Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Window on Eurasia: ‘The Russian People No Longer Exists,’ Russian Nationalist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 12 – Maksim Kalashnikov, a leading Russian nationalist commentator, says that “the Russian people no longer exists” and that its disappearance as an integral collective threatens the future of the country because there is no one left to defend it against challenges domestic and foreign.

            In an interview with “Svobodnaya Pressa” that was posted online yesterday, Kalashnikov argued that “people who call themselves [ethnic] Russians do not represent themselves as a people” because that “people [narod] has been deconstructed” during the course of the post-Soviet period (www.svpressa.ru/politic/article/64094/).

            According to Kalashnikov, “in place of a community of people” forming a nation, there are in the Russian Federation today various “islands which consist of people with similar habits of mind.”  And as a result, “the [ethnic] Rusians are in a wounded [and thus worse] position than the other ethnoses” of the country.”

            “That which is permitted to these ethnoses is prohibited in a completely open fashion to the Russians,” he said. “Imagine if the Russians in Grozny attacked Chechen women, sped around that city in cars with loud music and with guns in the trunk.  Or  name a Russian oblast which would permit itself to have a practically independent 50,000-man army.”

            It’s not just the Caucasus is being fed by the rest of the country – in fact, Kalashnikov noted, the amount of money involved is less than the amount Russian bureaucrats steal – but it is in the status and even nature of the contemporary group of Russians that some of them still call a nation.

            That represents a major change from Soviet times, Kalashnikov insisted.  Russians then “did not cut themselves off from their nationality; in fact we were a state-forming people, although this was not written in the Constitution” of that time.  “Our people had a single will,” and it was manifest in state policy.

            During perestroika, the Soviet system of economics was destroyed and at the same time, Kalashnikov suggested, the consciousness of Russians, “who were constantly subjected to information bombardings” was destroyed as well.”  As a result, he says, “the Russians ceased to be a people [narod].”

            Kalashnikov said that he finds ludicrous the claims of certain nationalists that the Russian people now has risen up because it has gotten rid of its imperial possessions. This “’liberation from empire’,” he continued, in fact has led “to the liberation of the [ethnic] Russians from themselves.” And that has rendered them a “colonial” population “which is easy to exploit.”

            The non-Russians, other than the Ukrainians and Belarusians who, Kalashnikov maintained are part of the Russian people historically, have suffered less since 1991 because they had less to lose, but even they have suffered demographic declines in most cases, although in that regard too the ethnic Russians have suffered the most.

            The winners, if one may call them that, after 1991 were “the most primitive [peoples] who could live under conditions of chaos, who were closer to the most primitive conditions of life, who fed themselves from the land or preserved their clanic ties.” Among such peoples are many in the North Caucasus.

            As a result of this reversal of fortune, “the Caucasians have lost respect for the Russians just as the Russians have lost respect for themselves.  When we were a great industrial people, we could say: ‘Look, we are able to do anything.”  But now, “how can present-day Russians be proud” of what has taken place, Kalashnikov asked rhetorically.

            What achievements can Russians point to now?  Putin “recently compared the Siberian pipeline with BAM.  But that is to compare the incomparable.  BAM foresaw the complex development of an enormous territory,” while the pipeline simply carries more of Russian natural resources to foreign markets.

            Unfortunately, there is little chance that the Russian national movement will cope with this anytime soon, Kalashnikov said.  It is divided by the ambitions of its would-be leaders and by the divisions among those who call themselves Russians.

            There are some indications, he suggested that Russians today are at approximately the same situation as the Kievan Rus, who fell to pieces on the eve of the Mongol-Tatar yoke.  Their civilization died, but from them arose the contemporary Russians.”

            Now, “Russians of the contemporary type are dying, and out of them possibly will appear a new nation.” But that will require “cataclysms” and a change in behavior. It is possible it will also involve the mixing” of the Slavic, Finno-Ugric, and Tatar communities into “something new.” But that is a matter for the somewhat distant future, not an issue for today.

            The process by which Russians are ceasing to be a people has gone so far, Kalashnikov concluded, that it has become “self-supporting and automatic.”  Everyone concerned about the Russians should reflect upon this, he said, and ask “whether he himself is not guilty that in our society ever more adults are idiots with the consciousness of a six-year-old child.”

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