Monday, April 22, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Russia Must Be ‘for All Those Who Don’t View Its State Interests as Alien,’ Kholmogorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 22 – Like many Russian nationalists, Egor Kholmogorov has struggled to define the slogan “Russia for the Russians” in a way that will not spark the disintegration of the Russian Federation by alienating non-Russian groups, and he has now offered one: Russia must be a country “for all those who do not view the interests of the Russian state as alien.”

            In an interview conducted by Aleksey Polubota for “Svobodnaya pressa, Kholmogorov, who edits the “Russky obozrevatel’” portal, Kholmogorov argues that the slogan, “Russia for the Russians,” is neither extremist nor insulting to non-Russians if it is understood correctly (

            The slogan does not exclude the Tatars. For them and for all the other non-Russian peoples, “Russia is for everyone who does not view the interests of the Russian state as alien” to themselves but who understand that “Russia is a state which was created by the efforts of the Russian people and which can exist only as an [ethnic] Russian one.”

            If ethnic Russians conclude that the state does not recognize them in this role and that Russia is not in fact “a state of the [ethnic] Russians, then there will occur the instantaneous “default” of the Russian Federation, Kholmogorov argues.

            The reason for that conclusion, he continues is that “the very quality of the current state is poor.” It doesn’t provide good services to its people. “And the single thing which forces our people to put up with this is that Russia is conceived by them as [ethnic] Russian, as an [ethnic] Russian state.”

            If that changes, and there are signs that it is, Kholmogorov argues, then the Russian state will collapse as “a unified political space from Kaliningrad to the Southern Kuriles.”

            To prevent that from happening, the slogan “Russia for the Russians” must be institutionalized in four ways. First, Russia must be legally defined as “the state of the [ethnic] Russian people.” Second, all ethnic Russians living outside the Russian Federation must have an automatic right to Russian citizenship.

            Third, Kholmogorov continues, the special privileges that the non-Russian republics within the Russian Federation must be eliminated. And fourth, immigration from Central Asia must be severely limited lest it overwhelm the absorptive capacity of the Russian population.

            Responding to suggests from his critics that he is a Westernizer, Kholmogorov says that he does not consider himself one especially since the West seems intent on imposing its system on others “with the methods of the Mongolian despotism.” He admits to the charge only to the extent that Russia is a European country which has extended the borders of Europe to the Pacific.

            The reason for his focus on limiting immigration, the Russian nationalist continues, is that the actions of the Soviet and Russian state have left Russian society without the basis for self-defense.  “This is not our fault” but that of the regime.  And today, Soviet collectivism still leads Russian to view “any crowd of more than three people as a threat.”

            That needs to change. Russians need to be inspired and the best way for them to be inspired is through “the idea of Russian nationalism,” the principle of the brotherhood of Russian individual people.  That can lead to a rebirth of the nation and of “a consciousness that people together can resolve great tasks.”

             Unfortunately, he says, the current Russian president is incapable of promoting that development.  Vladimir Putin’s worldview is limited to strengthening “the administrative vertical.” But he does not have a clear vision of how to promote Russian identity or to recognize that its absence is the most serious threat the country faces.

            When he took part in a meeting with Putin a year ago, Kholmogorov says, it became obvious that the Russian president fears “most of all a repetition of the Chechen events of the 1990s. And he is ready for many victims if only he can avoid the repetition of a military conflict of that size.”

            For Putin, it is clear, “nothing could be more terrible than that,” the Russian nationalist says, noting that he told him that “the present situation is much more threatening for the Russian people” even though they are not taking military losses in the same way.  Now, they are being denigrated and even killed on the streets of their own cities, something “much more terrible.”

            Every such death, Kholmogorov continues, “demoralizes us much more than ten deaths in a war” because “a society which sees” that its government is prepared to kowtow to those who have been shooting at Russians “begins to disintegrate.”  Putin does not have a systematic understanding of that reality.

            At present, the Russian nationalist concludes, Putin is saved “only by the lack of alternatives” and “the political insanity of his opponents.”  But that can change and change quickly, Kholmogorov suggests, if someone offers a clear vision for the Russian people and the Russian state.

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