Interview with Igor Zagrebelny, philosopher and director of the research and analysis centre “Political Theology”. Zagrebelny is the author of several books, including “The Apostleship of the Sword” (2017), “Intermarium: An Almost Lost Opportunity” (2019) and “European Chronicles” (2020).
You are currently serving in the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Force. What can you tell me about your military experience? How do you see the war evolving?
My military experience started in the summer of 2014 in the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps (DUK in Ukrainian), the military wing of the Right Sector movement, to which I belonged at the time. This experience was small, but more concentrated than now. In September 2014, I was ordered to return to Kyiv to engage in the information policy of the “Right Sector”.
Concerning the current stage of the war, at the very beginning of it I joined the territorial defence brigade that defended Kyiv. Only some units of our brigade faced the enemy in battles. My unit was only on the second line of defence and did not take part in any clashes. So far, our unit is being held in the Kyiv region in case of a re-invasion from the North, but sooner or later it will have to be sent to the East. I think this war will give enough tasks for everyone. I am not a military expert to predict its future course. I would like to say that we have the human forces to continue the struggle. The future course of the war will strongly depend on the supply of weapons to Ukraine, including artillery.
Before you became a soldier, you were a well-known writer in Ukraine. Did you expect that the day would come when you would have to put down your pen and take up your sword? Did you expect this invasion?
I sensed the inevitability of a large-scale war between Ukraine and Russia since I was a teenager. Russia simply cannot tolerate a truly sovereign Ukraine next to it. Concerning changing the pen to the sword, it should be noted that I had a turbulent youth in the nationalist organizations. It was, so to say, a dagger, not a sword. I even managed to spend about a year in prison when Viktor Yanukovych was president of Ukraine (I was arrested for arson of the Communist Party office). I finally left the nationalist movement and focused on creative work only in 2016. Since then, I have become accustomed to a quite a calm life. However, when I woke up on February 24 from a rocket explosion, it came without surprise to me. I was not happy or upset – I just went out on the balcony, lit a cigarette and said “well, what was supposed to happen is happening”.
You define yourself as a conservative Christian, not a nationalist. However, in your books you stress the importance of religion and the nation.
My worldview has evolved from a fascination with classical Ukrainian nationalism to Christian conservatism. I use the term “classic Ukrainian nationalism” for ideology of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists in the period from the 1930s to the 1960s. This ideology had strong conservative accents, and I liked it. Then I began to be critical of the very phenomenon of modernity as a product of the Enlightenment. The subject of my critique is the nation as a product of the same fundamentals as both liberalism and Marxism and which today give rise to radical emancipation movements such as LGBT. But this does not mean that I criticize the idea that humanity consists of people of different ethnic, cultural, historical communities. Such division is aligned with God’s order. Moreover, the modern nation and nationalism were born in the process of modernization, but then during this process were declared as something archaic. Now the logic of so-called “progress” requires the elimination of national sovereignty and the diversity of national cultures. From the point of view of Christian conservatism, we need to protect these things, because they are closer to the natural order of things than the future that globalists are preparing for us.
Many in the West believe, thanks to propaganda, that Russia is a Christian and conservative country, and that this war is a struggle between that conservative model and Western decadence.
Probably, the only time when Russia played the role of a conservative force in Europe was the first half of the 19th century. Later, the Russian Empire began rapid processes of degradation, culminating in the coming to power of the Bolsheviks in 1917. As my friend, philosopher Eduard Yurchenko says, the Bolshevik revolution destroyed the best features of the Russians and intensified the worst. At the moment, Russian society remains extremely degraded. Putin’s fake conservatism does not change this situation. For example, the Russian Orthodox Church works closely with the authorities. But very few Russians live religious lives. Even on Easter, liturgy is attended by only about 1% of Russia’s population. At the same time, the Russian government oppresses other Christian denominations, including Catholics, of whom there are very few in Russia.
Perhaps one of the reasons why Russians live in a state of spiritual degradation is that they did not repent for the evil of communism – for being the first to legalize abortion in the 20th century, for large-scale persecution of Christians, for the Holodomor in Ukraine, for participating in The Spanish Civil War, for the support and coordination of various subversive forces in Europe and other continents. You should also take to account that Putin’s pseudo-conservatism is provoking reaction in form of sympathy for radical leftist ideas among some Russians. It is likely that after the collapse of the Putin regime, we will see Bolshevism 2.0, but this time with rainbow flags, not red flags.
A Maidan activist told me years ago that Ukraine was threatened from the East, by Russian imperialism, and from the West, by leftist-liberalism. Do you think a third way, a Ukraine of conservative and patriotic values, is possible?
The third way is possible. But I do not live in a world of illusions. It will take a lot of effort after the war for Ukraine to choose the third way. The possibility of a third way is increased today by the fact that Ukrainians are significantly disappointed with the policies of France and Germany, and these countries are still the main promoters of globalism and radical liberalism in Europe. Instead, sympathy for conservative Poland has grown, which is at the forefront of the Intermarium project as a union of Central and Eastern European states seeking to defend their own sovereignty and basic conservative values. But in any case, the most important task now for the forces that are looking towards the third way is resisting Russia. What Russia brings to us is not much different from the challenges from the West. Russia completely denies our identity, our national existence, and does so militarily, performing to numerous war crimes.
Let’s talk about your books. In “The Apostleship of the Sword” you criticise the pacifism associated with Christianity. Do you vindicate the concept of “just war”? Has the Ukrainian church responded to the call to arms?
In this book, I focus on the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church, including just war. I can’t call myself a militarist. However, it is obvious to me that pacifism is hostile to the Christian worldview. It comes from one of the most heretical ideas – the possibility of building a paradise on earth. Wars will break until the Second Advent of our Lord. It is necessary to accept this and nurture a noble military culture (as it was in the best periods of European history). Regarding the response of the Ukrainian clergy to the war, it is not passive at all. It consists of service of chaplains and the material support of the army. However, there is a lack of a clear theological understanding of war which have to be a return to the traditional doctrine of war, which used to exist in both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches. One of the positive moves in this field was the fact that Ukrainian Catholics began to be critical to Pope Francis. But it seems there have been yet clear understanding that Francis’s hypocritical pacifist statements about the Russian-Ukrainian war are closely linked to his pacifism and globalism, which, for example, is widely presented in the Fratelli tutti encyclics.
In “Intermarium: An Almost Lost Opportunity” you argue that Germany and France have reinforced the federalisation of Europe for fear of losing their hegemony in the face of the emergence of the Intermarium concept. Is this idea the only alternative to the federal and globalist model of Brussels?
First of all, the idea of the Intermarium is a model of survival for the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe. After all, in order to resist both Western hegemony and Russian encroachment, close consolidation is required. At the same time, conservative forces in Western Europe should also be interested in implementing the Intermarium project. The Intermarium can indeed become a conservative centre of European politics. We see something similar today in the attitude of Western conservative forces.
You also published “The European Chronicles” in which you talk about the possibility of inter-ethnic conflict in Europe, especially in France, and about the future. What future do you propose in this book? Do you think this war can serve as a wake-up call or a warning of what is to come?
“The European Chronicles” is a futurological essay. It depicts different, even totally opposing scenarios for Europe’s future. For example, one essay states that Russia joins the European Union after the annexation of all of Eastern Europe. Western elites have forgiven Russia for its actions to realize the globalist ideal. And the next essay is about the Intermarium, whose peoples are able to defend their independence. I have drawn up scenarios that are both favorable and unfavorable from a conservative Christian point of view.
In 2015 a series of your articles on Ukrainian nationalism and traditionalism was published in Russia under the title “Tryzub named after Don Quixote”. Do you know what impact this book had in Russia, and why the reference to Cervantes’ character in the title?
This collection includes articles that reflect my evolution from nationalism to conservatism. A group of Russian right-wing dissidents approached me with a suggestion to publish this book. This group also translated and published my book about Dmytro Dontsov, a publicist who had a significant influence on the formation of the ideology of Ukrainian nationalism, in particular on its integration with conservative elements. It’s hard for me to say about the impact of these books. Russian right-wing dissidents are a small group. Many of them moved to Ukraine in 2014 and fought against pro-Russian and pro-Soviet rebels in the Donbas, as well as against Russian “inter-brigades” that Moscow sent to Ukraine in the same way as in the 1930s to Spain. A lot of sabotage such as the burning of military commissariats can be now seen in Russia. I think that Russian nationalists and real conservatives are also behind at least some of this arson.
Concerning the quote about Don Quixote, which appeared in one of my articles. Appealing to Don Quixote, I argued that the struggle based on fundamental principles makes sense even when it seems ridiculous to somebody. I think this image is very close to Russian right-wing dissidents, because they are well aware of the depth of degradation of Russian society. Ukraine and many other European countries have a much better chance of revival. But only God knows what our future will really be like. We must first be faithful to Him, although to some it will be reminiscent of the behaviour of the hero of Cervantes.
Source: El Correo de España
By Álvaro Peñas