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The Anti-Semitism of History: The Case of the Russian Neo-Pagans

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  • Shlapentokh, Dmitry
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    Almost a generation has gone by since the end of the Cold War, a time that has brought many changes. It has become steadily clearer that not the affirmation of the centrality of the democratic West – as asserted by Francis Fukuyama in his famous essay – but the opposite has occurred. There has been continuous erosion of the power of the West. First, the economic and geopolitical balance has increasingly shifted to Southeast Asia, where quite a few states have authoritarian, even totalitarian, socioeconomic arrangements. China is, of course, the best-known example. Second, the demographic and cultural tides have changed. In the past, Europe sent waves of émigrés all over the world. Now the West has become the destination of millions from non-European countries. The pattern of cultural adaptation has also undergone dramatic changes. A considerable number of non-Europeans have no desire to assimilate, or at least they wish to preserve their heritage. All these processes – especially as they relate to the fact that the West is losing its economic competitiveness – cause a response that often leads to racism and neo-fascism. Those who study European neo-fascists almost instinctively compare them with pre-Second World War fascists and Nazis. This temptation is reinforced by the fact that these neo-fascists often use Nazi symbols and trappings. However, a close look at these European neo-fascists/neo-Nazis and their prewar counterparts indicates that their similarities are usually deceptive and they actually belong to quite different species. Present-day neo-fascists/neo-Nazis are not imperialists, as were the German Nazis who dreamed about a worldwide empire. Current European right-wingers are parochial isolationists. They want not an empire but the cleansing of their state from newcomers, especially those of non-European origin. Many are even suspicious of European unity; they see the European Union as the key that opens the gates of their countries, not just to Asians/Africans but to East Europeans, seen as almost an alien race. Second, their view of Jews is different from that of the Nazis. They may be anti-Semitic, but their dislike of Jews is hardly the central element of their worldview. Moreover, they are similar to many of the general public who differentiate between ‘their’ native Jews – against whom they have no grudges – and newcomers from, say, Eastern Europe, whom they consider parasitic aliens. Furthermore, they have problems with the church. Some may be neo-pagans; in this they are also quite different from the Nazis, who had a tense relationship with the church but did not openly oppose it. Russian rightists in many ways follow the model of the European far right. This is due not only to direct ideological borrowing but also to similar conditions. Russia's heartland, for example, is also a major destination for non-European migrants. Still, the Russian far right's views unquestionably have elements arising from the country's specific conditions. As a result, they have developed several peculiar ideological characteristics. They are often pagan and quite hostile to the Orthodox Church. They also see Jews as part of an unholy cabal of Asiatics set on Russia's destruction.

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    Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal European Review.

    Volume (Year): 20 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 02 (May)
    Pages: 264-275

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    Handle: RePEc:cup:eurrev:v:20:y:2012:i:02:p:264-275_00
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