The Implications and Remarkable Moments of “Russian Davos”
Action is your manifesting gift—and for every single one mistaking kindness for weakness there’s another letting equanimity fade into hierarchical indifference. So graduate from seeking an exodus already, or striving to disintegrate into nonduality; dance, bleed, tear, laugh—accept the rapture as inevitable and continual rebirth. Savor it, throw it away, and then relish it again and again. More salt. More honey. Weep and laugh so deeply that you let each emotion find the other, embrace and meld. In as many lifetimes, or in each, let the sacred become mundane, and then perverse, and then mundane, and then sacred again. Reach out into the space in front of you and slip into your self-actualizing being. Whisper it to the ears of the eternal sky that beckon it to birth from your soul and fly from your lips. Impregnated, alive, anew, again and again, for the very first time.
Sebastian Siegel (from a note published at The Huffington Post)1
The look in the eyes of a young entrepreneur when silence arises during our conversations—this particular kind of look which has ever-present light of awareness underneath and intangible vibratorial simultaneity of experience in the interpersonal field is a type of moment which I cherished so much during my participation in both the Youth International Economic and the St. Petersburg International Economic Forums (the latter is also often called “Russian Davos” due to the amount of high-profile figures from business, politics, and administration coming to St. Petersburg, Russia, to join their elite colleagues and work together on contracts and agreements, investments and policies, entertainment and networking) which happened on June 15-18, 2011. Every time a pregnant silence arose amidst so much talking it was a miracle.
St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF, http://www.forumspb.com/) is probably one of the most important economic, political, and entrepreneurial annual events in modern Russia. It is a strategic platform under the patronage of the President of Russia. Heads of states, large international corporations, and administration all gather there to discuss issues the magnitude of which can be measured in multibillion contracts and investments. For many Russians and for many people around the globe participation in events of such scale may act as an example of the culmination of their entrepreneurial dreams—dreams of what contemporary psychology of adult development would call rationalistic and achieving self, postconventional in its nature, worldcentric in its scope. This is a festivity of a personal domain of consciousness, modernist rationality of self-interest at its best.
Youth International Economic Forum (YIEF, http://youthforum.ru/) is a satellite event which starts a day before the main forum designed to bring together young entrepreneurs in their twenties from all around the world. Arkady Dvorkovich, First Aide to the President of Russia, does his best to show that YIEF is under his patronage and is dear to his heart. In his welcoming address to YIEF participants Dvorkovich explains what seems to be at the core of his vision for the occasion: “By bringing together young leaders and established experts we strive to create synergies between creativity and knowledge, unorthodox ideas and experience, energy and authority. Russia’s modernization is impossible without broad international cooperation. Connecting young Russian and international entrepreneurs, scientists, athletes and civic activists is a crucial element in breaking down walls between nations and societies. We see it as an investment in Russia’s future and Russia’s contribution in the global economic, social and cultural development.”
For Russia, which in the previous century has experienced extensive sociocultural isolation from the West (the “Iron Curtain”) and now is still far from being integrated with the Western world both culturally and economically, YIEF—whose official language is English—seems like a real advancement, a manifestation of pragmatic steps towards “breaking down walls” and allowing a space, a platform for cross-cultural encounters and international cooperation to emerge. This meeting of one hundred young participants from leading universities (such as Stanford and Harvard), successful companies (such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young) and promising start ups, from Asia to Europe to the Americas in such an interpersonal space is auspicious for the beginning of networking between Russian and foreign young leaders. It may be one of the most realistic Russian projects in terms of its potentially positive long-term impact (resulting in strengthening international ties and interaction) for both Russia and the world. And special guests such as Eric Schmidt of Google and Viktor Vekselberg of Skolkovo Innovation Center make YIEF a top-level forum.
It is not easy to provide an account of such events that would convey both the complexity of intention and at the same time remain within the domains of brutal honesty and actual evidence. While occasions such as YIEF and SPIEF are positive and constructive events of planetary importance, it is difficult for me to leave unmentioned the entire array of large-scale challenges (and, I would say, sociocultural disasters) that inhabit the pragmatic space of Russian life. The blunt facts that are needed to be stated to counterbalance the happiness that comes out of participating in these luxurious events include such persisting systemically Russian troubles as all-pervasive corruption, epidemics of alcohol and heroin addiction in the population, public mental and physical health deterioration, deficit of democratic civic activity and political pluralism, deconstruction of cultural heritage, loss of national self-identity, and generally low (in comparison to EU and America) quality of life of most Russian citizens.
And yet, perhaps, the most promising trends that I witnessed while participating in both forums were concentrated around the core concepts of synergy and global Russia as they are explicitly and officially supported in the narratives constructed by the current Russia’s administration. Today’s Russian society, gradually empowered by online social networking and information-based, increasingly cybernetic ecosystems (which is rapidly interiorized as a natural environment by consciousness of both younger and older generations), witnesses unprecedented trends of social integration and defragmentation which, most likely, will eventually catalyze massive shifts in Russian cultural consciousness. For instance, the Internet allows reconnecting Russian emigration (which fled the country in the end of 20th century) with the “continental” Russian population and reunions of classmates and childhood friends as I observed in many instances—including my own parents who now communicate with their friends who live in a surprisingly diverse set of countries from the Americas to the Middle East and Asia.
This openness to the world pressures Russians into leaving the habitual tunnel of nationalistic self-isolation and start inhabiting the worldspaces of global citizenship and unity-in-diversity of us all. What the candid American philosopher Ken Wilber calls Eros and Agape, the forces of loving transcendence and embrace, almost tangibly comes into play in this large-scale dynamic intercourse, thus manifesting the viscerally felt zeitgeist of novelty in Russia. Of course, Freudian neuroses and fixations, resistances of all sorts to novelty and self-healing, addiction to power games and a scarcity-based mindset (which drives towards zero-sum exploitation and opportunistic corruption) generate enormous force of self-harming, self-defensive tendencies, something that Freud called Thanatos or the destructive force.2 In addition to these obstacles Ayn Rand’s psychologically inadequate Objectivism apparently somehow started to play an important role in rationalizations of the elites and entrepreneurs, remaining an influential attractor for construction of a selfish narrative (with her books having been translated to Russian and promoted by libertarian intelligentsia in the recent years). However, the deepening exposure to the world’s best wisdom traditions and integral practices may counteract this trend (especially if a set of actions is to be taken to systemically distribute information on the plurality of perspectives in the coming years).
On the second day of YIEF—which coincided both in time and place with the first day of SPIEF—during a Q&A session, where participants were given an opportunity to ask a question or give an advice to Arkady Dvorkovich who represented the President’s administration, an irresistible creative impulse led me to raise my hand and reach out for a microphone. I stood up in front of the audience, introduced myself, and pronounced what can be summarized as follows: “In today’s Russia there is a lot of talk about innovations. Innovations are an important topic for Russian government and administration. But we hear that innovations are discussed mostly in terms of tangible items and technologies. My advice will be to start speaking of innovations in human resources and cultural innovations, of innovative methods that involve both young and elder leaders of society together.”
Dvorkovich listened to me attentively and nodded: “I fully agree.” Immediately I felt waves of heat climbing up my spinal cord, almost as if a psychophysiological process in my body described by Indian yogic traditions was initiated. A colossal force of vital energy that could be used for better or worse is inhabited and carefully guarded in the corridors of power.
 Sebastian Siegel, “The Reincarnating Humble-bee” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sebastian-siegel/the-reincarnating-humbleb_b_872954.html)
 See E. Fein, “Adult Development Theory and Political Analysis: An Integral Account of Social and Political Change in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia” (http://www.integral-review.org/documents/Fein,%20Soviet%20and%20Post-Soviet%20Russia,%20Vol.%206,%20No.%201.pdf) for an insightful use of adult development theory towards political analysis of Russia.
About the Author
Eugene Pustoshkin graduated as a clinical psychologist from St. Petersburg State University, Russia, in 2010. He co-founded and is a chief strategist at Altstates Consulting (http://www.altstates.ru), a company that offers integrally informed psychological consulting to organizations and individuals. As a psychologist he maintains a private practice within the framework of integral psychotherapy. His interests include integral and transpersonal approaches to individual and social transformation, global citizenship, cross-cultural integration, and transdisciplinarity. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Joe Perez wrote a blog I liked that explores the Ayn Rand reference that I made in this article: http://joe-perez.com/blog/2011/08/as-the-world-searches-for-a-21st-century-philosophy-objectivism-and-integral-vie-in-russia/