Friday, May 17, 2019

Could ‘Post-Russian Consciousness’ Come to Dominate Russian Federation and Belarus?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 16 – Dmitry Kaunov, a graduate student at Moscow’s Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, says that “it is difficult to specify the number of supporters of ‘the post-Russia idea,’ but one must not ignore the presence of ‘the post-Russian’” in either the Russian Federation or Belarus.

            In the new issue of the social-political journal Ostrog, he describes what this idea consists of, drawing on the ideas of Astrakhan commentator Dmitry Altufyev who has been promoting it since 2014, and then considers how they are evolving in the two Slavic countries (

            Kaunov summarizes Altufyev’s ideas, which the latter developed in a 2016 book by that title, in the following way. “The Russians are not an ethnos but an otherwise unformed ‘mass,’ which was formed with the aide of ideological solidarity and serviced over the course of centuries the needs of the Russian state.”

            “Various ethnic groups – Slavic, Finno-Ugric, Turkic and others – were mixed together in the Russian ‘sand,’ leading to the rise of an atomized mass inclined to statism and one that comes apart outside of the boundaries of the state.” Ideas surrounding Orthodoxy and now “’the Russian world’” are all about trying to prevent it from completely falling to pieces. 

            In this context, Kaunov continues, “’post-Russians are either those who up to now consider themselves ethnic Russians but in fact are part of ‘the faceless Russian masses’ and are looking for a new identity or they are those who understand that Russianess now is not at its basis an ethnic term.”

            “More than that,” he says, “’post-Russian’ consciousness was expressed already in the Soviet identity [of the Soviet people] which in the end deprived Russians of their ethnic characteristics,” leaving them “a de-ethnicized mass” for whom rossisky and sovetsky are synonyms, terms referring to subordination to the state rather than membership in a nation.

            A manifestation of this, Altufyev argues according to Kaunov, is centrality of Moscow as a value for those who live in that state.  “Consequently, a revision of the role of Moscow in history must begin with an understanding of the fact that relations of Moscow and Russia at present are based not on the model of capital and provinces but of metropole and colonies.”

            Because of these views, Kaunov continues, Altufyev and other advocates of “post-Russian” identity have no time for contemporary great power Russian nationalism which simply reinforces the power of the state over the masses rather than works to promote a sense of commonality among the population itself.

            “The goal of the Russian variant of the ‘post-Russian’ project is to show that those who consider themselves Russians” have invested in an idea which defined as an ethnic nation has no future and that they must free themselves from that and from the centralist and inevitably anti-people attitude of the Russian state.

            The Belarusian variant of “post-Russianism,” Kaunov suggests, is both similar and different. Similar in focusing on the population rather than the state but different in having an identity of that kind to go back to, the Litvin one based on being the heir of the traditions of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

            The development of that idea, the Moscow ethnographer says, can become Belarus’ contribution to the development of a post-Russian identity, one that stresses ethnicity over statehood and thus provides the basis for the rise of nation states because it will help create things that don’t now exist, real nations, rooted not in ethnicity alone but separate from the state.

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