Double standards again

One of the interesting aspects of the research I am conducting into the history of Russian conservatism is the contemporary resonance of texts written 100, 150, or even 200 years ago. My point here is not to express approval or support of what was written, merely to say that, if you change a few names, much of it could be written today. As a means of understanding contemporary Russian thinking, some of these older texts are quite insightful.

Take for instance Nikolai Danilevskii’s 1869 book Russia and Europe, the 2013 translation of which by Stephen Woodburn I have just started reading. As early as page one I could not but notice the contemporary relevance. Danilevskii complains of Europe’s double standards. Why, he asks, did Prussia’s and Austria’s flagrant aggression against Denmark in 1864 fail to arouse any sense of indignation among Europeans, whereas Russia’s earlier war against Turkey (notionally in defence of Christians) generated immense moral outrage and the creation of the coalition which defeated Russia in the Crimean War. Substitute the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq (or any other example of American or British aggression) for the Prussia/Austrian invasion of Denmark, and substitute Russia’s current war in Syria for its earlier war against Turkey, and you can see that, in Russian eyes at least, not much has changed in the past 150 years. For some reason, a double standard applies when moral judgements are made about Russia and the West.

To illustrate the point, here are some key excerpts from Chapter 1 of Russia and Europe, starting on page one.

[P.S. I am thinking of starting a regular feature which would involve the weekly publication of extracts from other Russian conservative texts chosen for their contemporary relevance (and, I stress, not as a mark of approval). I think this could be educationally useful as well as providing a good springboard for political discussion and getting feedback on my research. My previous translation and publication of Ivan Ilyin’s ‘Against Russia’ got a lot of readers, so maybe these would too. It would be good to know if there is any interest.]


N.Ia. Danilevskii, Russia and Europe, page 1

… In 1864 Prussia and Austria  – two major states, home to about sixty million residents and capable of fielding an army of almost a million – attacked Denmark, one of the smallest states of Europe, home to no more than 2.5 million, not known for being warlike, but highly enlightened, liberal, and humane. The aggressors took away two provinces from this state, home to two-fifths of its subjects: two territories, which had been affirmed as an inextricable part of this state not thirty years ago in the Treaty of London, which the two aggressor states, among others, had signed. And this direct violation of the agreement, this assault on the weak by the strong, produced no opposition of any sort. Neither the insult to moral sensibilities, nor the violation of the so-called political equilibrium aroused the indignation of Europe, in either public opinion or in its governments. At least, it did not arouse the world enough to turn word into deed, so the partition of Denmark was completed in calm. Such were the events of 1864.

Eleven years before that, Russia – a large and powerful part of the political system of European states – out of its most sacred religious interests, attacked Turkey – a barbarian, conquering state, which though already weakened, still maintained its illegitimate and unjust dominion by force; a state at that time not included in the political system of Europe, the unity of which was not guaranteed by any definitive treaty. But even so, no one violated that unity. All that was needed from Turkey was to confirm its obligation and refrain from violating the religious interests of the majority of its subjects. … And what of this demand, which the diplomatic collective of the leading states of Europe considered justified? The religious and other interests of millions of Christians have turned out to count for nothing … In 1854, exactly ten years before the partition of Denmark, about which no one had any concern, England and France declared war on Russia, Sardinia got involved, Austria adopted a menacing posture, and finally all of Europe threatened war … Why this indifference to liberal, humane Denmark; this sympathy toward barbaric, despotic Turkey … It not just an accident, not just a journalistic escapade, not just the fervor of some faction, but a collective diplomatic posture of all Europe.

… The question again arises: Why this measurement by differing standards, when the matter concerns Russia or other European states? … Has Russia in some way, by its prior conduct, treachery, or violence, provoked Europe, giving it cause for apprehension, so that Europe would seize the first available opportunity to avenge the past and safeguard itself for the future? Perhaps we shall see if this is really the case.

17 thoughts on “Double standards again”

  1. You might want to consider Russia during the communist takeover. How many people understand Prussia had a monarchy before Soviet times? The world might still be fighting WW II had the Russians under Stalin failed to push the Nazi regime from the gates of Moscow to Berlin. Russia today is a new and vibrant country proud of its’ heritage and misunderstood by some. Can you imagine having today’s media with all its’ ignorance reporting prior to the 1917 revolution?


  2. Sobering. Regarding Russia’s 19th century war with Turkey that drew the ire of Europe, in both Turkey then and Syria today, a major factor in going to war was to protect the interests of Christians.


    1. That ‘s definitely a factor, though as Danilevskii pointed out, it didn’t, and doesn’t, seem to count for anything in the supposedly Christian West.


  3. “The question again arises: Why this measurement by differing standards, when the matter concerns Russia or other European states? “

    Easy one! There is no place for moral in the politics. Might makes right. Nothing really changed. Europe (or the West) needs no “cause for apprehension” to “seize the first available opportunity to… safeguard itself for the future” in whatever way it wants it. New “moral” nowadays is “don’t get caught”. If you are caught – deny. Or try misdirection.


  4. Very interesting! As you know, I was recently involved in the republication of Baron August von Haxthausen’s study of Transcaucasia. The republication (see here: is comprised of two parts: Haxthausen’s general work on Transcaucasia in English printed in 1854 and a “follow-up” volume printed in 1855. The latter part, written at the beginning of the Crimean War, has quite a few interesting passages from the conservative Haxthausen about Russia’s relations with the West that are quite relevant to today.

    In the two passages below, Haxthausen underscored the importance of the Russian presence in the region for its two major ethnic groups, the Armenians and the Georgians, and noted the infeasibility of a potential Western presence. It brings to mind efforts by politicians in the West today to encourage the expansion of NATO into the Caucasus, specifically Georgia:

    “Again, assuming… that the armies of the Western Powers, aided by the fanatical spirit of Islamism, were finally to conquer, and succeed in driving back the Russians over the Caucasus,—what then? The embarrassment in reality would only begin. What is then to be the fate of the Caucasian countries [Armenia and Georgia]? Can it be imagined that these Christian lands, after having been freed from the Mohammedan yoke for half a century, and placed under a Christian government, should be again subjected to the miserable rule of Persia and Turkey, and given up to the cruelty and extortion of Pashas and Sardars?” (Haxthausen, 331)

    “The western nations, Georgia and Armenia, are Christian, for the most part connected with the Russian Church… They have a profound aversion to the Persians and Turks, and will always support Russia against those Powers. The Armenians are decidedly attached to Russia; but although this feeling may not universally prevail among the Georgian nobles, it is very questionable whether any influence or power from Western Europe could ever succeed in shaking their fidelity. Their old men still remember the events of 1800, how barbarously the Turks and Persians treated the Georgians, extorting a tribute of boys and girls from them, and forcibly compelling them to embrace Islamism.” (Haxthausen, 344)


  5. I know, look at all those massive protests against the bombing of Aleppo throughout Europe, with crowds in the five and six figures, not to mention the largest ever rally in history in Rome. . . Oh no, wait, that was against the war in Iraq. In fact, in the UK, Stop the War specifically refuses to condemn or protest against Russian actions. Talk about double standards!


    1. And what have your “Stop the War” accomplish? Did it “stop” the War? Or, what, now attempts by some folks are all that counts?


  6. It could be double standards, or it could just be outright hate-mongering, having nothing to do with any standards at all.

    After all, it seems obvious that nothing printed by western MSM is to be believed, and so we don’t really know if Russian attacks in Syria resulted in any civilian casualties at all… In fact, the more I see western hysteria growing, the more I become convinced that there are no civilian casualties in Aleppo (or anywhere else) caused by Russia, to speak of.

    I read a story yesterday, in Russian, but confirmed by rabidly pro-western liveuamaps, about the Syrian government liberating a suburb of Damascus. There, the rebels surrendered, but some of them (about 100) chose to continue fighting against the government. And so they were bused, by the government and the red cross, to the rebel-held Idlib province, and let go… Does it sound like something blood-thirsty-maniacal-genocidal etc dictator would do?


    1. “we don’t really know if Russian attacks in Syria resulted in any civilian casualties at all”

      No doubt there are casualties. Unable storm the city with the population and avoid civilian casualties. At the storming of Fallujah in 2004 allegedly on each dead militants were three civilians killed


      1. I know that there must’ve been civilian casualties. Just trying to provide a much needed balance to western propaganda.

        As for Fallujah, I don’t think it’s comparable: different context (foreign occupational forces vs. national government), different goals (revenge, terrorizing the natives vs. taking control of territory), and consequently, I believe, a completely different degree of brutality…


      2. “As for Fallujah, I don’t think it’s comparable: different context (foreign occupational forces vs. national government), different goals (revenge, terrorizing the natives vs. taking control of territory), and consequently, I believe, a completely different degree of brutality”

        Empirical evidence shows that the assault stubbornly defended the city leads to the fact that the city is destroyed, and many civilians – killed. It equally shows the storming of Fallujah, and the storming of Grozny. From the “context” in this little depends


      3. “From the “context” in this little depends”

        I don’t know, this seems obviously wrong to me. Foreign invaders vs. domestic liberators, it just has to matter.

        In Fallujah, according to wikipedia “At least one US battalion had orders to shoot any male of military age on the streets after dark, armed or not.” Do you think the SAA (or their allies) may have similar rules of engagement anywhere in Syria? I highly doubt it… That would’ve been highly counterproductive. Unlike the US in Iraq, they are planning to have those areas and their populations inside their country…

        Or think of the LA riots of 1992. Naturally, LA didn’t get the Fallujah treatment. Why? Because it’s a US, not Iraqi city…


  7. The Crimean War may have been less a matter of being anti-Russian than of maintaining the European balance of power. Turkey certainly was involved in that system, although it came to be seen as ‘the sick man of Europe’. None of the other powers wanted the Russians to grab most of it, and especially the Straits and Constantinople/Istanbul, which would in addition have given them a strong influence in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.

    International relations are about power, not about sentimentality.


    1. “The Crimean War may have been less a matter of being anti-Russian than of maintaining the European balance of power. “

      But by doing that they basically destroyed post-Vienna Congres sistem of international relations and balances of great powers.All because of persuing short term goals.


  8. I think it’s a good idea to do the comparisons from then to now. Chomsky’s “Year 501” from 1993 somewhat did the same thing with the European empires and the US, which put it into a much easier way to understand their similarities (which were fairly ample).


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