Staunton, January 28 – The behavior of Russian politicians defies any effort to classify them as one might do with their counterparts in the past, Ramazan Alpaut says. All too often, liberal democrats use nationalist rhetoric and communists cooperate with Russian nationalists and monarchists.
Even opposition figure Aleksey Navalny, generally classified as a liberal reformer, the Russian Liberty commentator says, uses language that many see as “code” for opposition to migrants and minorities and mean that among his backers are many who are anything but liberal (idelreal.org/a/28993723.html).
Alpaut describes this ideological intermixing in Tatarstan but clearly suggests that this is typical of the Russian Federation as a whole. On the one hand, it is a reflection of the widely noted weakness of Russian political parties which do not have the stable ideological positions that many of their counterparts in other countries do.
And on the other, it also is part of the familiar effort of political parties to reach beyond their political “base” in order to gain enough votes to win or at least do well enough to ensure that they will not disappear before the next round of voting.
But Alpaut calls attention to an aspect of this process that represents “something new in the political life of the country,” something that is not often commented upon but may be the most fateful consequence of the current presidential campaign: the legitimation of nationalist groups and the drift of almost all politicians and parties in Russia toward the right.
“If earlier [politicians and parties] publicly stayed away from the nationalists as some kind of outcasts,” the commentator says, “now, cooperation with yesterday’s marginals has become the norm. To use openly racist rhetoric, to elevate some and denigrate others is now completely normal.”
And he asks rhetorically: How could it be otherwise? No one believes in the economic and diplomatic successes the authorities constantly talk about. “People are tired of unending defeats and they simply want to feel important.” The political elites across the spectrum feel this and are making use of it to try to win votes.