Decree No. 809: the foundations of a sovereign ideology are laid
In his Valdai keynote speech on 27 October 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin argued that:
"The direct threat to the political, economic and ideological monopoly of the West is that alternative social models may emerge in the world."
Or even more starkly and definitively:
"I am convinced that true democracy in a multipolar world presupposes first of all the possibility for any people - I want to emphasise this - any society, any civilisation to choose its own way, its own socio-political system."
If the United States and the European Union have this right, surely the Asian countries, the Islamic states, the Persian Gulf monarchies and the states of other continents also have it. Of course, our country, Russia, also has this right, and no one can ever impose on our people what kind of society we should build and on what principles.
Today, in Russia, it is only a matter of proposing an alternative social model to liberal democracy and building our own socio-political system. This very constructive step should be the next step in our strategy in the deployment of the acute civilisation war.
The foundation of this social model is necessarily the traditional values, which the President signed into law on 9 November 2022 (Decree No. 809). This is what such a model should be based on.
Here is a list of traditional values that are essentially national in nature today. These are the foundations of a sovereign ideology that is, in a way, obligatory for all Russian citizens.
Let us analyse this crucial code of the new operating system of Russian society in a little more detail. To quote Decree No. 809:
Traditional values include:
- human rights and freedom,
- patriotism, citizenship, service to the homeland and responsibility for its destiny,
- high moral ideals
- a strong family,
- constructive work,
- spiritual over material
- collectivism, mutual assistance and respect,
- historical memory and intergenerational continuity,
- unity of the peoples of Russia.
These 14 points should be regarded as the significant nodes of the sovereignist ideology. The state has assumed responsibility for the state of public consciousness and the social model, an alternative to the Western one, will be based on these 14 points. In a way, they become sacrosanct.
The first three points are common to the Russian tradition and the liberal ideologies of the West.
Right to life. The first point is recognised as a traditional value by a wide variety of societies, both traditional and modern. A person's life is entrusted to them alone and another person does not have the right to take their life at their discretion. Moreover, in religious societies the very act of suicide (let alone being forced to commit it) is considered a crime.
The only exception is the state, which in certain circumstances has the right to dispose of the lives of its citizens, punishing those convicted of proven crimes or sending them off to fight in defence of the homeland. But if life is a traditional value, which must be preserved and strengthened, the state must take this into account even in extreme cases, showing clemency to criminals if possible and protecting the lives of warriors and fighters.
Dignity. The second point affirms the natural dignity of man, which must be recognised and taken into account, both by society and the state. This value is also common to religious cultures and modern liberal ideologies. In religion, man's dignity derives from his special place in creation, where he is placed in the position of representing God before the rest of nature and assuming full responsibility for it. In the secular context, this responsibility before God disappears, but man's special place in nature remains unchanged. Only in contemporary theories of deep ecology and posthumanism (as well as in postmodernism and speculative realism) is man stripped of his dignity and seen as a threat to the environment.
Human rights and freedom. The third point is also not dissimilar to the principles of liberal ideologies, which also declare human rights, even though they are constantly trampled and trampled upon in practice. Ideology is not a matter of practice, but of norms. In the case of norms, what matters most is not whether they are respected or not, but what they are in themselves, what their content is.
With regard to the first three points, the following should be emphasised. One might think that they all coincide with liberal ideology and are therefore not alternatives to it. But this is not the case.
Since we are talking about ideology, all 14 points together make sense. And the first three principles should not be considered in isolation, but on the basis of the totality of all fourteen principles, on the basis of which they acquire their specific meaning, peculiar to our civilisation and tradition. And it is from the integrity of the understanding of all fourteen points that a special Russian conception of man himself is revealed.
A person becomes normative when he possesses all 14 properties, which he accepts as value. This means that rights and freedoms apply to this person in full. These rights and freedoms must be interpreted in the context of Russian history, Russian law and Russian truth. And particular account should be taken of the Christian view of life, dignity, law and freedom, which is in harmony with the positions of other traditional confessions.
The alternative character of Russian civilisation is clearly revealed by the fourth point: patriotism, citizenship, service to the Fatherland and responsibility for its destiny. Here we are dealing with a purely Russian attitude to the state as the supreme value. Before 1917, this was reflected in the idea of the sacred nature of monarchy. Russia was an empire, inheriting its sacred status from Byzantium, and the Russian tsar was conceived as a titular, i.e. not only a political, but also a religious figure, preventing the arrival of the Antichrist in the world. Patriotism in Russia was thus becoming partly religious in nature: service to the Fatherland and responsibility for its destiny was a spiritual endeavour.
During more secular eras, and especially during the Soviet era, the interpretation of patriotism varied, but it invariably remained the most important force that held people and society together. Consequently, an attack on this value, an insult to patriotic sentiments, an irreverent attitude towards the state and state symbols is seen as a challenge to public morality.
Patriotism elevated to the status of a value already contradicts the liberal ideology based on cosmopolitanism and the belief that social progress consists of globalisation, the abolition of nation states and the creation of a world government. This is the first clearly expressed challenge to the ideology of the collective West, which we oppose. From then on, all the other elements on the list of traditional values will only strengthen the identity of our sovereign ideology and the divergence from liberalism (as well as the convergence with other types of illiberal societies) will only increase.
High moral ideals. The fifth point establishes the priority of the value of morality in society. Moral ideals are emphasised as 'high', indicating their vertical character. In the Russian tradition, the highest ideal of morality was considered to be holiness, which reminds us of the religious cult of saints, elders, martyrs, who are models of man and his behaviour. Their role in moral education should be restored. Other traditional confessions have their own examples of holiness, which in no way contradict the Orthodox faith. In the secular context (especially during the Soviet period), the highest moral ideal was seen as the hero who courageously sacrifices himself for the common good, the man-soul, giving his neighbour his last and sparing no effort to bring the bright future closer.
But for the common people of Russian society, there have always existed certain norms of behaviour, of treatment of others, of ethical attitudes, the non-observance of which was perceived as immoral, a challenge and subject to public condemnation.
Here again, there is a marked opposition to liberalism. Liberalism only recognises individual morality and regards any social ideal as an attack on the freedom of the individual. This individualism triumphed in Russia after the end of the USSR, leading to an unprecedented decline in societal morality. The fact that high moral ideals are now enshrined as traditional values should radically change the moral climate of society.
A strong family. This sixth point is of particular importance in the context of the spread of liberal ideology, which denies gender, replaces it with an artificially constructed social gender, fully legitimises homosexual marriage and other forms of perversion, and, in fact, abolishes the institution of the family as such. Since the Russian Constitution only recognises the family as such in the case of a union between a man and a woman, and since homosexual propaganda is legislated, the declaration of the family as a value already presupposes that it is a marriage between a man and a woman. It is obvious that abortion and even divorce are morally condemned, since neither is a sign of a strong family. A truly strong family includes children and caring for the older generation.
This point is also in direct contradiction to liberalism, which, on the contrary, relativises the family in every possible way and aims at its complete abolition.
The family is stronger in a religious context where marriage is treated as a sacrament, divorce is actively condemned and abortion is considered a sin.
Anything can happen in life, but it is important that the orientation towards a strong family prevails in society as a whole. This requires the revision of educational, upbringing and cultural policies. At the same time, it is in harmony with measures to save the country's demographic situation.
Creative work. The seventh point refers to a very specific Russian ethical system, in which work is interpreted not as a strenuous (though necessary) obligation, not as a punishment, but as a spiritual act, as a creative transformation of the world. The declaration of labour as a value (and not simply as a material necessity for survival) is at odds with liberal ideology, which places its stakes in capital, finance and maximum profit, relegating labour and workers to the bottom of the social ladder.
In Russian history, the work of the peasant was conceived as a spiritualised way of life, inseparable from family, religion, rituals, society, the natural environment and the animal world. Russian philosophers spoke of the liturgical nature of peasant labour, of its almost religious dignity.
The value of free social labour in Soviet times was emphasised even more. Russian Slavophiles, Narodniki and Bolsheviks alike hated capitalism and its vampires, who appropriated workers' labour and enriched themselves through exploitation and market speculation. The value of labour further pits Russia and our natural social system against the liberal West. But for this value enshrined in law to be effective, much will also have to be changed in Russian society itself, where capitalist attitudes, paradigms and practices were grossly copied in the 1990s. Now, insofar as they oppose the value of creative labour, have the nature of outright parasitism and exploitation, they are reprehensible to say the least. Indeed, this paragraph of Decree No. 809 legally rejects the oligarchic system.
Priority of the spiritual over the material. The eighth paragraph of Decree No 809 is the culmination of the sovereignist ideology, the heart of its code. This provision poses a radical challenge to materialism as a whole, that is, to that image of the world that is based on the primacy of matter and the derivative nature of spirit, thought, and soul. Materialism in science has developed in parallel with the secularisation of society, the rejection of God, the Church, religion, the sacraments, the belief in the posthumous existence of the soul, the Last Judgement, and the general resurrection of the dead. This is called the 'secularisation process', 'secularisation', which has become the basis of an entire Western ideology - secularism. It is secularism that His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia denounced at the last session of the World Russian People's Council as the source of all the problems of our time. Secularism is dogmatic materialism, forcibly introduced by liberal bourgeois elites into both the natural sciences and the humanities. It is what all modern Western ideologies are based on: liberalism (now certainly predominant on a global scale), but also dogmatic communism and nationalism. All are based on the priority of the material over the spiritual and reduce all existence - natural and social - to material factors.
Decree 809 declares a break with the spiritual materialism of the collective West, even at the root, in the realm of causes and not just effects, legislating the opposite, that is, the priority of the spiritual over the material. All the value systems prevalent in the modern West, and the political, cultural, educational and economic superstructures based on them, are entirely materialistic, utilitarian, appealing to quantity rather than quality, placing the lower, corporeal aspects of existence above the higher, spiritual ones. Even the Western view of the individual as the basis of society is nothing more than an application of the atomistic principle of physics to man. Liberal democracy, based on social atomism and materialism, is precisely the creation of a political system from below.
If in our case we overthrow this basic relationship and swear to the priority of the spiritual over the material, which is peculiar to Russian ethics, Russian tradition, Russian culture, we thus lay the foundations of our own social model, an alternative to that of the West. Everything else can be deduced from this point; it is the most important, central, key point in terms of ideology.
Humanism. The ninth point also seems to refer to liberal ideology and contains nothing fundamentally Russian and alternative. However, even in this case, it is not all that simple. Firstly, we understand this value as the specific humanism of Russian culture. And this humanism has always included not only the body and psyche, but also the soul and the moral core of the human being. Russian humanism responded to those ideas about man that revealed his depth, moral freedom, tragicity and sacrifice, and personality in a continuous dialogue with God, mankind and the world. It is an intense 'maximal humanism', quite different from liberal individualism, which, on the contrary, seeks to liberate the individual from all forms of collective identity.
Secondly, the modern West, which began with humanism (albeit in its individualist interpretation), has reached a point where the abolition of the individual itself is the order of the day. By seeking to liberate the individual from all forms of collective identity - religious, class, national, class, gender - the West has come very close to transhumanism, where it remains to liberate man from his humanity (human optional). The singularity as the final transfer of power over humanity to a powerful artificial intelligence derives logically from the entire liberal value system and completes the ideological path of Western civilisation. We, however, remaining true to humanism, i.e. man - in all his existential spiritual and moral volume - challenge the West once again and swear by a different vector of development.
Mercy. In tenth place on the list of traditional values is mercy. Again, we are talking about the deep environment of the Russian religious tradition, where mercy, compassion, care for the weak, the poor, the sick, the unfortunate, the destitute were considered integral aspects of an all-round personality. The very recognition of this property of the soul as the highest value derives from Russian culture, which is deeply alienated from cruelty, revenge, selfishness, and contempt for the needy and suffering. Of course, mercy is a deeply personal feeling. But society, having recognised it as a value, shows how to treat it: respecting it immensely, encouraging and cultivating it in every possible way, making it the most important axis of culture and education.
Charity is the direct antithesis to the selfishness systematically promoted by liberals and indifference to the near and far.
Justice. This eleventh point resonates deeply with our Russian tradition and culture, our history and political history: socialism in Russia was built on the principles of justice. The West is wont to contrast justice and freedom, arguing that socialism, by restricting freedom in the name of justice, condemns people to poverty and scarcity, while capitalism, by rejecting justice altogether and cultivating selfishness, makes society prosperous and comfortable. If justice is recognised as a value for Russia, linear liberal logic is completely rejected. A just society does not have to be poor; similarly, among free-market capitalist countries, there are both prosperous and uncomfortable societies awash in poverty and corruption.
Russia cannot think of itself without justice, which is the most important feature of our social identity. Therefore, this eleventh point already rejects capitalist dogmatism and opens up the possibility of exploring alternatives in non-capitalist ideologies, which need not be dogmatically Marxist. The term 'socialism' itself is far from compulsory, but the focus on justice overcomes the dogmatic status of capitalism as a particular political and economic order, which the West considers to be without alternatives, even though this is not the case.
Collectivism, mutual assistance and mutual respect. This trait of the Russian tradition, proposed as the twelfth point, encompasses the different levels of the social order of Russian life. It refers to the organisation of life on the land, the peasant way of life, where initially the rural community, 'the world', prevailed. Subsequent urban industrial works were built on exactly the same principle. The minimum unit of society in Russia was traditionally a family (primary collective), then a large family, a clan and so on up to the community (village, hamlet, etc.).
In the ecclesiastical system, the principle of sobornost' corresponded to it. When people came together, they performed worship, rituals and sacraments. Again, the minimum unit was the collective, the parish.
The exaltation of the peasant community by the Bolsheviks was transformed in Bolshevism into the principle of collectivism, which was also extended to the working class. Here too, however, it was solidarity, mutual assistance and respect among the workers that were elevated to a moral ideal. Collectivism as a priority of social ethics thus remained unchanged, despite differences in formal ideologies.
The sovereign ideology of contemporary Russia should not only take into account all these historical forms, but also create new ones. The main thing is to place collective identity above individual identity. Only then will the individual find its true content and life be fulfilled and meaningful, as identity is only formed in dialogue with others.
Historical memory and intergenerational continuity. The thirteenth thesis actually elevates identity to the status of a value. Identity is historical memory and continuity - what makes a people a people, a society a society. It is impossible to create a nation from an arbitrary set of atomic individuals (contrary to what liberal ideology claims). It is created over centuries, in the course of a difficult, sometimes tragic and sacrificial journey through the trials of history. Each generation brings its own identity and passes it on to the next. This is how the nation is created: through actions, memory and continuity in the realisation of the ideas that the ancestors started. Cutting the connection between generations and the individual from the historical context is killing the nation. This is exactly what the globalists and the collective West are leading to. And this is what the nations of the world are increasingly rebelling against. If identity is a value, then the process of continuity, of transmitting an image, including that of the future, must be treated with the utmost care.
The unity of the peoples of Russia. The fourteenth point is the affirmation that, despite their ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity, the peoples of Russia constitute an organic whole. And this whole is one and indivisible. The Russian people is the axis, the nucleus around which all others are united. But what is special about Russian culture is that it does not impose itself on others, does not extinguish diversity in favour of a single national model, but carefully preserves the identity of each society and supports and helps each local culture to develop. The fact that this is indeed a value was first proclaimed by Eurasian philosophers. In the USSR, the principle of the brotherhood of nations was justified in different ways, but in general it was a combination of unity and diversity in a common, coherent socio-cultural whole. This unity reflected the principle of an empire uniting different peoples and cultures beyond any nationalism, large or small.
Putting all the points of decree No. 809 together, then, we have a framework for an original and entirely distinctive ideology. Its main characteristics, however, are as follows:
- it clearly departs from liberal democracy, which the collective West tries to impose on all of humanity (in order to contain, to block the free development of other civilisations - V. Putin in the Valdai speech) and represents an alternative model of a socio-political system;
- succeeds in Russian history what the cultural and ideological constants are (both in traditional society and in the Soviet era);
- whereas it does not coincide with any of the previous ideologies, each of which is historically limited, but offers a distinctive and original synthesis of what was most essential in each;
- it invites all Russian citizens to freely and creatively build a truly just, spiritual, honest and moral society, beyond narrow dogmas and artificial axiomatics - in a sense, it is an open ideology directed towards the future;
- revealing the essence of Russia's civilising distinctiveness, it enters into dialogue with other civilisations in the context of a multipolar order ('Development must proceed precisely in the dialogue of civilisations, based on spiritual and moral values'. - Vladimir Putin in his Valdai speech).
In the difficult situation in which Russia finds itself in the midst of a special military operation that has turned into a real conflict of civilisations, Decree No. 809 is the most important conceptual weapon, the significance of which cannot be overestimated. The Decree has been drafted, signed and adopted. Only one thing remains to be done: draw all the appropriate conclusions. And as soon as possible.
Translation by Lorenzo Maria Pacini