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Russia Between East and West

Russia Between East and West

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Published by: darkchristy on Mar 14, 2011
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At the turn of the century, Russia tried therefore to think about its bor-
der with Asia. Questioning was expressed mainly through literature and
more precisely through poetry. Soloviev was the forerunner of this cur-
rent since he prophesied, in several poems such as “Panmongolism”
(1894), a new Mongolian invasion. According to him, all humans wanted,
at least unconsciously, the Antichrist’s universal royalty, introduced by
a second Tatar yoke. Facing a pan-Mongolian threat, the solution would
be in the union of the Catholic and Orthodox worlds, the rebirth of a
unique apostolic church.
Soloviev’s article “China and Europe” (1890) challenged China’s val-
ues, literature, and religions all an extreme materialism at the oppo-
site extreme of Christian values. China had only one interest, to be the
mirror of the attitude of Europe-facing Christian principles. If the lat-
ter appeared unfaithful to its principles, China then made itself threat-
ening; if Russia remained loyal, China would return to an historical
apathy. The Short Narration on the Antichrist (1900) put on stage the inva-
sion of Europe by China and the particular role played by France, which
was also the symbol of the “black peril.” The power that would come
from Asia would serve therefore the Antichrist. This parallel Mongol/
Antichrist was not new and already existed in two of Gogol’s fantastic
narrations (e.g., Portraite), where the wizard and the devil appeared with
Asian faces and clothes and both had the power to penetrate Russian souls
without their knowing (Savelli 1996).
All symbolists were also very interested in that theme: according to
them the Mongol peril had a metaphorical significance since the dan-
ger was in Russia and its Europeanized intellectuals. Dmitry Merezhkovskii
was the most important propagator of this “yellow peril” precedence:
the advent of Cham was the reign of spiritual philistinism, positivism,

26 • Marlène Laruelle

mediocrity, and intellectual nihilism. In Griadushehcii ham (1906) and Zhelto-
litsye pozitivisty
he affirmed that Russia knew again an Asian temptation
and developed the nightmarish vision of a Mongolized Russia occupied
by millions of “teeming and tight small things.” Asia wouldn’t need to
invade Europe, which would become sinicised on its own, synonymous
with mediocrity and “petit-bourgeois fossilization.”
Andrei Belyi (1880–1934) transformed Soloviev and Merezhkovskii’s
Mongolian allegory into a fantastic and morbid reality. In 1910 he pub-
lished Serebriannyi golub, where a young Russian left his westernized world
for an oriental sect that would lead him to death. In Sankt Petersburg
(1913), Russians were internally and physically colonized by the Mongols.
The described world was totalitarian, even on the architectural level
(geometric avenues), there was a dense and teeming crowd, yellow became
the dominant color. The reaction as much as the terrorist revolutionar-
ies were conscious or unconscious agents of pan-Mongolism. France allied
with the menacing Asiats to diffuse the pan-Mongol danger to Russia.
Haunted by the feeling of the existence of a fatal crack in the world
between Orient and West, Belyi played on the theme of the confusion
of notions between Orient and West as only one figure embodied these
two destinies.

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