Traditionalism, Liberalism and Neo-Nazism In the Current Political Space

Concept of Tradition in Russian Political and Ideological Space

Aleksandr Shchipkov

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The concept of "tradition" is seriously distorted in Russia by both opponents and supporters of traditionalism. Discussion between them involve an endless struggle of historical fetishes and phobias. The discussion itself often looks like a labeling contest. Some researchers willingly use science for ideological and publicistic purposes and as a consequence add fuel to the flames. They tend to randomly use terms taken from the concept of "tradition" in ideological and political discussions, as well as to mixture of these terms with lexis of various kinds.

On the one hand, usage of these words bring about inappropriate estimations. On the other hand, the same semantic row often includes such concepts as, for example, "patriarchality" and "tradition," which are certainly not the same things. Or a methodologically disputable division of societies into "open" and "closed." Or simply emotional definitions like "civilized world." The situation around the concept of "tradition" is reminiscent of the misuse of "medieval" in the sense of "backwardness" as well as the negative myth of the Middle Ages as the "dark ages" destroyed by the efforts of independent historians, in particular, by the representatives of the French "Annales School." However, some time ago this burden of prejudice caused many problems in the development of medieval studies.

Today, we have the same situation with traditiology. The use of evaluative lexis taken from the unscientific context in reference to the mechanisms of sociocultural experience is incorrect in principle. Moreover, this vocabulary is obsolete even in the publicistic context. It has already fulfilled its purpose in ideological battles of the 20th century and is not relevant any more.

Entirely different concepts and categories should be used to describe a society in the postsecular era. This fact is realized in its entirety in the West, but the Russian "creative class" proclaimed it an ideological hand-me-down in its own country.

The fate of traditiology in Russia leaves much to be desired. So far, the idea of tradition and traditionalism remains a prisoner of the political climate in many respects. Of course, this is largely connected with the peculiarities of the humanitarian sphere in modern Russia as a peripheral or a semi-peripheral country. However, it is only part of the story. The inappropriate use of the word "tradition" can be also attributed to purely linguistic mishaps that are easily traced among English-Russian transcriptions.

Let us consider the concept of tradition in the context of English language. In contrast to the Russian context, the concept of tradition falls into two definitions: traditional and conventional.

"Traditional" means belonging to the historical mechanism of collective experience. The Russian community, symbolism of the British monarchy, the German dream of the European Union – all these specific transhistorical phenomena can be combined within the concept of tradition. Some time ago, any of the above-mentioned events were a subject of agreement, but today they are deemed unconditional.

"Conventional" refers to phenomena included in the collective memory as the result of some agreements. This situation is mostly conventional and agreement-based, rather than semantic and belonging to the sphere of social and cultural archetypes. Such phenomena can move from the "conventional" sphere to the "traditional" sphere within long historical periods. Considering that cultural and social systems are mostly structured like a language (similar to a semiotic system of language), the tradition mechanism can be compared to some linguistic models. In particular, it resembles the model of generative grammar proposed by Noam Chomsky and includes two structural levels – deep structure and software structure. [16; 21] However, in the case of tradition, the relationship between the upper and lower levels is more dynamic and equitable.

"Tradition" and "convention" can actively interinfluence inside of tradition itself. Today's society – the society of transitive period, the period of a liberal ideological paradigm shift perceives feedback as the most essential and important factor. That is, the actualization of traditional historical meanings and traditional semantics in the framework of current social conventions and private relations between members of society. In today's context, the dialectic of "traditional" and "conventional" structures, as well as the dialectic of tradition and modernization, requires additional research within the social sciences.

Today it is very important to study the features of the use of the word "tradition" in the public sphere and to reconstruct its true meaning (semantic) where possible. The scientific community needs to create several competing programs of tradition research. It is necessary to create several science teams that could develop this line of research independently. It is obvious that this issue is of great national and state significance. Possible research topics: "Tradition as a Mechanism of Social Experience Transfer" and "Tradition as a Source of Social Conventions".

The phenomenon of tradition must and will be soon introduced in the field of social sciences as a competent research subject. The problem of the study of tradition mechanisms and its genesis and social functions in the new post-secular society will be as important as the problem of identity choice or gender problems in the late liberalism era. The question of significant values and social morality will become as equally important as the question of small groups and "significant Other" is important now – against the background of a split society. The search for social distinctions will be substituted by the search for unifying, strategic social factors.

The sustainability and social significance of the concepts defining the destiny of a nation, as well as its historical mission, suggest that transhistorism is a phenomenon of tradition continuity and of historical focuses of national development.

The most efficient definition of tradition to date is suggested by S.A. Madukova and U.V. Popkov: "In modern local communities, neotraditionalism characterizes the use of tradition for the explanation by a social subject of the selected future behavior through the reference to the authority of the past." [12, p. 5]

Today we need a new way to identify the boundaries of the concept of tradition under a new social model. However, the adherents of "patriarchality", as well as their opponent-modernizers, may keep calm. The question is not about the return to the customs and institutions of the past, not about the historically specific "autocratic tradition," whether it is a restoration of monarchy or a kind of "USSR-2" project. The question is about a much more subtle and complex process the restart of continuance mechanisms in culture and society. This restart involves tradition as a support point for a new movement from the past to the future, as well as for historical course adjustment. It is not some tradition. It is a new type of social awareness and public relations dependent from the principles of tradition functioning.

Tradition and continuance are the factors the social majority needs. The main goal is to find the assemblage point of tradition and its self-reproduction, rather than a collection of various samples of historical antiques.

However, we consider it our duty to point out the periods in Russian history when tradition was discontinued. These points should be set on a time scale. For example, it is impossible to conceal the oprichnina under Ivan the Terrible, although later he cowered from it in terror. A benevolent intention – equitable land distribution among the boyars (court nobility) was conducted by improper means and by people without morals. One injustice gave rise to another. As a result, "oprichnina" as a social phenomenon (it is not only a local historical phenomenon) became a permanent feature of Russian life. KGB purges, oil rent, as well as legal and economic chaos are in a broad sense the same oprichnina.

The Church "reform" in the 17th century became an even more significant event and perhaps a key breakaway torque for Russia. The Church dissent was initiated by the top secular authority and dissected the body of the Church. People's theocracy and a national Church became impossible. Under such conditions, the formation of a Christian nation also became impossible.

After the so-called Church dissent, we eventually got a synodal "established" church. It slowed down the formation of popular devoutness on the basis of which the nation should be built (ethnic nationalism is a shorter and cheaper way, but it is not compatible with the Russian Christian tradition). As a result, the dissent of the 17th century to a certain extent predetermined the events of 1917. Neither the church, peasants, or noble elites could resist the disaster that threw Russia far back and exploded its spiritual and social roots. The year 1917 brought a drastic demolition of Russian social paradigms. It is evident that this demolition continued (i.e. one more irrecoverable break-up) in the destruction of the peasantry and the Russian communal consciousness. Anticipating some questions, we should stipulate the following: the fate of other "old-regime" classes also can and should be the subject matter, but not in this article.

The events of 1991-1993 require no special acknowledgement: these events are still fresh in our memory, and it is evident that this is a new break.

These are the main events that predetermined the sad Russian phenomenon, the essence of which is that a break with tradition has become a tradition itself. In fact, such events are much more abundant.

However, we must renew the subject matter and change the question "What is to be done?" to "Who is guilty?"

Sometimes we hear "Everybody chooses tradition as perhaps thought fit", "Isnt any talk of tradition a falsification?" That is all wrong. The foundation of tradition consists of values absolute for the majority. In Russia, these "unconditional" values are more or less obvious. They include the victory over Fascism, Orthodox self-identification and principles of a fair society. Those who take into account the elite "dispersed opinions" and the elite "consensus" rather than the degree of support of certain ideas by society have to think about this matter.

Tradition and continuity – this is what a national majority needs now. The aim is to make the present society develop in accordance with the traditional principle of the accumulation of collective experience rather than to pull some institutions out of the past to the detriment of others. This is based not on historical denial and historical break-ups repeated in Russian history – the history of splits and apical social upheavals. Historically, the specific forms of tradition are a reference point here rather than a fetish. They should unite people rather than divide them.

A typical example: when the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics fought for independence, an interesting stylistic discrepancy was outlined among their supporters. It did not affect the intention to support the DPR and the LPR. However, part of the supporters compared the DPR and the LPR with "the Young Republic of Soviets" bound in the vice of battlefields, while the other part perceived those events by analogy with the White Don, the Volunteer Army and Ice Campaign. What does this paradox tell of? It tells that in the face of real historical trials nationally-thinking Russian intellectuals turned to be united. Both sides were against the Ukrainian liberal Nazism, against the followers of Petlyura, Bandera, Shukhevich and Hitler. A hundred years after the tragic events of the Civil War in Russia, the Russian historical consciousness became united and the difference between "red" and "white" ideas remained behind as the allotment of academic studies. This is an important step towards overcoming the deepest break-up of tradition in Russian history. This is an example of how the deepest historical break-up can be overcome.

Therefore, a broad question can be posed: how can one reconstruct tradition and to find its "assemblage point"? First, we need to learn to listen to each other. A serious analysis of tradition in Russia is represented by the authors of the socio-political book Turning Point. In particular, they are confident that the consensus based on tradition "reflects a collective point of view of the Russian majority, without splitting it into left-wing and right-wing groups. This point of view meets the current political situation." [17, p. V] Another common theme throughout the book shows how tradition is not some form of the past, a priori that receives in advance "the certificate of historic conformity". Tradition is something agreed upon where appropriate. This is the essence of the national consensus.

In her article about Turning Point, political analyst Elena Zhosulnotes the need to "negotiate in the name of common goals and sacred things that are more important than the fine features of our own so cherished ideological concept." [27]

An active part of Russian society has yet to learn to listen to each other. The boundaries of tradition cannot be determined by a designated gesture. Even the position of historical nihilism ("I do not know what tradition is", "Russia has no tradition"), as a result of mass disorientation of the Soviet and post-Soviet era cannot be considered constructive.

The task is to maintain the discussion of tradition rather than to insist on the ready-made understanding of it. The process of collective memory work is extremely important for tradition. It makes tradition replicate. Of course, this process should take place not only in the form of conferences and roundtable discussions (the effect of such official events rarely goes beyond an academic discussion), but also and above all in everyday life. The genesis of tradition should become the subject of civic engagement and the matter of each individual person who is aware of their belonging to Russian culture.