Saturday, July 11, 2020

Putin’s Patriotism Truly ‘Last Refuge of a Scoundrel,’ Khasanov-Pashkovsky Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, July 9 -- Samuel Johnson’s classic observation that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel” applies with special force to Vladimir Putin’s version now on offer, according to Sergey Khasanov-Pashkovsky, a conservative Christian nationalist who lives in St. Petersburg.

Many people, both supporters and opponents of the Kremlin leader’s proposals, have concluded that the latest set of amendments represents a significant bow in the direction of Russian nationalists, he writes in the Riga-based Harbin portal (

But in fact, the formulations contained in the constitutional amendments are clear only in the one case the Kremlin really cares about – extending Putin’s time in office – and are so poorly crafted that they do not reflect the national interests of ethnic and political Russians but only the narrow interests of Putin and his regime.

That reality, he says, has been obscured by the fact that many nominally “nationalist” groups have sung the praises of what Putin has done even though if one takes their statements seriously, one can see that these Kremlin allies aren’t really patriots of their own country but rather agents of the regime.

Because that is so, Khasanov-Pashkovsky says, Putin’s patriotism is an oxymoron and the sooner he and his regime are removed from the scene, the better if the genuine patriotic interests of the Russian nation and all the other peoples of the Russian Federation are to be able to flourish rather than continue to be perverted.

The conservative Christian commentator focuses on two things, the arguments advanced by two “so-called” nationalists, Leonid Reshetnikov, an SVR lieutenant general who heads the Two-Headed Eagle Society, and Mikhail Smolin, who before he became a Putin loyalist was a monarchist, and the provisions of the amendments that are anything but pro-nationalist.

The problem with the statements in support of Putin’s amendments by Reshetnikov and Smolin is that they take the idea put about by the Kremlin that the changes are in the direction of genuine nationalism at face value rather than subjecting each to careful analysis from a Russian nationalist perspective, the commentator says.

Had they actually paid attention to what Putin is offering, they would have seen what the Kremlin leader is doing and would not have continued to perform their assigned functions of misleading those who are in the Russian nationalist and patriotic camps.  But that didn’t and doesn’t happen by Kremlin design.

The Kremlin has made much about the inclusion of the word “God” in the new amendments, its stress on the uniqueness of Russian culture, and words about the Russian Federation as a successor state to the millennium of Russian statehood. But in none of these cases is the regime being clear.

It isn’t clear which God the constitution is referring to, although other Constitutions including that of Ireland make that crystal clear while protecting the rights of those who follow non-Abrahamic faiths fully. Nor is it clear what uniqueness or continuity one is speaking about either, although there are ways to talk about that.

All of this reflects the fact that the constitution only refers to the Russian people in the context of the Russian language which, Khasanov-Pashkovsky points out, is the native language of many peoples within the borders of the Russian Federation. What then is their God or gods, what is the uniqueness of the culture, and what is the continuity the Kremlin is referring to?

“Hurrah patriots” like Reshetnikov and Smolin ignore all these problems, and that means they are not really patriots at all but Kremlin loyalists who are quite prepared to ignore “the crushing harm which the powers daily impose” on the Russian and other peoples of the country and on the Russian Orthodox Church and other faiths as well.

It is vitally important that Putin not be allowed to claim as his something that he does not have any part of. He is not a patriot in any meaningful sense: he is interested only in his own power and is quite prepared to ignore or even trample on the Russian and other peoples of his country.

That is something, Khasanov-Pashkovsky says, genuine Russian nationalists and patriots must make clear lest they be exploited and their causes besmirched by “the last refuge of a scoundrel” that Putin and his regime have on offer.  

(For background on the far right’s promotion of Putin’s constitutional amendments despite its criticism of other recent Kremlin actions, see

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