Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Russian Unity Possible Only with ‘Shared Vision of the Future,’ ‘Nezavisimaya gazeta’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 17 – “There is nothing worse than holidays that give rise to discord,” the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta say; but Russia today seems committed to having more such holidays about the past rather than recognizing that national unity will be possible only if there is a clearly articulated and shared “vision of the future.”

            In a lead article today, the editors of the independent Moscow newspaper say that the efforts to create yet another such holiday about the past, in this case on November 11 concerning the day that Russian forces blocked the further expansion of the Mongol hordes, is a case in point (

            The idea for this holiday came from the Kaluga government which hoped to use it to attract attention to itself. Then, a bill was submitted to the Duma to make this an official all-Russia one; and as a result, what appears to have started as an attempt at regional branding became yet another occasion for divisions among the peoples of the Russian Federation.

            There was “an angry reaction” from several muftiates who dislike the image of the horde that the holiday would promote, and “after the interventions of Islamic leaders and the political elite of Tatarstan, the bill was removed from the parliamentary agenda.” But Kaluga governor Anatoly Artamonov did not give up and suggested, incorrectly, that Putin supported it.

            One of the reasons that some supported Artamonov’s initiative was that by talking about this stand against the Mongols, they could promote “a cult of Ivan III” celebrating the unification of Russia by the state in a less explosive way than focusing on his grandson, Ivan the Terrible, whose image really is divisive.

            But more generally, the editors continues, “all this showed that the picture of the past that the peoples of Russia have is very varied and contradictory and that there is in it a multitude of mythologies and legends” and many occasions for anger when they are recalled, especially in the form of an official holiday.

            Relying on the past to unite Russia won’t work, Nezavisimaya gazeta says, in an implicit criticism of Vladimir Putin who has tried to do just that. Instead, it concludes, “such unity will be achieved not by military mythology” about the past but rather by the provision of “a common vision of the future.”

            Unfortunately, the editors say, unlike in other countries including China, such a vision for Russia is “not in sight.” And until it is put in place, “we will again and again live through the complexes of the past” in an effort to come up with a substitute.

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