Sunday, June 30, 2019

Shafarevich’s ‘Small People’ Notion Helps Identify Russia’s ‘Internal Enemies’ Now, Retired Lieutenant Colonel of Justice Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 29 – Igor Shafarevich’s suggestion that “a small people” had harmed Russia in 1917 and again in 1991, an idea that has been widely and appropriately attacked as anti-Semitic, is a useful guide to hunting down those who threaten Russia from within now, according to Vladimir Nikolayev, a retired lieutenant colonel of justice.

            In 1982, Academician Igor Shafarevich, a world-renowned mathematician, published in samizdat an essay under the title Russophobia in which he argued that “a small people” had worked in 1917 to undermine “a big people” in Russia because of its hatred for that country and its traditional culture.

            Although he always denied an equivalency between “a small people” and the Jews, Shafarevich was attacked by Academician Andrey Sakharov, many other Russian liberals, and 400 prominent mathematicians around the world for precisely that. Later, unfazed by such criticism, he extended the idea that “a small people” had again defeated Russia in 1991.

            Despite or perhaps because of those attacks, Shafarevich has many defenders who want to extend his argument to Russia today.  Among them is Vladimir Nikolayev, a retired lieutenant colonel of justice, who says that even now “a small people” animated by hatred of all Russian traditions is working to harm the country.

            More than that, he argues in a post on the influential Russkaya narodnaya liniya portal, Shafarevich’s idea provides guidance for those who want to hunt down, contain, and defeat the “small people” that he says must be defeated in order to ensure the victory of “the traditional values of Russia” (

            As a result of the destructive work of “the small people,” Nikolayev says, “we have obtained the familiar conception of ‘the cursed past of Russia,’ the idea that Russia is ‘a prison house of peoples, the assertion that all our misfortunes today are explained by ‘survivals of the past’ and ‘the birthmarks’ of the system, not that of capitalism but of ‘Russian messianism’ or ‘Russian despotism.’”

            All this works to spread the idea that “’great power chauvinism’ is the main danger” to the country when in fact the main danger is “the informal conspiracy” based on “the small people” which hates “the large people” among whom it lives.

            Fortunately, Russia is too big and its regime too large for “the small people” to hope for a permanent victory. Healthy forces from among “the big people” can be counted on to overwhelm it, Nikolayev says. But that doesn’t stop “the small people” from continuing to come back and harm Russia.

            Often “the small people” succeeds enough to force the representatives of “the Big People” to play by rules the Small People establish, the retired legal affairs specialist says, and this means that they must “deny their national values and traditions and build a society on sand without roots.”

            That is continuing to happen and Russians as “the large people” must be vigilant, Nikolayev says. Shafarevich and his idea of “the small people” as a threat “gives us the weapons” to combat them.

            Obviously a single article does not mean that Russia is about to descend into some orgy of anti-Semitism; but the appearance of an article like this is deeply troubling because it will be taken by many as an indication that the center will at a minimum look the other way if Russians exclude Jews and other “small peoples” from positions of authority.

            That must be combatted and the epigones of Shafarevich must be subject to at least as consistent criticism as was the founder of this hateful idea. 

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