Saturday, May 27, 2017

Putin’s Recipe for Civic Peace Won’t Stop Polarization of Russian Society, Remizov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 27 – Vladimir Putin’s statement this week that “civic peace is shaky” in Russia and that “our common obligation is to do everything within our power to preserve the unity of the civic Russian nation” reflects his concerns about new debates over 1917 given the approaching anniversary of the October Revolution, Mikhail Remizov says.

            But the Kremlin leader’s recipe for maintaining unity – not discussing openly which side was right and which was wrong – won’t do anything to block the ongoing “polarization in society” along both “ideological and ethno-religious lines,” according to the head of the Moscow Institute for National Strategy (

                It is important to recognize, Remizov argues, that the ideological divide between “the reds” and “the whites” in Russian society is deeper and more profound now than it was in the 1990s because, even though the powers that be have changed their “façade,” “the clash of ‘communists’ and ‘anti-communists’ has again intensified.” 

            This is “a symptom,” the Moscow commentator says, “of the sense by society of Russia’s lack of political and economic success over the last quarter of a century,” something that has only been exacerbated by the choice of the authorities to focus on the past rather than talk about the future.

            And it also reflects, Remizov continues, what he describes as the government’s “cult of diversity,” something that it inherited from Soviet times and that makes real unity difficult.  The country needs an integral vision and a program to support that vision based on “the Russian language, Russian culture, and Russian historical memory.”

            If the government were to focus on programs to reduce social inequality, he argues, that would go a long way to reduce divisions because it would serve as “a positive vector for the entire society” and “become a very good unifying factor.” But so far, the Putin regime has shown now willingness to move in that direction.

            Appended to Remizov’s interview are some brief remarks by Aleksandr Shatilov, deal of the sociology and political science faculty of Moscow’s Finance University.  He points out that foreign policy successes can unite the country as the annexation of Crimea in 2014 proved but says that the government has failed to follow up on that.

            Instead, he says, “the Russian elite acts clumsily and sometimes almost in a suicidal fashion” by its “inconsistent” actions and messages.  The same pattern is true in the fight against corruption, a fight that should unite the country but in fact is dividing it further.  Shatilov suggests Putin understands all this but has been unable to take the bureaucracy with him.

            As far as ideological clashes are concerned, the sociologist says, “in our intellectual community what is sometimes observed is a war of all against all. Liberals fight with state-thinking people, the state-thinking with communists, the communists with the Orthodox and so on.”

            And that is made worse, Shatilov says, “to put it mildly by some strange initiatives from the authorities themselves.” For example, putting up memorials to Mannerheim and Kolchak do nothing to unite people but only to divide the Russian people further.

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