The Faustian Pact

Спас Нерукотворный/ Savior Not Made by Hand, Moscow school, circa 1350 © Collage PP

          The Faustian pact of the Russian power is not the alliance of the “sword and the monk’s cowl”, that is to say of the State and the Orthodox hierarchy, even if there is a closeness between these two great institutions. Even Stalin had understood the need to do so before the second world war in order to revive the nation in the face of growing perils that could threaten it in its very existence. And the Christ Pantocrator of the cupolas of the churches is also the expression of an inherent verticality of autocracy.

The Faustian pact of contemporary Russia – which can also be found in other societies – is not made of verticality but of horizontality. The haunting figure of Vladimir Putin might in fact conceals an ancient relationship between the Tsar and the powerful and turbulent boyars. The existence of the latter is moreover attested from the Kievan Rus’. Who really controls the power in Russia? The question is surprising, even iconoclastic, but deserves to be raised in the light of current events.

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The boyars of the “new Rome»” are named oligarchs, the very ones who initially benefited from the savage privatizations of the early 1990s. Boris Yeltsin then gave them the remaining available national wealth to secure his re-election in 1996. It is not insignificant to mention that the annual capital outflow in the country is in the tens of billions of dollars for the benefit of private interests.

The current tension with the West, which cannot be explained by an immediate threat imposed on Moscow from the Ukraine, might be explained in unorthodox way. For power – but what power? -there may be an advantage in providing an outlet for an internal, political, economic, social and, more recently health situation, highly degraded.

The tension, even a conflict, of an unprecedented impact on European soil since the Second World War, is an illusory loophole that conceals many dangers. This applies not only to the European continent naturally but also to a Russian power whose solidity may be only apparent.

The West has already ruled out a military response whose consequences would be  incalculable and uncontrollable at the nuclear age. But it envisages harsh sanctions, some of which are aimed directly at the money and assets of oligarchs, some of which are the pillars of a regime with which the relationship is complex.

This approach is the right one and the States in Europe most directly concerned by such punitive measures – whose criticism of Russia is generally the most audible – will have to live up to these declamations.

The crossing of the Ukrainian borders in a 21st century, which would then recall more the worst moments of the 20th up to the practice of the limited sovereignty theorized by Brezhnev, would make Russia for a long time a pariah state. 

It would also mean a form of self-destruction. It is the conflict itself that would lead to the dissolution of the Faustian pact instead of having sought to preserve it.

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The actors concerned should remember what Goethe wrote in his Faust, which he considered to be “a being troubled by passion that can obscure a man’s mind”: “Verweile doch, du bist so schön”. But eternity is not of this world. It is too late for Marguerite, but there is still time to leave the Valpurgis night.

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