Agent boxes up a painting confiscated from the Roerich Museum in a property dispute. Photo via Novaya Gazeta
Staunton, VA, March 7, 2017 – “The most interesting aspect” of Moscow’s retreat from its efforts to promote a civic Russian nation is not that it shows “society isn’t very prepared” for that as Valery Tishkov says, but rather the way in which it represents “a personal defeat for Vladimir Putin,” according to Fyodor Krasheninnikov.
“The main conclusion from this situation,” the Yekaterinburg political analyst continues, “is that one shouldn’t panic after every absurd idea announced in the Kremlin and approved by the president. Despite the widespread opinion, Putin is hardly all-powerful” and can’t get his way if important elements of the elite and the population oppose him.
Putin clearly liked the idea of a civic Russian nation law possibly so that he could become “the national leader” and put himself “once and for all” on top of “all the bureaucratic pyramid.” Indeed, there was a clearly orchestrated media campaign about how necessary such a law supposedly was.
But these “happy expectations” ran into “severe Russian reality” and collapsed. Russian nationalists and their sympathizers didn’t like the idea; the non-Russians didn’t either; and liberals opposed yet another top-down imposition of a Kremlin idea without the views of the population being taken into account.
Perhaps especially critical in the defeat of the idea of a civic Russian nation was the role played by the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. If a civic nation were to be created or at least declared, the ROC MP would necessarily become a representative not of that whole but only of an ethnic Russian component, something it did not want to put up with.
In short, Krasheninnikov says, powerful forces opposed something Putin wanted to do and ensured that his proposal and his person at least in this case went down to defeat. That will only encourage others to oppose him on other issues, and consequently, more defeats for the Kremlin leader may be in the offing.