Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Unity Day Marches Highlighted Divisions among Russians

Paul Goble


            Staunton, November 5 – Demonstrations in the Russian Federation yesterday on the Day of National Unity highlighted how divided Russians now are, a pattern that led some to argue the Kremlin will not permit such marches in the future ( --or even that these divisions constituted the end of Russian nationalism (


            But however that may be, and such predictions are as hyperbolic as they are, in the Russian context, inevitable, the divisions on display yesterday are deep and significant, as Kavkazskaya politika commentator Svetlana Bolotnikova points out in an analysis today (


                As Bolotnikova points out, “the Day of National Unity, which was hurriedly thought up as a replacement for the celebration of the anniversary of the October revolution is working toward the division of the Russian people” as an ethnic whole and Russian nationalists in particular and toward the division of the Russian people from the Kremlin as well.


            In years past, she continues, “Russian nationalists used [the day] for opposing themselves to other indigenous peoples of Russia,” but this year in particular, its commemoration “demonstrates the division within the Russian movement” itself into nationalists, imperialists, and internationalists, each of which poses a challenge to the Kremlin.


            Indeed, she writes, “the opposition marches where they were permitted took place under the mutually exclusive slogans of opposition to the war with Ukraine and in support of Novorossiya,” even as some tried to promote “the unity of Russians of all nationalities” which is something many Russian nationalists oppose.


            Bolotnikova surveys the demonstrations in Moscow and elsewhere and makes three key observations. First, she says, the marches were smaller than in earlier years and much smaller than their organizers predicted. Second, they offered slogans that as she says are “mutually exclusive” and thus divisive.


            Third, and by far the most important, she suggests that each of the three trends on offer represent a challenge to the Kremlin. Those nationalists who oppose the war in Ukraine are obviously in opposition to Vladimir Putin’s policies. Those who back Novorossiya view Putin as a traitor for his failure to back the Donbas rebels more fully. 


            And even those who promote an internationalist vision of Russia are a challenge to Putin. While the Kremlin leader is usually careful to say that he backs a civic Russian identity, he and his propagandists have unleashed a nationalist tidal wave which has divided the population of that country between the ethnic Russian majority and the non-Russians.


            Bolotnikova concludes that the imperialist rhetoric now on offer in the Russian media is “dangerous” given that “half of the Caucasus accuses Russia” or conducting “’a colonial policy.’” But the communist internationalist message is no less dangerous because of the experiences the non-Russians had under communist rule in the past.


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