The Kremlin has officially recognized the Russian language and culture as a weapon in a global war. Journalist Serhii Hromenko draws attention to this fact on Facebook. He published the corresponding document recently adopted in Russia.
The long-standing debate about whether it is possible to separate Russian culture from the Russian state has finally been put to an end. And it was put by Putin himself, signing a decree on September 5 approving the “Concept of Humanitarian Policy of the Russian Federation Abroad.”
The concept recognizes that “Russian culture in all historical eras has been a symbol of Russia” (paragraph 5) and that “the historical experience, rich cultural heritage and spiritual potential of Russia have allowed it to occupy a special place in the global cultural space and created opportunities for successful promotion of traditional Russian spiritual and moral values abroad” (p. 6).
The main dangers are defined as: a) globalization, which “endangers the cultural identity of countries and peoples”, and b) efforts “to spread and impose a distorted interpretation of Russia’s true goals… to discredit the Russian World, its traditions and ideals, replacing them with pseudo-values” (p. 9).
The first among Russia’s national interests is “the protection of traditional Russian spiritual and moral values” (p. 13.1), among the tasks separately noted are “the protection, preservation and promotion of traditions and ideals peculiar to the Russian world” (p. 14.2) and “strengthening the role, importance and competitiveness of the Russian language in the modern world” (p. 14.4).
Finally, it is declared that Russia “provides support to compatriots living abroad in exercising their rights, ensuring the protection of their interests and preserving the pan-Russian cultural identity” (p. 62), thanks to which it “strengthens in the international arena its image of a democratic state, which strives for the formation of a multipolar world, preservation of its cultural and civilizational diversity” (p. 64).
(The full list of goals and tools is rather vast, consisting of dozens of items)
The appearance of this document is a unique event in Russia’s humanitarian policy – it either introduces into the legal sphere for the first time, or consolidates several doctrinal statements that previously existed only in a public format.
1) This is the highest-ranking official document signed by the President of the Russian Federation, which refers to the ‘Russian World’ as a phenomenon, not the institution (“Russian World Foundation”) (10 decrees signed in 2007-2022).
2) In this concept, the signs of the “civilizational separateness” of Russia are clearly formulated: “The unique geographical position of Russia caused the synthesis of European and Asian foundations in the culture of its multinational people. An important element in the formation of the value foundations of the life of Russian society, its cultural identity and national mentality was the communal character of development, which was expressed, including through the aspiration of both each person and the entire society for social justice and realization of long-term goals” (p. 7), and also “Russian mentality is characterized by mutual assistance, collectivism, faith in goodness and justice. Along with devotion to traditional spiritual and moral values, respect for foreign culture, faith, and customs was formed in society during the millenial history of our country” (p. 19).
3) The concept openly postulates a “turn to the East” – it mentions the following countries for “humanitarian cooperation”: China, India, Japan, Vietnam, Laos, Mongolia, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Libya, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Palestine, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. At the same time, no Western European nations or the USA were ever mentioned.
4) The text mentions the so-called “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics”, but there is no mention of Ukraine (although there are notions of Moldova and Georgia), which is also extremely revealing.
5) The Kremlin also announces that it will make efforts to whiten its image and claim a special place in the world: “shaping an image of Russia as a state that carefully preserves its rich history and cultural heritage, traditional spiritual and moral values, and in which dynamically social and cultural life develops in conditions of freedom of literary, artistic and other types of creativity, pluralism of opinions, absence of censorship restrictions” (p. 15.1);
“The Russian state is increasingly perceived abroad as the guardian and defender of traditional spiritual and moral values, the spiritual heritage of world civilization” (P. 19);
“Russia is committed to the principles of equality, justice, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, is ready for mutually beneficial cooperation without preconditions, recognizing national and cultural identity, traditional spiritual and moral values as the greatest achievements of humanity and seeing them as the basis for the further prosperous development of human civilization” (p .21).
Therefore, the “Concept of Humanitarian Policy of the Russian Federation Abroad” allows a better understanding of the Russian strategy in this area. The Kremlin postulates in this regard are as follows:
First, culture is a tool, even a weapon in the hands of the government, aimed at strengthening its international positions. Russia can and will actively use all the opportunities available to it – from promoting Russian ballet to protecting the rights of Russian speakers abroad to advancing its interests.
And secondly, the planet is divided into the worlds of “traditional values” and global liberal “pseudo-values”, between which there an irreconcilable fight is ongoing. And Russia puts itself forward as the global leader of traditional values, claiming that it is built on them.
Thus, this document is the clearest answer to those who believe that Russian culture does not belong to the Russian state, is not a political tool, and does not pose a threat to Ukraine and the rest of the world. Russian culture, as recognized in the concept, has long been and still serves to promote Russian statehood. Without realizing this, there is a threat of Russia effectively employing its soft power in the future.