January 25, 2008

Russians and Armenians

From Black Sea by Neal Ascherson, a Scottish journalist, about his travels around the Black Sea region:

The transition to a market economy in the lower Don requires more than laws made in Moscow. It needs nothing less than a cultural revolution, an overthrowing of inherited moral codes no less complete than the transformation which St Cyril intended.

Once in a hotel room at Anapa, I argued late into the night with a Cossack who had decided to start a tourism business. He was eating Azov herrings as he sat on his bed, pulling off their heads and splitting their bodies with a horny expert thumbnail. His idea was to invite rich foreigners down to the Don country for holidays. "You could bring them from Moscow on charter flights," I suggested. "And you could build a dude ranch out in the steppe beyond Novocherkassk, with comfortable chalets with running water, and offer them a Cossack Heritage Experience."

He shook his head. "That would cost money. To bring them by train would be far cheaper. They could stay with local people who have apartments, and would rent them a room for dollars."

But surely, I said, you had to make some sort of investment first to attract foreign customers, so that you could recoup the start-up costs and make a profit by charging high prices. "No, no," returned the Cossack entrepreneur. "The foreigners will pay very high fees, and we will spend as little on them as possible, and in this way we will make more money."

There were two other people in the room. One was a young archaeologist from Tanais, herself of Cossack ancestry. She had been listening to this conversation with rising disgust. Now she said, "We are talking about the sharing of our culture with guests from other lands. For that we do not need this vile commercialism!"

The other person was an Armenian, a Rostov worker who used his car as an unofficial cab. He said nothing. But he caught my eye. A gold tooth glinted. He rolled his gaze upward, and very gently shook his head from side to side in disbelief. Russians!

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised, Steve. Isn't your hero Solzhenitsyn (sp?) of Cossack ancestry? (of course he isn't commercially inclined, but still)

TGGP said...

So there are still Cossacks around? Wikipedia seems to depict them as just an historical thing.

"Trust a snake before a Jew and a Jew before a Greek, but don't trust an Armenian."
- George Orwell

Anonymous said...

...but don't trust an Armenian.
- George Orwell

I don't have enough experience with Armenians to know whether I should trust most of them or not. But I know that I trust Mark Krikorian.

Anonymous said...

"Trust a snake before a Jew and a Jew before a Greek, but don't trust an Armenian."
- George Orwell

i never heard of greeks being untrustworthy, but jews and armenians, i think the stereotype has merit.

Anonymous said...

Pretty funny excerpt. Gosh, I've not read anything at all about Cossacks since... the last time I read War and Peace, I imagine. Funny to think they apparently still exist.

Ron Guhname said...

"...but don't trust an Armenian."

I buy Estonian kielbasa in Armenian stores (try it, it's gooood). Those guys are scary, Dude, and they refuse to give me samples.

Anonymous said...

Most of the Armenians I've met in Massachusetts have been very gentle and polite. They are like Jews in their intellect and commercial instincts, but without the underlying fear or hostility toward the goy that live around them.

Christopher said...

No no no, it's "it takes two Arabs to get the better of a Jew in a trade [by the way, from context I would guess all of this is a bit untranslatable; it's not entirely derogatory, but a combination of admiration for, and jealousy of, the stereotypical commercial savvy of the other]; but four Jews to get the better of an Armenian."

Anonymous said...

Isn't your hero Solzhenitsyn (sp?) of Cossack ancestry?

No, part "Great Russian" ( i.e., non-Asian Russian) part Balt -- Lithuanian, I think. Cossacks are quasi Central Asians.

"Joe Stalin" thought all Balts to be disloyal. This was one reason why Solzhenitsyn was on bad terms with the regime.

Georgian "Stalin" = Saddam Hussein lookalike, in case you haven't noticed.

There were ethnic and racial dimensions to the Soviet era in CCCP. One of the phoney boasts of the Soviets and of Titov's former South Slavia was that Come-u-nism had solved ethnic minorties problems.

Anonymous said...

1/ I googled Solzhenitsyn and Cossack and got lots of hits identifying him as of Cossack descent.

2/ The article tends to denigrate Russians and admire Armenians. Yet most of the comments seem to be negative towards Armenians. And of course the Jews seem to have found a permanent home for commenters even though the article doesn't come close to mentioning them.

Anonymous said...

Without a comment, it's difficult to tell what point you are trying to make: perhaps that Russians need to understand better that private capital investment is necessary for growth? Well, there is some truth to that after many years of quota driven command economics, but less and less. The Russian government has been putting together programs to increase domestic and foreign direct investment now that they have gotten things under control after the horrifying years of US-backed shock therapy. I don't think there is much doubt that Russia will see economic growth on par with China in the next few years and will increasingly reach out to foreign sources of capital and expertise to help drive that growth.

Btw, the openly anti-semitic comments are just disturbing and demean your blog.

Anonymous said...

i never heard of greeks being untrustworthy, but jews and armenians, i think the stereotype has merit.

I've even heard Italians complain that Greeks are snakes.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Mouse, Google searches indicate that you are correct, and I'm wrong. I thought I read somewhere that Aleksandr's Dad was Lithuanian.

Some of these Internet bio's re A.S. seem kinda dodgey, however:

Solzhenitsyn’s memoir: Navrozov as a scorpion who stung him

See the Lev Navrozov Archive

By Lev Navrozov

Lev Navrozov emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1972 He settled in New York City where he quickly learned that there was no market for his eloquent and powerful English language attacks on the Soviet Union. To this day, he writes without fear or favor or the conventions of polite society. He chaired the "Alternative to the New York Times Committee" in 1980, challenged the editors of the New York Times to a debate (which they declined) and became a columnist for the New York City Tribune. His columns are today read in both English and Russian.

Monday, March 5, 2007
Who is Solzhenitsyn? Before the advent of the Nobel Prizes and of the mass communication media, genius outside exact sciences and technology was proclaimed by a circle of cognoscenti. Today, the world fame is often “succes de scandale.” …

Still, when the “New York Times” reviewed the book, the reviewer found one of Solzhenitsyn’s statements maliciously anti-Semitic: the Jews who had been emigrating from Russia since the end of the 19th century had been creating in the West an unfavorable image of Russia.

In my “Midstream” review I did not point out that this remark of Solzhenitsyn is anti-Semitic! Because I do not consider it such. The Russian and Soviet governments by no means treated Jews always fairly. Nor did pogroms added to their well-being. The word “Cossack” was perceived by Jews like “death on horseback” (see the biography of Golda Meir), and Russians like Solzhenitsyn (incidentally, a son of a Cossack) hardly made or make Russia attractive to the Jews. Only Stalin’s death stopped his preparations for the deportation of all Jews in Russia to Siberia, where Solzhenitsyn had been pining for his underestimation of Stalin’s genius in his private letter. Why should Jews be expected to give only top marks to Russia?

In general, in 1989, Solzhenitsyn’s “succes de scandale” was already declining in the West, and pretty soon you could hear the (Jewish?) joke: “Is Solzhenitsyn alive?” “Who?”

Lev Navrozov's (navlev@cloud9.net] new book is available on-line at www.levnavrozov.com. To request an outline of the book, send an e-mail to webmaster@levnavrozov.com.


Tom Merle said...

From the current issue of the University of Chicago Magazine: ~~Richard Hellie, who has spent most of the past half-century researching Russian history at Chicago, sees the country’s backwardness as an almost inescapable condition.

A student of Russian history since he entered the University of Chicago in 1954, Hellie, AB’58, AM’60, PhD’65, has become an expert on the country’s medieval and early-modern past. The editor of the journal Russian History, Hellie has authored nearly a dozen books on Muscovite law, slavery and serfdom, economic history, and society and culture.

This past October Hellie debuted some of his thoughts on backwardness at a U of C Humanities Day lecture. "The initial point I must start with,” Hellie told his audience, “is that the notion of Russian current and historical backwardness is not some politically incorrect slander invented by Richard Hellie, but a very old part of Russian civilizational discourse.” Some scholars trace the phenomenon to the 13th-century Mongolian invasion. Although Hellie warned that an “easy”—and flawed—“temptation would be to blame the Mongols,” he did allow that it is “hard to deny the Mongols had a considerable role in the fact that Russia missed the Renaissance.” Before 1240, he said, the country looked southward and westward for its cultural influences; afterward, it turned away from the rest of Europe and developed a “Latin allergy” that robbed it of access to Roman classical heritage.

More deeply disabling, in every sphere from technology to philosophy, Hellie argued, has been Russia’s tendency toward absolutism. Even as Ivan the Great amassed vast territories, he laid the foundations of an autocracy in which all resources—people and property alike—were at the ruler’s disposal. Even noblemen had no independent power; if they failed to show proper fealty, their lands could be seized and granted to more loyal subjects. In the early 1500s Joseph of Volokolamsk, a Russian Orthodox abbot (and later a saint) helped establish the country’s version of the divine right of kings: “In his person the ruler is a man, but in his authority he is like God,” Hellie intoned. “So this remained the fundamental dogma of Russian autocracy until 1917, when the autocrat was replaced by the Communist Party general secretary and God was replaced by ‘history.’”

Lower classes had it worse than the nobility. Lasting from 1450 to 1725, Russian slavery “differed from the institution elsewhere,” Hellie said, “in that it allowed the enslavement of fellow Russians.” Those who were not outright slaves were serfs, tied to their towns and farms. “Serfdom commenced in the 1450s, and it ended only in 1906” with land reform and the creation of private property. (Alexander II’s 1861 emancipation did not effect the freedom he envisioned.) “Russians have rarely had any rights,” Hellie said, and oppression sapped their initiative.

Distrust of foreigners also has held Russia back. More than 300 years before the Soviet Empire, the Ulozhenie, a law code adopted in 1649, forbade Russians from going abroad. Even when Russia brought in scholars, scientists, or military strategists from elsewhere, it kept them apart from the local populace. “So opportunities for Russians to rejoin Europe at the personal level,” Hellie said, “were prohibited.”

Add to that the lack of an independent judiciary, censorship that persisted through the Soviet era, and Russia’s habit of exiling or executing its most educated citizens. Russian society never encouraged free thought or ambition—“Soviet scholars were bound like serfs to their collectives’plans and found it difficult to go where their interests led them”—one reason for the country’s dearth of important inventors or philosophers.

Despite “brilliant exceptions”—Hellie noted Russia’s defeat of Napoleon; its 16 Nobel Prizes; chemist Dmitri Mendeleev’s organization of the Periodic Table; and writers such as Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov—he didn’t hold out optimism for Russia’s imminent emergence from backwardness.

Property rights “no longer exist,” and censorship is on the rise. Graft has multiplied in the last few years, and Vladimir Putin, in the footsteps of other Russian rulers, replaced Yeltsin-era oligarchs with “Leningrad KGB cronies,” he said. “It does not appear that a middle class or civil society will develop. Backwardness will endure.”~~

michael farris said...

When I was taking Modern Greek many years ago, the instructor, born in Greece, proudly told the class the old saying: It takes two Jews to beat a Greek.

(IIRC it continued on: two greeks to beat an Armenian and two Armenians to beat a Syrian)

Ron Guhname said...

tom merle: I don't disagree with your comment except to say that it doesn't quite give the Russians their due. According to Murray's Human Accomplishment, Russia ranks sixth in Europe in "significant figures". Only Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Austro-Hungary are ahead of them.

Anonymous said...

Forgive me, but I thought the tragedy was not that they died, but that Briony's lie prevented them from having the chance to be together before they did. To quote Mel in "Braveheart": "Everyone dies. Not everyone really lives."

Anonymous said...

"Forgive me, but I thought the tragedy was not that they died, but that Briony's lie prevented them from having the chance to be together before they did. To quote Mel in "Braveheart": "Everyone dies. Not everyone really lives.""

Had they actually had sex it would never have been as good as it almost was during that first moment of shared passion. In despair, Robbie would've become a womanzier looking for that same high again - and Cecelia a drunken socialite of the type that shows up at parties with her mascara smudged.

Anonymous said...

"From Black Sea by Neal Ascherson, a Scottish journalist, about his travels around the Black Sea region:"

This is pure Fleet Street hoo-hah. It's one of those pieces designed to apply the last round of anaesthesia to white Britons. It reassures them they remain civilized even as their island is transformed into a combination Caribbean and South Asia dung heap before their eyes.

I'm disappointed, Steve. That piece is unworthy of your site. It's more appropriate to a neocon site like National Review or Horowitz's Front Page.

I've spent a lot of time in Russia in the last decade. Most recently six weeks last year in the southern Volga region about 80km from NW Kazakhstan.

"From the current issue of the University of Chicago Magazine: ~~Richard Hellie, who has spent most of the past half-century researching Russian history at Chicago"

The average American school kid moving to Russia would be set back 2-3 grade levels at a Russian school, if she was admitted at all. Hellie has had no excuse since at least 1990 for not moving his research onsite to the Rodina.