Monday, March 25, 2019

Liberal Russian Nationalists Seek Liberation from Unconstitutional Putin Regime, Basmanov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 25 – After going into eclipse in 2014 after the euphoria over the Crimean Anschluss among many Russians and the Putin regime’s crackdown on almost all Russian nationalist groups, Russian nationalism is re-emerging and its flourishing is leading to the formation of an entire spectrum of Russian nationalists.

            Some are revanchist imperialists who support Putin’s war against Ukraine, but others, about whom far less is heard, are committed democrats and Westernizers who reject Vladimir Putin and everything he stands for. One of their number, political émigré Vladimir Basmanov, heads the Nation and Freedom Committee which seeks to promote those values.

            In a comment on the After Empire portal, Basmanov not only reviews some of the immense variety of Russian nationalisms – they don’t agree on any issues, he says – but also outlines the views that he and his comrades in arms espouse, views that have led them to identify themselves as “national idealists” (

            “National idealism,” he argues, “is the trend within present-day Russian nationalism which has the greatest number of prospects. It calls for the creation of a national, social, and legal state with European values, qualified democracy … and a new model of state structure which one can call ideological parliamentarianism.” 

            This branch of Russian nationalism, Basmanov suggests, wants a system like the one that exists in European countries, places that are informed by “the ideas of democracy and human rights” and whose rulers are nationalists in the sense that they are committed to serving the nation rather than something else.

            “National idealists” reject those who are not committed to “a political struggle for the liberation of the Russian people, now enslaved by the anti-constitutional regime of Putin who is murderous for the people and have brought it slavery, poverty and a withering away of its numbers.” The Committee for Nation and Freedom wants to overcome all of that.

            Many in Russia and the West welcome or at least do not object to Putin’s repression of Russian nationalists, seeing in them either a threat to minorities and democracy or to Russia’s territorial integrity given the likelihood, indeed certainty, that the rise of imperialist nationalists would provoke a response by non-Russians that could tear the country apart.

            But Basmanov’s position shows there are Russian nationalists whose approach is sufficiently different that it would not necessarily have those results and could even help create a movement broad enough to challenge the Kremlin camarilla. As such, it is important to keep track of such groups however small they may be because they generate ideas that others can use. 

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