Diasporas and Barbarians

During one conversation at Sean’s Russia Blog, the commentator Evgeny referred me to a work by Russian political analyst & nationalist Konstantin Krylov, Поведение (“Behavior”). In it he tries to classify the world’s civilizations into four ethical systems (South – tribal, East – collectivist, West – individualist, North – kind of like communism?, and not yet reached anywhere). He makes some good observations, though they are certainly not new to sociology and he simplifies too much. However, I found his last chapter, Civilization and its Enemies, to be a really incisive characterization of two major social groupings “outside” conventional civilization – international diasporas and barbarians. [Go here for Google translation].

Krylov characterizes the diaspora mentality thus:

Мне нет дела до других, как и им – до меня. Как другие ведут себя по отношению ко мне, пусть так себя и ведут. Как я веду себя по отношению к другим, так я и дальше буду себя вести. Все действуют так, как считают нужным, и я тоже действую, как считаю нужным.

[I don’t have any cares for others, just as they have no cares for me. Let others continue to behave towards me just like as already do; as for me, I will continue behaving towards them just as I always have. Everyone acts as they consider necessary, and I too act, as I consider necessary.]

According to Krylov’s thinking, diaspora peoples follow a “minimal ethical system”, expecting, and thus accepting, anything at all from others, both within and without their diaspora. They tend to disavow black-and-white, good-and-evil thinking; instead, they can understand an array of different values, they’re just not judgmental about them, except in so far as they are more or less “useful” or “harmful” to them personally. They hold a certain contempt for the rigid ethical / behavioral constraints of normal societies, which they find difficult to understand. Instead, they view themselves as unabashed realists, focus on survival and profiteering, and do not hold grudges or blood feuds; they are fully capable of negotiations with people who wronged them in the past if the situation changes or they need something from them.

Because of their minimal levels of social trust, the diaspora population cannot exist as a stand-alone community and must act as a parasite on another, already existing one; the example par excellence are the Jews, though others include Armenians, Greeks, the Chinese “bamboo network” of East Asia, etc (see Amy Chua’s concept of market-dominant minorities). He acknowledges that this view may be interpreted as being anti-Semitic, but disavows it because it is not an innate characteristic of Jewishness (be it in the “ethnic, religious, or politico-conspiratorial sense”), but rather of their diasporic nature.

Indeed, he notes at the end that Israeli Jews are entirely “another people” from the classical Jewish diaspora, since they have taken up the (Western) ethical system in favor of their previous diasporic ethical system after the formation of the Israeli state. They had to, since they now constituted the majority population and could no longer parasite off themselves. Nowadays the Jews in Israel possess a great sense of national destiny / uniqueness / patriotism, education isn’t particularly valued (interestingly, on international standardized tests Israelis tend to perform rather poorly, in stark contrast to diaspora Jews), etc, – in other words, they are a conventional civilization.

He then discusses relations between the diaspora within, and its relations with its “host” society. He notes that they can be at times useful, at times neutral, and at times debilitating to the host society; furthermore, the diaspora itself remains constant, while it is the host society that leads change. He makes the interesting observation that frequently members of a diaspora are more afraid of their own, rather than of members of the host society, since the latter must act towards them under the constraints of their particular ethical system, whereas between diaspora members relations are cleanly pragmatic / exploitative – and thus they can do unto them any kind of evil if it serves their purposes. Paradoxically, this state of internal insecurity actually binds the diaspora together.

Стоит обратить внимание на внутреннее устройство такого рода сообществ. Как правило, люди, входящие в них, боятся друг друга больше, чем чужих – поскольку ждут от “чужих” этически окрашенного поведения, а от “своих” чисто прагматического. Именно это обстоятельство может как разрушить подобное сообщество, так и (как это не парадоксально) сплотить его.

Diasporas are easily pushed around, and hesitate to stand up for themselves, preferring instead to buy off threats. He then argues that the phenomenon of diaspora peoples favoring others from amongst themselves for jobs, positions, etc – e.g. a Armenian (or Jew, etc) looking out for other Armenians at a big company – is not so much an expression of “national solidarity”, but a method of buying off potential enemies from within their own community; however, when said Armenian reaches a high management position subject to closer scrutiny, he refrains from hiring fellow Armenians, instead relying on credentialed specialists.

Diasporas sometimes have a good effect on the national economy, e.g. in nations where the host population is barred, through law or custom, from working in certain dirty or “debasing” occupations (typically those tied to finance or commerce in traditional Malthusian societies) – the Jews of medieval Europe are the archetypal example. He is also strongly against the idea that diasporas try to covertly acquire power in a country through cabals, etc – quite simply, they are not interested in it enough, nor do they understand the culture they are in (whose behavioral norms are much more complex than their own) well enough to be effective at it. Their main interest is in survival and eating.

Why do diaspora peoples appear to be extremely effective and successful? According to Krylov, because far from being extremely clever or devious as caricatured, the diaspora mindset is much simpler; they have little concept of social shame and simply don’t think about, or notice, many of the ingrained social customs and traditions constraining the actions of members of the host society. For instance:

Если самый дешевый способ получить то, что тебе нужно, от кого-то, это публично унизиться перед ним, то почему бы так и не поступить? Но если проще и дешевле обхамить, надавить, в конце концов обмануть того же самого человека, почему бы не сделать так? С такой позиции это чисто технический вопрос. Для того, чтобы его решить, не надобно большого ума, хотя со стороны такое поведение может казаться чуть ли не образцом сатанинской изворотливости.

[If the cheapest method of acquiring something you need, from someone, is to publicly lower yourself before him, then why not? If its easier and cheaper to pressure or deceive that same person, again why not? To them this is an entirely technical question with no moral overtones. To solve it one doesn’t need a great deal of intelligence, even though from the side this kind of behavior may appear to be an example of almost Satanic resourcefulness.]

Finally, he notes that short of the diaspora disappearing – either through complete assimilation into the host society, or by acquiring a new ethical system and becoming another people entirely (like modern Israelis) – the civilized state must treat them with cautious toleration.

Кроме всего прочего, не следует излишне демонизировать поведение “рассеянных народов”. Люди такого типа действительно способны совершить любое зло (за что к ним соответствующим образом и относятся), но они, по крайней мере, не считают причинение зла другим единственным достойным способом существования. Такие люди могут быть безупречно лояльными гражданами, если только государство, в котором они проживают, будет внушать им достаточные опасения – а запугать их легко. Другое дело, что ждать от них проявлений настоящего патриотизма, чести, даже элементарной порядочности, не имеет никакого смысла.

[It does not follow that we should excessively demonize the behavior of diaspora peoples. People of this type can indeed make any kind of evil (which is why host peoples tend to have such bad relations with them), but they ultimately don’t consider doing evil unto others to be the only way of earning a good existence. They can be flawlessly loyal citizens, though only if the state in which they live pressures them with substantial threats for disobedience, for they are easily cowed. It’s another thing, however, that to await expressions of real patriotism, honor, even elementary decency from them, is entirely futile.]

Are these viewpoints bigoted? Correct? Racist? Anti-Semitic? Primitive? Incisive? A combination of all of them? As someone forced into becoming a “rootless cosmopolitan” myself, I admit to finding myself nodding to almost everything he said. Here’s a recent convo I had with people at Peter Lavelle’s UT discussion group on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall:

I realize, of course, that life under “Communism” was very bland andas the years rolled by increasingly corrupt and unfair to the peopleliving under it. I also understand that from the perspective of most East-Central Europeans, especially those of the younger generation,that system’s collapse was greeted with joy, signifying as it didnewfound social, economic, and national freedoms. Good for them, I hope they enjoy themselves.

That said. As a Russian whose parent’s livelihood basically vanished (R&D / academia) in the 1990’s, forcing him to migrate to a strangeculture whose pernicious effects made me into the historyless rootlesscosmopolitan / cultural traitor that I am today, I view the collapseof the USSR with a certain sadness and regret, despite my recognition of its manifold flaws.

You don’t have any roots in this country, You are like one of those weeds that do not develop deep roots; they grow everywhere and are native nowhere, You are a human weed without the roots, You are apiece of human trash that America collects from all over the world.

This is how a (proudly anti-Semitic, fascist) critic once described me. The thing is, he is 100% correct in my view.

In the context of this discussion, instead of living under the second, “Eastern” (collectivist) ethical system of the Soviet Union, I have been forced into living under the minimal “diaspora” ethical system described by Krylov, in which I am unaccepted by my host societies – and which I myself reciprocally do not accept either – the kitsch, or feelings of loyalty / self-sacrifice / etc, for either Britain, or the US, or even Russia. One of the replies was the following:

Your condition as described by one of your detractors and which you agree is correct –

[[“You don’t have any roots in this country, You are like one of thoseweeds that do not develop deep roots; they grow everywhere and arenative nowhere, You are a human weed without the roots, You are a pieceof human trash that America collects from all over the world”.]]

— is actually a blessing.

This is what has enabled you to be a truly interesting and outstanding thinker, and this is why you will be able to contribute to humanity as you go along.

Had you been “enjoying your life” in that great and fantastic USSR, and taking deep roots there, the chances are that you would grow up as an insignificant miserable cog in that self-destructive aimless machine.

I remain to be convinced.

Anyhow, back to Krylov and this time his exposition of the barbarian mentality. Whereas diasporas lie half-way between civilization and its opposite, barbarians are symmetrically opposed – an ethical system of pure parasitism, glorifying the use of violence and deceit to achieve its goals. He does not believe that barbarism merely signifies a lower level of socio-economic and cultural development than civilization; instead, it is its own world opposed to and feeding off civilization. Barbarism is tightly-interlinked with and even a product of civilization, being that it is a parasite on civilization (which he defines as a construct that aims to solve its problems by itself, problems ranging the gamut from gathering food to hosting high-minded philosophical debates).

Я буду вести себя по отношению к другими так, как они не ведут себя по отношению ко мне (не могут или не хотят). Я буду делать с другими то, чего они со мной не делают (не могут или не хотят).

[I will behave towards like others don’t behave towards me (either because they can’t or don’t want to). I will do unto them, what they don’t do unto me (because they can’t or don’t want to).]

It is a principled position – the barbarian chafes under any other ethical system. A barbarian society regards living off others with pride, as self-actualization of its values, etc – and the feeling is all-encompassing, even among those who can’t physically be thieves or raiders. Furthermore, a key defining trait is that barbarian elites have access to the technical and ideological products of civilization:

Настоящее варварство еще не там, где все ходят с дубинами (и каждый может сделать себе такую же дубину). Настоящее варварство начинается там, где все ходят с дубинами, но вождь и его охрана носят стальное оружие (которого данный варварский народ делать не умеет), а еще лучше – с автоматами и гранатометами.

[Real barbarism begins not where everyone walks with clubs (and anyone can make himself a club). Real barbarism begins where everyone walks with clubs, but the leader and his guards carry cold steel weapons (which said barbarian society can’t manufacture itself), or even better – with assault rifles and RPG’s.]

Наиболее характерное внешнее проявление варварства – нарочито примитивные и дикие нравы в сочетании с развитой чужой (купленной, краденой или отнятой) материальной культурой. Монгольский хан, кутающийся в китайские шелка; африканский вождь на “джипе” и с “калашниковым” на шее; пуштун со “стингером” на плече – вот это и есть варварство. Варварство выживает, борясь с цивилизацией средствами самой цивилизации.

A characteristic expression of barbarism is the presence of primitive and wild social norms in conjunction with a developed foreign (bought, stolen, or looted) material culture. A Mongol khan, wrapped in Chinese silk; a Pushtun with a Stinger [missile] on his shoulder – this is barbarism. Barbarism survives by fighting civilization using the tools of civilization itself.

Barbarians defend their barbarism eloquently using the intellectual language of civilization – “freedom”, “faith”, “human rights”, “Sharia”, etc. At heart it is a criminal enterprise (by civilizational standards), but Krylov notes that frequently it has a seductive character of its own – thanks to its avid mimicry of civilizational attributes, and the support of influential supporters within civilization. He makes the intriguing argument that the Russian intelligentsia is an essentially barbarian social group.

“Русский интеллигент” – это человек, решающий свои проблемы за счет того, что он доставляет обществу неприятности, хотя и не оружием, а словами. Интеллигенция ведет себя по отношению к русскому обществу (и тем более к государству) примерно так же, как скандалист в очереди: он непрерывно оскорбляет всех присутствующих, и ждет, что его пропустят вперед просто затем, чтобы он, наконец, замолчал. …

[The “Russian intelligent” – is a person who solves his problems by way of bringing ill to society, if not by weapons, then by words. The intelligentsia behave towards Russian society (and especially towards the Russian state) as a scandal-maker in a queue – he insults everyone present, and expects that he will be allowed to move forwards in line just so that they’d get him to shut up.]

Именно такую цель имеет тотальная критика интеллигентами всех аспектов русской жизни и целенаправленное внушение русским людям чувства иррациональной вины … Как правило, эта “критика” использует ряд идей, созданных на Западе (например, либеральных социально-экономических теорий), причем ссылающиеся на эти идеи лица обыкновенно не понимают смысла того, о чем они говорят: это еще один случай использования орудий, созданных цивилизацией, для борьбы против цивилизации …

[This is the basic underlying point behind the intelligentsia’s total criticism of all aspects of Russian life and their purposeful foisting of an irrational sense of guilt on the Russian people… As a rule, this “criticism” uses an array of ideas, created in the West (e.g., liberal socio-economic theories), furthermore in many cases the people leaning on these ideas don’t actually understand them: this is another example in which the tools created by civilization, are used in the fight against civilization.]

Поэтому не следует удивляться тому, что вполне конструктивные западные идеи приобретают в России некую “разрушительную силу”: они используются для заведомо деструктивных целей.

[Therefore there’s no reason to be amazed that completely valid Western ideas acquire a “destructive force” when applied to Russia: they are used for explicitly deconstructive purposes.]

I agree. The Russian intelligentsia has at large been an agent of destruction, most clearly seen in their guise as Old Bolsheviks and the 1990’s extreme liberals. Their current manifestation is in the liberasts, e.g. for examples of their arrogant intolerance and treasonous mentalities see Korchevnaya’s observations and Anatol Lieven’s article on Russia’s Limousine Liberals. Thankfully they no longer represent a real threat to Russian society and can be safely ignored.

One final thing I would note is that it is much easier for a person with a diaspora mentality to become a barbarian, considering that they’re already half-way there.

Application to the Belief Matrix

The Belief Matrix is a tool I invented to classify societies based on their degree of rationalism – irrationalism / mysticism on one axis, and sobornost / social solidarity – poshlost / internal strife on another axis. See “The Reich Loop within the Belief Matrix” section here for a more detailed description.

In this model, the diaspora mentality correlates to both rationalism and poshlost, i.e. the lower-left of the Belief Matrix; barbarism is the top-left, i.e. irrationalism and poshlost. Both are unstable states. The diaspora mentality cannot be sustained within a non-diasporic society, for a society cannot be a parasite on itself indefinitely; it will have to move upwards, towards barbarism, and start preying on others. But that too will eventually come to an end, either when it is crushed by the civilizations it makes war on – or it conquers them, and must now generate its own productive forces now that the opportunities for living off rents / confiscated surpluses have extinguished. This is the essence of the belief cycle called the Sisyphean Loop.

For more on related themes, see here (according to Mark Steyn, the Muslim community in Europe would qualify as barbarians), here (Germany), here (Russia), here (violence is reality), and here (my exposition of nihilism).


  1. Interesting subject which doesn’t fit precisely into a complete pattern.

    Russian born Russians in Russia can be quite realist in contrast to some of their brethren abroad and vice-versa.

    This applies elsewhere. Among Israelis in Israel, one can find stern criticism of that country, whereas some Jews abroad take a more Roman than the Romans approach. A reverse pattern exists as well.

    In short, a given person’s views should IMO be ideally replied to on substance, with a possible pscycho-analysis at the end. At times, I’ve often found the latter to be off the mark, due to some overly presumptuous, if not arrogant/ignorant overview.

    • Among Israelis in Israel, one can find stern criticism of that country, whereas some Jews abroad take a more Roman than the Romans approach.

      The diehard pro-Israeli Jews outside Israel try to make up for the self-loathing naturally coming out of having a diasporic mentality by anchoring themselves to a real culture – Israel – that they feel they can be a part of (to some extent this applies to all un-assimilated ethnic groups within the US, e.g. Armenians, West Ukrainians, etc), and serve that culture – via lobbying, aid collection, etc – even when doing so runs contrary to America’s national interests (see The Israeli Lobby by Walt & Mearsheimer).

      Same in European nations, so no surprise that, “A majority of those surveyed across Europe, 51%, believe that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own country, with a majority of respondents in Spain, Poland and Germany saying they believe that this statement is “probably true.” “.

      Of course, a Jew supporting Israel from a foreign country is entirely rational and understandable. Who would command your ultimate loyalty in their shoes – the descendants of peoples who stood by, or actively collaborated, in the extermination of 1/3 of your ethnicity, or your own folks who are building up a physical and cultural haven for you? Tough choice… not.

      Re-internal Israeli criticism of Israel. That simply demonstrates a society with a rational, liberal, “argumentative” tradition, that nonetheless strongly believes in itself (i.e. is in a state of sobornost) – i.e., a society firmly entrenched within the liberty cycle of the bottom-right of a Belief Matrix.

  2. The mentioned west Ukrainian grouping are utiliaed in accordance to what Brzezinski (among others) has suggested about closer Russo-Ukrainian ties not being as beneficial to the West.

    On the issue of mass media sensitivity to the concerns of other countries: a few years back, an editor of a prominent venue told me that he/she was of Slavic Orthodox Christian background and wrote the (as he/she described it) critical editorials on Israel and Russia.

    In reply, I noted how the stated criticism of Israel was nowhere near as hard-hitting/unfair in relation to what has been said of Russia. As for the presented Slavic Orthodox Christian description, I wryly added decaffeinated to that characterization.

    The matter of selective sensitivity remains an ongoing issue.

    The referred to “Slavic Orthodox Christian” should read as “Russian Orthodox Christian.”

    On ethnic lobbying, some years back, I recall (on a Pacifica Radio show) an Azeri official claiming that an Armenian lobby in Russia has influenced Russian policy on Azeri-Armenian matters.

    Regarding the reference to pro-Israeli lobbying clout is this piece, which made the major newswires:


    I wonder if it made a certain US based venue?

    I post it knowing that a number of court appointed Russia friendly types (no doubt) find it too provocative.

    I can’t say that I’m in complete agreement with it as well.

    At the same time, venues like The Weekly Standard and Pajamas media have posted questionable (put mildly) commentary on Russia from another political slant.

    In a certain sense, the greater censorship is the one not getting discussed.

  3. There is a lot I’d like to add, though sadly I have little time. But some quick points

    1) May the best kitsch win! That’s my attitude towards the diaspora/ nationalism dichotomy. I wear a Scottish lapel badge because it is a navy blue background with a white cross. Oddly our flag is not standardised and there is a sky blue one as well, which I would not wear. For me that sums it up pretty well. If the Scottish flag was salmon and beige, no-one, not even the kilt and glengarry crowd, would wear it. People will peddle all sorts of reasons to feel proud for having been born on a particular piece of earth: basking in credit for the achievements of people you’ve never met, singing about warfare and freedom, values, electing the right politicians, good relations with the USA etc. All bullshit: but it is the aesthetic that wins in the end and whether there are differences in mindset. I will probably vote SNP because England is turning into a weird blend of Yeltsinist plutocracy and North Korea surveillance: not because I think I deserve some credit for Stevenson/ Watt/ Maxwell’s achievements.

    2) As for diaspora, there are cliques even within that. I’ve met Cypriots from as diverse areas as Northern Scotland and South Africa: and they’ve all shared a taste for self-help books and a sentimental, yet materialistic, outlook. This is just a subjective observation, which doesn’t refer to every single individual Cypriot, but as a people they are far removed from the Thessalonikan (REAL Makedonian) peasant gravitas. Or the Athenian individualism or the fascinating Cretan mix of cultured butchness.

    3) Patriotism is near impossible to define: if you are governed by someone like Tony Bliar ‘all I know is what I believe’, then opposing the nation’s agenda separates bright people from idiots irrespective of birth.

    Those who have already gone to serve in the armed forces are different. An Afro-Carribean Brit is the most decorated soldier of modern conflicts. Good on him; though our arm chair warriors notably failed to form an international brigade and their patriotism only exists in the plains of hyper-reality; so the whole thing gets a bit Borgesian here.

    4) Politicians try to create identities for diaspora peoples, or so I think. Maybe that’s a bit of Orthodox paranoia, but it seems superbly summed up when I saw an Orthodox publication with an article by Christopher Hitchens. The logic seemed to be this: Balkan Orthodox have been in a savage conflict with Muslims: Christopher Hitchens supports wars against Muslim countries. That Christopher Hitchens is a propagandist for the fascist Kosovan state has no place in this logic.

    Anyway, the point is that an onlooker may think that Orthodox people have a tendency to neo-conservatism, whilst with the exception of Georgia this is unlikely to be the case. It seems that a very few diasporan spokespeople try to claim that their culture has a deep affinity to whatever political movement is popular, but it is all nonsense.

    5) Whilst you use the Jews as an archetype of the diaspora, I think that they are deeply atypical. I don’t think even the worst tin-foil-hat weirdo in Turkey has ever suggested that the Greeks are plotting world domination. Alternatively, the term ‘Phil-Hellene’ refers almost entirely to either classicists or nationalists. I read one Jewish person who said they thought philo-Semites and anti-Semites had similarities. I couldn’t comment, but I do find the Christian Zionists really creepy and am sort of pleased that there is no major Greek lobby.

    • Re-5. The difference is that whereas Greeks were a market-dominant minority in the Balkans and Asia Minor, Jews still are a market-dominant minority on a global level.

      Just as today ordinary Indonesians, Malaysians, etc, (falsely) believe that their Chinese minorities have undue influence over their countries because of their (real) disproportionate wealth, so many people throughout the world – especially in places where a rich Jewish presence is more visible, and amongst those who don’t think they benefit from the current internationalist world order (e.g. low-income white males from Omsk to Ohio) – start believing in some kind of Jewish conspiracy / ZOG, which is necessarily global in character.

  4. Re: “Just as today ordinary Indonesians, Malaysians, etc, (falsely) believe that their Chinese minorities have undue influence over their countries because of their (real) disproportionate wealth”

    I’m impressed. To have someone on the other side of the hemisphere havin’ a clear understandin’ of things.

  5. He makes some good observations, though they are certainly not new to sociology and he simplifies too much.Thanks for your great post more power to your site! G-d bless 🙂

  6. Interesting. I think you are spot on about the divergence between Israeli and Jewish-diasporic cultural patterns – I recall my teenage (UK-based) Jewish friends having serious issues with Israeli culture and people on their periodic trips to the “homeland”.

    All this also puts me in mind of Spengler’s idea of the intersection of peoples at different points of cultural phase; i.e. the Jewish diaspora in Europe was already at a late-Civilisation phase (and thus more capable of certain kinds of rational intellectual work) when the European was just peaking; succeeding / suffering as a direct result of the disparity.

    Of course, from the perspective of anyone with a faintly transcultural view of the world, it becomes clear that the diaspora, in these terms, was always the more ‘rational’, ‘objective’ community that had the misfortune of living within a larger society effectively under the influence of a 1000-year long mass hallucination.

    One might argue that the level of anti-Semitism in Europe has declined in proportion to the decline in this disparity as Europe moves closer to its own late-Civilisational state. Indeed, Spengler uses very similar terms to describe the “rootless Cosmopolitanism” of the late-Civilisational intelligentsia.

    I’m not sure if the interests of the diaspora and the society are ever likely to entirely align, however – the gaudy superficialities of Civilisational intellectualism have a tendency to breed an equal and opposite Romantic desire to return to roots, traditions, ‘organic’ existence (unattainable, perhaps, but compelling nonetheless); at its most innocuous, a renewed interest in folk music and Robin Hood fantasies; at its most pathological, the kind of militarised fetishisation, the mutant hybridity of regressive modernism, that we saw 70 years ago.

    Little wonder, then, that some members of the Jewish diaspora have sought not to accelerate the host culture’s transition towards total transparent rationality (equally unattainable, in all probability) but to rediscover their own organic hallucination, grafting themselves onto a dormant mythic and geographic root system in the form of Zionism.