Friday, January 11, 2019

‘Unity of Russian Nation About Far More than Inviolability of State Borders,’ Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 11 – Since Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000, Russians have been obsessed with “one aspect of Russian ‘unity,’ territorial,” Vladislav Inozemtsev says; but “the unity of the Russian nation is not only about the inviolability of state borders but about much else and the neglect or suppression of these other aspects threatens Russia’s future.

            In a Snob column, the Moscow economist says that the unity of any nation, including the Russian, involves a recognition of common tasks and goals, a shared vision of the world, and sufficient confidence in society of these “elements of solidarity” that there can be debate about issues affecting its members (

            “The essence of civilized politics,” Inozemtsev continues, consists of discussions reflecting the different opinions of citizens within this common set of understandings and values. Unfortunately, “today, this does not seem to be the case in Russia;” and that lack is a more serious threat to Russian “unity” than is any “territorial” threat.

             According to the commentator, “two decades of the assertion of ‘the unity’ of the country has led however strange this may seem to a complete discrediting of the political processes at the all-national level.”  Even those who are nominally federal politicians now speak only about narrow local concerns.  Anything else is precluded by all the talk about “unity.”

            “And what is particularly important,” he argues, is that “the people also is ever less concerned about problems common for the country as a whole” and instead focuses more on narrow issues than on all-national one. That was demonstrated again and again over the past year.

            People were angry about the pension age boost and about new taxes, but relatively few took to the streets both absolutely and in comparison to the numbers who came out to protest local concerns be they the border change in Ingushetia and Chechnya, the handling of trash, or technogenic disasters of one kind or another.

            Russians were especially focused on the last because they have become a real risk to life and limb.  In the past year, more than 100 bridges and viaducts collapsed, shopping centers burned, and gas explosions outraged Russians without leading them to ask the kind of questions about general causes and general responsibility typical of most countries.

            The conclusions of the Dmitriyev group that Russians are losing interest in the foreign policy agenda and concentrating on domestic affairs attracted widespread attention. On the one hand, this appears to mean a reduction in the importance of the territorial unity of Russia in the minds of many Russians.

            But on the other, it highlights the absence and the need for social and mental unity which must be discussed and then recognized by the population.  That kind of unity can be achieved only if the powers that the powers that be show they are more concerned about them and want to involve them in a discussion of how the nation can function as one.

                Without that kind of mental unity, Inozemtsev says, there is a great danger that “regional problems” and especially those which show that some regions like Chechnya are “more equal” than others have the potential to lead to disappointment, anger and protests and “grow into serious destabilization.”
            According to the Moscow analyst, Russia desperately needs “a return to life of federal politics,” with real and not for show parties that can become instruments for discussing problems and what can be done about them and for ensuring that there is a genuine and not for show unity that makes such national unity a reality.

            “Russian can be united only when the concerns of one region become common for all and the problems of this or that branch or sphere of life are national.  Without this, all talk about ‘a united Russia’ lack any meaning, and measures of ‘trust’ any importance,” Inozemtsev concludes.

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