Earlier I wrote about what I thought was the core components of Western Civilization, Christianity and Roman Culture, and based on that core, what countries could be considered part of the 'West'. Given this criteria, I labeled all the nations of Europe, Russian Asia, North America, South America and English Speaking Oceania as part of western civilization. This is a different definition than the more popularly accepted definition as articulated by Huntington. He labels Latin America and the former Soviet bloc as separate civilizations. I disagree with this assessment, and in this blog post I will write why we should include Eastern Europe, along with Russia, as members of Western Civilization.
There are two major reasons why many of the Eastern European nations are not included as part of the West. One reason is very recent and is due to recent differing political worldviews and this is the one that I think most individuals are most cognizant of. The other reason stems back as far as the sundering of the Roman empire into the East and West as well as the Great Schism of the Christendom in the eleventh century and many are not aware of this. First, I will touch upon the political reasons which, as you have probably guessed, is democracy versus communism. Below are the nations of Europe that were part of the Soviet Bloc, which were the groupings of nations that had communists government and under political sway of the Russians.
As you have undoubtedly noticed, many of these nations are part of what Huntington would label as Orthodox civilization. My issue with this divide is that I do not see it as a fundamental one. Though the difference between communist and democratic nations appears very large to many us today, I believe that our judgement is being clouded by political events that are not really that old and it also is due to mischaracterization of what fundamentally makes the west the west.
I am talking about the concept of democratic government as being fundamentally part of what constitutes Western Civilization and that isn't the case. Outside of the argument that democracy isn't inherently good, there is also the undeniable observation that it is only recently that the majority of Western nations were democratic, and that for most of our history our nations were governed by very undemocratic means. I would argue that we are confusing what is an outcome of a core concept for a core concept itself. That would be the rule of law.
The rule of law is a very ancient concept and was first articulated in the form that we recognize it, impartial and even application of written law, by the Romans themselves. The concept of the rule of law was not always enforced as it should, even by the Romans, and there were periods were it was utterly absent, but it was the singular most defining characteristic that separated the Romans from everyone else in the ancient world. This concept was absolutely instrumental in the development of the West as it is. English, and by extension American and other Anglo-nations, would never have developed as they did without the concept of the rule of law.
Now you some of you will observe, and rightly so, that Soviet Russia rejected many concepts of the west, including the rule of law. The fact is that while the Soviet elite may have been trying to disengage themselves from the sphere of the West, reversing the centuries old trends started by Peter the Great, they ultimately failed to do so, not only because it utterly ignored the fundamentals of economics, but it also ignored the very cultural values of the people they governed. This is why fear and the threat of violence was used so liberally in the Soviet nations of the west versus the non-Soviet nation western nations. They were tying to enforce an unnatural system that could not sustain itself.
Admittedly the Russia of today still isn't a bastion of rule of the law, however, their leaders now do not outright reject that notion and there are plenty instances in what we traditionally view as western nations were leaders have bent, or even broken, that concept. Also the abuse, or absence, of the rule of law doesn't automatically exclude a country from being considered western. Even the architects of this concept, the Romans, fell short from acting out on this concept consistently. There is also another reason why we should consider Russia part of the west, and also helps to explain why Huntington labeled it as separate from the west.
The other facet that makes the west what it is, and as I articulated earlier, is Christianity. While a nation can be Christian or have a large Christian population, and not western, like in much of Africa, there is no way a nation can be Western and not be Christian, or governed by Christian principals. Christianity is the dominate religion the nations that are considered Orthodox, and it has been for a very long time.
Part of the reason why Huntington separated parts of Eastern Europe from the 'West', outside of the political reasons I mentioned earlier, is due to the different forms of Christianity that exist. The Christianity you see practiced in the eastern parts of Europe all can be traced to Christianity as lead by the Greek Patriarch versus the branches of Christianity in western Europe that can trace their lineage to the Roman Pontiff.
Here is the image of the Roman Empire after it was partitioned into a nominally unified empire under two separate sovereigns. This dissolution of the empire of Rome into the empires of the Romans occurred under Diocletian, when he separated the empire into four districts. Diocletian did this to make governing the territories in the Roman world easier, however, he also started what would gradually become the final schism between the east and west. The reason for this dissolution was geographic. This geographic reality had long effectively created two separate ancient worlds unified by a common sea and ruler. The difference was most felt linguistically. There was the Rome of the west, which spoke Latin, and the Rome of the east, which spoke Greek. The affects went beyond the linguistics as well, as the geographical barriers played a large part in the schism of Christianity between the Catholic West and Orthodox in the eleventh century.
The simple fact that a battle of ego's between two church leaders and geographic limitations resulted in the eventual formation of two different major sects of the same religion isn't enough of a difference to warrant the separation of one civilization into two. If were were going to use Christianity as practiced between the Orthodox nations and Catholic nations as a large enough difference to warrant different civilization status, then why do we not do the same for Protestant nations? Why does Huntington insist that the Islamic world is one civilization, even though the two major sects of that religion are still spilling each others blood over seemingly minor differences, which is something that the west largely abandoned hundreds of years ago? If the differences between the Islamic nations are not great enough to warrant two separate Islamic civilizations, then we can hardly say that the Christian nations of Eastern Europe are not part of the west.