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Author`s name Lyuba Lulko

Russian 'specialness' vs. American 'exceptionalism'

The West can never seem to understand the specialness of Russia and its people, especially now, when most Russians believe that Russia is going in the right direction - against the West. One is left to wonder who is going to be Russia's next gravedigger.

A recent poll conducted by Levada Center showed that 64 percent of Russians are confident in the special historical role of the Russian people in the history of mankind. In 1992, the number of those sharing such a point of view was only 13 percent. As many as 67 percent feel proud for their country (53% in 2013). About 82% of respondents said that "Russia should retain the role of a great power," while 13% said that the country should try to play this role. Last year, the share of supporters of the first point of view was 76% (17% for the second one).

A member of the Central Council of the Russian Military Historical Society, Armen Gasparyan, told Pravda.Ru, that the results of the above-mentioned poll come as "a natural outcome of the savagery of Russian liberals." The subject of the Russian pride is, in his opinion, "a certain Messianic idea that was well described by Dostoevsky and Slavophiles of the XIX century." Today we are talking about the pride for the victory in WWII, for the Russian contribution to world culture, for Gagarin's space flight and so on: "People are proud of their past, and they understand that their present is based on this past, and the future will be based on it too."

When we talk about the Russian specialness, "it is not customary for Russians to flaunt the national flag on underwear, while the solemn chanting of a national anthem in a family environment does not serve as an indication of patriotism in the society." The Americans have turned their "exceptionalism" into a mass media culture, whereas the Russians "have never put their patriotism on the shield - it has always been inside every person as their moral strength, as an Orthodox tradition," our interlocutor explained.

We would like to add here that the "exceptional" Americans bring wars to many countries of the world under the pretext of promoting "democracy," while the Russian "specialness" is about peacekeeping initiatives to rescue destroyed countries from ruins. Many Russians believe that Russia has finally begun to move in the right direction of choosing its identity.

In turn, the West sees Russia's specialness as "Russian nationalism." Lauren Goodrich at Stratfor writes that today's nationalism (of Russia) penetrates into the deeper identity of the Russian people - their sense of moral virtue, survival instinct and their faith in Russia as a global power. Putin used Orthodoxy as an important tool for strengthening nationalism and the Russian identity, the author asserts.

According to Goodrich, in 2012, Russia began the process of formalising its Eurasian Union as a way of protection against future economic crises. This put the country in its natural place - a land bridge between the East and the West, which echoes with philosophers and historians from the 19th and 20th centuries who regarded Russia neither an eastern nor a western, but a unique country.

The West does not understand the Russian mission of uniting the world, but the Russian people themselves feel the importance of this exceptional approach, the expert concludes.

"The nationalism" of the Russian people has increased dramatically in recent years, because "most Russians feel that the West not only misunderstands them but is also attacking their leader" for his actions in Syrian and Ukrainian conflicts.

The Russians are ready to withstand a lot, because Russia has a "culture of survival." This culture is based on harsh climate, famine, invasions from all sides, including the 900-day blockade of Leningrad during the Great Patriotic War. The Russians feel that they have overcome their humiliating past of the times after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, Goodrich wrote.

The generation of people who remember the prosperity of the Soviet period is fading out, so Putin's only stake is "nationalism" that will grow and prosper.

Lyuba Lulko (Stepushova)

Read article on the Russian version of Pravda.Ru