Thursday, July 27, 2017

Kremlin Views Russian Nationalism as a CIA ‘Project,’ Prosvirnin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 27 – The Kremlin because of its Soviet-KGB background views Russian nationalism as the work of the CIA and other Western intelligence services but at the same time fears that a deracinated non-ethnic civic nation would not be capable of mobilizing Russians in a crisis, according to Yegor Prosvirnin, the editor of the now-blocked Sputnik i pogrom portal. 

            In an interview with Rosbalt’s Sofya Mokhova, the outspoken Russian nationalist says that he is convinced the Presidential Administration closed his site because it fears that the Russian nationalist message is reaching too many Russians and particularly members of the elite (

            Indeed, he argues, members of the elite are more likely to be attracted to the nationalist cause because they understand as ordinary people do not the real problems that people of other nationalities present to business, society and politics; and that is why, he continues, he has directed his site and his efforts precisely at the elite rather than at a mass audience. 

            That is especially disturbing to the Kremlin elite, “a cast of former and current coworkers of the KGB and FSB who have a very specific paranoid mentality. They consider their main enemy – don’t laugh! – Russian nationalism” which they view as “a project of Western special services” who orchestrated the disintegration of the USSR.

            Because this is so, Prosvirnin says, “any attempt by the authorities to make friends with nationalism is always a political technological trick in which they themselves do not believe.” 

            According to the nationalist activist, “liberal nationalism is the natural worldview for any present-day urban Russian resident under 40. And the higher the individual’s level of education, the more he or she will be inclined to national ideas.” Prosvirnin says his portal was thus “mainstream, but mainstream among a generation which is not now decisive.”

            The authorities can “close Sputnik, put [him] in prison, but issues about human rights about the nation and a nation state which provided the side with its population will not be diminished thereby.  If the Kremlin stops one young person from shouting “the emperor has no clothes,” someone will take his place. Moreover, closing the site won’t put clothes on the ruler.”

            Tragically, he continues, Russians are limited by the understanding of nationalism that existed in Soviet time, one completely different from those in the West. Moreover, Russians “who grew up in a society so deformed as to consider ‘positive discrimination’ the norm naturally understand by ‘nationalism’ some completely wild things.”

            Russians need to understand how others understand nationalism, Prosvirnin argues, and hence he says that “a Russian nationalist must know English because in English, a reasonable conversation about nationalism is possible, easy and acceptable but in Russian” it still is not given the Soviet terms still around.

            “I agree,” he tells his interviewer, “that the Russian Federation is very much lagging behind the civilized world.” Nationalists are coming to power everywhere in the advanced Wesst, but “only in backward, provincial Russia are backward provincial journalists who don’t read the key publications of the first world in the original and still believe in globalization, friendship of the peoples and other ideals of the hippies.” 

            The Russian regime has become especially concerned about national identity as a result of its experience in Syria. The KGB types in the Kremlin “are not entirely fools and understand that there are no ‘multi-national Russians’” just as there are no Syrians, an artificial identity if there ever was one.

            But these KGB officers think that they can “build a nation” via the construction of “a total state, hoping that tightening the screws will save them. It won’t. A state without a nation is always very rickety and weak,” the nationalist editor says.

            His interviewer then asks him to define his terms. “Nationalism,” he points out, “is a relatively recent phenomenon which began after the Westphalian world and achieved maturity only in the 19th century, the classical period of nation states. There were no nations and could not be any nations before book printing and mass education which allowed for the spread of identities.”

            In addition, Prosvirnin continues, “one should distinguish between a people (an ethno-cultural community) and a nation (a cultural-political one).  A nation becomes fully itself when it acquires economic, political and media-educational institutions. The striving of a people for control over institutions and its transformation into a nation is called nationalism.”

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