New Planet, 1921 by Konstantin Yuon painting
© State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
New Planet, 1921 by Konstantin Yuon
Renowned Russian academic Sergey Karaganov describes Russian President Vladimir Putin's speech at the latest October Valdai Forum[1] as the "first major and strong call for reinventing Russian ideology for Russia and the world."[2] Indeed, Putin's speech can be viewed as an ideological manifesto that tries to put Russia back in the center of the world's political map.

Karaganov, who has been the Kremlin's advisor on foreign policy for twelve years, explains that for many years the economy was the central factor for countries and societies ("it is the economy, stupid"). However, history proves something else. "Yes, people are driven by economic interests, but when they are partially satisfied, when at the bare minimum no one starves, they turn to other interests like security, national pride, ideological views, cultural stereotypes and needs - that is, phenomena and values of a higher order," Karaganov states.[3]

For this reason, Putin believes that if Russia manages to shape a new ideology, it could have the same attractive power that it had under the Soviet Union with Communism, despite its shrinking economy. However, since Communism failed, Putin needs new values and ideas to counter the West.

Russian academic Sergey Karaganov
© karaganov.ru
Russian academic Sergey Karaganov
'The Conservative Views We Hold Are An Optimistic Conservatism'

According to Karaganov, the West, after dominating the economy, politics, ideology, and culture for five hundred years, finds itself in ideological decline.
"All powers, if they want to be great, must have a set of ideas leading forward. When these ideas were lost, great powers ceased to be great or simply disintegrated. This happened to Rome. This happened in the 17th century to Spain. This happened to the Soviet Union when we lost the communist idea that led us. It was false, but it was there. This happened to the great European powers, which got tired and abandoned their ideas in favor of a pan-European one that pushed them forward for some time. But it has run [out] of steam now, too. And they have started to crumble." — Karaganov, MEMRI.[4]
Furthermore, according to Putin, liberalism has failed and the new progressive liberal ideas pushed forward by the West show only a loss of values and identity. Hence, to counter the liberal elite in the West, Putin suggests for Russia to become the beacon of conservatism and traditionalism. "The conservative views we hold are an optimistic conservatism," Putin affirmed at the Valdai Forum.

Putin further states that values are a "a unique product of cultural and historical development of any nation." For this reason, the West should not promote in other countries values and ideas that stand in contrast with the local culture and tradition. "The social and cultural shocks that are taking place in the United States and Western Europe are none of our business; we are keeping out of this," Putin said.

In his speech-manifesto, Putin listed point by point the ideas in the West that he challenges. In a way, in his speech, Putin tries to outline what Russian anti-liberal philosopher Alexander Dugin calls the "Fourth Political Theory." Dugin classifies three political theories in order of appearance that characterized the 20th century: liberalism (the first theory), communism (the second theory), and fascism (the third theory). Fascism emerged later than the other major political theories and disappeared before them. The alliance between liberalism and communism, in combination with Adolf Hitler's geopolitical miscalculations, were responsible for the demise of fascism. Fascism's disappearance cleared the battlefield for the first and the second political theories, whose Cold War duel created a bipolar world that lasted nearly half-a-century. The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union signaled the victory of liberalism over communism. Thus, by the end of the 20th century, liberalism remained the only theory standing.

However, liberalism itself has become increasingly decadent. "Today's liberalism is so rotten within that it's easy enough to throw out now, because it itself has recognized progress, freedom, and development to be absolute fictions. Liberalism has recognized that it is a kind of particular totalitarian approach. Behind all these ideas of liberation, freedom, equality, individualism, etc., stands none other than the will to power," Dugin explains. Therefore, to avoid backsliding into communism and fascism, Dugin suggests that a Fourth Political Theory is needed, based on the rejection of post-modernism, the post-industrial society, liberal thought realized in practice, and globalism. Hence, one of the first steps towards a Fourth Political Theory is the "global rehabilitation of tradition."[5]

Yet, Putin not only determines in his speech that liberalism is not the "end of history", but also shows similarities between liberalism (or more accurately progressive liberalism) and communism, ironically echoing anti-Kremlin conservative Polish philosopher and politician Ryszard Legutko's book, The Demon In Democracy.

This is how Legutko analyzes and criticizes communism and "liberal democracy", which is the term he uses to refer to progressive liberalism:
"It goes without saying that everything — in both communism and liberal democracy — should be modern [i.e., against tradition]: thinking, family, school, literature, and philosophy. If a thing, a quality, an attitude, an idea is not modern, it should be modernized or will end up in the dustbin of history (an unforgettable expression having as much relevance for the communist ideology as for the liberal democratic). This was a reason why the former communists... so quickly found allies in liberal democracy, where the struggle for progress animates practically every aspect of individual and collective activities... Both systems generate — at least in their official ideological interpretations — a sense of liberation from the old bonds [i.e., history] ... Both want the past eradicated altogether or at least made powerless as an object of relativizing or derision. Communism, as a system that started history anew, had to be, in essence and in practice, against memory... There are no better illustrations of how politically imposed amnesia helps in the molding of the new man than the twentieth-century anti-utopias [described in] 1984 and Brave New World. The lessons of Orwell and Huxley were, unfortunately, quickly forgotten. In my country [Poland] at the very moment when communism fell and the liberal-democratic order was emerging, memory again became one of the main enemies. The apostles of the new order lost no time in denouncing it as a harmful burden hampering striving for modernity."[6]
'Beware Of Going Where The Bolsheviks Once Planned To Go'

In his speech, Putin, who considers history as a key element for shaping Russia's new ideology, actually states:

"Where are the humanitarian fundamentals of Western political thought? ... What are the general ethical limits in the world where the potential of science and machines are becoming almost boundless? ... Some people in the West believe that an aggressive elimination of entire pages from their own history, 'reverse discrimination' against the majority in the interests of a minority, and the demand to give up the traditional notions of mother, father, family and even gender, they believe that all of these are the mileposts on the path towards social renewal.

"Listen, I would like to point out once again that they have a right to do this, we are keeping out of this. But we would like to ask them to keep out of our business as well. We have a different viewpoint, at least the overwhelming majority of Russian society — it would be more correct to put it this way — has a different opinion on this matter. We believe that we must rely on our own spiritual values, our historical tradition, and the culture of our multiethnic nation.

"The advocates of so-called 'social progress' believe they are introducing humanity to some kind of a new and better consciousness. Godspeed, hoist the flags, as we say, go right ahead. The only thing that I want to say now is that their prescriptions are not new at all. It may come as a surprise to some people, but Russia has been there already. After the 1917 revolution, the Bolsheviks, relying on the dogmas of Marx and Engels, also said that they would change existing ways and customs, and not just political and economic ones, but the very notion of human morality and the foundations of a healthy society. The destruction of age-old values, religion, and relations between people, up to and including the total rejection of family (we had that, too), encouragement to inform on loved ones - all this was proclaimed progress and, by the way, was widely supported around the world back then and was quite fashionable, same as today. By the way, the Bolsheviks were absolutely intolerant of opinions other than theirs.

"This, I believe, should call to mind some of what we are witnessing now. Looking at what is happening in a number of Western countries, we are amazed to see the domestic practices - which we, fortunately, have left, I hope - in the distant past. The fight for equality and against discrimination has turned into aggressive dogmatism bordering on absurdity, when the works of the great authors of the past - such as Shakespeare - are no longer taught at schools or universities, because their ideas are believed to be backward. The classics are declared backward and ignorant of the importance of gender or race. In Hollywood, memos are distributed about proper storytelling and how many characters of what color or gender should be in a movie. This is even worse than the agitprop department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

"Countering acts of racism is a necessary and noble cause, but the new 'cancel culture' has turned it into 'reverse discrimination' - that is, reverse racism. The obsessive emphasis on race is further dividing people, when the real fighters for civil rights dreamed precisely about erasing differences and refusing to divide people by skin color. I specifically asked my colleagues to find the following quote from Martin Luther King: 'I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by their character.' This is the true value. However, things are turning out differently there. By the way, the absolute majority of Russian people do not think that the color of a person's skin or their gender is an important matter. Each of us is a human being. This is what matters.

"In a number of Western countries, the debate over men's and women's rights has turned into a perfect phantasmagoria. Look, beware of going where the Bolsheviks once planned to go - not only communalizing chickens, but also communalizing women. One more step and you will be there."

Putin then adds:

"Zealots of these new approaches even go so far as to want to abolish these concepts altogether. Anyone who dares mention that men and women actually exist, which is a biological fact, risks being ostracized. 'Parent number one' and 'parent number two,' 'birthing parent' instead of 'mother,' and 'human milk' replacing 'breastmilk' because it might upset the people who are unsure about their own gender. I repeat, this is nothing new; in the 1920s, the so-called Soviet Kulturtraegers also invented some newspeak believing they were creating a new consciousness and changing values that way. And, as I have already said, they made such a mess it still makes one shudder at times.

"Not to mention some truly monstrous things when children are taught from an early age that a boy can easily become a girl and vice versa. That is, the teachers actually impose on them a choice we all supposedly have. They do so while shutting the parents out of the process and forcing the child to make decisions that can upend their entire life. They do not even bother to consult with child psychologists - is a child at this age even capable of making a decision of this kind? Calling a spade a spade, this verges on a crime against humanity, and it is being done in the name and under the banner of progress.

"Well, if someone likes this, let them do it. I have already mentioned that, in shaping our approaches, we will be guided by a healthy conservatism. That was a few years ago, when passions on the international arena were not yet running as high as they are now, although, of course, we can say that clouds were gathering even then. Now, when the world is going through a structural disruption, the importance of reasonable conservatism as the foundation for a political course has skyrocketed - precisely because of the multiplying risks and dangers, and the fragility of the reality around us."

Conclusion

Putin has smartly introduced himself into the debate that already exists in the Western world about liberalism, and more specifically progressive liberalism. If Putin manages to outline a new conservative ideology, then Russia would become a political and ideological pole for conservatives also in the U.S. and Europe. This is already partly happening in some European countries. Ironically, we could witness a new Cold War, but with reversed roles: the West would be a pole for progressive-liberal-communist ideology while Russia would represent the conservative pole. Even more ironically, Eastern European countries that rebelled against the Soviet Union, mainly Hungary and Poland, now have conservative elected governments that in the future may look at Moscow as an ideological point of reference.

Of course, when Putin talks about "healthy conservatism," he is not referring to Ronald Reagan's liberal-conservatism, since the main nature of the Russian regime remains authoritarian. Karaganov actually described Russia's political system as authoritarian democracy.[7] It is worth noting that Karaganov believes that that the whole world is moving toward "a kind of combination of authoritarian democracy or democratic authoritarianism."[8] Putin also thinks so. In particular, he sees the West's progressive liberalism as intolerant of other people's views in the same way that Bolshevism was. This view is also shared by conservatives in the West. For example, British conservative political commentator John O'Sullivan, former vice president and executive editor of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, noted: "Liberal democracy[9]... has policies and prohibitions built into its ideological structure. It is not really open to institutions and policies that run counter to its 'liberationist' instincts. It increasingly restricts their freedom to maneuver on anything from parental rights to national sovereignty. It is even hostile to some fundamental values of liberalism such as free speech. Accordingly, it sometimes comes up against the wishes of the voters expressed in elections and referenda."[10]

It is also worth noting that as much as Russia wants to look East, it continues to mainly look West. The search to shape an ideology is aimed to compete politically with the West, while simultaneously attracting conservatives in the West who no longer have strong leadership. Despite Russia's willingness to ally itself with China, the Kremlin openly criticizes Communist ideology as outdated and totalitarian, showing that Moscow will never be subordinate to Beijing. As Putin said: "Beware of going where the Bolsheviks once planned to go"

Furthermore, to shape a new ideology for Russia means "sovereignty," as Karaganov explains.[11] It means to have influence and to project power to further its political and economic interests. After the fall of the Soviet Union, a many of the Russian elites were reluctant to adopt a national ideology, but it seems that for Putin, the time has come for a new Russian ideology for Russia and the world.
*Anna Mahjar Barducci is Director of the MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project.
APPENDIX - Russian President Vladimir Putin's Speech At The Plenary Session Of The 18th Annual Meeting Of The Valdai International Discussion Club

Below are excerpts from Putin's speech at the Valdai Forum on October 21, 2021:[12]

'It Is Necessary To Fight For Real Values'

"... In general, this phrase, 'to live in an era of great change,' may seem trite since we use it so often. Also, this era of change began quite a long time ago, and changes have become part of everyday life. Hence, the question: are they worth focusing on? I agree with those who made the agenda for these meetings; of course they are.

"In recent decades, many people have cited a Chinese proverb. The Chinese people are wise, and they have many thinkers and valuable thoughts that we can still use today. One of them, as you may know, says, 'God forbid living in a time of change.' But we are already living in it, whether we like it or not, and these changes are becoming deeper and more fundamental. But let us consider another Chinese wisdom: the word 'crisis' consists of two hieroglyphs - there are probably representatives of the People's Republic of China in the audience, and they will correct me if I have it wrong - but, two hieroglyphs, 'danger' and 'opportunity.' And as we say here in Russia, 'fight difficulties with your mind, and fight dangers with your experience.'

"Of course, we must be aware of the danger and be ready to counter it, and not just one threat but many diverse threats that can arise in this era of change. However, it is no less important to recall a second component of the crisis - opportunities that must not be missed, all the more so since the crisis we are facing is conceptual and even civilization-related. This is basically a crisis of approaches and principles that determine the very existence of humans on Earth, but we will have to seriously revise them in any event. The question is where to move, what to give up, what to revise or adjust. In saying this, I am convinced that it is necessary to fight for real values, upholding them in every way.

"Humanity entered into a new era about three decades ago when the main conditions were created for ending military-political and ideological confrontation. I am sure you have talked a lot about this in this discussion club. Our Foreign Minister also talked about it, but nevertheless I would like to repeat several things.

"A search for a new balance, sustainable relations in the social, political, economic, cultural and military areas and support for the world system was launched at that time. We were looking for this support but must say that we did not find it, at least so far. Meanwhile, those who felt like the winners after the end of the Cold War (we have also spoken about this many times) and thought they climbed Mount Olympus soon discovered that the ground was falling away underneath even there, and this time it was their turn, and nobody could 'stop this fleeting moment' no matter how fair it seemed.

"In general, it must have seemed that we adjusted to this continuous inconstancy, unpredictability and permanent state of transition, but this did not happen either.

"I would like to add that the transformation that we are seeing and are part of is of a different caliber than the changes that repeatedly occurred in human history, at least those we know about. This is not simply a shift in the balance of forces or scientific and technological breakthroughs, though both are also taking place. Today, we are facing systemic changes in all directions - from the increasingly complicated geophysical condition of our planet to a more paradoxical interpretation of what a human is and what the reasons for his existence are.

'The Pandemic... Has Become A Divisive Rather Than A Unifying Factor'

"Let us look around. And I will say this again: I will allow myself to express a few thoughts that I sign on to.

"Firstly, climate change and environmental degradation are so obvious that even the most careless people can no longer dismiss them. One can continue to engage in scientific debates about the mechanisms behind the ongoing processes, but it is impossible to deny that these processes are getting worse, and something needs to be done. Natural disasters such as droughts, floods, hurricanes, and tsunamis have almost become the new normal, and we are getting used to them. Suffice it to recall the devastating, tragic floods in Europe last summer, the fires in Siberia - there are a lot of examples. Not only in Siberia - our neighbors in Turkey have also had wildfires, and the United States, and other places on the American continent. It sometimes seems that any geopolitical, scientific and technical, or ideological rivalry becomes pointless in this context, if the winners will have not enough air to breathe or nothing to drink.

"The coronavirus pandemic has become another reminder of how fragile our community is, how vulnerable it is, and our most important task is to ensure humanity a safe existence and resilience. To increase our chance of survival in the face of cataclysms, we absolutely need to rethink how we go about our lives, how we run our households, how cities develop or how they should develop; we need to reconsider economic development priorities of entire states. I repeat, safety is one of our main imperatives, in any case it has become obvious now, and anyone who tries to deny this will have to later explain why they were wrong and why they were unprepared for the crises and shocks whole nations are facing.

"Second. The socioeconomic problems facing humankind have worsened to the point where, in the past, they would trigger worldwide shocks, such as world wars or bloody social cataclysms. Everyone is saying that the current model of capitalism which underlies the social structure in the overwhelming majority of countries, has run its course and no longer offers a solution to a host of increasingly tangled differences.

"Everywhere, even in the richest countries and regions, the uneven distribution of material wealth has exacerbated inequality, primarily, inequality of opportunities both within individual societies and at the international level. I mentioned this formidable challenge in my remarks at the Davos Forum earlier this year. No doubt, these problems threaten us with major and deep social divisions.

"Furthermore, a number of countries and even entire regions are regularly hit by food crises. We will probably discuss this later, but there is every reason to believe that this crisis will become worse in the near future and may reach extreme forms. There are also shortages of water and electricity (we will probably cover this today as well), not to mention poverty, high unemployment rates or lack of adequate healthcare.

"Lagging countries are fully aware of that and are losing faith in the prospects of ever catching up with the leaders. Disappointment spurs aggression and pushes people to join the ranks of extremists. People in these countries have a growing sense of unfulfilled and failed expectations and the lack of any opportunities not only for themselves, but for their children, as well. This is what makes them look for better lives and results in uncontrolled migration, which, in turn, creates fertile ground for social discontent in more prosperous countries. I do not need to explain anything to you, since you can see everything with your own eyes and are, probably, versed on these matters even better than I.

"As I noted earlier, prosperous leading powers have other pressing social problems, challenges and risks in ample supply, and many among them are no longer interested in fighting for influence since, as they say, they already have enough on their plates. The fact that society and young people in many countries have overreacted in a harsh and even aggressive manner to measures to combat the coronavirus showed - and I want to emphasize this, I hope someone has already mentioned this before me at other venues - so, I think that this reaction showed that the pandemic was just a pretext: the causes for social irritation and frustration run much deeper.

"I have another important point to make. The pandemic, which, in theory, was supposed to rally the people in the fight against this massive common threat, has instead become a divisive rather than a unifying factor. There are many reasons for that, but one of the main ones is that they started looking for solutions to problems among the usual approaches - a variety of them, but still the old ones, but they just do not work. Or, to be more precise, they do work, but often and oddly enough, they worsen the existing state of affairs.

'Where Are The Humanitarian Fundamentals Of Western Political Thought?'

"By the way, Russia has repeatedly called for, and I will repeat this, stopping these inappropriate ambitions and for working together. We will probably talk about this later but it is clear what I have in mind. We are talking about the need to counter the coronavirus infection together. But nothing changes; everything remains the same despite the humanitarian considerations. I am not referring to Russia now, let's leave the sanctions against Russia for now; I mean the sanctions that remain in place against those states that badly need international assistance. Where are the humanitarian fundamentals of Western political thought? It appears there is nothing there, just idle talk. Do you understand? This is what seems to be on the surface.

"Furthermore, the technological revolution, impressive achievements in artificial intelligence, electronics, communications, genetics, bioengineering, and medicine open up enormous opportunities, but at the same time, in practical terms, they raise philosophical, moral and spiritual questions that were until recently the exclusive domain of science fiction writers. What will happen if machines surpass humans in the ability to think? Where is the limit of interference in the human body beyond which a person ceases being himself and turns into some other entity? What are the general ethical limits in the world where the potential of science and machines are becoming almost boundless? What will this mean for each of us, for our descendants, our nearest descendants - our children and grandchildren?

"These changes are gaining momentum, and they certainly cannot be stopped because they are objective as a rule. All of us will have to deal with the consequences regardless of our political systems, economic condition or prevailing ideology.

"Verbally, all states talk about their commitment to the ideals of cooperation and a willingness to work together for resolving common problems but, unfortunately, these are just words. In reality, the opposite is happening, and the pandemic has served to fuel the negative trends that emerged long ago and are now only getting worse. The approach based on the proverb, 'your own shirt is closer to the body,' has finally become common and is now no longer even concealed. Moreover, this is often even a matter of boasting and brandishing. Egotistic interests prevail over the notion of the common good.

"Of course, the problem is not just the ill will of certain states and notorious elites. It is more complicated than that, in my opinion. In general, life is seldom divided into black and white. Every government, every leader is primarily responsible to his own compatriots, obviously. The main goal is to ensure their security, peace and prosperity. So, international, transnational issues will never be as important for a national leadership as domestic stability. In general, this is normal and correct.

"We need to face the fact the global governance institutions are not always effective and their capabilities are not always up to the challenge posed by the dynamics of global processes. In this sense, the pandemic could help - it clearly showed which institutions have what it takes and which need fine-tuning.

"The re-alignment of the balance of power presupposes a redistribution of shares in favor of rising and developing countries that until now felt left out. To put it bluntly, the Western domination of international affairs, which began several centuries ago and, for a short period, was almost absolute in the late 20th century, is giving way to a much more diverse system.

"This transformation is not a mechanical process and, in its own way, one might even say, is unparalleled. Arguably, political history has no examples of a stable world order being established without a big war and its outcomes as the basis, as was the case after World War II. So, we have a chance to create an extremely favorable precedent. The attempt to create it after the end of the Cold War on the basis of Western domination failed, as we see. The current state of international affairs is a product of that very failure, and we must learn from this.

"Some may wonder, what have we arrived at? We have arrived somewhere paradoxical. Just an example: for two decades, the most powerful nation in the world has been conducting military campaigns in two countries that it cannot be compared to by any standard. But in the end, it had to wind down operations without achieving a single goal that it had set for itself going in 20 years ago, and to withdraw from these countries causing considerable damage to others and itself. In fact, the situation has worsened dramatically.

"But that is not the point. Previously, a war lost by one side meant victory for the other side, which took responsibility for what was happening. For example, the defeat of the United States in the Vietnam War, for example, did not make Vietnam a 'black hole.' On the contrary, a successfully developing state arose there, which, admittedly, relied on the support of a strong ally. Things are different now: no matter who takes the upper hand, the war does not stop, but just changes form. As a rule, the hypothetical winner is reluctant or unable to ensure peaceful post-war recovery, and only worsens the chaos and the vacuum posing a danger to the world.

'Values Are... A Unique Product Of Cultural And Historical Development Of Any Nation'

"Colleagues,

"What do you think are the starting points of this complex realignment process? Let me try to summarize the talking points.

"First, the coronavirus pandemic has clearly shown that the international order is structured around nation states. By the way, recent developments have shown that global digital platforms - with all their might, which we could see from the internal political processes in the United States - have failed to usurp political or state functions. These attempts proved ephemeral. The U.S. authorities, as I said, have immediately put the owners of these platforms in their place, which is exactly what is being done in Europe, if you just look at the size of the fines imposed on them and the demonopolization measures being taken. You are aware of that.

"In recent decades, many have tossed around fancy concepts claiming that the role of the state was outdated and outgoing. Globalization supposedly made national borders an anachronism, and sovereignty an obstacle to prosperity. You know, I said it before and I will say it again. This is also what was said by those who attempted to open up other countries' borders for the benefit of their own competitive advantages. This is what actually happened. And as soon as it transpired that someone somewhere is achieving great results, they immediately returned to closing borders in general and, first of all, their own customs borders and what have you, and started building walls. Well, were we supposed to not notice, or what? Everyone sees everything and everyone understands everything perfectly well. Of course, they do.

"There is no point in disputing it anymore. It is obvious. But events, when we spoke about the need to open up borders, events, as I said, went in the opposite direction. Only sovereign states can effectively respond to the challenges of the times and the demands of the citizens. Accordingly, any effective international order should take into account the interests and capabilities of the state and proceed on that basis, and not try to prove that they should not exist. Furthermore, it is impossible to impose anything on anyone, be it the principles underlying the sociopolitical structure or values that someone, for their own reasons, has called universal. After all, it is clear that when a real crisis strikes, there is only one universal value left and that is human life, which each state decides for itself how best to protect based on its abilities, culture and traditions.

"In this regard, I will again note how severe and dangerous the coronavirus pandemic has become. As we know, more than 4.9 million have died of it. These terrifying figures are comparable and even exceed the military losses of the main participants in World War I.

"The second point I would like to draw your attention to is the scale of change that forces us to act extremely cautiously, if only for reasons of self-preservation. The state and society must not respond radically to qualitative shifts in technology, dramatic environmental changes or the destruction of traditional systems. It is easier to destroy than to create, as we all know. We in Russia know this very well, regrettably, from our own experience, which we have had several times.

"Just over a century ago, Russia objectively faced serious problems, including because of the ongoing World War I, but its problems were not bigger and possibly even smaller or not as acute as the problems the other countries faced, and Russia could have dealt with its problems gradually and in a civilized manner. But revolutionary shocks led to the collapse and disintegration of a great power. The second time this happened 30 years ago, when a potentially very powerful nation failed to enter the path of urgently needed, flexible but thoroughly substantiated reforms at the right time, and as a result it fell victim to all kinds of dogmatists, both reactionary ones and the so-called progressives - all of them did their bit, all sides did.

"These examples from our history allow us to say that revolutions are not a way to settle a crisis but a way to aggravate it. No revolution was worth the damage it did to the human potential.

"Third. The importance of a solid support in the sphere of morals, ethics and values is increasing dramatically in the modern fragile world. In point of fact, values are a product, a unique product of cultural and historical development of any nation. The mutual interlacing of nations definitely enriches them, openness expands their horizons and allows them to take a fresh look at their own traditions. But the process must be organic, and it can never be rapid. Any alien elements will be rejected anyway, possibly bluntly. Any attempts to force one's values on others with an uncertain and unpredictable outcome can only further complicate a dramatic situation and usually produce the opposite reaction and an opposite from the intended result.

'We Will Be Guided By A Healthy Conservatism'

"We look in amazement at the processes underway in the countries which have been traditionally looked at as the standard-bearers of progress. Of course, the social and cultural shocks that are taking place in the United States and Western Europe are none of our business; we are keeping out of this. Some people in the West believe that an aggressive elimination of entire pages from their own history, 'reverse discrimination' against the majority in the interests of a minority, and the demand to give up the traditional notions of mother, father, family and even gender, they believe that all of these are the mileposts on the path towards social renewal.

"Listen, I would like to point out once again that they have a right to do this, we are keeping out of this. But we would like to ask them to keep out of our business as well. We have a different viewpoint, at least the overwhelming majority of Russian society - it would be more correct to put it this way - has a different opinion on this matter. We believe that we must rely on our own spiritual values, our historical tradition and the culture of our multiethnic nation.

"The advocates of so-called 'social progress' believe they are introducing humanity to some kind of a new and better consciousness. Godspeed, hoist the flags as we say, go right ahead. The only thing that I want to say now is that their prescriptions are not new at all. It may come as a surprise to some people, but Russia has been there already. After the 1917 revolution, the Bolsheviks, relying on the dogmas of Marx and Engels, also said that they would change existing ways and customs and not just political and economic ones, but the very notion of human morality and the foundations of a healthy society. The destruction of age-old values, religion and relations between people, up to and including the total rejection of family (we had that, too), encouragement to inform on loved ones - all this was proclaimed progress and, by the way, was widely supported around the world back then and was quite fashionable, same as today. By the way, the Bolsheviks were absolutely intolerant of opinions other than theirs.

"This, I believe, should call to mind some of what we are witnessing now. Looking at what is happening in a number of Western countries, we are amazed to see the domestic practices, which we, fortunately, have left, I hope, in the distant past. The fight for equality and against discrimination has turned into aggressive dogmatism bordering on absurdity, when the works of the great authors of the past - such as Shakespeare - are no longer taught at schools or universities, because their ideas are believed to be backward. The classics are declared backward and ignorant of the importance of gender or race. In Hollywood memos are distributed about proper storytelling and how many characters of what color or gender should be in a movie. This is even worse than the agitprop department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

"Countering acts of racism is a necessary and noble cause, but the new 'cancel culture' has turned it into 'reverse discrimination' that is, reverse racism. The obsessive emphasis on race is further dividing people, when the real fighters for civil rights dreamed precisely about erasing differences and refusing to divide people by skin color. I specifically asked my colleagues to find the following quote from Martin Luther King: 'I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character.' This is the true value. However, things are turning out differently there. By the way, the absolute majority of Russian people do not think that the color of a person's skin or their gender is an important matter. Each of us is a human being. This is what matters.

"In a number of Western countries, the debate over men's and women's rights has turned into a perfect phantasmagoria. Look, beware of going where the Bolsheviks once planned to go - not only communalizing chickens, but also communalizing women. One more step and you will be there.

"Zealots of these new approaches even go so far as to want to abolish these concepts altogether. Anyone who dares mention that men and women actually exist, which is a biological fact, risk being ostracized. 'Parent number one' and 'parent number two,' 'birthing parent' instead of 'mother,' and 'human milk' replacing 'breastmilk' because it might upset the people who are unsure about their own gender. I repeat, this is nothing new; in the 1920s, the so-called Soviet Kulturtraegers also invented some newspeak believing they were creating a new consciousness and changing values that way. And, as I have already said, they made such a mess it still makes one shudder at times.

"Not to mention some truly monstrous things when children are taught from an early age that a boy can easily become a girl and vice versa. That is, the teachers actually impose on them a choice we all supposedly have. They do so while shutting the parents out of the process and forcing the child to make decisions that can upend their entire life. They do not even bother to consult with child psychologists - is a child at this age even capable of making a decision of this kind? Calling a spade a spade, this verges on a crime against humanity, and it is being done in the name and under the banner of progress.

"Well, if someone likes this, let them do it. I have already mentioned that, in shaping our approaches, we will be guided by a healthy conservatism. That was a few years ago, when passions on the international arena were not yet running as high as they are now, although, of course, we can say that clouds were gathering even then. Now, when the world is going through a structural disruption, the importance of reasonable conservatism as the foundation for a political course has skyrocketed - precisely because of the multiplying risks and dangers, and the fragility of the reality around us.

"This conservative approach is not about an ignorant traditionalism, a fear of change or a restraining game, much less about withdrawing into our own shell. It is primarily about reliance on a time-tested tradition, the preservation and growth of the population, a realistic assessment of oneself and others, a precise alignment of priorities, a correlation of necessity and possibility, a prudent formulation of goals, and a fundamental rejection of extremism as a method. And frankly, in the impending period of global reconstruction, which may take quite long, with its final design being uncertain, moderate conservatism is the most reasonable line of conduct, as far as I see it. It will inevitably change at some point, but so far, do no harm - the guiding principle in medicine - seems to be the most rational one. Noli nocere, as they say.

"Again, for us in Russia, these are not some speculative postulates, but lessons from our difficult and sometimes tragic history. The cost of ill-conceived social experiments is sometimes beyond estimation. Such actions can destroy not only the material, but also the spiritual foundations of human existence, leaving behind moral wreckage where nothing can be built to replace it for a long time.

'We Are Searching For Answers To The Most Urgent Challenges Of Our Time'

"Finally, there is one more point I want to make. We understand all too well that resolving many urgent problems the world has been facing would be impossible without close international cooperation. However, we need to be realistic: most of the pretty slogans about coming up with global solutions to global problems that we have been hearing since the late 20th century will never become reality. In order to achieve a global solution, states and people have to transfer their sovereign rights to supra-national structures to an extent that few, if any, would accept. This is primarily attributable to the fact that you have to answer for the outcomes of such policies not to some global public, but to your citizens and voters.

"However, this does not mean that exercising some restraint for the sake of bringing about solutions to global challenges is impossible. After all, a global challenge is a challenge for all of us together, and to each of us in particular. If everyone saw a way to benefit from cooperation in overcoming these challenges, this would definitely leave us better equipped to work together.

"One of the ways to promote these efforts could be, for example, to draw up, at the UN level, a list of challenges and threats that specific countries face, with details of how they could affect other countries. This effort could involve experts from various countries and academic fields, including you, my colleagues. We believe that developing a roadmap of this kind could inspire many countries to see global issues in a new light and understand how cooperation could be beneficial for them.

"I have already mentioned the challenges international institutions are facing. Unfortunately, this is an obvious fact: it is now a question of reforming or closing some of them. However, the United Nations as the central international institution retains its enduring value, at least for now. I believe that in our turbulent world it is the UN that brings a touch of reasonable conservatism into international relations, something that is so important for normalizing the situation.

"Many criticize the UN for failing to adapt to a rapidly changing world. In part, this is true, but it is not the UN, but primarily its members who are to blame for this. In addition, this international body promotes not only international norms, but also the rule-making spirit, which is based on the principles of equality and maximum consideration for everyone's opinions. Our mission is to preserve this heritage while reforming the organization. However, in doing so we need to make sure that we do not throw the baby out with the bathwater, as the saying goes.

"This is not the first time I am using a high rostrum to make this call for collective action in order to face up to the problems that continue to pile up and become more acute. It is thanks to you, friends and colleagues, that the Valdai Club is emerging or has already established itself as a high-profile forum. It is for this reason that I am turning to this platform to reaffirm our readiness to work together on addressing the most urgent problems that the world is facing today.

"Friends,

"The changes mentioned here prior to me, as well as by yours truly, are relevant to all countries and peoples. Russia, of course, is not an exception. Just like everyone else, we are searching for answers to the most urgent challenges of our time.

"Of course, no one has any ready-made recipes. However, I would venture to say that our country has an advantage. Let me explain what this advantage is. It is to do with our historical experience. You may have noticed that I have referred to it several times in the course of my remarks. Unfortunately, we had to bring back many sad memories, but at least our society has developed what they now refer to as herd immunity to extremism that paves the way to upheavals and socioeconomic cataclysms. People really value stability and being able to live normal lives and to prosper while confident that the irresponsible aspirations of yet another group of revolutionaries will not upend their plans and aspirations. Many have vivid memories of what happened 30 years ago and all the pain it took to climb out of the ditch where our country and our society found themselves after the USSR fell apart.

"The conservative views we hold are an optimistic conservatism, which is what matters the most. We believe stable, positive development to be possible. It all depends primarily on our own efforts. Of course, we are ready to work with our partners on common noble causes.

"I would like to thank all participants once more, for your attention. As the tradition goes, I will gladly answer or at least try to answer your questions.

"Thank you for your patience."

Notes:

[1] En.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/66975/print, October 21, 2021.

[2] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 9700, Renowned Russian Academic Karaganov: 'The U.S. Helped China Build Its Current Strength; When They [The U.S.] Came To Their Senses, It Was Too Late,' December 29, 2021.

[3] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 9700, Renowned Russian Academic Karaganov: 'The U.S. Helped China Build Its Current Strength; When They [The U.S.] Came To Their Senses, It Was Too Late,' December 29, 2021.

[4] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 9700, Renowned Russian Academic Karaganov: 'The U.S. Helped China Build Its Current Strength; When They [The U.S.] Came To Their Senses, It Was Too Late,' December 29, 2021.

[5] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6789, The Fourth Political Theory - Russian Anti-Liberal Philosopher Dugin: The Alternative To Liberalism Is 'Returning To The Middle Ages,' February 16, 2017.

[6] Ryszard Legutko, The Demon In Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations In Free Societies, Encounter Books New York, 2016, pp. 8-9.

[7] See the video: "AUTOCRATIC DEMOCRACY? Ft. Sergey Karaganov, School of World Economics & Intl Relations Dean at HSE", October 5, 2017.

[8] See "Why nationalism is rising at the expense of liberal democracy", Trtworld.com, July 8, 2019.

[9] It is worth noting that John O' Sullivan makes a difference between "liberal democracy" without and hyphen and "liberal-democracy" with a hyphen. For O' Sullivan, "liberal democracy" is the one understood by Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. "That was essentially majoritarian democracy resting on constitutional liberal guarantees of free speech, free association, free media, and other liberties needed to ensure that debate was real and elections fair," O' Sullivan explained. Instead, he hyphenates the term "liberal-democracy" to refer to progressive-liberalism. Ryszard Legutko, The Demon In Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations In Free Societies, Encounter Books New York, 2016, Foreword by John O'Sullivan, p. VII.

[10] Ryszard Legutko, The Demon In Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations In Free Societies, Encounter Books New York, 2016, Foreword by John O'Sullivan, p. VII.

[11] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 9700, Renowned Russian Academic Karaganov: 'The U.S. Helped China Build Its Current Strength; When They [The U.S.] Came To Their Senses, It Was Too Late,' December 29, 2021.

[12] En.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/66975/print, October 21, 2021.