Russia has never been liberal, democratic, or free

Quoting Grossman:

Лишь одного не видела Россия за тысячу лет: свободы (The one thing Russia has not seen in a thousand years: freedom.)

Особенности русской души рождены несвободой. Русская душа тысячелетния раба. (Particularities of Russian spirit emerge from unfreedom. One thousand years a slave.)

Этот азиат в шевровых сапожках, цитирующий Щедрина, живущий законами кровной мести и одновременно пользующийся словарем революции, внес ясность в послеоктябрьский хаос, осуществил, выразил свой характер в характере государства. (This khan in velvet boots, citing Schedrin and living by the law of the jungle, used the language of revolution to bring clarity to the post-October chaos and projected his own character into that of the state.)

Freedom had almost no grounding in Russian history at all. Any notions of liberalism are entirely imported from western thought.

Even the venerable Peter the Great and Catherine the great were more enlightened despots, not true westernizers. Peter looked westward and learned a ton as an undercover apprentice at a dutch shipbuilding company, but he never wanted democracy, and he never wanted to give up his autocratic rule (see History of Future Cities by Daniel Brook)

The government was nominally democratic for two brief moments: the period of 1905-1917, then again roughly 1991-2000. Other than that, the default state of Russia for the last millennium has been unfreedom.

I looked into the period 1905-1917 via a Russian Revolutions Podcast (see Notes from Russian Revolution Podcast (Revolutions)), and found that it was not democratic at all. Something like 2000 people were murdered by the state as part of punitive actions conducted by the Tzar following the revolution of 1905. The first Duma Congress was not real democracy, by any stretch of the imagination, and multiple Dumas were created and dismantled by the Tzar.

There are a surprisingly large number of words for serf in Russian: крепостной, холоп, ишак...

Last edited on Jul 2023