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May 26, 2024

4 types of facing a problem

Editor Note: Actually 6 types can be seen.

Berdyaev and the Ukrainian War – Russian & Eurasian Politics


            Reading perhaps Russia’s greatest thinker, Nikolai Berdyaev, during the horrors of the NATO-Russia Ukrainian war, I thought it might be of some interest to examine Berdyaev’s views on war, Russia, and Ukraine. Berdyaev was born near Kiev, in Obukhov, Kiev Oblast’, lived in Kiev and its environs, and attended a series of educational institutions in Kiev, including Kiev University. However, like many born in Ukraine over the centuries, he identified exclusively as a Russian, having no Ukrainian but rather noble Russian, noble French, as well as Polish and Tatar ancestry.

Living in the Russian Empire, he was caught up in many of its intellectual trends and political events. Drawn to Marxism in his university days and exiled to Vologda in 1897 for anti-Tsarist activity, Berdyaev soon abandoned such thought in favor of a moderate conservatism and revival of his Orthodox faith. He was very much opposed to the atheistic communist Bolshevik regime, and was arrested and interrogated by Cheka chief Felix Dzerzhinskii and deported from Soviet Russia along with hundreds of other philosophers and conservative intelligents in 1922. Berdyaev remained loyal but critical both of the Tsarist regime and Orthodox Church. As a thinker, he produced a free religious, historical, and political philosophy, with his greatest contributions being made to philosophy of history, so popular among the Russian intelligentsia both in his and our time. His thought reflected many of the elements extant in Russian culture and thought during the late 19th century, as I have analysed in my Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Culture, Thought, History and Politics (Europe Books, 2022) and my working paper “Russian Historical Tselostnost’” (https://gordonhahn.com/2023/04/13/working-paper-russian-historical-tselostnost-parts-1-3-conclusion/, 13 April 2023), including: monism, universalism, communalism, solidarism, messianism, historicism, transcendentalism and anti-bourgeoisism.

Berdyaev’s monism, like that of most of Russian religious and philosophical thought, held that God was present in the world and the Heavenly Kingdom and Divine were interconnected with the material world, humankind, and individual persons’ lives. Humankind’s purpose should be to prepare for the full unity of the universe and the Heavenly Kingdom, between spirit and matter, God and humankind. Berdyaev’s very Russian belief in or aspiration to unity or wholeness or tselostnost’ enveloped other types of tselostnost’: universalism, communalism, solidarism, and historical unity (Hahn, Russian Tselostnost’, pp. 138-42, 380-2, 567-8, 725-6, and “Russian Historical Tselostnost’”). As an Orthodox Christian, Berdyaev believed in the ultimate unity of all humankind in Christ—putting his Russian univeralist and monist tselostnost’ in brief (Hahn, Russian Tselostnost’, pp. 138-42, 380-2).

Similarly, Berdyaev shared the Russian aspiration to and belief in the propriety of communalism—the priority of the group’s interest over individual interests and the benefits of this to individuals and humankind (Hahn, Russian Tselostnost’, pp. 567-8). Although he was critical of Slavophiles, he saw their belief and that the Russian agrarian socialists in the advantages and moral superiority of the village commune as a reflection fo Russians’ preference for a communalist rather than individualist culture. He also endorsed Slavophile Aleksei Khomyakov’s views of spiritual communalism or sobornost’ – ‘communitarianism’ or ‘conciliarism’ – under the protective divine wing of Christian love in the community of Orthodox believers and the Church (Nikolai Berdyaev, “Slavyanskaya ideya,” in Nikolai Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii (St. Petersburg: Azbuka, 2016, pp. pp. 161-70, at p 162. )].

The Russian preference for political, social, cultural, and ontological (identitarian) unity or solidarism is also present in Berdyaev’s work as an aspiration, since he was well aware of the great schisms that plagued Russia historically and in his own time. As I discuss below, these foundational elements of Russian tselostnost’ in Berdyaev’s thinking accompany his equally Russian messianism, historical tselostnost’, his vision of Ukraine, and his views on war. 

Berdyaev, Russia, and its Fate

Berdyaev was neither a revolutionary nor a reactionary. He was, rather, a Russian patriot, Orthodox believer, a moderately conservative for his time and place, but he was critical of the Russian elite, intelligentsia, people, and orthodox Church. Presaging Soviet culturologist Yurii Lotman’s work on Russian duality, he was particularly struck by and quite penetrating and eloquent in describing the stark contradictions in the Russian character—its abundant antinomies: “In other countries one can find all these contradictions, but only in Russia does the thesis turn into its antithesis, the bureaucratic state is born from anarchism, slavery is born from freedom, and extreme nationalism from supra-nationalism” (universalism) [Nikolai Berdyaev, “Sud”ba Rossii,” republished in Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii), pp. 11-44, at p. 29]. He points to other antinomies. Russian nationalism also coexists, it not produces Russian universalism: “Supra-nationalism, universalism” is “an essential trait of the Russian national spirit… The national in Russia is precisely supra-nationalism and its freedom from nationalism; in this Russia distinctive and unlike any other country in the world. Russia is called upon to be the liberator of nations” (Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, p. 20). In this last phase we see one way in which one particular trait generates Russian messianism, a belief in a special global mission for Russia in shaping world history. In another antinomy, “(t)he other side of Russian humility is an unusual Russian self-opinion. The humblest Russian is the greatest, most powerful, and uniquely called” (Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, p. 21). Here again, another essential trait leads, in Berdyaev’s thinking, to Russian messianism. In order to attain its proper status in the world and have its say in History’s course and outcome, it needed to overcome the negative sides of these antinomies.

Being a Russian patriot and imbued by Russian monist Christian, teleological historicism, Berdyaev, much like Fyodor Dostoevskii, developed a faith that Orthodox Russia would overcome its shortcomings and play an important role in leading humankind to Christian unification at the end of History. He certainly saw Russia as properly a “great Empire” (Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, p. 276) and was supportive of Russia’s colonial advancement of less developed peoples and of Russia’s “heroic” army in World War I (Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, p. 100). At times, he wrote as if Russia was destined to overcome its insufficiencies and play a pivotal or leading role in history, but at other times he was urging changes to achieve this, thus implying an element of uncertainty in his own mind. For example, in his article “Spirit and Machine,” Berdyaev wrote: “If Russia wants to be a great Empire and play a role in history, then this lays on it the obligation to start on the path of material-techonological development. Without this decision, Russia will fall into a situation without exit. The soul of Russia will be freed and its depths disclosed only on this path (of material development)” (Nikolai Berdyaev, “Dukh and mashina,” in Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, pp. 266-76, at p. 276).

Berdyaev’s own nationalism and messianism were reflected in his belief in a special historical role of the Slavs—his “Slavic idea.” He was no enemy of the West but was highly critical of its bourgeois materialism, which he blamed for the outbreak of World War (Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, pp. 207, 217-18). “Russia is the most non-bourgeois country in the world,” lacking the “despotism” of the bourgeois family life and concerns Berdyaev averred. He conterposed to this Western ‘bourgeoisism’ the transcendence of the world exemplified by Russians: “The Russian person with ease of the sul overcomes any bourgeoisness and departs from any custom and from any normed life. The wanderer (strannik) type is so characteristic of Russia and so wonderful. The wanderer is the freest person on earth. …The greatness of the Russian people and the calling of it to a higher life are concentrated in the strannik type. … Russia is a fantastic country of spiritual drunkenness. … The Russian spirit cannot sit in place, it is not )of) the shopkeepers’ soul, not a local soul. In Russia, in the soul of (its) people there is a kind of endless searching, a searching for the invisible city of Kitezh, and unseen home. … Before the Russian soul open great exapanses, and there is no marked horizon before its spiritual eyes. The Russian spirit borns in a fiery pursuit of the truth, absolute, divine truth and salvation for the whole world and the universal resurrection to a new life” (Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, pp. 24-6). Here, in Berdyaev’s perspective, is a classic Russian vision of the Russian soul, replete with its monist, universalist, transcendental, and messianic expanse. Berdyaev was himself typically Russian in his tendency towards transcendentalism and wholeness, preferred over the everyday mundanity of Western bourgeois life and understanding. Berdyaev’s very Russian transcendentalism, symbolized by and reflected in the strannik, is evidenced by his own belief in and aspiration to wholeness in its various forms as well as by his messianic hopes for Russia (see Hahn, Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Culture, Thought, History and Politics).

Oddly enough Berdyaev did not view Russia’s main opponent in World War I, Germany, as having been soiled by its very bourgeois life and even denied it had a fundamentally materialist culture. German culture and messianism derived from a far deeper cause, its own peculiar idealism. German bourgeoisism, industrial-techological advancement were the consequence of the German spirit. “The German is a metaphysician” (Nikolai Berdyaev, “Religiya Germanizma,” in Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, pp. 195-204, especially p. 197). In contrast to Russian idealism’s humility, however, German culture, in Berdyaev’s view, is imbued with an egocentric nationalism and aspiration to instill rationality, organization, and order in the world. While Russian messianism and universalism accepted chaos as the nature of human history before salvation, German messianism and universalism pursued humankind’s salvation through the willful elimination of chaos, and only Germany, Germans thought, can accomplish this task (Berdyaev, “Religiya Germanizma,” pp. 195-204, especially p. 200). In this way, like Russian nationalism, German nationalism contained and indeed nurtured the germ of universalism, however different a species of universalism it might be, not to mention imperialism.

Despite its own sprituality, Germany had chosen the path of “prideful” nationalism and the machine in excess and thus was in conflict with Russia and potentially could be better opposed by the Slavic idea, Slavic unity, and Slavic messianism. In his earlier writings, which have been the focus herein so far, Berdyaev adhered to some pan-Slavist tendencies and even proposed Slavic unity and messianism as an antidote and counterforce against German militaristic messianism. For example, in his article, “The Slavic Idea” (“Slavyanskaya ideya”), he emphasized that two of the 19th century Slavophiles’ and pan-Slavists’ shortcomings was to ignore or underestimate as well as a failure to address divisions between the various Slavic peoples and to harbor an inappropriate disdain for Poland because of its Catholicism, leaving the “Slavic idea” in a “sad condition” (Nikolai Berdyaev, “Slavyanskaya ideya,” in Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, pp. 161-70, at pp. 162 and 163-5). Instead, Russia ought endeavor to unify the Slavs under the “Slavic idea” against the threatening danger of Germanism”, should emphasize ethnicity over religion in order to unify Slavdom, particularly its two greatest states, against Berlin (Berdyaev, “Slavyanskaya ideya,” in Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, pp. 161 and 168). Indeed, Russia must, according to Berdyaev, “redeem its historical guilt” before the Polish people (Berdyaev, “Slavyanskaya ideya,” in Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, p. 165). “The idea of Slavic unification, first of all Russian-Polish unification, should not be external-political, utilitarian-statist” but rather “spiritual and focuses on internal life” in the Slavic world, which presumably means a concentration on overcoming religious schism, cultural differences, and historical grievances (Berdyaev, “Slavyanskaya ideya,” in Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, p. 170).    

One cannot help but be struck by the analogous configuration of the contradiction and conflict between Berdyaev’s view of world affairs, World War I, the idealistic orgins of German militarism in the aspiration to organize and order humankind, and the Slavic idea he counterposed to German imperialism, on the one hand, and Russia’s perception of American hegemony, Washington’s rules-based new world order, and Russian neo-Eurasiainism and Sino-Russian-led, Greater Eurasian-centered alternative multi-civilizational model for the international system, on the other hand,   reflected by BRICS+, the One Belt One Road Initiative, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Indeed, Berdyaev perhaps presaged Eurasianism in writing that “Russia should be demonstrate types of eastern-western cultures and overcome the one-sidedness of Western European culture with its positivism and materialism and the self-satisfaction of limited horizons. … We should move out into the worldly expanse. And in this expanse the ancient wellsprings of culture should be visible. The East should become of equal value to the West again” (Berdyaev, “Slavyanskaya ideya,” in Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, p. 159).  

Berdyaev’s endearment to the “Slavic idea” centered on a Russo-Polish rapprochement and alliance and his disdain for Germany’s imperialism and war machine suggest that similarly he would have rejected American positivism, materialism, and hegemony, NATO expansion, and its splintering of Slavic peoples away from Russia and if alive today would accept Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to block NATO expansion even at the cost of war in Ukraine. It is reasonable to conclude, in fact, that Berdyaev’s views of Ukraine, if held in comparably relative form today, might have facilitated not just his acceptance, nut perhaps even support for Russia’s ‘special military operation’ against Kiev.

Berdyaev, Ukraine, and Russia

As noted above, Berdyaev was born and lived his youth and young adult years in Ukraine, indeed even attending university in Kiev. So he could have succumbed to ideas of Ukrainian nationalism which intensified at the time or rejected them based on his essentially Russian ethnicity and identity as well as his later adult life’s deep imbeddedness in the life and culture of Russia in its imperial centers, St. Petersburg and Moscow. Initially, he dabbled in Marxism as much of his generation did but then turned to a religious idealism rooted in Russian Orthodoxy. The issue of Ukrainian nationalism and separatism was already a burning issue in the Russian Empire by World War I and was intentionally aggravated before and during by Vienna, and Berdyaev did not shy away from blaming St. Petersburg’s policy for damaging Russia’s prestige and strengthening separatism in Galicia (Nikolai Berdyaev, “Natsionalizm i Imperializm,” in Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, pp. 132-40, at p. 139).

Berdyaev’s preference for and perhaps belief in Slavic unity would naturally have been predisposed him to oppose Ukrainian separatism. At the same time, in discussing the divisions in the Slavic world, he noted the tendency of ethnically close or related peoples to be less able to understand each other and so to more easily reject each other than peoples culturally and linguistically more distant from each other. (Nikolai Berdyaev, “Rossiya i polskaya dusha,” in Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, pp. 187-95, at p. 188). This dynamic can be seen in stark relief nowhere better than in Russo-Ukrainian relations, though, to be sure, much of the antagonism has been seeded by Russia’s foes, seeking to sow separatism for centuries there—not to mention Poland’s and Austro-Hungaria’s own colonial relations with Ukraine. Therefore, Berdyaev was and would be today keenly attuned to the complexities of the Russian-Ukrainian relationship – compounded after his writing on the subject by the Soviet experience in a myriad of ways – and its role in fomenting the crisis that led to the NATO-Russia Ukrainian war.

Consistent with his pan-Slavist idea, Berdyaev fully rejected in his time the idea of a separation of Russia and ‘Malorossiya’ (Little Russia) or Ukraine. In his 1918 article “Russia and Great Russia” Berdyaev denied both the Great Russians and “Little Russians” any status as separate nations or peoples. Just as there is no separate Ukrainian nationality, he aasserted, so too there is no separate Great Russian nationality; there is only a single, united Russian nation, with “tribal differences” between Russians and Ukrainians (N. A. Berdyaev, “Rossiya i Velikorossiya,” Nakanune, No. 3, April 1918 republished in A. Yu. Minakov, ed., Ukrainskii Vopros: V russkoi patritiocheskoi mysli (Moscow: Knizhnyi mir, 2016), pp. 413-19, at pp. 413-14.). In other words, he perceived solidarist tselostnost’ and supported solidarism of the Russian nation as a united ethno-cultural entity, noting its centuries’ long continuity until 1917. He did so in the unique way of denying the Great Russians any national status separate from its union with Ukraine and other traditional territories and even Russia’s colonized peoples. Berdyaev was prepared to sacrifice even the well-being of each of the eastern Slavic nations for the sake of a unified Russia. “A suffering, sick, misfit Russia would be better than well-off and self-satisfied states of Great Russia, Little Russia, Belorussia, and other regions, thinking themselves independent wholes” ( Berdyaev, “Rossiya i Velikorossiya,” p. 418). For him, “(i)t is not possible to think of Great Russia without the south and without its riches. And it is impossible not to see a terrible betrayal and terrible crime in the destruction of the entire cause of Russian history which carried out the idea of Russia” (Berdyaev, “Rossiya i Velikorossiya,” p. 419). Assuming Berdyaev would not have acquiesced to constructivist arguments regarding nations, his pan-Slavism would have inclined him to refuse to recognize the formation of a separate Ukrainian identity and the idea of a separate Ukrainian nation and state. Moreover, Berdyaev asserted that annexations can be historically useful and condemned Europe for failing to help the Christians of the Ottoman Empire and wrote of Russia’s historical “calling” in his discussion (Nikolai Berdyaev, “Dvizhenie i nepodvizhnost’ v zhizni narodov,” in Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, pp. 227-33, at pp. 229-32). Given his pan-Slavism, one can suspect that he had in mind any future Russian attempt during the war to help Turkey’s Slavic Christian peoples breakaway from Constantinople. Although whether Berdyaev, if he was alive today, would have or would not have backed Russia’s ‘special military operation’ into Ukraine is a considerably different matter, by all appearances he could very well have accepted it and the annexations of Ukrainian territory both in 2014 and 2022.

Berdyaev on War

In numerous articles written during World War I and before the fall of the Romanov dynasty and Imperial regime, Berdyaev discussed nationalism, imperialism, universalism, messianism, the role of words in politics and society, war, and Russia’s relations to all these elements (Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii). The theme of war was directly related to the time in which he was writing, during World War I, when Russia was in the midst of a mammoth struggle of competing imperialisms of which Russia’s was but one and hardly focused on Europe proper. Berdyaev’s monist tselostnost’ was reflected in his belief that war was a reflection not just of humankind’s inner, spiritual world but of the divine world (Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, pp. 205-18). War is material reflection of spiritual world, a symptom of internal disease in humankind, a reflection not cause of evil. In this way, all were to blame and responsible for and participates one way or another in the ‘Great War’ (Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, pp. 205-7, 210-11). But most of all, it seems, materialism in its most concentrated social form – bourgeois life and values – was responsible for the outbreak of WW I. Here, Berdyaev’s very typical Russian transcendentalism emerges to indict non-spiritual, bourgeoisie life, which, he argued, kills human spirituality (Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, p. 207).

But on the grander scale of things, war is inevitable, an integral part of tragic nature of human history, which Berdyaev emphasized in his monist philosophy of history and historicism (Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, p. 217). His religiosity availed him to parse differing attitudes towards war he perceived in Russians and perhaps others between materialists and positivists. Berdyaev asserted that materialists’ greater fear of death more contributed to their greater fear of war and therefore their pacifism. Consistent with his monism, Christians (such as he himself), he argued, see war more deeply as a symptomatic expression of “spiritual violence”, which all inflict on others (Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, p. 208). There is a “dark irrational source” in the depths of humankind from which comes “the deepest tragic contradictions.” Evil in humankind was gaining full reign in the absence or insufficient ubiquity of the Divine. Yet war is a mix of good and evil. In terms of the latter, it involved violence and death inflicted by man against man. A truly Christian war (and state) were impossible for Berdyaev.  In terms of the good, war moved the tragedy of history forward towards its apocalyptic apotheosis of all humankind and the advent of the ultimate triumph of “Christ’s sword”, the Second Coming, and Heavenly Kingdom (Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, p. 209). Thus, Berdyaev’s views on war are based on his Christian philosophy of history and historicism intermixed with his Orthodox monism and universalism.  

Later, Berdyaev would develop a sophisticated religious philosophy of history in which he elaborated on the connection between the worldly and spiritual worlds’ struggle between good and evil and its relationship to world history and its ultimate apocalyptic, yet Christian outcome with the second coming of Christ and the advent of the Heavenly Kingdom to the material world. Here was a mix of beliefs in monism and historical unity. A hint of his subsequently more deeply developed Christian eschatology and teleology of History’s ultimate outcome and the following salvation can be seen in a religiously and metaphysically philosophical passage on war:

The responsibilityof man (for the war) should be broadened and deepened. Truly, man is violent and a murderer more often than he suspects and than (others) suspect about him. It is impossible to see violence and murder only in war. All our earthly life rests on violence and murder. Even before the beginning of today’s world war we were violent and murdered in the very depths of life more than during the war. The war manifested on the material plane our old violence and murder, our hatred and antagonism. In the depths of life there is a dark, irrational wellspring. The most profound tragic contradictions are born from it. And humankind, not enlightened within itself divine light because of this dark ancient element, inevitably is passing through the baptismal horror and death of war. There is an inherent redemption of ancient guilt in war. There is something foolish in the abstract wishes of pacifism to avoid war, leaving humankind in its previous condition. This is the wish to remove responsibility from oneself. War is intrinsic punishment and intrinsic redemption. In war, hatred is remolded into love, and love into hatred. In war the furthest extremes touch, and the devilish dark intersects with divine light. War is the material manifestation of the ancient contradictions of being and the revelation of the life’s irrationality. Pacifism is the rationalistic negation of the irrational dark in life. And it is impossible to believe in an eternally rational world. It is not for nothing that Apocalypse prophecies about wars. And Christianity does not foresee a peaceful and painless end of world history. Below is reflected that which is above, and on earth it is at it is in Heaven. And above, in Heaven, God’s angels fight with Satan’s angels. In all spheres of the cosmos there is fiery and furious elements, and war is conducted. And on earth Christ brings not peace but the sword. The deep antinomy of Christianity is in this: Christianity cannot answer evil with evil, resist evil with violence, and Christianity is war, the division of the world and its outgrowth until the end of the redemption of the cross in dark and evil (Nikolai Berdyaev, “Mysli o prirode voiny,” in Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, pp. 205-13, at pp. 208-9).

The above exegesis is not only Berdyaev’s metaphysical analysis of the meaning of World War I and war in general. It is Berdyaev’s recommendation to Russians on how they should interpret the apocryphal events they were witnessing.

Indeed, Berdyaev argued that Russians’ failure to adopt such a religious-metaphysical attitude towards the war that recognizes the “(c)reative historical tasks” related to the war led to a need for self-justification for Russia’s involvement. Self-justification was achieved by placing themselves above the Germans, who were portrayed as morally inferior. Russia’s “hasty justifications for the war or, more precisely, our self-justifications came to one conclusion: we are better than the Germans, moral right is on our side, we are defending ourselves and others” (Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, p. 220). He continued: “For some (Russians) the German people were acknowledged as the bearer of militarism and reaction, and that is why it is necessary to fight with them—it is a progressive cause. Even anarchists such as Kropotkin stood for this point of view. For many the German people seemed the bearer of the anti-Christian principles and a false spiritual culture, and that is why war with them is a holy war” (Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, p. 221). Berdyaev would likely see this less the less than humble and sufficiently arrogant and self-righteous today in both the Western and much of Russia’s perceptions, proclamations, and propaganda surrounding the NATO-Russia Ukrainian war.

There was no shying away from criticism of Russians’ behavior at the outbreak of the war, on Berdyaev’s part. He castigated the bloodthirsty nationalism that swept through Russia at the time as it did throughout Europe: “The orgy of chemical instincts and the ugly profiting and speculation in the days of the great war and the great trials for Russia are ourgreat shame and a black stain on national life” (Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, p. 99). He saw this as a consequence of Russia’s weak moral education, lack of a civil society and civic honesty and honor, and one alternative side of Russian smirenie: susceptibility to the “temptation of easy gains,” which he saw elevated by in Russia’s bourgeois-philistine layer” (Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, pp. 99-100). Thus, he today would be dismayed by similar war mongering and the like coming from the ultra-patriotic wing of Russia’s political spectrum as well as from more ‘bourgeios-philistine’ elements such as Russian Security Council Secretary, Chairman of the Military-Industrial Commission, and former Russian president Dmitrii Medvedev.

Finally, Berdyaev placed the war in another larger context of the struggle between peoples for a “dignified national existence” that was part of the development of the world’s historical tragedy in which no nation had a monopoly on morality in war. “Тhe historical struggle is a struggle for being and not for forthright justice, and it is implemented by the comprehensive spiritual forces of nations. (The historical struggle) is a struggle for national being and not a utilitarian struggle, and it is always a struggle for values, for creative strength and not for the elementary fact of life and not for simple interests. One can say that the struggle among nations for historical being has deep moral and religious meaing, and it is necessary for the higher goals of world process. But it is impossible to say that in this struggle one people wholly represents the good, and another people wholly represents evil. One people only can be more right than another relatively speaking. The struggle for historical existence of each people has an internal justification” (Berdyaev, Sud”ba Rossii, p. 223).


Berdyaev’s thought on Russia, Ukraine, and war are a clear function of his Russianness and Orthodoxy filtered through his own personal struggle to understand the visible and invisible world and cosmos around him. In Berdyaev’s Christian eschatology, teleology, and soteriology dictated an even-handed treatment of the relative good and evil of the world’s peoples in the making of humankind’s tragic history, which was to end in apocalypse ushering in Christ’s second coming and the Heavenly Kingdom. This even-handedness is reflected in Berdyaev’s harsh criticisms of Russia alongside his attribution of a special mission. It is also evident in Berdyaev’s refusal to support Russian chauvinist positions in relation to Ukraine as well as Poland and even Germany. Great and Little Russians are co-equals in the Russian nation, in Berdyaev’s view. Finally, all are responsible and participate in the human evils of hate, violence, and war through which humankind must suffer to attain a divinely determined, not any man-made worldly and metaphysically historical outcome on earth as in Heaven.

“Democracy”, European Union version

On May 15, 2024, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was evacuated by his bodyguards after suffering serious injuries.

As the European Union prepares to transform itself into a single state, its political evolution is taking an authoritarian step.

The election of MEPs and the President of the Commission is already a done deal

The election of MEPs promises to be deliberately confused. There are still no political parties at European level, despite the fact that they have been talked about for fifty years and enshrined in the treaties, but only European coalitions of national parties, which is not at all the same thing. These coalitions each present a Spitzenkandidat, literally a "head of list", who is not, however, a candidate for Parliament, nor does he or she appear on any of their national lists. Five of them will be debating their plans to preside over the European Commission in Eurovision. They are :

– Walter Baier, European Left ;
– Sandro Gozi, Renewing Europe Now;
– Ursula von der Leyen, European People’s Party;
– Terry Reintke, European Greens;
– Nicolas Schmit, Party of European Socialists.

The "Identity and Democracy" group was not invited to this show. This is because the five previous groups have a particular conception of democracy. They consider that Identity and Democracy doesn’t play the game they do, and therefore refuse to debate with it.

This debate will not take place in the studio, but in the hemicycle of the Parliament; a setting that imposes itself. The President of Parliament, Roberta Metsola, took advantage of the fact that the elected representatives were in the middle of an election campaign to grant the producers this set, without informing the parliamentarians. Many would have had their say.

It will take place in English. This is another of the Union’s subtleties: each member state has the right to request that all official documents be translated into a language of its choice. The Union therefore has 23 official languages for 27 member states, i.e. 552 possible language combinations. However, no state has requested that English be one of the languages of the Union. Malta, for example, which has made English one of its two official languages, has preferred Maltese to be used in Brussels. Yet, de facto, English has become the 24th language of the Union, and the only one common to all. This, of course, has nothing to do with the fact that the EU is not a European project, but an Anglo-Saxon one.

Incidentally, this strange debate is of little importance, since everyone knows that the Commission President will probably be chosen from outside this cenacle: it is likely to be banker Mario Draghi [1]. This is not impossible, since in 2019, Ursula von der Leyen did not take part in this debate and yet became President of the Commission.

Don’t get me wrong: Mario Draghi may be 76 years old, but he’s the former governor of the European Central Bank. In this role, he did everything to make the euro irreversible. He managed, "Whatever it takes", to save it from the sovereign debt crisis of the 2010s. It hasn’t solved any problems, and has exacerbated the gulf separating the economies of the member states. From the point of view of the member states, he’s an incompetent, but not from that of the investment bankers, a caste that has always been his (he was Goldman Sachs’ number 2 for Europe).

Confirmation of the Belgian (Brussels), German (Mönchengladbach) and European corruption investigations into Ursula von der Leyen leaves no room for doubt [2]. The institutions urgently need to get rid of her. Similarly, parliamentarians caught red-handed have been discreetly sidelined, including Vice-President Eva Kaili. The impression must be given that the Union’s administration is honest and at the service of its "citizens" (sic); an impression, because in reality, there are neither European people nor citizens, as evidenced by the absence of European parties.

The EU’s choices are already made

The Union, which is a political structure that goes far beyond the original "common market", faces a number of external challenges:
It has signed several free-trade agreements with states or blocs that do not respect its internal rules. The balance of competition, which was established via a complex system of subsidies, is therefore no longer assured, given that there is no comparable financial system on a global scale [3].

Instead of linking the fact of trading with a third party to its compliance with the Union’s internal rules, it has linked it to its respect for human rights. Yet two of the EU’s trading partners are posing very serious problems, without the EU reacting.

– For 76 years, Israel has not complied with any of the United Nations resolutions concerning it. Moreover, it has just begun an ethnic cleansing of Palestine, massacring some 50,000 civilians and wounding around 100,000 others.

– Ukraine, whose constitution is explicitly racist, has carried out two successive coups d’état (2004 and 2014). It has since elected a president, but his term of office ends today, May 21, 2024. No elections have been called and eleven opposition political parties have been banned.

In recent weeks, the EU has not moved one iota in the face of the free trade agreements it has signed in violation of its internal rules. In its view, all we have to do is wait for the problem to disappear: within a few years, the affected agricultural sectors will have disappeared.

On the other hand, the EU has announced its support for a solution for Palestine, while continuing its aid to Volodymyr Zelensky’s undemocratic regime.

– On the first point, the EU seems eager to recognize Palestine as a full member of the United Nations. It points out that it does not support the plan of the UN’s special envoy, Count Folke Bernadotte (assassinated in 1949), but refers to the plan of the Colonial Commission chaired by William Peel: there should be two separate states, and certainly not a bi-national state where Jews and Arabs would have equal rights.

– With regard to Ukraine, the EU persists in ignoring the Minsk agreements, endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2202, and the responsibility to protect that derives from them. Not only does it fail to congratulate Russia on ending the massacre of Russian speakers in the Donbass region, but it persists in accusing it of invading its neighbour.

When it comes to defense and foreign policy, the EU’s positions are exactly those of the G7, in which it participates. There is not a single case in which it differs from them, or even simply expresses a nuance. The EU is therefore building up an arms manufacturing industry and coordinating each country so that it continuously supplies the Kiev government. Until 2022 (the Russian army’s special operation in Ukraine), the EU had no involvement in defense issues. Indeed, the European Treaties stipulate that this is not its responsibility. The defense of the Union’s territory does not depend on its member states, but on NATO, whether or not they are members.

However, on a permanent basis, the Atlantic Alliance defined interoperability standards between its members, which it passed on to the European Commission, which in turn had them adopted by the European Parliament. These were then transcribed into national law by each of the 27 member states. These standards ranged from the composition of chocolate (there’s a chocolate bar in the rations of Alliance soldiers) to the width of main roads (so that US tanks could use them).

The Commission had no difficulty in taking up arms issues. It had already done so for drugs during the Covid epidemic. It’s worth noting that the generalization of these drugs has not proved its usefulness in the face of Covid-19. But that’s not the point. This was not a devastating epidemic, but a pretext for a mobilization exercise in which each power showed what it could achieve. From this point of view, the Commission proved that it could take on an issue that was not within its remit, and that it could even conclude gigantic contracts on behalf of its members without revealing the secrets of its negotiations.

When the EU becomes a single state, the Commission should demonstrate the same dexterity and more, since its action will no longer be hampered by the 27 member states. They will have disappeared. After the merger, banker Mario Draghi is expected to achieve "economies of scale". For example, there’s no need to waste money on embassies for each member state, as a single network will suffice for the single state. While we’re at it, the privileges of some will be put at the service of all. For example, the French permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council will revert to the Union. Or the French atomic bomb will be handed over to the Union’s Defense Department. Neutral states, such as Austria, will have disappeared anyway.

What’s true in politics is also true in economics. Mario Draghi has long been advocating a reorganization of the EU economy along Soviet lines: each region with its own specificity. In fact, it was with this in mind that the EU concluded the free trade agreements to which I referred at the beginning of this article. While livestock farming will remain a particularity of Poland, the Netherlands has taken the lead by authoritatively putting its farmers out of work, and it won’t be long before France devotes its talents to other tasks.

Eliminating obstacles

The real obstacle to the creation of a single state can only come from those member states that refuse to disappear. It lies in the Council of Heads of State and Government.
Two diametrically opposed and irreconcilable points of view face each other. The two extremes are in the former Czechoslovakia: for just over a year now, the Czech Republic has been governed by General Petr Pavel, former Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee. His agenda is that of the G7 (affirmation of a world governed by rules [4], containment of Russia, support for Ukrainian fundamentalist nationalists, preparation for confrontation with China). Robert Fico, on the other hand, has governed Slovakia, for six months. The alliance on which he relies certainly includes a few nostalgic supporters of Father Jozef Tiso, who established a national Catholic regime under Nazi protection during the Second World War. More seriously, it is founded on supporters of independence from the USSR, who did not recognize themselves in the figure of Václav Havel, the CIA agent who took power during a colourful revolution, the "Velvet Revolution". A former Communist, Robert Fico distinguishes Russia from the USSR. He defends a world organized around International Law (and not G7 "rules"). He supported Security Council Resolution 2202 and consequently approved Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. He is the one and only EU leader to have held this position (Viktor Orbán’s Hungary avoids broaching the subject).

A few days ago, the problem was solved: on May 15, 2024, an individual fired five shots at him at point-blank range. Robert Fico was immediately evacuated (photo). He has already undergone two operations and his life is no longer in danger. The debate he was leading in the Council was interrupted. It is not expected to resume.

The history of the EU is already written. The wonderful thing about this project is that, as it unfolds, we discover why Brussels has imposed rules and facts that made no sense when they were first decided, but now make sense.

The grotesque Spitzenkandidaten debate, in English and in a grandiose setting, but with nothing at stake, will have played its role: occupying the crowds while the people who count decide their future in the shadows.


1) “Paris 2024 and Berlin 1936 in the service of an impossible imperial dream”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Roger Lagassé, Voltaire Network, 30 April 2024.

2) “The Von Der Leyen case”, Voltaire Network, 5 April 2024.

3) “The European Union against farmers”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Roger Lagassé, Voltaire Network, 27 February 2024.

4) “What international order?”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Roger Lagassé, Voltaire Network, 7 November 2023.