Sunday, June 22, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Izborsky Club Leader Calls for ‘Renewal’ of Russia Elite to Build Empire

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 22 -- Russia has been able to defend and then expand its empire only when it has “recruited new and good people,” according to Vitaly Averyanov, the director of the Institute of Dynamic Conservatism and a leader of the influential Izborsky Club headed by Aleksandr Prokhanov.

            Averyanov told a St. Petersburg meeting of that group on Thursday that when the Russian elite has not been “renewed,” as he says occurred during Perestroika, the  country’s elite split apart along ethnic lines with its members seizing the assets of the union republics for their personal gain but ignoring the interests of the nation as a whole (

            As a result of those divisions and individual selfishness, he said, a renewal of the elites that could have saved the Soviet Union did not happen. And unless a renewal of the elite happens now, that group of people will not be able to fulfill the task of rebuilding the empire set by the supreme authority.”

            “For the Russian nation today, the myth of empire is needed as a so-called ‘attractor’” to win support for achieving that goal. Only new people, without the burdens of the last two decades, can hope to do so, words that appear to call for a wholesale re-division of property and a purge of at least some of those now close to the top leadership.

            Maksim Kalashnikov, a longtime member of the Izborsky Club, focused on where the Kremlin might find replacements for some current officials in order to be successful in promoting the imperial project and the re-industrialization of the country that Kalashnikov argues is a pre-condition for that.

            He pointed to four “reservoirs”: innovative business leaders,  heads of regions where progress is being made – there are “not so many” of these, Kalashnikov acknowledged – municipal and district political leaders, and those who will emerge in the course of re-industrialization.

            Other speakers at the Izborsky Club meeting echoed these themes.

            The club’s president, Prokhanov, said that the time had come for his group, which enjoys enormous influence in the Kremlin, to move beyond general declarations about the need for a new empire to specific suggestions for how such a state should be prepared for and built. That empire, he continued, must involve the promotion of a powerful state along with “a synthesis of cultures, faiths, and the potentials of various peoples.”

            St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavenko held up his city as a place around which the Russian empire was built and suggested that “today a large and best part of [its] preserve in themselves the ‘genes of state-centered-ness.”  To build on that, he called for the creation of an internet museum on the Russian Empire.

            Publicist Nikolay Starikov said that the restoration of the empire must begin as a thought experiment, one that the intellectual elite must describe in terms of a militarily strong state, an ethnically and religiously diverse population, the setting of imperial goals, and viewing the Eurasian and Customs Unions as the places where “our statehood must develop further.”

            Valery Korovin, director of the Center for Geopolitical Expertise, said that Russia’s elites must be prepared to demonstrate the differences between Western “oceanic” empires “which enslaved their colonies” and the “land” Russian empire “which brought to its borerlands the best cultural and scientific achievements, development and well-being.”

            And Andrey Vassovich, a nationalist commentator, added that Moscow must block the penetration of ideas opposed to such values and should even consider the creation of an all-Russian radio station devoted to the promotion of imperial values and the creation of elites capable of implementing them.

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