Obama, Merkel and Putin seen through a lens from 20 years ago

In a discussion of civilization 20* years ago, Samuel Huntington said the following:

… Russia,…, has been a torn country for several centuries…

Russia’s relations with Western civilization have evolved through four phases. In the first phase, which lasted down to the reign of Peter the great, Kievan Rus and Muscovy existed separately from the West and had little contact with Western European societies. Russian civilization developed as an offspring of Byzantine civilization and then for two hundred years, from the mid thirteenth to the mid-fifteenth centuries, Russia was under Mongol suzerainty. Russia had no or little exposure to the defining historical phenomena off of Western civilization: Roman Catholicism, feudalism, the Renaissance, the Reformation, overseas expansion and colonization, the enlightenment, and the emergence of the nation state. Seven of the eight previously identified distinctive features of Western civilization-religion, languages, separation of church and state, rule of law, social pluralism, representative bodies, individualism-were almost totally absent from the Russian experience. The only possible exception is the Classical legacy, which, however, came to Russia via Byzantium and hence was quite different from that which came to the west directly from Rome. Russian civilization was a product of its indigenous roots in Kievan Rus and Muscovy, substantial Byzantine impact, and prolonged Mongol rule. These influences shaped a society and a culture which had little resemblance to those developed in Western Europe under the influence of a very different forces. (p. 139-140)

As of 1995 the future of liberal democracy in Russia and other Orthodox republics was uncertain. In addition, as the Russians stop behaving like Marxists and began behaving like Russians, the gap between Russia and the West broadened. … A Western democrat could carry on an intellectual debate with a Soviet Marxist. It would be impossible for him to do that with a Russian orthodox nationalist. (p. 142)

Think on these when you hear Obama and Merkel talk about “negotiations” with Putin.

From: The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel P. Huntington, 1996, Simon and Schuster.)

* When I first posted this I had indicated 30 years and then realized my math was off. I am operating on the assumption that Huntington did his writing in 1995 and published and 1996.

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Filed under culture, definitions, Eastern Europe, Ukraine

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