Staunton, January 11 – Valery Solovey, a professor at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations, says he has assembled a working group to create a new Russian nationalist party that will appeal not just to the 15 percent of the Russian population that supports “hard” nationalist positions but to the 60-70 percent that backs a “softer variant.”
In an article on Rusplatforma.org today, Solovey says that “the weakening” of the current Kremlin leadership opens the way for the creation of the Russian Party and that the prospects that “legal obstacles” against such a group “have fallen away or are about to.” But he says that he is “not certain” that the situation is all that promising (rusplatforma.org/publikacii/node447/).
On the one hand, the MGIMO scholar says, in the Russian Federation, law and the practice of officials are two very different things, with officials often behaving directly contrary to legislation. But on the other – and this is Solovey’s focus in this article – a major reason for pessimism lies with the Russian nationalists themselves.
“Nationalists,” he continues, “who took part in the mass protests of December 2011 – and it is not important [where in Russia] … -- know very well that the traditional order of the day of Russian nationalism does not win the support of the urban citizens (who are by the way in their overwhelming majority are ethnic Russians).
And that is not because Russian nationalists did not have the chance to speak at these meetings, Solovey says. Rather, many of the slogans they put forward such as giving Russians “the status of the state forming people” have no little meaning for most of the demonstrators and the broader set of political and social ideas to which they subscribe.
Many Russian nationalists, he suggests, do not recognize that there are “two means of political communication: to tell the people what [the nationalists] think is important and correct, and to speak with the people about what [the people themselves consider important and correct.” Instead, most nationalists do the first but ignore the second, thus limiting the support they get. The nationalists are accustomed “to speak in the name of the Russian people, Solovey says, “but THE MAIN CONDENT OF THE RUSSIAN QUESTION is not ethnic as they support but DEMOCRATIC and SOCIAL.” What Russians want “in the first instance is freedom and justice;” ethnic problems are “secondary. And this is something nationalists must recognize.
Moreover, Russians “typically consider ethnic problems through the prism of a sense of justice denied.” This is “the reality,” Solovey continues, whether Russian nationalists “like it or not.” Those nationalists who are upset by “Jewish masonic activities and the conspiracy of ZOG” can only hope to find a welcoming audience “among patients in psychiatric hospitals.”
Any Russian nationalist who hopes to win more support must speak on behalf of what Russians want “and not on the basis of his own imaginations about that.” To do so, “freedom and justice” must stand “at the center of the nationalist narrative,” not in a mimicry of “popular slogans” but rather because that is the true Russian nationalist position.
Russian nationalists also need to recognize, he says that “at the same time, precisely free, competitive and honest elections are the most economical and least problematic path to coming to power. But if the nationalists want to win, then they must cease to be only nationalists and become also (and in the first instance) democrats and defenders of a social state.”
The reasons for that should be obvious: “the fully committed nationalist electorate, ‘the hard nationalists’ who are prepared to vote for nationalist candidates always and in all conditions form only 15 percent of the population.” But support among Russians for “’soft nationalism’ reaches 60 to 70 percent” – and that is “more than sufficient to win.”
Supporters of “soft nationalism” do not find “open nationalist rhetoric” or even the word “nationalism” acceptable, and consequently, “ethnic demands must be presented only in a democratic and social packaging,” something that makes them acceptable to the vital center of the political spectrum.
Some nationalists may feel that they will lose their identity if they take that step, but there is no reason to think so. First, the ethnic problem “all the same” remains part of their program. Second, “Russian nationalists are the only political force which has never been in power” and thus do not have the burdens of the past others do.
And third, Solovey insists, “Russian nationalists also are the only force which is in a position to fulfill all its problems.” But despite all this, Russian nationalists need to recognize that the messenger is as important as the message, and with regard to leaders at the present time, Russian nationalists suffer from a serious shortage.
The only politician on the scene “who is well kknown beyond the borders of nationalism” is Dmitry Rogozin, but even his messages reach only a limited audience. “All other politicians of the Russian nationalist stripe are either unknown to the non-nationalist audience or categorically unacceptable to it.”
To try to address these twin problems of Russian nationalism and a Russian nationalist messenger, Solovey says, he is, after “consultations with friends and those who share these views,” heading “a working group to form a new political party,” a step that he suggests is for him both “natural and inevitable.”
The MGIMO professor points out that he “never was simply a scholar, observer or ‘ideologue,’” as those who know his many activities can attest. But now, because Russia is entering “an era of great change,” he feels compelled to declare himself “openly and publicly” as a political actor.
The party he hopes to found in 10-12 days, will be one that will represent “a new force” in the country, “a party of the national majority … which appeals to Russians and to all in Russia who seek freedom, justice and democracy” and which will be “in the center of the political spectrum” with a chance to win rather than a marginal group condemned to permanent defeat.