The ABC of traditional values: historical memory and intergenerational continuity
Protopriest Andrew Tkachev
We present the fourth part of a new project by the Russian TV channel Tsargrad, 'The ABC of Traditional Values', a series of talks by three Russian thinkers: Konstantin Malofeev, Alexander Dugin and Protopriest Andrei Tkachev. We discuss a topic which for decades in our country has not been given the attention it deserves. It is about the most important value foundations of any state, such as historical memory and the continuity of generations. This is how this value is formulated in the Fundamentals of State Policy to preserve and strengthen traditional spiritual and moral values approved by Presidential Decree No. 809.
Konstantin Malofeev: In the next part of our 'ABC of traditional values' we will talk about the letter 'I' - historical memory and intergenerational continuity. What is more important than this traditional value if we want to achieve all the others? After all, if we lose our historical memory, if we become like the one who does not remember his kinship, then, in general, it will not matter what we have planned before.
If our children do not preserve historical memory after us, if we do not preserve historical memory after our ancestors, we will not be able to pass on all other values. Intergenerational continuity consists in listening to our parents as they listened to theirs, and our children owe us obedience because we listened to our parents. This thread allows us to pass on tradition.
In general, traditional values live in historical memory. Without historical memory there is no tradition, and without tradition there is no need for historical memory. This is a key, important and necessary notion in modern civilisation. Because there is a culture of erasure (culture of annihilation), when we are told that everything that came before us has no meaning, no significance. Everything must be erased, because we now live in a new world and soon we will be transhumanist cyborgs, or a set of codes in a cloud server.
The lack of memory transfer is a key element of modern civilisation. They abolish all identity - they burn every hint of nationality, family history and even gender of European and American children. All to turn them into atoms. Atoms of a beautiful new celluloid world in which they will only consume and do what an artificial intelligence tells them to do. And behind the artificial intelligence will of course be the puppeteers, who will impose the narratives they need and only historical memory will protect us from this.
Protopriest Andrei Tkachev: I remember an episode from the famous novel One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in which people fall ill with a strange disease and begin to forget everything. First - their names, then - the names of their children, followed by the names of objects. Then, to save money, they started writing the names of objects on mugs, cups, cows, but little by little they began to forget even the letters and found themselves on the brink of extinction.
Then a clever man managed to hang a small sign in the centre of the village saying: 'There is a God'. And these fools, who had forgotten everything, reading this sign, little by little began to remember the names of their children, their own names, the names of everyday objects. I think this is a very beautiful and accurate metaphor.
Forgetfulness of everything and nothing comes from forgetfulness of God. Then a person forgets past generations and remembers neither grandfather nor father. In fact, our patronymic has already begun to disappear from the records. What if, for example, one wanted to remember classical Arabic or Spanish names? For instance, Picasso had about twenty names, Omar Khayyam about fifteen. They listed him as son of this, son of that, son of that. We do not.
Modern culture washes away all memory like calcium is washed off the bones and not everyone knows who these streets are named after, for example Chaliapin Street or Vasnetsov Street. They may know the name, so to speak, of the responsibility, but they do not know what is behind the name. 'They are lazy and curious,' Pushkin said at the time. And now there is also deliberate memory-washing on the part of man.
Because the acquisition of memory arouses emotions, explains the future and leads to self-understanding. So yes, of course there is a God. And we must remember all those who have gone before us. As Dmitri Likhachev said, 'the Earth is not just a speck of dust in space, it is a huge flying museum'. In which many paintings, books and music have been written, and in which there are many cemeteries. By the way, the culture of burial is the seed from which the peculiarity of national culture grows. It is not for nothing that Pushkin spoke of 'love for the coffins of the fathers'.
We must preserve the memory of our ancestors as much as possible, remember the name of my grandfather's father, the name of my grandfather's grandfather. This is love for the small homeland, this is what makes a man a Svjatogor-gatyr. What makes him an oak and not a moss. Moss can be scraped with a fingernail and will never grow back. A mighty tree that has taken root is historical memory. That is how we want to see our nation.
Alexander Dugin: Today we are often taught history as a set of facts, but in reality history is a set of meanings. When you receive a letter, you have to read it, not just save it, but open it, think about it, understand it, and become a line or a letter of this unbroken letter that spans the centuries.
Historical understanding is necessary to preserve historical memory. We only remember something when we understand the meaning of what happened. If we present Russian history as a spiritual and cultural formula, then it is easy to transmit, hand down, preserve historical memory and add new chapters to it, but if the meaning disappears, history becomes just a collection of facts that tell us nothing.
Another, in my opinion, very important element of traditional values, which are included in the Fundamentals of State Policy, is identity. We can say 'historical memory', but essentially it is identity as value, identity as preservation. What tradition conveys is something essential, immutable. Not some formal sides and trends, which simply change, but the core, and this core is what makes us ourselves. It makes Russians, our state - our state, our people - our nation, our church - our church, not someone else's church.
In Latin, identity (identitas) means identity, and it is very important that identity, which is transmitted and preserved, is a value for us today, whereas in the West, the entire ideology, the entire culture of liberalism aims at the elimination of identity. The same 'erasure of culture' that you, Konstantin Valeryevich, quoted and which our President, speaking ironically, called 'the abolition of culture' in general, is the destruction, the abolition of identity. The erasure of historical memory in order to destroy the continuity of generations.
In postmodern philosophy, in liberal ideology, the very notion that people, society, any phenomenon has an identity is severely criticised. In other words, those who advocate the preservation of identity are, so to speak, the 'bad guys'. Who must be retrained or destroyed. So we really go to the front to defend our identity.
In the West or the East, where, like us, they value the continuity of generations, tradition, immutability, the core, they will say: if the Russians defend their identity, they are good, and others will say: ah, you defend your identity? Then you will get it from us. Our loyalty to the very principle of identity divides humanity into two camps. The affirmation of historical memory and intergenerational continuity as a state value is a challenge to today's postmodern, liberal and globalist culture.
K.M.: But this means that in our culture, in our education, in our federal media, in our Russian-based controlled social platforms, in the Internet, there should be nothing that contradicts our identity politics, historical memory and continuity. We should not have propaganda groups asking us to forget our culture.
There should be no such thing because it is an interruption of the memory of generations. If we bring in something that is fashionable in the West right now, I am not even talking about sodomy (the propaganda of which, thank God, is now banned), but also any other style and trend that young people have every three years, we are contradicting our historical memory. So public policy has no right to include such phenomena in any event, in any exhibition, in anything related to the state in one way or another.
This is not a private shop, but a public policy. In state kindergartens, schools, universities, TV channels and theatres, there cannot be anything that contradicts our traditional cultural code, our intergenerational continuity and historical memory.
A.T.: You should agree that it is a shame to be a tourist in your own country. This idea has bothered me for many years. I think that if I come to any city in our country, for example Voronezh or Arkhangelsk, I should not hire a guide to tell me about the city and show me around. The function of guide should be performed by any resident of the city. With some patriotism, by virtue of the fact that you love the land you live in and know its history, you should be able to explain everything you know about your city in the course of a day. You should love your city, or your village, the centre of your neighbourhood, your mountains, your fields.
Instead, a man lives in his land like a tourist. His heart loves something else, conventional Tibet or Los Angeles. He is here only in form, but his soul is elsewhere. Cosmopolitan Russophilia, as opposed to Russian patriotism, is probably the disease that has been instilled in us like smallpox in Indians. It is a disease artificially inoculated to exterminate people. The extermination of peoples is not done with bombs, but with a change of consciousness.
K.M.: Our memory has been mocked for centuries. It started already with Peter the Great. Then there was 1917, then the renaming of streets, and now we walk on streets that bear the names of the Bolshevik revolutionaries and not the names given to them by the city's founders. If the city's founder named the street Cossack Street, or Pokrovskaya, or Troitskaya, why the hell do the inhabitants think they can rename it after the revolutionary Bauman?
I agree with Father Andrei: towns and local history are very important. For that is the love of the coffins of the fathers and the ashes of the natives. Then you understand the history of your town simply from the names, the architectural structures, and it is easy to do: just a few lessons in secondary school and it will last a lifetime. Then you will love your homeland, know the history of your city and be able to speak about it.
There is a reason why today we have so many people who want to develop contemporary art in the form of some sort of imbrication or performance art, a lot of unintelligible people in celluloid, all from Soviet suburbs. A person born and bred in Peterhof would not be able to do such a thing, because since childhood he has observed quite different things around him. This is simple, human, everyday knowledge, but very important.
A.D.: In addition to prohibitive measures, affirmative measures are also necessary. To affirm our identity, to cultivate the continuity of generations. When we abolish evil, we must affirm good. This is also a challenge for us. If we have taken the position of defending our identity, we must strengthen it, affirm it, and this means a large-scale historical order for our cultural masters, our creators. We must not only eliminate negative phenomena, but also create what is really important and this is a huge creative task for all of us, for our whole society.
K.M.: It was the letter 'I' - historical memory and generational continuity. It is also identity.
Translation by Lorenzo Maria Pacini