Monday, August 21, 2017

Putin Drops the People from Uvarov's Russian Nationalist Trinity

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 21 – Russian nationalists of almost all stripes have taken as their touchstone Count Sergey Uvarov’s classical trinity, “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and People.” But now Vladimir Putin has defined the unity of Russian nationality in a new way, one that drops the third element and leaves Russia as “Orthodoxy plus State Power.”

            Speaking in Russian-occupied Crimea on Friday, the Kremlin leader argued that Russians now sould make Khersones “a Russian ‘mecca,’” because it was there, in his view, that “the strengthening of the centralized Russian state began,” even though there had been other Russian state projects elsewhere such as Novgorod (

            “Here is the ideological basis for the unification of the Slavic tribes into a single Rusisan nation and the strengthening of a single national Russian state on the basis of several components, including a common market, a common language, a common faith, and the power of the prince.”

            According to Putin, “these are the four main components which led generally speaking to the establishment of a relatively contemporary by the measures of the times of a contemporary unified national Russian state and the establishment in its essential featues of the Russian nation as such.”

                Many commentators have pointed out just how historically inaccurate Putin’s words about Khersones are – see, for example, Andrey Kurayev’s remarks at -- but Russian analyst Andrey Illarionov makes an important point about what Putin’s words say about his understanding of Russia and its nation.

            “The Putin ideological formula of ‘a single national Russian state’ looks like a common faith and the power of the prince, that is, ‘Orthodoxy plus Autocracy.’”  The third element of Uvarov’s trinity – the people – is for the current Kremlin leader “completely superfluous” and thus has been dropped (

            Such a statist approach precludes the development of modern nationalism among Russians and means either that they will break out of Putin’s ideological straightjacket or find themselves stunted for yet another century or more while other nations based precisely on the people rather than the state or religion alone will be able to move forward. 

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