The Ethical Catastrophe of Russia and the Mission of Registration
This paper analyzes the anthropological catastrophe which occurred in Russia in the XX c. and discusses, which anthropological and social strategies are possible for redressing it in the immediate, post-catastrophic period. We review how ethical models have changed in Russia, from the prerevolutionary period to the present day, showing that the changes were typically sharp breaks between subsequent ethical models which were dictated by state power in a normative and violent manner. These breaks were damaging and disorienting for ethical consciousness, and gradually deprived this consciousness of sensitivity, eventually degrading it entirely. The paper characterizes the final, post-soviet stages of the process as the formation of “anti-ethics” (in the 1990s), followed by today’s formation of “non-ethics”, i. e. atrophied moral instinct and ethical consciousness.
Next, the paper undertakes an anthropological analysis of the postcatastrophic state of man and society in Russia. Based on the conception of man as the “being-presence” (developed chiefly in Heidegger’s philosophy of Dasein and in the philosophy of Vladimir Bibikhin, in Russia), we conclude that in the post-catastrophic situation man exists in a certain deficient mode that might be termed the “trampled-down presence”. We find examples of this mode of existence portrayed in modern art in the works of Rilke, Klee and Kharms, and also in works of GULAG prisoners. In these examples, man’s mission of self-realization – insofar as self-realization is even possible under such extreme conditions — is qualified as a particular kind of existential practice that we term “registration on the edge”, or “ultimate registration”. Those who accomplish this mission are “ulimate registrars”. The mode of being that we call “trampled-down presence” lacks a full-bodied ethical model (as well as other dimensions of normal beingpresence), although it still has a certain ethos.
Keywords: ethics, ethos, ontology, anthropology, Russia, Russian revolution, archaization, anthropological catastrophe, being-presence, extreme practices, repentance.