One of the most profoundly beautiful words in the Slavic language is Miloserdia (Russian: милосердие), which means mercy, clemency, compassion, one of the most important qualities in a human being, especially from a Christian perspective.
This word Miloserdia can also contrast the Russian soul, with that of the West.
Miloserdia is also the best way to describe the Russian attitude towards the rest of humanity, rather than that of the West. Take for example how Russia bravely is helping to save the lives of Syrian Children, while the west cruelly carpet-bombs the nation against international law.
Specifically, we have seen an example of Russian kindheartedness and compassion compared to the more coldhearted self-interest of the West, when we compare Russia’s latest ruling about Ukrainian immigration, to Donald Trump’s very harsh immigration policy, which The Duran’s Frank Sellers has brilliantly analyzed in Part One.
According to RT, Russia has “passed bill offers amnesty to Ukrainian refugees who illegally remain on Russian territory”. RT reports:
“The draft law allows for legalization of the Ukrainian refugees who remain on the territory of the Russian Federation through “migration amnesty”: in particular, any Ukrainian citizens whose legal temporary stay on Russian territory is overdue can extend this period within 180 days since the date when this bill comes into force as law,” reads an explanatory note attached with the document that was posted on the State Duma’s website on Monday.
Compare that to Donald Trump’s unusually harsh stance on immigration, which has been condemned by not only western liberals, but Metropolitan Tikhon of the Orthodox Church in America, Laura Bush, and even Trump’s own wife Milania (the name Milania, ironically, also shares Slavic roods with the word for mercy).
Generally speaking, opposition to Trump’s policies have not meant full support for “open borders” or full amnesty for illegal immigration. Much of the opposition has simply been from the position that his policy is too harsh, in relation to previous US practice.
Generally speaking, very few people are arguing Donald Trump technically does not have the power to do what he wishes. They are arguing if it is moral, for him to do this. Simply having the power to do something, does not necessarily make it the right thing to do. Sometimes, compassion is the better part of strength. This was exactly what Metropolitan Tikhon was asking for, when he used this important word twice in his letter, at the beginning and end, saying:
I write to you asking compassion for the children and their parents now being separated and confined in detention centers as a result of the Administration’s zero tolerance policy….In service to this vision I ask you again, in the name of compassion, to reconsider the government’s policy of zero tolerance.
The appeal to Donald Trump’s compassion was at least partially successful, because upon hearing the voice of the Metropolitan, and so many others, Trump reversed his decision and chose to keep immigrant families together, as The Duran’s Jesse Dominick reported.
Speaking on the matter, Trump said:
I think anybody with a heart would feel very strongly about it. We don’t like to see families separated. At the same time, we don’t want people coming into our country illegally. This takes care of the problem.
While it would be nice to think Trump made that choice out of heart, it was very likely a calculated decision.
Once again, we come back to the root of that Russian word Milocerdia: heart, mercy, compassion, that is the essential meaning of this word. The word is essentially a compound of the words “heart” and “mercy”.
It is based in spirituality and heart, not cold calculous. That is what Russia choose to do, with regards to Ukrainian immigrants. The difference is that Russia did this by nature, whereas it is generally difficult for the West to change their cruel nature.
Western leaders often only do this under incredible stress, but Russia sees the plight of her Slavic Sister in Ukraine, and is doing everything she can to save the Ukrainian people, even when the Ukrainian government only contributes to the war in Donbass.
Much like the US, Russia also does not want illegal immigration, however the Russian government is trying to take steps to assist some illegal Ukrainian immigrants to obey the law, and give them a legal option to immigrate, rather then simply deporting them as quickly as possible – which would be within Russia’s legal rights.
This is the essence of the word “Mercy”. Mercy is not about simply “not being violent” or “not being cruel”. Mercy is not about treating guilty people justly, according to the law.
Rather, mercy is looking at someone who you have every legal right to judge, to condemn, because they did wrong, but treating them with a forgiveness they don’t truly deserve, according to the letter of the law. That is why mercy is so exceptional, if it was only given to just people, there would be no need for mercy – the just don’t do anything wrong.
This is stepped in Russian Orthodox tradition, where the most common prayer is basically “Lord Have Mercy”, and many Orthodox prayers even say that God did not create mercy for the just, but for the sinners.
To be very clear, Russia has a very effective and strong immigration policy, stronger some would say, than that of the US. Russia does not tolerate illegal immigration lightly at all, and those immigrants who break Russia’s laws can be, and are subject to deportation.
I do not condone in any way the breaking of the laws of the Russian Federation, and I feel strongly people should respect the laws wherever they live. This is very important, to be lawful, but it is worth noting, from a Russian cultural perspective, how Russia reacts to Ukrainian immigrants with compassion, compared to the cold western attitude.
That being said, this is NOT an article about Russian immigration law. That must be said very clearly! Russian immigration law is very effective – this article is rather focused on the Russian soul, and its love of mercy, which it gained by long tradition.
I merely wished to point out this ironic fate, that Russia would pass a very compassionate immigration policy, just as the US is passing very harsh ones.
In general, it is possible that this reflects an innate difference between the companionate Russian soul, and that of the West. There are also cultural considerations, of course. Russia also acts very strongly in her own interests, she has always been a mighty nation which defends her interests, just because she is companionate, this does not mean she is blinded by emotions, like the west.
Russia, and the Russian soul has amazingly and paradoxically been able to both remain stoic and dispassionate, making sound and reasoned decisions, but unlike the west, can at the same time be companionate. For the West, stoicism and compassion exist in separate extremes.
Ukrainians are essentially the same people as Russians, if you look at the history and roots. Russian-Ukrainian Saint Lavrenty of Chernigov made this clear, when he said:
“As it is impossible to divide the Most Holy Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, for it is One God, so also it is impossible to divide Russia, the Ukraine and Belorussia, for these together are Holy Rus’. Know, remember, and do not forget.”
Still, this does NOT give Ukrainians the right to break Russian law; no one has the right to break Russian law.
Russia is within her rights to disport those that do so, however Russia once again chooses the path of sobornost’ (unity) mercy and compassion, while the West chooses racism, hate, and divisiveness.
It is worth noting, that perhaps part of the reason for this difference could be cultural mindset. Russians are naturally a communally minded people, Russian society has strong traditions in recent past of both Czarist Monarchism, Cossackdom, Socialism, all of which are communal ideologies, preaching that the interests of the people, the Church – The Russian nation, are superior to the interests of the individual.
The US, however, was a nation founded by antimonarchists, which is profoundly capitalistic and individualistic in mindset.
This explains the difference in the way they see the world. Russia sees the world from the perceptive of the Russian Soul, The Russian Nation, Holy Rus’, whereas the US sees everything from the perspective of the individual.
This was described well in an amazing article written in Russian and Ukrainian, entitled “Holy Rus’ vs. Enlightened Europe” posted on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s news site Union of Orthodox Journalists.
In the article, the author Andrei Valsov says:
Another difference is individualism and the establishment of the autonomy of the individual person in Western civilization vs collectivism in Orthodoxy. It is absolutely natural for us (Orthodox) to accept that the interests of the collective, society, and state are above the interests of the individual. The Western (Post-Enlightenment) system – on the contrary, believes the unshakable foundation of the state and social system lies on the human individual – his freedom and independence.
This is also why in the West, people view religion as a deeply personal thing, based on the individual’s beliefs, whereas traditionally, in Russia, religion and faith is something which, yes, the individual accepts, but is only truly experienced as part of the collective – part of The Church, not a church.
As a result, Russia could have reacted this way, with Ukrainians, out of this collective understanding. Many Russians see the suffering people of Donbass as literally their own people. They speak Russian, they grew up on the same Russian bread, and they worship in the same Russian Faith. As a result, Russians see millions of Donbass people who flee for refuge, as part of the Russian collective.
It is worth noting, the US does not have this cultural bond with Latin America. Still, it is worth noting that unlike the West, Russia has not destroyed the nations of the people who flee to Russia. Russia has not destroyed anyones nations. It can seem a little hypocritical and strange, when NATO powers bomb a country into the stone age, or rot it’s morality to pieces with their NGOs, and then wonder why refugees come.
Russia could very well say to “Enlightened Europe” you caused this problem in Ukraine – YOU fix it. Instead, Russia took the road of compassion, and in Christ-like manner, extends her hands to the Syrian people, to the Ukrainian people, to the Serbian people, and to all her brotherly peoples, who cry for help.
Once again, Russia has strict immigration laws. Her Caucasian border is patrolled much more strongly than the US-Mexico border. I am not speaking about Russian immigration law in specific, only the way she interacts with the world. Russia understands the world around her.
The West often understands nothing about the world around it, which it constantly bombs. The West can even carpet bomb the middle east. Even some of those who understand and regret that, still fall short of wanting to help the people whose nations they destroyed, thinking “It’s their mess after all, they need to fix it.”
The West destroys the homes of others, refuses to give them new homes, and then wonders why people think of it as cruel.
Russia, on the other hand, does not go around the world destroying and she still helps people.
The perfect dichotomy, is how the West dealt with Iraq, and Russia dealt with Chechnya.
The West destroyed Iraq and refused to do anything concrete to truly rebuilt the nation.
Russia indeed destroyed Grozny – the difference – she rebuilt Grozny more beautiful than its ever looked before. Now, the Chechen people and leader are grateful to Russia, and love her.
Middle East people have nothing to thank the West for.
These observations were admittingly, based primarily in culture, faith, and philosophy, but I found this recent example, the Russian law contrasted with Trump’s law, as a good opportunity to share this aspect of Russian culture.
I truly believe Russia acts compassionately, because she is an Orthodox Christian country, and her entire mindset and even subconscious is transformed by Orthodoxy. This is why Russians talk about Holy Rus’, as accalimed fantasy author Nick Kotar explained, because the Russian world is, in essence, a Christian world.
Slavs, Orthodox people, especially Russians, are those who profoundly understand what it means to suffer, and have compassion on suffering people. Compassion indeed, can be understood as meaning co-suffering, or suffering together sostradanie, in Russian, which is often pared with Miloserdie.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky famously wrote in his “A Writer’s Diary” about suffering thusly:
“The most basic, most rudimentary spiritual need of the Russian people is the need for suffering, ever-present and unquenchable, everywhere and in everything.”
This is, of course, paradoxical to the West, who only see suffering as an enemy to be hated, whereas Russians see it as a test to endure – and the Russian soul learned to not only survive, but thrive in suffering.
The West can not even understand that – those words of Dostoyevsky, let alone the idea of the Russian soul. This is not because Westerners are stupid. Gogol described foreign nations as being “Smart people, created by God, like us, but just different”. Westerners can’t understand the Russian soul, and Russia’s compassionate suffering, because the West is all about the mind. The West looks at everything with that cold calculous of the mind, but this is no way to understand Russia.
As Fyodor Tyutchev said:
Russia can not be understood with the mind. You can’t imprison her with earthly measurements, Russia has a very special status – in Russia you can only believe.
The US, on the other hand, is stepped in Protestant tradition, which preaches prosperity gospel – the richer and better your life is, the more God loves you. Russian’s believe a servant is never greater than his boss, and Jesus Christ taught Orthodox people the meaning of the Cross.
This idea – that the very mindset of Russia and the West is so profoundly different, was shared in a Pravda report, which, ironically, was talking about the companionate way Russia helps the people of Donetsk and Luhansk. Russia does not do this simply out of calculated interest, but out of compassion for a common people. The article said:
But, as classic (Tyutchev) said, “you can not understand Russia with your mind.” The president (Putin) was not shuffling conscious calculations – he was guided with compassion when he was sending the (humanitarian aid) column to Ukraine. Consciousness is the support of the Catholic and Protestant faiths, where the postulate is: “the richer you are, the more love from God you receive.” Orthodoxy has a different message: “The more you suffer, the more purified your soul gets.” Soul is the basis of Orthodox faith.
It was so ironic these two examples came up, to compare and contrast the Slavic Orthodox mindset, with that of the West.
This was the reason why the words “Open door” were used in the headline of this two-part article.
When my colleague Frank Sellers wrote and proposed the headline for this two-part series, I called to mind the sacred Church Slavonic prayer Russians read in the evening, called Miloserdie Dveri which says:
O blessed Theotokos (Mother of God), open the doors of compassion (Miloserdie) to us whose hope is in you, that we may not perish but be delivered from adversity through you, who are the salvation of the Christian people.
Once again, that word Miloserdie is key.
For those interested in a more secular song of this nature, I recommend these beautiful versions about the Great Patriotic War.
Unlike the Western word compassion, which contains within it the word passion, which in ancient Greek meant “suffering”, the Slavic word for compassion is quite different. It is a compound of the words Milost’ (Mercy) and Sertsa (Heart), so the Slavic word has a lot of “heart” in it.
I think this is a result of the fact that the Old Slavonic language was developed and codified not by warriors, like the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf, but by merciful Christian saints, Cyril and Methodius. Two saints created the Cyrilic alphabet which became attached to the language in which Russians form their most basic thoughts in.
This is why Russia acts with compassion, because her very consciousness was formed by Christianity. Whereas most countries began in war, Russia begins her new history with the Baptism of Rus’ by Prince Vladimir. The Russian history did not start with violent revolution, but with Christian baptism. Her language is formed by Christian Saints.
People must remember this, when trying to understand Russian history and culture. The roots of the Russian culture is Christianity, which was formally the roots in the West as well. I can only hope Westerners remember this, and also wish to live in a world of compassion.
It will be Miloserdia, Compassion, not calculus which will save humanity.
Note: This was part two of an article I wrote with The Duran’s Frank Sellers. Do consider checking out his article, as mine is essentially a cultural opinion piece, whereas his contains lots of hard-hitting facts which I believe you may enjoy. Bear in mind, this was, of course, an opinion!