Wednesday, November 20, 2019

A Russian Nation State Based on a Non-Ethnic Civic Nation isn’t Viable, Sidorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 17 – In a seminal and multi-faceted presentation to the Liberal Mission Foundation, Vadim Sidorov argues that the formation of a Russian nation state based on a civic Russian national identity is not a viable option because of the imperial nature of Putin’s rule and because of a fundamental divide between ethnic Russians and non-Russians.

            At the end of the imperial period and at the end of Soviet times, the regional theorist continues, a certain number of commentators discussed the possibility of creating a common civic Russian nation and based on it a Russian nation state, the regionalist commentator says; but at neither point was much progress made in either direction (

            Now, some believe that the current regime given its new Strategy of State National Policy will be able to create “’an all-Russian civic identity … based on the preservation of the dominance of Russian culture and informing all the peoples of the Russian Federation” and on the basis of this civic nation a Russian nation state.

            But Vladimir Putin’s rule, whatever he says about creating a civic nation and a nation state, is “an absolutist power, hostile to any genuine civic participation and thus isn’t national in the modern European sense. Instead, it is imperial not only because “it is not controlled by its on nation which Russia lacks” but also because it seeks to rule over other peoples and lands.

            If 25 years ago Russian liberals spoke about creating “’a liberal empire,’” now they are more inclined to speak about setting up “’a nation state’ as an alternative to Putinism,” Sidorov says.  But there are at least two aspects of the situation that cast “serious doubts” that such an entity would be viable “in Russian conditions.”

            On the one hand, he says, any civic nation of Russians would face “serious competitors in the form of other nations. No, not ethnoses, which theoretically could integrate into a single civic nation, as Russian liberals going back to the Kadets and Struve have presupposed but in fact political nations.”

            “Today we see this in civic protests in Russia which in ethnic Russian areas generally involve only a thin stratum of the population concentrated in major cities but in the case of national republics like Kalmykia, Buryatia, Sakha and Ingushetia, the protests are large and all-national in character. [stress supplied]

            “These [non-Russian] protest movements have a clearly expressed national agenda just as they did at the beginning and end of the last century. When they encountered them, the Bolsheviks recognized the right of nations to self-determination not out of great love for small peoples … but simply because they really wanted to win in the war for power and unlike the Whites understood that it was necessary to do so.”

            And on the other hand, Sidorov continues, there is an underlying problem with “the Russian nation” that helps to explain why only the educated stratum of 10 to 15 percent is prepared to act as a nation. It is this: the Bolsheviks created the Russian nation in its current form out of a population that was not yet ready to become one.

            And after the Bolsheviks did so – one must remember that in tsarist times, there was no official reference to an ethnic Russian nation – the Soviet system which wanted to hold all those in this category within an imperial matrix did not allow it to develop in ways that might  have led to the creation of a national movement.

            Such a movement would have been fatal to the Soviet project, and the communist administration worked hard and successfully to prevent its emergence as anything more than a marginal intellectual game. As a result, while there are numerous political nations existent among the non-Russians, Sidorov says, there isn’t a sizeable one among Russians.

            The Kremlin may be able to promote Russian language and Russian culture as core values for its population, but it is highly unlikely to be willing to allow the emergence of a genuine Russian nation ethnic or civic because either if it took off would be a threat to the Putin system. 

Five Misconceptions about Perestroika Widespread in Russia Today, Neukropny Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 17 – Aleksandr Neukropny, a pro-Kremlin commentator, says that  there are five misconceptions about perestroika that are widespread in Russia and that need to be debunked if the country is to come to an adequate understanding of what happened and more important overcome what he makes clear was a disaster.

            First of all, he insists, it is simply not true that “Gorbachev and a narrow group of his followers in the upper reaches of powers that be began perestroika and that all the fault for what happened lies on them.  To say that, he argues is equivalent to saying Hitler was the only person responsible for World War II (  

            The fathers of perestroika include Nikita Khrushchev who carried out “a coup in 1953” and then denounced Stalin and Yury Andropov who not only installed the Gorbachev team but put in motion many of the policies that came to their logical fruition in Gorbachev’s time, Neukropny argues. 

            Second, he says, it is false to think that “there were no alternatives to perestroika or Gorbachev” and that “what happened,” however one feels about it, “was inevitable.”  This is “a 100 percent lie.” The Soviet Union could have continued as it had been going and would have continued to progress.

            Indeed, Neukropny says, “the potential of the Soviet Union (industrial, scientific, and military) was so enormous that not only Rusisa but a whole line of post-Soviet states continue to exploit it.”  There were “no objective reasons for the radical tearing apart of the country,  he argues.

            Third, he goes on, there are many who incorrectly think that “’the Western world’ and above all the United States did not have any relation to perestroika.  That is nonsense. Western leaders led Gorbachev down the path of the destruction of the USSR, their goal all along, and their institutions like the IMF and World Bank added to the destructive power of perestroika.

            Fourth, it is sometimes said that “’the fathers of perestroika’ were guided by the best of intentions but simply things didn’t work out.” There is no evidence for this, Neukropny says; Gorbachev and his team continued to make the wrong choices doubling down rather than reversing course when that became obvious.

            And fifth, there is the widely believed claim that “perestroika freed Soviet people, gave them a large number of chances and opportunities but that they simply weren’t able to use them.”  Again, this ignored what perestroika took from them as well as all the disorder that few could be expected to cope with.

            What makes this Neukropny's arguments worth mentioning is only this: they reflects what many around the Kremlin believe and want the Russian people to believe about Gorbachev and perestroika.  And it shows that those who think there may be “a perestroika 2” under Vladimir Putin are wrong. There may be one in the future, but not as long as Putin is in power. 

Population Growth of Six Muslim Republics Far Exceeds Population Decline of Rest of Post-Soviet Space

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 17 -- Since the last USSR census in 1989, population increases in the six Muslim post-Soviet states have more than compensated for the total decline of the other nine. As a result, the share of the populations of these six has increased from 20 percent of the total to 28 percent, Yevgeny Chernyshov of the Nakanune news agency says.

            Citing research published in Demoscope Weekly, he stresses that “the majority of demographic processes taking place in all these republics are qualitatively similar but very strongly diverging quantitively.” Among these most prominently is the fertility rate (

            That rate has fallen everywhere, but “in all the countries of Central Asia it is higher than the level needed for reproducing the population while in all the others it is lower than that level. At present, women in Tajikistan have 3.8 children per lifetime; in Kyrgyzstan, 3.3; in Turkmenistan, 3.2; in Kazakhstan, 3.0; and in Uzbekistan, 2.5.

            Since 1989, the population of Turkmenistan has increased 80 percent; that of Uzbeksitan and Turkmenistan, 70 percent; of Kyrgyzstan, 50 percent; and in Azerbaijan, 40 percent. (In Kazakhstan, that follows a 12 percent decline as the result of outmigration during the 1990s.) The others declined with the greatest declines in Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine.

            This pattern is striking because prior to the disintegration of the USSR, “a decline in population was not observed in a single one of the union republics, although in all republics of the European part of the USSR, birthrates already were below replacement levels, Chernyshov says.

            What this means is that if the Soviet Union had not disintegrated, its total population would be 298 million, up from 286 million in 1989, with that increase coming exclusively from the growth of the six Muslim republics. In all of these countries, life expectancy has increased, with Estonia the highest at 78 years and Turkmenistan the lowest with 68.

            The greatest variation is in median age. In Lithuania and Latvia, it is 43, with Lithuania’s having increased by 11 years since 1991. In the Muslim republics with their rapid population growth, it is much lower – 22 in Tajikistan, 26 in Kyrgyzstan, 27 in Turkmenistan, 28 in Uzbekistan, 30 in Kazakhstan and 32 in Azerbaijan.

            And that in turn affects the percentage of the population consisting of children under age 15. In Tajikistan, 37 percent of the population is younger than that; in Kyrgyzstan, 33 percent; in Turkmenistan, 31 percent; and in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, 29 percent. In Russia, the share of children in the population, in contrast, is only 18 percent.