Staunton, June 14 – By his instrumental use of nationalist slogans in the current “chauvinistic storm” about Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has blocked the growth of a genuinely contemporary Russian nationalism and reduced it instead to a state-controlled ideology he will dispense with whenever he wants, according to Fedor Krasheninnikov.
The Ekaterinburg commentator says that he had been encouraged by the convergence of Russian nationalism with liberalism in 2011-2013 and the formation of a contemporary Russian nationalism that was increasingly independent and critical of the regime in Moscow.
“For the first time in the entire history of Russia, liberals and ‘intellectual nationalists’ as it were turned out to be on the same side of the barricades and agreed that the main enemy is the current authoritarian regime and the future of Russia is to be a democratic European country,” Krasheninnikov says.
But “the chauvinist storm” which has swept across Russia as a result of government propaganda about Ukraine represents “the collapse of a non-marginal ‘contemporary European Russian nationalism’ as a self-standing political ideology independent from the authorities of the Russian Federation.”
Many Russian nationalists, he continues, have failed to see this. Instead, they believe that Putin’s actions in Ukraine are a victory for Russian nationalism and that the Kremlin leader is now “their man.” But this is a fundamental misunderstanding, one that threatens to reduce Russian nationalism as in the past to little more than a plaything of the authorities.
That should be obvious to everyone, he says, if one considers the fact that those pushing nationalist slogans today are the very people and outlets who opposed Russian nationalism a decade or more ago. These people haven’t become Russian nationalists; they are simply government propagandists.
What has happened instead is that “at a certain moment, for utilitarian mobilizational needs and for boosting Putin’s ratings, the authorities made use of nationalistic rhetoric” – but they did so only after long reflection and in a highly tendentious and selective way. What helped them to fight Ukrainians and boost Putin, they took; everything else, they ignored.
The authorities clearly did not accept any argument “about the anti-Russian essence of the current Russian Federation,” but they instead promoted the notion, useful to themselves but not part of all Russian nationalist thought that the Ukrainians are not a nation and thus must be absorbed into the Russian Federation.
In the now-official version, Krasheninnikov says, “the main enemies of Russia and the Russians are Ukraine and the Ukrainians and the ever-present Americans.” Moreover, in this telling, “everything is fine in the Russian Federation and it has no other problems besides war with Ukraine.”
But Russian nationalists need to ask themselves: “has Crimea which has been annexed to the Russian Federation become more Russian national than any other average Russian region of the Russian Federation?” The answer, the commentator says, is that it has become rather “’a Russian Mordvinia’” where Putin and his party will always get “98 percent” of the vote.
“Behind the façade of ‘the Russian spring’ is nothing except Putin’s Russian Federation,” he says. And anyone who reflects for a minute will recognize that “absolutely nothing has been changed in the structure of the Russian state.” Instead, just as in the past, an order has been given to suppress Ukraine, and those who follow orders are trying to do it.
When a different order comes down from the Kremlin, its supporters will cast aside Russian nationalism and adopt whatever the regime wants.
Tragically, he continues, all too many Russian nationalists have failed to understand this. Instead, they have been misled by the regime’s slogans. But they should reflect on this: how has it happened that none of them have become leaders of “the Russian spring” while that action has been dominated by people who in the past opposed Russian nationalism?
Moreover, the future for Russian nationalists is anything but bright. If the veterans of the fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk return to Russia alive, they and not the theoreticians of a modernized Russian nationalism will be in demand. And their nationalism reflects whatever the powers that be says it should and nothing more.
“Each nation can and must have its own nationalism even if this doesn’t please liberals and nationalists of other nationalities, Krasheninnikov continues. But he says that from his personal point of view, what has occurred over the last several months is both wrong and discouraging.
“Instead of a contemporary, European and civilized Russian nationalism with which one can argue, struggle, and constructively co-exist,” there has appeared once again in Russia an “aggressive and angry” nationalism of the Prokhanovs and Zhirinovskys “without prospects and completely controlled by the state.”
All Putin had to do was to pronounce the word “’Russian,’” and people fell all over themselves to believe that he had taken a nationalist turn. But all he has to do is say something else, and the propaganda machine will ensure that people will take an entirely and quite possibly totally opposed one.
A few Russian nationalists have not been deceived, he says. Instead, “even in the most insane days of ‘the Russian spring,’ they retained their good sense and did not fall into chauvinist hysteria, did not curse Ukrainians, and were not afraid to speak out in support of Ukraine, remembering that Ukrainians are our brothers” — unlike the Chechens on whom Putin relies.