The Russian Dreams of a German Philosopher
by Pavel Tulaev
One of the central issues to Russian contemporaneous historiography is the matter of the relations between the East and the West. It is from here that the interest on the subjects arises in the classics like: Russia and Europe, by N. Y. Danilevskii; Decline of the West, by Oswald Spengler; or, Europe and Humankind, by N. S. Trubetskoy. One of the most important works on the subject is the book by the German Philosopher Walter Schubart (1897-194?) Europe and the Soul of the East, published for the first time in Switzerland in 1938. The importance of this work lies in the fact that it is the only one that deals with the universal vocation of the Russian civilization.
The main idea of the treaty is the “natural contradiction between the western man and the eastern man”.
The author considers that the West has fallen prisoner of the materialist civilization and lives a time of a profound crisis. The West cannot save itself on its own, the new awakening has to come from the East, from Russia. Schubart bases his analysis in the Russian Literature, in the Philosophy and in the key moments of Russian History. In any case, Schubart’s book does not deal just with Russia, but rather with “Europe as seen from the East”.
Following the different periods of history, the author analyzes the contradictions between the West and the East, he dives into the depths of the Russian soul, and tries to understand the meaning of the Russian national idea. He places the Russians in the same level as the Germans, Spanish, French and English. He also deals with philosophical matters, like faith and atheism, fear and courage, egoism and fraternity. For instance, he tries to understand the reason why the Germans are badly seen by other peoples; why is it that the Anglo-Saxons are so entrepreneurs; what makes the French to be so rationalistic whereas the Russians are so nationalistic and are so much into self-sacrifice. He is interested, above all, in the degradation of the western individual.
Schubart finds the answer to those questions in the geographical, religious and cultural factors.
The West, for Schubart, is divided into a few key nations, and then he continues analyzing the Germans, the Anglo-Saxons and the French.
The Germans, according to Schubart, are the ones who stand out most in the prometeic culture (i.e., bearer of a will to know the truth and to change the course of things) in the West. They are disciplined, they love working, they carry the mark of the Nordic soul. They love the combat and are natural soldiers. A typical characteristic of the Germans is some degree of arrogance and even cruelty in their treatment to others. But this does not mean that the German is cruel; on the contrary, inside his own family circle he is affectionate and warm.
With regards to the Anglo-Saxons, the fact of living in an island has influenced them like no other factor in their idiosincracy. The English is pragmatic, practical, and he makes an effort in being successful in his enterprises. Spiritually, he is a liberal; vocationally, he is a merchant.
The French, unlike the English, are less pragmatic. They are good analysts and rationalists, but more dreamers. The French is sentimental and searches for beauty and order in everything. If the Germans fights attracted by his warring soul, the French is ready to die for his dear motherland.
The Russians –to whom Schubart dedicates over the first half of the book–, differently to their western cousins, they posses a great interior freedom. Due to their profound religiosity, the Russian is not subject to the material things, he doesn’t try, like the German, to conquer the world; nor does he wish, like the English, to always achieve material benefits; he does not try, like the French, to understand what cannot be understood, although he possesses an immense universalist vocation.
From the Geopolitical point of view, the Russian is a born imperialist; he thinks in wide spaces and continents, which is why Dostoievski was right to speak of the “Pan-European” vocation of the Russian, and also was Napoleon when he asserted that “Russia is a power that goes towards world domination with giant steps.”
The author of Europe and the Soul of the East calls the Russians who live in the open plains of Eastern Europe, the “sons of the steppe”. Even if living in the cities, the Russians “keep the life style proper of the nomad people”. And though the ancient Scandinavians named Russia as Gardarika (“country of cities), the fact is that there has always been a vocation to live outside the urban limits, a need to return to the ways of the rural life, to the harsh tasks of the work in the land.
In any case, it seems as if to analyze the central characteristics of the Russian nation, Schubart based himself in the Russian Literature and Thought, instead of the evidenced historical facts.
One of the most interesting observations from Schubart is the list of similarities that he finds in the national trajectories of Russia and Spain:
Both nations emerge as powers as a result of the struggle against non-Christians. In 1476, Ivan III refused to pay the yearly tribute to the Tatar Khanate, and in 1492 Fernando of Aragon conquers the last Moorish reduct in Granada and expels the Jews, finishing this way the Reconquista. Both nations build powerful empires and both peoples fought against Napoleon like no other and defeated his armies. A fact that is key for both nations, according to Schubart, was the entry of the prometeic ideas which, already in the 20th century made that both Russia and Spain lived revolutions and civil wars.
“The Spanish national idea is more similar to the Russian national idea than any other –asserts Schubart– since both share the same longing for transcendence, of returning to the world its ‘lost soul’.”
“Russian civilization –continues Schubart– struggles for the triumph of the prometeic culture in its lands, but the day will arrive when this struggle will come out of its frontiers to attack the western soul in its own terrain. From this will depend the destiny of humanity: Europe was a source of disgraces for Russia, but Russia can get to be a source of happiness for Europe.”
The assessment of Schubart’s book that we are doing here should not make us forget that it is not possible to agree with many of the assertions done by the author. Some of the facts must be discussed.
Schubart speaks of the Russian soul and of the spiritual characteristics of other peoples in an abstract mode, without taking into account the very important fact that every time and every historical context is different from the one preceding it. It is not the same to speak of the Russian mentality based on the Christian Orthodoxy than to speak of the one based on Bolschevism. Another critique refers to what the author understands by “East”: Russia, in relation to Germany is obviously in the East. But in relation to China and Central Asia it is the West. Russia is, for its racial and cultural origins, an European nation. The country expanded from the North-West to the South-East, but that does not mean that we stop being Christians and White colonizers and we turn into Asians or Muslims.
The German philosopher calls our country “the Eastern Continent” and to the Russians “the sons of the steppe”. In fact the geographical determinism happens to be one of Schubart’s weakest points: it seems as if for him the “landscape” is one of the main factors to know the destiny of a people; when it has been evidenced that a good Blood can exist in a highly technified environment.
Since his work was released, the global relations have change already twice: in 1945 and in 1991. There is no more a III Reich nor a USSR. We live in the time of the technocracy, of the post-industrial civilization, the “New World Order”. There is little space left for the profecies of Schubart to become reality.
There is only left the trust in ourselves, to listen to our heart and to our soul; only this way we will be the owners of our Destiny.
Article by Pavel Tulaev, published on the issue #7 of the Russian Identitarian magazine Nasledye Pred’ Kov (‘The Heritage of the Forefathers’), Summer 2000.
Translated from Russian to Spanish by Josep Oriol Ribas i Mulet, and published on the issue #12 of the Spanish Identitarian magazine Tierra y Pueblo (‘Land and People’), May 2006.
Tulaev, Pavel. “The Russian Dreams of a German Philosopher.” Euro-Synergies, 11 June 2008. <http://euro-synergies.hautetfort.com/archive/2008/06/11/the-russian-dreams-of-a-german-philosopher.html >.
This article is also available on Tulaev’s personal website: <http://tulaev.ru/html.php?152 >.