Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Window on Eurasia: The Kind of Russian Nationalism Putin Needs and the Kind He Doesn’t

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 9 – There are many kinds of Russian nationalism on offer today, a Russian Communist Party commentator says, but a major divide now lies between the kinds of Russian nationalism that President Vladimir Putin wants to promote and use and other kinds of Russian nationalism that he views as a threat and opposes.

            In an essay posted on the KPRF portal yesterday, T. Krasnov, who has written frequently on ethnic and religious issues in the past from a communist perspective, defines this divide as being one between “non-Russian Russian nationalism,” on the one hand, and “Russian Russian nationalism,” on the other (kprf.ru/party-live/opinion/117264.html).

            According to Krasnov, Putin “needs” only “non-Russian Russian nationalism,” a nationalism of Russians “who hate Russia and the Russian people” and who are prepared to allow large parts of the country to leave even if the country is reduced to the size of Belgium in the name of establishing “European values” in what little remains.

             Liberals and National Liberals hate Russia and engage in activities which not only do not threaten the Putin regime but help it out. Indeed, Krasnov insists, “it would be difficult to think up something more useful for the regime” than the willingness of these people to let the periphery go, something Putin can and does use to “shock the electorate” into voting for him.

            That is easy for the Russian president to do, the communist commentator suggests, because “for the majority of the population, the national democrats are just as alien as the hosts of Dozhd’ television or Australian aborigines. Moreover, these “non-Russian Russian nationalists” discredit real Russian nationalism among many genuinely Russian people.

            But there is also a kind of Russian nationalism “which Putin doesn’t need.”  Most people in Russia who call themselves nationalists understand under that term something very different than the national democrats.  They focus on “love for the Motherland” and “love for the nation” because they recognize that the Russian people are now in danger of degradation and collapse.

            Significantly, many of these “Russian nationalists” have “a clearly non-Russian appearance, being from Chukotka to Kalmykia and from Osetia to the Nenets Autonomous District,” Krasnov continues, because they too are animated by a love for their country and believe that they would be the losers if Russia collapsed.

            This kind of nationalism is “really dangerous for the regime” and can be called “Russian Russian nationalism,” even though unlike the other kind [of Russian nationalism], it does not undermine the status of other peoples of the country but rather “gives them a chance for survival.”

            Putin has tried to co-opt this kind of nationalism by talking about a popular front, but Krasnov argues that “Putin can present himself as a conservative and a patriot only under one condition – that he lacks any and all competition.”

            This confronts “Russian Russian nationalists” with a Hobson’s choice: they can either choose prison or they can fall to their knees as official patriots of the Popular Front variety.  If they choose the latter, “no one will be allowed” to speak openly about the fact that Putin is “their main enemy” when it comes to defending “Russian values.”

            Do they have a way out of this situation, Krasnov asks rhetorically. He says that they do if they understand that “Russia in the framework of the global capitalist system can be only a banana republic populated by natives,” with only these differences: oil instead of bananas and a population that earlier had a chance for better that has been taken away from it.

            Russia’s industry and agriculture is dying, he continues, and the population along with them.  “Within the framework of the capitalist system, the Russia people simply isn’t needed in the numbers that it has today.” Moreover, for that system, whether Russians or someone else extracts the oil and gas does not matter in “the slightest.”

            If genuine patriots understand that, Krasnov concludes, then they will learn that they can achieve their salvation only by combining Russian patriotism and socialism, and non-Russians among them, he suggests, need to draw the same conclusion given that they are “even more mistaken” if they think the West or China will welcome them any more than it has the Russians.

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