Monday, April 21, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Russian Nationalism and Feminism have Some ‘Unexpected Parallels,’ Kholmogorova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 21 – Russian nationalism, “however strange this may seem” to its adherents and to others as well, in fact shares many the same structural features of feminism, according to Natalya Kholmogorova, herself a leading Russian nationalist commentator in Moscow.

            She argues that the two both involve “a community of people who are arithmetically a majority in society and not a minority ... are not subject to direct force or enslavement but who consider that their rights have been violated and whose interests are being insufficiently attended to and who are struggle to obtain more” (

                But she continues that while liberal feminism of the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th generally achieved its goals before radical feminism which has a different agenda emerged, the kind of Russian nationalism analogous to liberal feminism coexists with a kind similar to radical feminism – and that is creating enormous problems.

            According to Kholmogorova, liberal feminism was concerned with “the struggle with the objective inequality of women,” with “suffragettes demanding that women gain access to ‘male’ professions, that they can work without restrictions, earn and dispose of property, vote and be elected.”

            In short, she says, the slogan of liberal feminists was and remains ‘’equal rights for women.’”  If one substitutes the word “Russians” for the word “women,” she asks rhetorically, does that not “remind” Russian nationalists of the position many of them have at the present time?

She suggests that the attitudes of the opponents of liberal feminism have even more striking parallels with those who oppose Russian nationalists.  Why the former asked should women think they need such rights when they are treated like “goddesses and queens?”  And why the latter ask do Russians need more than the celebration of their past triumphs?

 “Radical feminism” is something very different, but both it and its opponents also have some parallels in the case of Russian nationalism, she argues.  It emerged after the suffragettes had largely achieved their initial goals but because some women felt that “this was not enough and decided to continue the struggle further, going both deeper and more broadly.

The core idea of “radical feminism” in Kholmogorov’s words is that “life in ‘a patriarchal society so hopelessly disfigures women by imposing ‘patriarchal structures’ in their consciousness that [they] turn out to be incapable of liberating themselves” even with the equal rights that liberal feminism had secured them.

“In a strange way,” she continues, “having begun with an uncompromising war with men and with the idea of ‘sisterhood’ (that is, unqualified female solidarity), radical feminism has shifted to a war with women themselves, either those who are defined as “deceived little fools” or “in the worst case as dirty traitors.” That too resembles, she says, certain Russian nationalist realities.

Fortunately for the women’s movement, Kholmogorov continues, these two views of feminism did not come into their own at the same time.  One can only imagine how things would have played out if they had, she says: the opponents of liberal feminism would have cited the ideas of radical feminism in order to defeat the former.

Kholmogorova says she is saying all this because it is all too often the case that some Russian nationalists instead of proudly demanding equality from a position of strength are inclined to talk about “’the Russian disease’” or some such thing and the opponents of Russian nationalism use it to weaken the Russian nationalist cause.

The real suffragettes, she says, presented themselves not as “’weak’” but as “strong, brave, independent and capable of dealing with their own affairs.” And because of that, they achieved their goals.  Those who present themselves as weak face far more challenges. “Such is the logic of the situation,” she says, for feminists and for Russian nationalists.

Unfortunately, some Russian nationalists spend so much time talking about the ways in which their Russianness has been weakened that their arguments are often used by the opponents of Russian nationalism and at a minimum disorder the movement, Kholmogorov says. “Those who don’t understand that haven’t passed even the preparatory class in the school of life.”

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