Friday, January 19, 2018

Russian Reformers Failed to Take into Consideration Russian Nationalism and Orthodoxy, Chubais Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 19 – Anatoly Chubais, one of the main architects of Russia’s radical economic reforms in the 1990s, says that he now considers that one of the main errors he and his like-minded reformers may was “to a significant degree” their failure to take into consideration “the special features of Russian culture.”

            He and they, Chubais tells the RBC news agency, particularly failed to consider that “Orthodoxy is a serious and fundamental institution which one must understand rather than ignore.” Another failure was their failure to understand that “the Russian people is not the same as the Ukrainian people” (

            There are features in Russian culture which have held the country back, he continues, but there are other parts of this cultural tradition which could and have made a more positive contribution. Failure to consider that was a mistake, and had he and the reformers not made it, they would have developed a different and more successful strategy.

            Over the last 20 years, he says, Russian nationalism ahs evolved significantly. “Only someone incapable of seeing his own nose would fail to see that.”  Chubais adds that “nationalists now are in the governments of no fewer than 15 European countries,” a trend that is very suggestive.

            Chubais stresses in conclusion that “when liberals try to propose some recipes, then they ought to remember that they live in Russia and that their children live there too.”

The Russian reformer does not say but he very well could have that one of the reasons Russian reformers approached things as they did is that they were encouraged by their Western advisors who also downplayed the important of cultural differences and argued, from their triumphalist positions, that on key issues, one size fits all.

Igor Eidman, a Russian commentator for Deutsche Welle, says on his Facebook page today that Chubais’ recognition of the importance of culture and religion is “valuable,” but he expresses skepticism about how genuine the reformer’s transformation has been (

Until recently, Eidman says, “Chubais was certainly the politician in Russia most distant from Orthodoxy and Russian nationalism.” And the simplest explanation for his new political line is that is that the reformer “simply wants to become part of the Putin ideological mainstream” rather that remaining an outlier. He needs state support for ROSNANO.

That is likely the best explanation of his transformation, the commentator continues, but “in his own way, Chubais is sincere.” He clearly believes that the reformers of the 1990s miscalculated when they did not decide to use “Orthodoxy and nationalism as an effective ‘political whip.’” 

And “apparently, he sincerely envies Putin who has been able to strengthen and cement in this way the power of the new ‘elite’ over the new ‘plebeians.’”  Chubais and his colleagues of two decades ago obviously “missed this chance.” 

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