Does Russia Need Universal Values? Spiritual and Moral Values as the Foundation of a Nation's Sovereignty
By Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev. Rossiiskaya gazeta, June 18, 2020, p. 1. Complete text:
The proposed amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation open a new chapter in the history of the Russian state. These changes will protect our basic family values and historical truth. They will help us provide proper spiritual and moral education to our young people. They will help the state support and protect our culture as a unique heritage of Russia’s multiethnic population. They will strengthen the fundamental elements of the welfare state in Russia. This is why adopting these amendments is crucial and extremely significant for defining our country’s goals and development plans.
Spiritual and moral values shape people’s worldview, guide them in their daily activities, help people understand each other and inform people’s behavioral patterns and models.
Usually, the question of proper values arises when a nation has to make an important decision regarding its future path.
This year, as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of our Great Victory and the whole country discusses the proposed constitutional amendments, the question of values acquired particular importance. The West responded to these events in Russia by ramping up its information campaigns and propaganda in an effort to rewrite world and Russian history, downplay the importance of our victory, and deal another blow to Russia’s system of traditional spiritual and moral values.
Yet no matter how hard our “partners” from across the Atlantic have tried to tear down the system of values that Russia has developed over many generations, our values remain largely unchanged.
A very brief and by no means exhaustive description of the Russian system of spiritual and moral values is given in the National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation. They include, among other things, the primacy of spiritual matters over material wealth; protection of human life, right and freedoms; family; constructive labor; service to the motherland; moral and ethical standards; humanitarian ideals, mercy and justice; solidarity and collectivism; historical unity of all the ethnic groups living in Russia; and continuity of our country’s history.
An equally important list of our spiritual and moral values is given in the National Character Education Strategy for 2015-2025. It includes values like empathy, justice, honor, good conscience, willpower, personal dignity, positivity and aspiration to perform one’s moral duty to oneself, family and homeland.
The traditional system of Russian values was shaped by centuries of our history. It is the spiritual and moral foundation of our society. It was this system that enabled the Soviet people to achieve victory in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War – a historic victory of global significance. It is this strong foundation that enables us to maintain and strengthen our sovereignty, and build our future in spite of all the difficulties and contradictions of historical development. Our country has literally brought forth its values through suffering, and now the main task before future generations is to preserve and multiply this wealth.
We must protect the values of our multiethnic, multifaith nation against those aggressively pushing neoliberal values, which often contradict the very essence of our worldview. Our geopolitical foes are actively imposing those values on others in order to control the development of civilization and secure a dominating global position.
They are continuing their attempts to destroy Russia’s multiethnic unity and diminish the importance of traditional spiritual and moral norms as the foundation of our cultural, spiritual, political and, ultimately, national sovereignty.
Undoubtedly, most nations share common fundamental values – i.e., common ideal goals and societal attributes. Everybody likes justice, security and welfare.
When we talk about the values that are dominant in foreign cultures and which are alien to the Russian people, we usually call them “Western values.”
Also, many older and middle-aged people remember the term “universal values,” which was widely used during the so-called perestroika and in the early days of modern Russia.
While I do not deny that there are certain values that humanity has in common, I want to stress that at that particular time, the concept of “universal values” made the “Western world,” which was completely unknown to most people in Russia, closer and easier to understand. At the same time, it helped promote social and moral standards that were not always in line with traditional Russian values.
“Western values,” which have been increasingly promoted as “universal” in recent decades and defined as such in the European Union’s official documents, have become a popular stereotype.
In order to understand their meaning and significance, it is important to trace the history of their interpretations in official EU documents.
The preamble of the Treaty on European Union (Maastricht, Feb. 7, 1992) talks about “the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, from which have developed the universal values of the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law.” The treaty states that the EU “is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, nondiscrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.”
It is worth recalling that certain European values like the eight-hour workday, gender equality and women’s suffrage were only made possible by the 1917 events in Russia. For example, France did not allow women to vote until 1944; Switzerland, until 1971; and Portugal, until 1974.
Unfortunately, real life shows that official declarations about “universal values” are little more than empty words. Once these norms were enshrined, the Western world quickly adopted the neoliberal development model.
Basic concepts like “family,” “mother” and “father,” “man” and “woman,” were intentionally eroded in the West and replaced with artificial surrogates like “parent one” and “parent two.” These surrogates were so unnatural, even from a purely biological viewpoint, that this practice immediately resulted in a civilizational conflict within Western Europe.
Furthermore, these new standards contradict the fundamental tenets of Christianity, Islam, Judaism and other religions, and are absolutely rejected by them.
As far as social behavior is concerned, neoliberalism instills individualism, selfishness, hedonism and consumerism. It insists on absolute freedom of expression, no matter what form it takes. Yet even in the West, there are a lot of people who do not agree with these antivalues.
I can give you a lot of examples. For instance, we all remember the mass protests in France in January 2013 against legalizing same-sex marriage. Over 300,000 people took to the streets in Paris. When voting on the “Marriage for All” bill, France’s National Assembly was divided practically 50-50 – 225 lawmakers out of 565 voted against the law [sic; 229 out of 558 – Trans.]. Given how polarized France was at the time, one cannot help but wonder whether these values are truly “universal” or whether they are being imposed artificially.
The COVID‑19 pandemic exposed the negative consequences of these newly imposed Western values – primarily, increased individualism and selfishness, indifference, and inability to mobilize and cope with a looming threat.
All this was further compounded by another process that Western countries pretend not to notice: the quickly vanishing middle class. And it is the middle class that has always formed the conservative majority and preserved traditional values.
This process was triggered by the collapse of the Soviet Union. When this geopolitical disaster happened, the Western neoliberal elite realized that their primary ideological foe was gone, and they were free to do whatever they wanted. Prior to that, they needed the middle class for ideological purposes – to demonstrate the supposed “superiority” of the Western system. But once the situation in our country changed, the middle class became unnecessary.
In turn, the disappearance of the middle class along with migrant crises triggered the resurgence of barbaric nationalism, which is practically endorsed by the US and the leading nations of the “united” Europe in countries like Ukraine.
Right-wing and nationalist parties are on the rise in Europe, as well. New Western values resulted in, among other things, torture in Guantanamo Bay and Afghan prisons. It is because of these values that [young people] refuse to serve in the military and protect their homeland. The countries that refuse to accept these values are often punished with blanket sanctions that target their entire population. The entire system of traditional Western values has been overhauled to such an extent that its current “universal” standards have very little in common with the customary values of European civilization, which are more familiar to us.
This is not just one set of values being replaced with another. Rather, it is a new ideological system that seeks to destroy all traditional religious and moral values as the foundation of a country’s cultural and political sovereignty.
New Western values impose an alien worldview on people. Western ideologues force entire nations to make a choice: either accept the “universal values,” or have their own values denounced as wrong and immoral.
Thus, any attempt to conform Russia’s – or any other country’s – values to the official “universal” ones is in fact an act of social and cultural aggression, and its purpose is to destroy this country’s traditional system of values.
Today, with society increasingly relying on digital technologies, with the system of international relations and international security deteriorating, the West is seeking to indoctrinate Russian citizens and ethnic Russians throughout the world with neoliberal dogmas. It is not only attacking traditional Russian spiritual and moral values, but also values that are truly universal and common to all of humanity, undermining the foundations of states. To this end, it actively uses various ideological formulas like “culture wars.”
The new standards have had an equally devastating effect on the international security system. Attempts to replace international law with the “might makes right” principle, attempts to spread “freedom and democracy” with bombs and missiles in countries where the Western interpretation of freedom and democracy is unacceptable for a variety of historical, religious, ethnic and other reasons have resulted in real tragedies in Iraq, Syria and Libya. The barbaric bombings of Yugoslavia will forever remain a shameful chapter in the history of all the NATO countries.
In this “hybrid warfare,” our opponents attack us on all fronts at the same time. Their primary objective is to erode the centuries-old traditions of various nations, as well as their languages, religions and historical memories. Russia is a multiethnic state, and its people will under no circumstances accept such standards and values.
In this context, it is important to understand what Russia offers the world instead.
Unlike the West, Russia essentially offers a new civilizational choice, which includes equality, justice, noninterference in [countries’] domestic affairs, and mutually beneficial cooperation between states without condescension or preconditions.
Russia is proposing to make national sovereignty – including cultural, spiritual and moral sovereignty – the supreme value and the foundation for civilization-building. There is no doubt that the number of those who makes this choice will keep growing in the world, which will create an increasingly favorable environment for various nations to develop and prosper.
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