Staunton, November 9 – Many commentators are pointing to the absurdity of a proposal for a new Russian law that would impose criminal punishments for any call for separatism in the Russian Federation as a violation of the provisions of the Russian Constitution and an absurd prohibition on thought (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=527D64F9CDAA4).
But an article in today’s “Izvestiya” by Aleksandr Dugin suggests that more may be involved than yet another authoritarian measure. Its content reflects fears not only about nationalism among the non-Russian peoples but even more about the nationalism of the ethnic Russians themselves (izvestia.ru/news/560290).
Dugin suggests that any recognition of the right of nations to self-determination opens the door to developments that will ultimately threaten the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. Moreover, as disturbing as that may be, nationalism among ethnic Russians may be an even more serious threat “to the existence of the Russian people and that of the Russian state.”
The Eurasian leader indeed pointedly says that if Moscow continues to talk about “certain independent national rights … [it] will in fact step by step encourage directly or indirectly the development of separatist tendencies.” Consequently, he says, the Russian government must support “cultural identity instead of a political nation.”
All societies, Dugin begins, are “to one degree or another poly-ethnic” and none of them have been able to “completely” cope with their ethnic minorities. Many are prepared to recognize their “cultural autonomy, but the problems begin when those autonomies lead to “political demands.”
That is why Yugoslavia came apart, Dugin says, and today Russia must find “a balance between the [ethnic]Russian foundation, [ethnic] Russian identity, Russian language,” on the one hand, “and other forms of ethnic and cultural identity, including religious,” on the other. There is no obvious “optimal and ideal way out of this situation.”
But, Dugin continues, any formal state recognition of “national rights” is a threat because it provides aid and comfort to “separatist tendencies” because “a nation in the final analysis represents a political state.” Thus, “the very term nationality is not neutral but has a political dimension.”
The Eurasian philosopher says that in his view, “it is necessary to accept the poly-ethnic character” of the society of the Russian Federation but that this recognition “must not take on a political form” of any kind lest it lead to the disintegration of the country.
The current structure of the Russian Federation is an inheritance of the Soviet period, “when the division [of the country] into national republics was nominal because the party was above the law” and thus was able to maintain its dominance over “legal institutions.” But today, Dugin says, “this is already impermissible.”
Under current conditions, the influential Eurasianist says, the ethnically-based division of the Russian Federation is “a delayed action mine” and must be changed lest it lead from culture to politics and to the dismemberment of the country.
That is especially important because many ethnic Russians are now demanding self-determination for their nation, demands that are powering much of the new Russian nationalism but that must be opposed because they pose an even greater threat to the country’s territorial integrity than do the nationalisms of the minorities.
The demands of Russians for “the strengthening of [their] identity, its respect, development and consolidation” are “legitimate,” but they must not be allowed to become the basis for Russian nationalism “which will lead to exactly the same separatism as the separatism of other peoples.”
To prevent that development, “the word ‘nation’ must be returned to its historical context as a political form of state formation based on individual citizenship. Only that is a nation,” Dugin insists. “Everything else” is something else, for which there are “many fine terms.” But these things must not be confused.
The Eurasian leader says that this distinction must be imposed in a “harsh” manner, “legally, culturally, politically, and administratively, at all levels, at the level of education, at the level of the self-consciousness of elites, and at the level of the historical self-consciousness” of the population.
Just how harsh Dugin and more important Putin may be prepared if they choose that course remains to be seen, as does the amount of success they might have if they do. But Dugin’s article clearly suggests than more is going on than many who dismiss the proposed law against calls for secession as ”absurd” apparently think.