Russia's Chief Justice Advocates A Return To Serfdom

Repin serfsGoogle Images‘It is better to abolish serfdom from above than to wait for it to abolish itself from below,’ Alexander II once said.

There are always politicians who claim that things were better in the past.

And the top judicial official in Russia is one of them — he appears to be advocating a return to serfdom.

Valery Zorkin, the head of Russian’s Constitutional Court, wrote an article that was published in the “Rossiyskaya Gazeta” in which he praised serfdom.

(In Russia, Zorkin is the equivalent rank of the US Supreme Court’s Chief Justice John Roberts.)

In the article he says that the global situation is becoming increasingly more dangerous, and that the system of international law is now based on “free interpretations from a position of strength.”

He doesn’t agree with the “free interpretations” of international law, and suggests that it must be corrected by increased legal authority.

And then he switches gears to serfdom.

He advocates serfdom and says that it was the main “staple” holding Russia together in the 19th century. He subsequently justifies his argument by saying that serfdom is beneficial for the serfs.

In the article he writes (translated from the original Russian by Business Insider):

“Even with all of its shortcomings, serfdom was exactly the main staple holding the inner unity of the nation. It was no accident that the peasants, according to historians, told their former masters after the reforms: ‘We were yours, and you – ours.’

The significance of Zorkin’s serfdom advocacy

The roughly-translated term “staple” (in Russian “скрепа”) is significant. It’s an older word that has become popular in recent years after Putin used it in a press conference in 2012.

Prior to the conference, that word was basically never used in speech.

In the press conference, Putin said that there’s a “lack of a spiritual staples” amongst Russians — meaning that there’s no spiritual unity. And he subsequently indicated that Russia needs a “spiritual cleanse.”

“Putin essentially used the term ‘скрепа’ to mean the ‘spiritual staples that unite the Russian society.’ He was saying that we need a spiritual unity amongst the whole Russian society,” a Moscovite told Business Insider.

Following Putin’s press conference, Russian politicians and citizens have started using the word all over the place.

And Zorkin is following suit by using the Putin-terminology to indicate that serfdom is the “spiritual staple that unites the [Russian] society.”

Zorkin also compares the repeal of serfdom to Boris Yeltsin’s reforms

Agrarian reforms were lead by the former prime minister Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin. Serfdom was officially repealed in 1861 in Russia.

Zorkin argues in his article that: “Stolypin’s reform took away communal justice from the peasants in exchange for individual freedom, which almost none of them knew how to live and which was depriving their community guarantees of survival.”

He closes the piece by comparing the “abrupt” repeal of serfdom to the “abrupt” changes of the late 20th century following Boris Yeltsin’s reforms.

In case your history is a little shaky, Boris Yeltsin is the former Russian president who transitioned the country from the communist Soviet Union to the pre-Putin capitalist Russia.

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