Thursday, July 5, 2018

Any World Cup-Induced Unity among Russians Spurious and Will Soon Dissipate, Portnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 5 – Russia’s unexpected run of victories in the World Cup has sparked celebrations among Russians of all kinds; and that in turn has generated claims that the World Cup has finally formed a unified nation among them. But there are compelling reasons to think that any such unity is spurious and will be short-lived, Vitaly Portnikov says.

            The Ukrainian commentator says that one of the reasons he is so certain that is the case is the way in which Ukrainians behaved during after the2014 European Championship, an event that also generated claims that that sporting event had been sufficient to unite Ukrainians of all kinds from east to west (

            It very quickly became apparent then, Portnikov continues, that “what had occurred during the championship was not so much unity as a temporary period of forgetting in which the narcotic of joy was injected into the bloodstream.  The championship passed and was forgotten as if it had never happened.”

            The only thing that lasted, he said was that in Ukraine then as in Russia now, such an international sporting event “became part of the corrupt mechanism which permitted the massive theft of funds from the state budget” for the benefit of the powers that be but at an ultimate cost to the people.

            “A united Ukrainian political nation was formed not in the days of the championship but during the Maidan and the ensuing war with Russia. Nations in general are not formed thanks to spectacles, fireworks, and parades … For the formation of a nation, a common goal is needed, and it must be real and not part of a game.

                Moreover, Portnikov says, “to [his] great regret, by common tests. Life and fate. That is what unified in 2014 the West, Center, South and East of Ukraine.”

            “But Russians today are not united by anything except a short-term pride” in their team. A few more days will pass – and everything will be just as it was before. The worker in Nizhny Tagil will again be focusing on the pension he is losing. The intellectual in Petersburg will reflect on his dying freedom. Navalny will be talking about the corrupt nature of Putin.”

            And “Putin will be thinking about establishing his power over the world.” In short, all will be where they would have been even if there had never been any competition and even if the Russian team had not done as well as it has. And that will reaffirm what many Russians and many others know about Russians.

            They are not united by anything “except the fact that they live on one territory that is delimited by state borders.” And even these borders, Portnikov points out, remain matters of dispute among many Russians.

            In general, the Ukrainian commentator says, “when people talk about the appearance of a political nation during football championships, this is testimony less about the birth than about the degeneration of the nation involved,” however much people want to believe otherwise for a few days.

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