Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Russian Nationalist Movement Increasingly Repressed, Isolated and in Disarray, Rozhkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 22 – Given growing xenophobia among Russians, this might have been expected to be a time of opportunity for Russian nationalists, Yevgeny Rozhkov says; but official persecution and divisions intensified by the Crimean Anschluss, the Russian nationalist movement is currently living through its worst period since Soviet times.

            Polls showing majority support for the slogan, “Russia for the Russians,” and hostility toward various ethnic groups would seem to be fertile ground for Russian nationalists, the Nazaccent commentator says; but instead, as the small and divided Russian Marches in Moscow earlier this month showed, the movement hasn’t been able to take advantage of these attitudes.

            On the one hand, the Kremlin has stolen much of the nationalists’ thunder by annexing Crimea and promoting the Russian language and Russian culture. And on the other, the regime’s arrest of top nationalist leaders and banning of many nationalist organizations has promoted disarray among the nationalists (nazaccent.ru/content/31532-russkij-marsh.html).

            Putin’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea divided Russian nationalists. Some welcomed it and even went to the Donbass (where many died); but others were and remain opposed – and now have formed tactical alliances with liberal groups to protest the use of anti-extremist laws against their ranks, alliances that other, older Russian nationalists reject as a matter of principle.

            Many Russian nationalists are convinced that the regime’s persecution of their leaders and organizations reflects the fact that “the state sees in them ideological competitors,” Rozhkov continues.  As a result of regime policies, most nationalist leaders have had to flee the country or go to prison.

(The most recent example of this is one that also undermines the Russian nationalist cause: Ivan Beletsky, an organizer of earlier Russian marches, has accepted Ukrainian citizenship as a Ukrainian, calling into question just what kind of Russian he in fact was (ria.ru/20191121/1561331988.html).)

Deprived of their top leaders and operating in a situation in which almost all of their organizations are banned, Russian nationalists lack the capacity to organize the mass demonstrations they were capable of before Crimea. Nonetheless, many of them look to the future, the post-Putin future, with optimism.

The Nation and Freedom Committee, a major nationalist center, even has declared that “after the exit of Putin, we will be able under a favorable development of events to promote the idea that to be for Russians in Russia is normal and to be against them is not very.”  And it says that several nationalist parties will be able to compete for power.

            The National Patriotic Union of Russia shares that view, but nationalist leader Dmitry Demushkin argues that Russian nationalists shouldn’t be preparing for a change of power anytime soon but rather should wait for events, a much less optimistic assessment of the situation in the coming decade.

            Rozhkov completes his review by noting how “paradoxical” it is that among the many ethnoses in Russia, “only the Russians still do not have their own public national organizations.” Many are respected and work closely with the authorities. But Russian nationalists “are still viewed as marginals” who must be excluded from public life.

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