Sunday, February 9, 2014

Window on Eurasia: The Real ‘New Cold War’ is within Post-Soviet Russia, Analyst Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 9 –  Because post-Soviet Russia lacks the values and institutions which keep modern societies whole, it requires as do other societies without such common values and accepted institutions that tensions which naturally arise be limited by the actions of an authoritarian ruler, according to a Russian social scientist.

            In a commentary posted on Friday, Pavel Krupkin who has written widely on identity issues argues that as a result of this lack of societal constraints, Russia for the time being continues to require an authoritarian ruler to control what he says is “a cold civil war” there ([1402677586654951]&action_type_map=[%22og.likes%22]&action_ref_map=[]).

            Krupkin makes his argument in the following way. He says that “the rational basis” of intolerance in any society is “the expectation of harm from competing groups or social structures” on the basis of past experience “and customary distrust” that these groups or structures will have any reason to restrain themselves from behaving as they have.

            There are “two ideal types” of limiting the expression of such hostility, he argues: “an autocratic authority with his threat of punishment/force and the values/institutions of preservation of social wholeness without an autocrat.” 

            In developed Western countries, the second approach is predominant in limiting “the level of splits in society – through social values and institutions which are guaranteed by the unity of the nation which supports their political community.”  Such communities not only provide a common social identity but also promote negotiations designed to ensure a “win-win” outcome.

            Unfortunately, such a nation has not emerged in post-Soviet Russia. (According to Krupkin, in Soviet times, the CPSU was “a nation in Western terms.”) And because it has not, the only limiting factor on the expression of hostilities among various groups is the power of the autocrat.

            The situation is even worse than that, he continues.  “In the mass consciousness [of residents of the Russian Federation] has occurred practically the complete de-legitimation of open (bridging) types of collective identities so that the sense of society is formed on the basis of closed (bonding) types of the latter (families, clans and corporate groups).”

            Recently, “the ruling group of the Russian Federation has again returned to the idea of institutionalization of the unity of the country through the establishment of a common collective identity for all of its residents.”  The aim of their project is the establishment of “a [non-ethnic] Russian civic nation.”

            But as currently outlined, this new identity does not rest either on “sovereignty over territory or equality” and therefore it is more honestly called “civilizational” because that supports the ideas of “the inalienable importance of the autocrat at its symbolic center and the structural translation of ‘patterns of power’ in a hierarchy from center to periphery.”

            Moreover, Krupnin says, because this identity is being imposed from the top down rather than the other way around, it effectively deprives “not only socially subordinate groups but also peripheral elites” of their status as subjects of social and political life,” something that causes the latter to be permanently suspicious and often at odds with the center.

            Despite these shortcomings, however, Krupnin insists, the promotion of such an identity represents “a certain win for the ruling group.”  But the sense elites on the periphery have that they are victims of injustice means that the situation is “unstable” and consequently that force still has to be employed to keep things from spinning out of control.

            Just how that could happen was shown in 1989-1992 when the center “for some reasons was not able to use force “of the necessary amount” in the periphery, despite the fact that “the ‘feeling of belong’ in the Soviet system was much stronger” than it has ever been in post-Soviet Russia.

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