Sunday, March 23, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Russism Last Refuge of Putinism, Ikhlov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 23 – Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea in the name of protecting ethnic Russians living beyond the borders of the Russian Federation is based on his adoption of the latest form of „Russism,“ a doctrine that is likely to prove his last and only short-lived refuge from an elite and popular revolt against him, according to Yevgeny Ikhlov.

            The Moscow commentator notes that „Russism“ was first used by Aleksandr Herzen to designate „the radical and imperial direction in Slavophilism.“ More recently, it was employed by Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudayev to denounce Moscow’s policies against his poeple and by his followers as „a full equivalent of Nazism“ (

            And most recently, Ikhlov continues, it has been used „already with positive connotations“ by rightwing Russian nationalists as „a synonym of the doctrine of Russian ethnic supremacy and self-sufficiency.“  But as such, it was only one of the trends circulating in that part of the Russian political spectrum.

            But „everything changed when at the beginning of March 2014, Putin suddenly ’nationalized’ Russian ethnic nationalismand declared himself the protector of ’the Russian world,’ a concept which is ideologically close to the World Rusian Popular Asembly and which defines it as populationn of the entire area of Russian and Orthodox (subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate) of the former USSR; that is, Russian in the ’civilizational’ sense.“

            „By an irony of fate,“ the Moscow commentator continues, the destructive Crimean War of 1853-1855 began with a similar ultimatum to Constantinople „to recognize the Russian Empire as hte protector of all Christians of hte Eastern rite in the Ottoman Empire,“ although few now appear to remember tht.

            „Russism,“ he continues, „has become a principly new stage of Putinism.“ As doctrine and practice, Putinism is „a pseudo-republic form of historical imperialauttocracy adapted to the realities of the 21st century but having, especially in the provinces a high degree of post-Stalinism.“ It is in short, a kind of „dispersed“ form of despotism.

            Until this month, Putinism had been directed at „the inclusion of Russia in the Western world as a highly autonomous subject“ which, in the name of sovereignty could „liquidate democracy.“  And it was based on „positioning Russia first as an ’enlightened European’ counterweight to the brutal America of Bush Junior and then as a conservative counterweight to the left-liberal ’pressure’ in Western Europe.“

            „Now everything has been changed,“ and the Putin regime has „consciously opposed itselfto the ’civilied world,“ has sacrificed the „highest achievement of Soviet diplomacy – the Helsinki Final Act of 1975“ and that agreement’s role as the de facto peace treaty following World War II.

            This „’renewed’“ Putinism has decided to forego „’soft force’“ and to use military force instead, a shift with far-reaaching consequences.

            What is especially striking, Ikhlov says, is that this Russism is something that has been ordered from the top down rather than being the result of popular feeling. It is thus „completely artificial ... [as] there was no national idea of re-uniting Crimea into Russia,“ however much Putin and his propagandists suggest otherwise.

            Also striking it how fast this „national idea“ was realized. In most cases, such achievements take years if not decades, but Putin carried it out in a few days.  On February 18, no one expected this; but on March 18, a month later, he was on track to achieving it, although without a clear realization of its costs.

            To make his point, Ikhlov says that those who condemn Churchill and Roosevelt for handing over Eastern and Central Europe to Stalin at Yalta „forget that Stalin ’handed over’ his supporters in the West of the dividing line.“  And those supporters were wiped out in Greece, Yugoslavia and, more softly, in Western Europe.

            So it is again now, Ikhlov insists, because Russians in Ukraine and Moldova are now as a result of Putin’s seizure of Crimea left in the hands of peoples who were never anti-Russian before but are very much anti-Russian now.

            Putinism has nothing more to offer them or Russians at home. „He has already give national-populism everything that he can having sacrificed his entire foreign policy and longstanding image stratgy.“  Moreover, by his action, he has further „personalized“ power in Russia and thus has become responsible for everything that will happen.

            He and his supporters have forgotten or did not ever learn what that can lead to: „A classical example is the fate of the outburst of popularity of Nicholas II at the start of the First World War,“ support that „within one year was replaced by rapidly growing disapppointment and alienation.“

            Putin’s own establishment, which followed him „’toward the West’“ has now lost out, and „the popular masses having celebrated“ Crimea „will very quickly discover that they are surrounded by the same judges and bureaucrats, the same and even in some places higher taxes and prices.“

            Another sign of Russism, Ikhlov says, is „the doctrine of Russophobia which starts from the idea that the policy of other countries, especially Western ones, is directed against Russia.“ That hasn’t been true, but by acting as if it were, Putin is making it so, and he will suffer the same consequences Soviet leaders did when they acted in the same way.

            „Lenin called the Stolypin reforms the ’last stopgap’ of autocracy,“ Ikhlov says. He wasn’t entirely correct: the very last was the drawing in of Russia into the First World War. But the Stolypiin reforms by dividing the countryside did a great deal to „detonate the civil war of the spring of 1918.“

            „’The reunification of Crimea and Sevastopol’ and in general Russism is the next but last stopgap of Putinism,“ Ikhlov concludes.  The very last will be the ensuing purges within the  establishment, the latest playing out of the Russian tradition of „’good tsars’“ and „’bad boyars’“ until even that doesn’t save the man on top.

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