Staunton, November 1 – Anton Shekhovtsov, a scholar at the Austrian Humanities Institute and Britain’s Legatum Institute, says Europe should respond to the pressure of Kremlin-controlled media by creating “an alternative Russian world, a network including public organizations, media, and cultural figures who share European values.”
He made his proposal at a conference in Riga organized by Latvia’s NATO support group and the Latvian ministries of defense and foreign affairs, and he repeated his arugments to Igor Vatolin of the Spektr news agency (spektr.press/pora-otobrat-u-kremlya-monopoliyu-na-russkij-yazyk-nuzhen-li-evrope-drugoj-russkij-mir/).
“That version of the Russian world which is being offered and advanced by the Russian leadership,” Shekhovtsov says, “seeks to attach to the Russian Federation or more precisely to the pseudo-values of the Putin regime and to the extent possible to all Russian speakers living beyond its borders.”
Putin himself is not that important in the long run, but his version of the Russian world unfortunately could have a life long after he leaves office, the scholar continues. And thus it is “completely probably that tens of millions of Russians for many years yet will live according to the rules imposed by this regime.”
And that of course means that “the existing version of the Russian world threatens Russian speaking people in the EU and in other countries beyond the borders of the Russian Federation.” There are some in Russia itself who are trying to promote an alternative Russia and Russian culture, and they deserve praise and assistance, Shekhovtsov says.
“The alternative European Russian world” he is calling for “is called upon to demonstrate a different approach to Russian culture which is undoubtedly an achievement of all humanity.” That alternative can best be promoted by uniting émigré Russian outlets committed to European values and creating a pan-European Russian television network.
According to the scholar, “the strategic task of this undertaking is to deprive the Kremlin of its monopoly on the Russian language and Russian culture, to make the Russian language audience more adequate and rooted in European values that are in no way foreign to Russia” in the best sense.
NATO’s task involves hard power; this network is about soft power and thus it will require new agreements among the countries of the West. Reaching a consensus won’t be easy as the lack of an adequate response to Russia in the media world now shows. But it can be reached, Shekhovtsov says.
And there is growing recognition that “to put an equals sign between the Putin regime and all the people of Russia and even more Russian language and culture beyond its borders is stupid and short-sighted.” Russians who have experienced “the delights of Putinism” know this, although many still suffer from the Stockholm syndrome of identifying with their oppressor.
Unfortunately, the situation today is not like that of the interwar period when the first Russian emigration and the Soviet state represented “two Russian worlds, one Soviet in the borders of the USSR and the other the world of the Russian emigration … Today exists only one Russian world and that is the Kremlin’s version of it.”
If the West is to defend itself against the depradations of Putinism and promote European values, Shekhovtsov says, it has no choice but to ensure that once again there are two Russian worlds and that one of them is not controlled by Putin and his comrades in arms.