Monday, February 23, 2009

Georgia and the Orthodox Civilization

Samuel P. Huntington in his The Clash of Civilizations, theorized that the nine “civilizations” (Western, Latin American, African, Islamic, Sinic, Hindu, Orthodox, Buddhist, and Japanese) would never obtain absolute amity but would always “clash” for one reason or another and the clashes would occur along the “fault” lines. Was what occurred recently in Georgia consistent with Huntington’s thesis? Perhaps.

Huntington’s thesis includes the idea of “core states.” Each Civilization has or needs one core state to represent the weaker states, to protect them or keep them under control as necessary. The U.S. is identified as the West’s “Core State,” and Russia the Core State of the Orthodox Civilization.

Even though the USSR fragmented, the Orthodox Civilization did not. Also, according to Huntington’s thesis, Russia would maintain a “core-state interest” in other “Orthodox” nations. It has done so visibly in regard to Serbia, but consider Georgia. According to the CIA Factbook ( ) Georgia is 83.9% Orthodox Christian. Surely this would place Georgia in the “Orthodox Civilization,” but they are not happy with Russia at the present time and Russia seems willing to bully them a bit. But it isn’t surprising, after the break up of the Soviet Union in 1989 that the relationship of non-Soviet Russia with its Civilizational members is in an uncertain condition.

But let us look at the West for a moment. The U.S., the West’s Core State, chose to overthrow the government of Iraq, which is in the Islamic Civilization. Many members of the Western Civilization balked for one reason or another. Germany and France became downright hostile. We didn’t come to blows as Russia and Georgia did, but we were not on good terms with each other for several years. Is the relationship of Russia and Georgia of a similar nature? Will the Civilizational commonality between these two Orthodox nations eventually overcome their disagreements? Huntington would say yes. We see that France and Germany are much happier with the U.S. once we elected Barack Obama. The “hatred” of France and Germany couldn’t be very deep if all it took was an election to remove it, but the events in Georgia recently seem more serious.

What happened in Georgia wasn’t a Huntington “Clash” because it occurred between two members of the same “civilization.” And it didn’t seem much like the core-state’s keeping other members of the civilization in order. It seems to have created a lot of bad feeling in Georgia, but perhaps it was already there.

Then too there is the matter of former SSRs wanting to follow Eastern European nations into some sort of association with the West. Turkey of the Islamic Civilization is a member of NATO and is trying to enter the EU. It isn’t surprising that some nations of the “Orthodox Civilization” are trying as well. After all, Huntington’s thesis hasn’t been proved. There are some (Bat Ye’or chief among them) who argue that Western Europe will eventually be taken over, more or less peacefully, by the Islamic Civilization; so why couldn’t Georgia or the Ukraine join the West in some manner?

Well, it seems to me, they could if they chose to, and if Russia would let them. I commented in previous notes about the pacifistic EU goading the Russian bear by offering membership in the EU to former SSRs. Didn’t the EU realize that they were infringing on the Orthodox Core State’s territory, trying to steal away one of its cubs? If the EU was serious in these attempts, then perhaps they abandoned war a little too soon. Of course, the U.S. was equally guilty in encouraging Georgia’s entrance into NATO. And Georgia was one of the nations that supported the American efforts in Iraq – all very interesting and complicated.

Michael Kuznetsov made comments in a recent note suggesting he wasn’t terribly fond of Georgia. He could if he wished and was ambitious enough find that I made comments in blog notes suggesting that I wasn’t terribly fond of France. In my own defense I would say that I objected to actions of the Gaullist party. I was not a fan of De Gaulle or of Chirac, but I have a lot of admiration for . . . difficult to define, but I am fond of or at least interested in a lot of French philosophy. I would hate it if the West “lost” France to Islamism. France and the U.S. have a long and usually amicable relationship. I would hope that no falling out would be permanent. Perhaps the same thing can be said about Russia and Georgia, I don’t know.


Anonymous said...


Although it seems to be not exactly in tune with your topic here, but let me share with you some of my recollections about Georgia.

That country was named, as you know, in the list of the so-called "Oppressed Nations" within the USSR.

Have you ever been yourself to the "oppressed" Georgia (Gruzia) in the Caucasus?
I myself have been there several times in the 1970s – 1980s, mostly by sea.

Once, in 1989, I happened to travel to the Georgian town of Poti by train. The rail road was laid along the beautiful Black Sea shores. We passengers enjoyed watching the magnificent brine just a few yards from the right windows of our sleeping car, while the left windows provided us with a view of an endless row of two- or three-storeyed impressive palaces, each being surrounded with a huge orange orchard.

As I was travelling across that part of the country for the first time, I was surprised to see such a great number of small sanatoriums (as I thought those to be) stretched in an endless row along the seashores.
My more experienced fellow-travellers told me that those were not sanatoriums, but private houses of common Georgian peasants.
I have never seen such luxurious two- or three-storeyed palaces anywhere in Russia to be in private possession of common peasants!

In fact, the Russian Empire, as well as its successor the Soviet Union, was a kind of a REVERSED EMPIRE.
In every normal empire it is always the Centre that sucks resources from the Colonies.
While in the USSR everything was reversed -– the "colonies" used to suck resources from the center –- that is from Russia proper.

Out of all the 15 Soviet Republics then in the Soviet times Georgia (Gruzia) was the richest one. The "Georgian" (Gruzin) was a code word for a "rich man" among the Soviets.

The Georgians used to sell us Russians their oranges at a price 10 times higher than cost. For example a kilo of Russian peasants' potatoes was usually sold at 20 kopecks (cents), while a kilo of Georgian oranges at 2 roubles (dollars), the cost of both products being approximately equal.

Which is why the living standard in Georgia was at least 4 - 5 times higher than that average in the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic (the core of the USSR).

Now that Georgia has "liberated" itself from the Russian "oppression" and become an independent state, we buy oranges from Morocco at a NORMAL just price, and the living level in Georgia has become 4 times lower than that in Russia today.

Of course, oranges are a luxury and potatoes a basic staple diet. No doubt.
What I want to say is that the both products' prime cost was approximately equal, which means that while the Russian peasant had to spend as much time and efforts to grow, say, a tonne of potatoes, as his Georgian counterpart did the same to grow a tonne of oranges, the latter appeared to be much more privileged regarding his income.

A few words about the inter-ethnical relations in the Soviet Union. I cannot remember any feeling of disdain for the minorities.
We Russians had never regarded the Georgians, Uzbeks, Tatars, and all the other non-Russian peoples that were living within our common country as our "slaves" or "captive nations". Never!
On the contrary, they used to be privileged in this or that way. I know the Americans call a practice like that the "affirmative action".

I must admit, however, that we Russians regarded the borderlands' autochthonal peoples as our "junior brothers" because they were unable to do all what we Russians could do, for example, to design, to build and to launch a spaceship, etc.

Yet, this attitude of ours to the non-Russians –- as to our junior brothers –- implied no contempt.
Simply put, it was a clear understanding of their abilities, a sober assessment of what can be entrusted to our junior brothers, and what not.

For example, a Uzbek shepherd was not expected to pilot a jet plane.
As simple as that, and nothing more.

Thus, I can safely assert that there was no racial hatred in the Soviet Union.
At least on our Russian side.


Lawrence Helm said...

Michael: Interesting comments. I responded at length in the "Georgia and Russia" note posted today.


American critic said...

Regarding M.Kuznetsov's remarks -
I detect anadmitted though ill-disguised attitude of ENTITLEMENT and RESENTMENT in this RUSSIAN writer's INVIDIOUS recollection of the late, lamented captive Georgia. The quips of Kuznetsov demnstrate the mindset of the unreconstructed (or rather Putinic-rehabilitated) RUSSIAN IMPERIALIST. Reading of how the unscupulous (dark-coplected, non-European) Georgian peasant farmer sells his country's produce at unfairly inflated prices to the GOOD HONEST, HARDWORKING (yeah, right) Russian peasant and gets a ton of spuds for his box of tangerines, an American reader can't help but admire the superior intelligence and more valuable real estate the Georgian possesses. The latter explains the intense envy nearly all Russians possess in regards to the 'wayward' Georgian Republic. The syndrome often borders on kind of perverted sexual possessiveness coupled with a revenge fantasy. I am not exaggerating, this is the udertone behind Kuznetsov and a lot bigger rascals in the Kremlin, who happen to know very well how the average Russian feels about having lost access to Georgian produce, vacation resorts nd all tht sunshine so dreadfully lacking in Russia.
Ever since the Bear overstayed its welcome at the beginning of the 19th cetury, Russins have lied to themselves that they were owed the 'great debt of gratitude' form Georgia which (again the sexual metaphore) went unrequited.
It'sugly to see how in some caes, subconscious atavisms drive entire nations' outlook toward their neighbors, but who would kid themselves that Russia has possessed anyhting like a healthy relationship to the outside world for any time in the last century? Rather, we see once again an aggressive, imperialitic warlike and totalitarian state arise with a new yearnig for the lost 'brilliance' of the Soviet era. Take the Moscow canal's construction as an example of that great civilization - its construction only cost some 100,000 human lives. In fact, the project wa devised specifically to kill those people. Wow, I'm impressed. Look into Georgian history for anything like that and you will come up with aboslutely nothing. They even loved and prtected their Jews since the origin of the Georgian state, some 1200 years prior to Kievan Rus'.
So please,Mr.Kuznetsov, try to dpt to the fact that Georgians never wanted you in their country as anything other than a humble, and paying guest. Please learn humility, and then visit free Georgia. And bring real cash.