Sunday, November 20, 2016

Russian Protest against Declaration of Official Ideology Rather Too Late, Pavlova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 20 – Last week, an appeal by some of Russia’s leading intellectuals against a move in the Duma to amend the Russian constitution and allow for the elaboration of an official state ideology attracted a great deal of attention; but Irina Pavlova argues the authors of the appeal are too late because Vladimir Putin has already introduced a new-old ideology.

            In the appeal, the authors say that “there is no doubt” that dropping the constitutional prohibition against a state ideology constitutes “a coup d’etat and makes yet another and perhaps the last fatal step on the path of transforming contemporary Russia into a totalitarian state” (

            One should treat “with all seriousness the danger of totalitarianism,” the authors of the appeal say. “One must not delay or be silent! We well remember the fates of totalitarian states of the last century, we remember the initial ‘triumph of the will,’ the rivers of blood … and the pathetic fiasco at the end.”

            “And for all this, the people pay,” the authors continue.  They pay with “millions of victims and tens of millions of mutilated fates. The peoples of Russia have paid a sufficient price so that this will never be repeated.”

            Unfortunately, Pavlova, a US-based Russian historian says, those making the appeal are far too late because the coup they are talking about not only has “already taken place” but did so “long ago” (

            The Putin regime “has an ideology.” It consists of “the traditional Russian great power obsession cleansed from communism and decked out in Orthodox clothing.” That ideology touches Russians deeply, “much more deeply than the communist ideas in the recent past ever did.”

            That “great power vision of the world” holds that “Russia is surrounded by enemies and must assert in the world its status as a great power,” and that idea has found sympathy and open support “by representatives of the majority of the population.”  “’Scratch’ a Russian,” Pavlova continues, “and you will find an advocate of great powerism.”

            “A Russian is ready to talk for hours about the greatness of Russia and about its special spirituality compared with the mercantilism West. From the legal formulation of this ideology,” she argues, little if anything “will change.” Instead, that will simply constitute a formal recognition of what is already “a fait accompli.”

            Attachment to this idea “united the powers that be, the elite, including its liberal wing … the people of Russia and indeed a significant part of progressive society,” Pavlova says.  It has its roots in the idea of Moscow as the Third Rome, an idea that over the centuries has been “transformed into an ideology.”

            Indeed, today, the historian says, there is every reason to speak about “Russian fundamentalism,”  which holds that “the Russian people is the bearer of a special morality and a special feeling of justice, a denial of the spiritless West as a model for social development, a vision of the future of Russia as an empire, and certainty in its special historical mission.”

            As in Soviet times, she concludes, “the Russian powers that be are ready even today to bring to the world the values of this civilization.” Indeed, they and the Russian population may be even more ready to promote these things than they were communist ideas. “But whether the world needs these values is already another question altogether.””


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