In these cases, Savvin continues, “nationalist ideology, in sync with anti-communism and an orientation toward Euro-Atlantic standards of democracy gave society the necessary ideological motivation and guaranteed a link with a historic tradition and thus established a simple and easily understandable system of coordinates” for policy.
The situation in the Russian Federation has been different. There nationalism and democracy stood apart from one another and even in hostile relationship to each other. They were not allies as they became in Ukraine where during the Maidan, there were priests and nationalists along with democrats, while in the Russian Bolotnoye there wasn’t such a mix.
Initially, there were some expectations that Russia would move in the same direction as the success stories, “but then everything fell apart. It fell apart approximately at the same time when the social-political structure of the Russian Federation began to acquire neo-Soviet elements.”
Those who opposed the nationalists fell back on an old Stalinist argument about the supposedly fundamental difference between nationalism of small peoples which can be good and nationalism of large peoples which is inevitably “expansionist, imperialist and in no way linked with democracy.”
In fact, nationalism of large nations can be liberationist, as was the case with Sun Yat-Sen in China and Mustafa Kemal in Turkey, directed as they were less at foreign occupiers than at domestic arrangements that kept their nations in thrall; and nationalism of small nations can be undemocratic.
Those who opposed Russian nationalism opened the way for the return of the Soviet nomenklatura, Savvin says; but “what kind of ‘liberalism’ could Soviet nomenklaturshchiki and chekists offer us other than the version which they studied in Soviet party schools?” In short, none at all.
Some democrats thought this problem could be avoided by jumping immediately toward “a multi-cultural society with open borders for all. But here the problem is what it always is: it is a beautiful idea but it won’t work in practice.” People aren’t ready in the short term to make that leap and so they will fall away from progress toward democracy.
What this means, Savvin says, is that “a national state will inevitably come in place of the neo-Soviet nomenklatura-oligarchic dictatorship” that now exists in Russia. “There simply aren’t any other variants. The only question is whether this will be a single state … of there will be complete disintegration into a whole raft of nation states.”
Different people will have different preferences about that, Savvinn says; but as for him, “a Transbaikal person by birth and a Petersburger by calling and now a forced émigré, the Motherland is not this or that portion but all of Russia, which he wants to see free and flourishing.”
And that in turn means that “there is simply no alternative to a national-democratic coalition constructed according to the type of the popular fronts of Eastern Europe and the Baltics at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s. Free Russia will be a national Russia or it won’t be at all.”