esse II

Communalitу of Russian Mind

The suppressed, low-spirited state Russians are currently in causes me great pain. Generally, they are confused, diminished and impoverished. This spiritual degradation and humiliation naturally causes retaliation, but most people regretfully give up. They give up not on themselves, their families or their children, but on the entire nation: “But we are Russians, we are like this, what’s there to do? The history of the Russian nation is over”.

This of course is a troubling sign of nation’s degradation, and I’ve searched for language mechanisms that could restore our spirit… I am a linguist, a philologist, a historian of the Russian language and the Slavic language group, a specialist who drains into millennia while carrying out scientific studies. Facing such retrospectives, we recognize the fact that the current episode of the history is nothing more than an episode, which, as yet, doesn’t have a resolution. We don’t know how this tragedy ends yet.
But our history shows that such cataclysms of the Russian state and the Russian nation has led to Russian victories.[…]

It is generally admitted that the conscious is under control of the subconscious. And the subconscious holds archetypes of our mind that have clear national focus. Let’s try and trace their implications in the language. […] Humans have inherent (not just fostered) sense of good and evil. This ability to differentiate good and evil has strong roots in language, and in that which we call conscience. Good and evil are two verbal poles, originally signifying philosophic categories of the good and the evil, and a lot of words gravitate towards them. Russian national self-consciousness and Russian language place these words in a sort of reference system, either around the point of the good or around the point of the evil. For example, words right and left serve for spatial orientation, enabling us to live and orient ourselves. But on top of that, right gravitates toward the notion of good, while left is associated with evil. And we have the word truth, which means unconditional good. To live by the truth means to live consciously, doing good deeds. And we have the opposite word krivda. […]

To rule. In Russian, rule is derived from the adjective right, associated with good. This means that the ones who rule should lead the nation to good. And if they manage us and lead us to evil, and do evil over us, we have the moral right (and this is wired in our intuition), to right a situation like this. Right here is the root that dictates our behavior. It doesn’t matter that some things have not yet happened, but we feel that we are ruled not the right way. A rule is something leading to the truth. When kids learn rules in school, they intuitively recognize that it is good.
Let’s look at what left is. We have these ancient notions that hasn’t changed through the ages. Having something or someone on the side, buying or selling things illegally are all idioms using the root left. The meaning regarding adultery appeared in the XX century, but still the archetype is thousands years old. […]

One of the archetypes is the self-designation used by a nation, how it names itself and reflects itself among many other nations. A few words on ethnonymics. There are nations who name themselves according to the principle: “we are humans, and others are not”. They can’t be blamed, there is nothing chauvinistic about it. It’s just a simple differentiation: this is us, and those are aliens. For example, in marian language mari is human, in Gipsy roma means human. Chukchi name themselves Luoravetlan, real humans (supposing there are not so real humans out there). The second way nations name themselves is by discerning their own and the aliens. E.g., ancient ethnonym of Swedes is Svei (“our own”). Some nations use names of their ancestors (Czechs, Jews) or their motherlands (Poles, Italians). The self-designation often doesn’t match the name used by the neighboring nations. For example, in English the German people is named German, in French — allemande, and Russians call them nemtsi. Germans call themselves Deutsch, with no options. We call ourselves Russkiye.
But why are we Russkiye and what does it mean?

Russian linguist Oleg Trubachev has established and proved that the word Russkiy is derived from the ancient Indo-European root ruks-roks, meaning white, light-shaded. And the thing is, in Russian images of white, light-colored gravitate towards good, as opposed to dark, black, gloomy. We are built like this, and that’s why since old days we have been perceiving ourselves as a nation that is white, a nation of light. And in terms of anthropology, we were a quite light-colored nation: bright-colored eyes, fair hair (a kind of humble ash-gray shade that suddenly sparkles with gold in sunlight). And we have most probably chosen this name — white, light-shaded, Russkiy — from the way we perceive and contemplate the world. Because a nation striving for truth, for light, inevitably felt Russian, a nation of light. How can we spot manifestations of this archetype in modern language?

For Russians (and representatives of other nations) being near many, or dangerously few, of our own, is of great significance. This is the sense of danger in action. And so, when people of other nations became too large in numbers for Russian self-consciousness and world perception, the term chyorny appeared (“but there are chyornys there”, “I bought from a chyorny”). This category is not xenophobic or racist, rather being a category of an archetype of our conscious, like a reaction to a sign of danger. It doesn’t matter where the person is dark-haired, of Caucasian descent, or has black skin, chyorny is an alien (as opposed to our own, light-colored, white). Surely, a culture of tolerance is being forced upon us, we are shamed for using these words, but how can one change the inner self-contemplation of a nation, how can one shame a thing thousands years old?

Look at the attempts to distort our Russian identity even in our own ethnonym. After all, the word Russian can be put beside any other. Russian Bank, which employees are far from being Russian, Russian Lottery, owned by chechens, Russian Radio, where none Russian words spoken with Russian intonations can be heard. Even a nuclear waste storage facility in Chelyabinsk vicinity was planned to be named Rus’. At the same time, Russians are not allowed to use the term to name themselves. Russian political parties with Russian in their names are strictly prohibited. On top of that, we are persistently advised to use the term Rossiyanin. We are Russkiye, and why should we change our name? Indeed, accepting a name dictated by others is the deadliest threat to a nation’s self-consciousness.

Key notions of a language as manifestations of national self-conscious archetypes have been explored for many nations. For example, it was established that the English people have a key notion of common sense. Linguistic studies of German have revealed that ordnung is a key term for them. What about Russians? It has been proved that for Russian self-consciousness own is such a word. It tops popularity rankings and expresses the most important Russian life principles. For example, to stand on one’s own feet, to think with one’s own hand, to do with one’s own hands, to hold one’s own, to explore — make something one’s own. Svoy (our own in Russian) is derived from the ancient root soe, which means 1) to give birth, 2) kindred. Russian has a lot of sayings using the word own. […]

As opposed to Europeans, Russians consider thoughts as deeds. This feature is one of our peculiarities. Also, there is a saying: “So said, so done”, which means that, once verbalized, a thought is to come into life. This attitude towards thought expressed by Russians has both beneficial and damaging implications. [...]
The Russian land has many thinking people. Let me remind you Dostoyevsky’s quote “All real Russian people are philosophers”. When Russian people start thinking the same, and what we are thinking today is why have did it happen like this, and how to restore the Russian state, to awaken the Russian nation. And when this communal thought appears, it gains energy and receives an impulse according to the saying “So said, so done”. And since thought is deed, and that’s why it’s dangerous, the Russian state has been punishing and fighting dissent.In Europe, freedom of speech is one of the highest values. Here you should beware of saying blasphemy, something dangerous for the authorities. Dissent has always been suppressed. The Soviet era carried out an epic fight with Russian thought and today we witness the same. Russian thought is the thing feared the most. There are so-called “Russian articles” of the Criminal Law, the 280th and the 282nd. Prohibited “extremist” literature lists over two and a half thousand of entries, including articles by the great Russian writer and thinker Leo Tolstoy. […]
In the IX century, emperor Constantine VII devoted his writings to nations, including Russians. For example, he said they greeted themselves: “Good health to you, brothers, sisters”. And look how we call each other among ourselves, what are the most intimate ways to address a stranger and let them know that you are kindred: father, brother, bro, sis, mother, daughter, son. And these words are alive for us, we instantly open ourselves toward them. But we wouldn’t name someone alien neither father nor bro. This is not for aliens, this is for our own, and there is no way to hide from this. These archetypes are thousands years old. Given that we name our own this family-like way, the Russian language has not accepted such salutations as mister, comrade, or citizen. This means that the notion of our own is still alive, and there is now way to eliminate these roots of national self-consciousness. […]

Excerpts from lectures
Tatiana Mironova,
PhD, Corresponding Member
of the International Slavic Academy