How a beautiful myth about Europe disappeared from Russia

How a beautiful myth about Europe disappeared from Russia
Opinion

8 August, 17:29
Дмитрий Травин
Экономист
There is less and less evidence for Russians of European attractiveness and understanding of the need for European values for them.

Dmitry Travin, economist

An open letter from closed Russia.

It is difficult to find a European country in which I would not have friends - colleagues in scientific activities, journalists or diplomats who once worked in St. Petersburg. And in a country where there are no foreign friends, there are Russian friends who have long since become foreign citizens. Today I wanted to write an open letter to them: one for all, since the main problem of our life today is one for all - the fate of Russia, which has fallen into such a terrible catastrophe, which has never happened throughout my entire life. With many of the friends we are "social media friends", so someone might answer.

Dear friend!

We will probably never see each other again. I was surrounded on all sides. There are almost no flights to Europe. My card is blocked in your country. It is difficult to obtain visas, and soon, perhaps, they will no longer be given to us at all. I got cancelled. I do not exist for your country, although in fact I still exist.

You can, of course, make a fuss, spend a lot of time and somehow get through to the West, but, frankly, this is unpleasant for me. Not by age is already such a fuss. Therefore, although I dream of Italian museums at night, and my legs ask, as of old, for walks along the mountain paths of Germany, Europe will remain only in dreams and memories of a beautiful past. I love your country very much, but it doesn't love me today.

There is no resentment on my part. It is clear that the European bureaucracy must react to the actions of my country, and they react in the simplest and most understandable way for the voter. The Russian intelligentsia has again fallen under the rink of history, and nothing can be done about it. Well, our bureaucracy is happy to confront, because, by and large, it needs it. We are sandwiched between two powerful political machines that are formally at enmity, but in reality they are pressing us from different sides with joint efforts.

There have been worse moments in the history of my country, and therefore I try to be philosophical about the fact that I was thrown out of Europe, although for about half a century I formed myself as a European. I am writing to you not for this reason, but because in our past conversations the question often arose of how the West could help Russia's European development. Then we sorted out private moments, but today, when they no longer ask me about particulars, I want to talk about the main thing. About why we still became Europeans once, despite the fact that the Soviet authorities did not want this.

I am of such an age that I remember well both the late USSR, and Perestroika, and the “dashing nineties”, and all stages of the evolution of the current regime. I remember everything that has shaped contemporary Russia, both its good and bad sides. But I will highlight now only the main thing. Russia became European when Europe was strong, beautiful and attractive, when the "European myth" (whether it is true or false) took possession of our minds and our souls, when everything that came to us from the West - from the romance of Gothic cathedrals to the taste of chewing rubber bands - aroused the desire to become Europeans. When we were boys, your European way of life clearly dominated the image that the Soviet gerontocracy imposed on us, and both those who dreamed of walking along the Venetian canals and those who had enough to buy jeans from a black marketer agreed with this. Therefore, as soon as the old people died, a window to Europe opened up for us, and everyone took what they wanted from it. Do not believe those who say that we have always hated the West here. It's a lie. There is no hatred. But there is a pragmatic approach. And now he is not the same as before.

We have jeans, chewing gum and all the material things that come with them. But the beautiful myth is no more. There is no understanding that we need European values. They attract me and a narrow circle of my like-minded people, but for a significant part of society they are something like that old Soviet gerontocratic ideology turned inside out. Empty words do not touch empty souls. And there is less and less evidence of European attractiveness.

That is why we have come to such a life. We are your spiritual children. While the fathers were heroes, we looked up to them. But when they saw their weaknesses, they began to live a different life.

You will, of course, object to me. Let me remind you about the authoritarian regime, and about our conformism, and about the monstrous self-deception of the Russian elites, who themselves climbed into the mouth of a lion. You will be right. I could write another letter about each of our problems, and it would be a rather thick volume. But, to be honest, we already know everything about these sins. We have brewed porridge and we have a long time to disentangle it.

Now I am writing only about how you in the West can help Russia - a country that, as I know, you still consider European. For us, it is fundamentally important what the West will be like by the time the window of political opportunity reopens (and it will definitely happen!) here. A strong, beautiful and attractive Europe will make us Europeans. This I will tell you for sure. But I can't say how Europe can become like that again. It's up to you.

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