Which patriotism is better?


Famous Russian writer Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin once wrote: “The patriotism is extremely pressing, probably it has stolen something.” Today it is still relevant. Of course, the situation is changing and today everyone has the right to put their own meaning into the concept of “patriotism”.

For some, this is pride for their country and the desire to ensure that an ordinary person has a better life. There are still such people. But in Belarus, the authorities cultivate “state patriotism”, requiring an ordinary person to protect the interests of power holders, presenting this as as the interest of the whole society.

There are also people who consider true patriots only those who “understand that only the unity of the triune people in the person of Belarusians, Great Russians and Ukrainians can ensure the well-being of East Christian civilization.”

Only few people can think in civilization categories. Perhaps, for this reason, true patriots have always been in short supply in the vast expanses of Eastern Christian civilization, which is clearly illustrated by the data in Table 1.

One should pay attention to the last column of the table. For one representative of East Christian civilization killed on the battlefield, there were two who surrendered, which was a kind of record in World War II.

Table 1. Losses in WWI (million people)

State Killed Prisoners of war Killed/Prisoners rate
Russian Empire 1.7 3.3 0,51
Austro-Hungarian Empire 1.5 2.2 0,68
German Empire 2.0 1.0 2,00
France 1.3 0.5 2,60
UK 0.7 0.2 3,50

The ratio of the number of soldiers killed to the number of prisoners can be considered as a kind of “patriotism rate”. It allows you to compare the degree of readiness of military personnel to die for the fatherland.

The reason for “leadership” in the table 1 of the Russian Empire can be explained by the historian Vladislav Aksenov, who wrote the following “If by patriotism we mean a conscious ideology, and not an emotional state, then, given the illiteracy of the bulk of the peasant population of Russia, one can’t “suspect” it of patriotism. When, in an effort to explain the causes of the war, the authorities launched a massive patriotic propaganda about helping the Slav brothers among the mobilized, peasant soldiers simply did not understand it. In their memoirs, Russian generals noted that draftees for the most part did not think not only with pan-Slavic, but even with national categories.”

“Homeland”, “state”, “patriotism” — these are all abstract concepts. Therefore, there is no more senseless occupation than attempting to reach out with the help of “conscious ideology” to a person living exclusively with local interests and not having mastered the basics of abstract thinking.

Но двинемся дальше и сравним между собой «коэффициенты патриотизма» табл. 1 и табл. 2, не забывая при этом исторические детали, в которых так любит прятаться дьявол. В частности, в Первую мировую войну Германия воевала на территории противника, а по итогам Второй мировой она была оккупирована. Поэтому в первом случае, в отличие от второго, безоговорочная капитуляция не привела к массовому пленению военнослужащих. Этой же причиной, очевидно, объясняется и низкий «коэффициент патриотизма» Польши.

But we will move on and compare the “patriotism rate” of the table 1 and table 2, while not forgetting the very important historical details. In particular, in World War I, Germany fought on enemy territory, and following the results of World War II, it was occupied. Therefore, in the first case, unlike the second, unconditional surrender did not lead to mass captivity of the military. The same reason, obviously, also explains the low “patriotism rate” of Poland.

Table 2. Losses in WWII (million people)

State Killed Prisoners of war Killed/Prisoners rate
USSR 6,89 4,56 1,51
Germany 5,3 4,1 1,20
UK 0,29 0,19 1,53
USA 0,41 0,13 3,15
Poland 0,59 0,99 0,60
Finland* 0,023 0,001 23,00

* During Soviet-Finnish war in 1939-1940

What conclusion follows from comparing tables? It is extremely simple: the ones who love to speculate about Soviet patriotism must not forget about the historical facts, which break down this myth.

Who is not with us is against us

In addition to the restriction imposed by culture (see above), Soviet patriotism has another important limitation. It comes from life. To illustrate it, it is necessary to cite a fragment from the decree of the State Duma of the Russian Federation “In memory of victims of famine of the 30s in the USSR” dated 02.04.2008 N 262-5: “As a result of hunger caused by forced collectivization, many regions of the RSFSR (Volga region, Central-Chernozem region, North Caucasus, Urals, Crimea, part of Western Siberia), Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus, from starvation and diseases associated with malnutrition, about 7 million people died in 1932-1933.”

The civilian victims of the Nazis during the four years of war in the USSR count 13.7 million. The Communists in two years killed 7 million people. The famine in the Volga region (1921-1922) killed 5 million people. The mournful list can easily be continued.

After that one shouldn’t be surprised by the “patriotism rate” of the Red Army men.

If life fails to draw examples for the formation of patriotism, then why not to use the help of ideology? There relevant examples in the post-Soviet space are constantly appearing.

Let’s start with the Russian example. “In my opinion, in a modern democratic society, the only one possible ideology is patriotism”, Vladimir Putin said on December 19, 2019. Perhaps he is right. But how can one verify this statement in practice, if the so-called “Union State of Belarus and Russia” is a child of authoritarian parents, prone to neototalitarianism?.

No, not everything is so clear with patriotism. As a national idea, it “doesn’t fit heart and soul” of the chief architect of the Belarusian model. Lukashenka once admitted: “I am becoming more and more convinced: probably in our development we did not come to the point where this idea (patriotism — Ed.) hit everyone in the brain and heart.”

However, for lack of stamp paper, one has to use the usual one for writing. Therefore, the “state patriotism” is used “to hit the brains and the heart” in Belarus.

According to the table 3, until 2016, full-time propagandists did not have a special need to “promote patriotism” (see Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin’s quote at the beginning of the article). What happened after 2015, when, by the way, the fifth presidential “election” happened? Who precisely was the thief?

Table 3. The number of articles, containing word with “patriot” root in “SB. Belarus Segodya” newspaper –the main state printed media (per year)

2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020*
1 2 6 15 4 11 6 12 20 32


22 15 6 112 142 139 178 61

* from 01.01 to 14.05.2020

 This was Lukashenka’s main brainchild – “the state for the people”, which demonstrated the inability to fulfil its obligations under the social contract (loyalty in exchange for income growth).

This brainchild has no future, even at the “blah blah blah” level. Hence the constant appeal to the “heroic past” with its cult of the “Great Victory” in WWII.

Any victory, let alone victory in a war, is an occasion to actualize the principle “who is not with us is against us”. State propaganda opens up tremendous opportunities here: from opposing Lukashenka’s supporters and opponents to opposing our (official) Great Patriotic War to not our (unofficial) Second World War.

Siarhei Nikaliuk, for Belarus Security Blog