The Ilyinist Parody

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Ivan Ilyin (1883-1954) said that evil begins where the person begins, inverting the vision of the person that inspired Saint Sophrony the Hesychast, turning Holy Orthodoxy into an ideological gnosticism serving totalitarian Russian nationalism.  Ilyinism sharpened White Russian ideology into Slav Fascism, giving to Mussolini and Hitler the right-wing Hegelianism he thought they needed to oppose Bolshevism, justifying Russian totalitarianism.  A century later, Ilyinism gave Putin his justification for postmodern Russian totalitarianism.  The Ilyinist heresy of Russian innocence accuses democracy of demonic confusion and division but exempts itself on the grounds that Russianness is Holy Orthodoxy, maintaining Ukraine and Ukrainian Orthodoxy to be aberrations that have no co-inherent substance.  Ilyin knew his ‘holy Russianness’ was an arbitrary act of faith, without factual justification, so he denied the truth of facts, which he dismissed as fake news.  For Ilyinism, to speak of Ukraine was to be the mortal enemy of Russia, since Ukraine for him was ‘holy Russia,’ not Ukraine. The Russian totalitarianism of Ivan Ilyin still today usurps the holy wholeness of God and confuses it with ‘holy Russianness,’ the innocent victim attacked from outside by demonic enemies, NATO, USA and the democratic world.  

Ilyinism claimed to be White Russian innocence overthrowing Bolshevism, inspiring Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany, waiting to reclaim Russia when Communism collapsed.  For Ilyinism, Russian dictatorship was redemptive nationalism, making prayer a sword and a sword, prayer.  Love of enemies meant destroying them, on the grounds they do not exist.  This perverted inversion of Holy Orthodoxy reduces it to an unholy totalitarian kenodoxy, glorifying Russia and Putin, the redemptive leader, in place of Christ.  Couched in Orthodox symbolism and language, Ilyinism was designed to be confused with Orthodoxy until war in Ukraine exposed Putin’s satanic lies and parodies, that glorified Ilyinism by invading Ukraine in the name of ‘innocent Russianness.’  Ilyinist myth is a variant of the congenital disease of heretical phyletism or tribalism, inverting Holy Orthodoxy into satanic dictatorial parodies, accusing democracy of demonic degeneration, extinguishing opposition in the name of pure, dictatorial Russianness.  Ukrainian martyrdom and poisoned Russian dissidents unveil all this for the world to see, although it has been observed emerging in Russia for well over a decade.

Holy Orthodoxy can purify itself of Ilyinsm, as it has been purifying itself of Stalinism, by embracing the grace of purification, illumination and glorification.  Persecuted by seven decades of Bolshevism, Russian Orthodoxy is now tempted and co-opted by Ilyinism, the ethnic, Russian totalitarianism of the Kremlin.  But right-glorifying Orthodox completeness is not intrinsically totalitarian, as Saint Silouan and Saint Sophrony bore clear witness.  Both were Russians, but they were truly Orthodox, not totalitarian nationalists, authentic witnesses to the completeness of love’s glory.  Christ was their redeemer, never confused with a Russian dictator, dispelling nationalist Russian redemptive myths from the glory of the Gospel.  For them, politics was love of enemies, not the art of identifying and neutralising the enemy, as Karl Schmitt taught Hitler and the Nazis.   The young Marx said everything begins with mysticism and ends in politics, which Ilyin interpreted to mean, everything begins as original Russian innocence and ends in Russian, dictatorial politics.  Ilyin insisted the Russian dictator was responsible for all executive, legislative and judicial functions, subjecting persons and institutions to  totalitarian Russian rule.  For genuine Holy Orthodoxy, democracy is certainly flawed and vulnerable in many ways, but can be improved, exposing totalitarian parodies of completeness as Ilyinism, regressive, Satanic impersonalism.