Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Civic Russian Nation is Emerging in Opposition to Kremlin, Khodorkovsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 10 – For several year, Vladimir Putin and his regime have sought to create a civic Russian nation from above, Mikhail Khodorkovsky says; but they have failed. Nonetheless, as the reactions of the Russians to the World Cup and to the Kremlin’s plans to boost pension ages show, one is emerging – but in opposition to the Kremlin rather than its tool.

            “A civic nation,” the Russian opposition leader says, “is not only language and history but also something held in common about the present and future.” A civic Russian nation is far from completely formed, but the one emerging is breaking with “the corrupt authoritarianism and absurd centralization” of the Putin regime (

            According to Khodorkovsky, “anyone who feels himself a part of the civic Russian nation instinctively seeks the chance to link up with others of like mind in order to preserve such an important commonality for better times.”  And he will even celebrate some things like the World Cup that the regime has had a hand in.

            Some Russians, of course, will celebrate the regime’s role and even give credit to Vladimir Putin for everything that that happens, including the remarkable victories of the Russian team. But those are not and will not be members of any future civic Russian nation once it comes together.

            Far more Russians, Khodorkovsky says, celebrated Russian victories as just that Russian ones, identifying with the team as a manifestation of their nation rather than an emanation of the Kremlin or Putin personally. They are members of a civic Russian nation being born and that will only become more important in the future.

            “It is hard to condemn those” who having lost so much to the regime have wanted to protest against it by rooting for the opponents of the Russian team. But they are ultimately wrong because the team is Russia’s not Putin’s and as such is one more basis for the emergence of a civic Russian nation in opposition to the Kremlin leader.

            Khodorkovsky concludes: “The unification of people around the participation of their country in the organization of an international holiday is a beautiful example of nation building.” All of us must make sure that the event will be “precisely that and not what the Kremlin wants to make of it.”  Otherwise instead of uniting Russians, it will only continue to divide them.

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