotten and brought to ruin by the self-asserting parts. Russia has fallen apart into atoms and each atom has regarded itself a god.
Every relegation to dependence is humiliating and grievous for Great Russia. But being rendered dependent upon Germany is especially dangerous and intolerable. Germany — is our mighty neighbour, and long ago already Germany has striven to render Russia into its own colony. Germany has an exceptional capacity to depersonalise those peoples, upon whom it extends its influence, it mangles their soul. The German spirit is terribly dangerous for Russia, it tempts the Russians, and it can enslave them. The German world — is the age-old enemy of he Slavic world. England is less terrible for us, it is farther away from us, has less pretensions concerning us, its interests are less contrary to ours. Spiritually it cannot enslave Russia, its spirit does not tempt Russians. Germany is spiritually stronger than England and within it lies concealed a dangerous spiritual poison for Russians. Likewise dangerous is also the material poison of Germany, that economic slavery, which it will bring us, if it emerges victorious. It will enmesh us with a thousand threads. The Germans will exploit our riches and transform us into their slaves. Spiritual slavery results from material slavery. It would be a crazy dream, to imagine that Germany would heed the appeals of the Russian revolutionary democracy and produce also for itself a socialist revolution! The German Social Democrats — are pliable and culturally bourgeois, hey are for the large part faithful German imperialists. Marx himself was a German imperialist (vide my article, “The German Influences and Slavism”, in issue No. 6 of “Narodopravstvo”). The Russian Revolution repels the peoples of the West by its dark, Eastern Asiatic image.
We have to gather all the powers of our spirit, to gather all, of what has remained in Russia healthy, bright, true, all the remnants of our national ill and national sense of reason, in order to oppose this Satanic onslaught by Germanism both outward and inward. Let Russian people, having preserved fidelity to their idea, their faith, their great legacies, let them withdraw into the catacombs, if evil ultimately triumphs over the surface of the earth, and herein make ready for the resurrection of Russia.
N. A. Berdyaev
© 2010 by translator Fr. S. Janos.
(1917 – 286 -en)
GERMANIZATSIYA ROSSII. Article originally published in the weekly Journal “Narodopravstvo”, 1917, No. 17, p. 2-4. Republished in the anthology of N. Berdyaev articles entitled, “Padenie svyaschennogo russkogo tsarstva, Publitsistika 1914-1922”, Izdatel’stvo Astrel’, Moskva, 2007, p. 661-666.