A case of bad Russian

pic by BLOOMBERG

IF YOU hate and despise your own nation, you’re going to have a lot of ugly problems. There are two nations in the world where you are seeing growing intolerance to patriotism deficiency — the US and Russia.

In the US — the Left — or the liberals (congregating around the Democratic Party) are very likely to blast their own country for all kinds of sins, slavery included, and say it had never been great. And the resistance towards that kind of thinking and speaking against such thoughts is growing, notably in the swelling camp of Republicans (or call them Trumpists).

In Russia, let’s look at a weird story that was dominating the media and Internet last week. It’s a story of a philology professor who was calling Russian “a miserable gutter language”.

We are talking about Prof Gasan Guseinov, employed at the prestigious Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow. Even his detractors are admitting that we are talking about a brilliant scholar.

In fact, he dealt our language with a glancing blow, relating to something else in his Facebook. He said it’s hard to find publications in other languages in Moscow (which he is utterly wrong) besides the “miserable gutter language” which is “widely used in this country”. He went on to say the country has “gone savage”.

There is hardly a columnist or a broadcaster who did not blast the professor for these words. His Facebook is in tatters, swamped by attackers. He’s been called a racist and a Nazi, since a language is “a key instrument of national identification”.

He is also been told that, yes, he has a right to his own opinion. But if he chooses to broadcast it openly (not in his own kitchen), then he has to be prepared to accept the retribution with no mercy and no prisoners taken. And finally, some commentators have pointed out that the man in question is not even an ethnic Russian, but an Azerbaijani.

What’s worse is it is not only word for word battle. There is a mounting campaign to demand the ousting of the professor from his university. The logic here is simple. Guseinov’s provocations are being paid for with taxpayers’ money as the HSE is subsidised by the state. So, he has no place there.

You may think what we have here is a case of misplaced fury. After all, Guseinov did not call Russian, as such, a gutter language. He was saying, essentially, that the style of today’s media is too often has nothing to do with the language of Leo Tolstoy, or Anton Chekhov, or of the wonderful and very alive young poet Vera Polozkova.

I said it myself so many times on television or in writing that the sordid state of education has given birth to whole generations of people incapable of reading prose or poetry and unable to speak their mind in decent, not bastardised Russian. And I’m by no means alone. In fact, almost everyone is saying the same. So, what’s wrong with a philology professor essentially doing his duty, voicing his dismay at the decaying literary standards?

But if you look closely at all the attacks against Guseinov, you will see he has been targeted not for what he said in this particular case, but for what he is.

There are many other previous quotations circulating in the Internet where he labelled Russia as “not a civilised nation” and his love to the enlightened West.

What’s worse, his critics are also saying that the whole HSE is the place where such people feel at home, and you have to put an end to that.

The ones who are sharing Guseinov’s views are a narrow circle of Russian “Westerners”, “liberals” or “globalists”. They are ideological clones of the same people we may see in the US or anywhere in the world.

If you are a true liberal, you are not supposed to respect your flag or anthem. In fact, you should think that nations and borders are getting obsolete, and anyone entering your country has to be treated just like those whose families laboured for generations to make the country prosperous.

This is the essential difference between America’s Democrats and Trumpists, or the British “remainers” and “exiters” from the European Union. But the number of Trumpists in the US at a glance is around 40% (although the numbers are getting noticeable). While in Russia, the patriots constitute between 70% and 80%, based on all kinds of surveys.

As you can see, those kind of people are often not gentle and not nice at all. But try to apply the “gutter language” plot to Malaysia’s realities and decide for yourself, on which side you’d rather be in such case.


Dmitry Kosyrev is an author of 8 novels and a book of short stories, as well as a columnist for 2 Moscow publications. Orientalist by education (Moscow University), he has a special love for Malaysia.