Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Russians Patriotic but Ever More at Odds with Official Patriotism, Zhelenin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 20 – At a superficial level, a new VTsIOM poll shows that just as high a percentage of Russians identify as patriotic as have in the years since 2000, Aleksandr Zhelenin says; but upon closer examination, it turns out that there has been a fundamental shift, one that must be of concern to the authorities.

            While 89 percent say they are patriotic (wciom.ru/index.php?id=236&uid=10324), the Rosbalt commentator points out, “official patriotism which throughout the Putin era has been the core of its ideology is now being subjected to the strongest erosion” (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2020/06/20/1849335.html).

            That is shown by survey findings which indicate that “Russians are ever more critically inclined toward the ideology of official patriotism imposed on them by the state.”  They love their motherland as the place from which they spring and in which they live but not according to the definition of patriotism the Kremlin has been providing.

            “State patriotism, especially in its traditional form during the era of the creation of nation states and even more in imperial countries is entirely different” than the natural kind, Zhelenin says.  “’Real’ patriotism from the point of view of statesmen is an obligatory mix of love not only to the place where you were born but to the country and the state as well.”

            He continues: “The less democratic the state, the greater degree its efforts are directed to associate the national leader with the state as such. If you are a true patriot, then you must without qualification and in a devoted fashion lose your leader because he is the incarnation of the state, and you must carry out any of his directives.”

            “Official patriotism, especially of states of an imperial type, always sows not so much love to one’s own Fatherland as hatred to other countries and peoples,” Zhelenin says. Thus when Russian patriotism skyrocketed after the Anschluss of Crimea, so too did hatred of Ukrainians.

            Vladimir Putin wants that kind of patriotism as his remarks on June 12 show, but increasingly the patriotic Russian people don’t want to be patriotic like that. And that new reality is shown by the latest VTsIOM poll.

            Asked what it means to be a patriot, fewer than half of all Russians (47 percent) said that it means to “love one’s country,” the lowest figure since the polling service began asking that question in 2000. At the same time, the share who said it means to speak the truth about one’s country no matter how bitter, rose to almost 30 percent, nearly twice the figure in 2014.

            Such a shift in attitudes was also on display when Russians were asked to say what events of the last 10 to 15 years in the country were they proud of.  The annexation of Crimea received 16 percent, the Sochi Olympics, 10%; but only four percent said they were especially proud of the 75th anniversary of the Great Fatherland War.

            Most striking of all, nine percent said there were no events they were proud of in their country’s recent history; 24 percent said there were others than the choices they were given, and 35 percent said that it was “difficult to answer.”  What that means is that “a majority of Russians live in a parallel world” to the one the regime works so hard to promote.

            And that in turn means something even more important: “Official patriotism, as the core of the ideology of the Russian powers that be is clearly breaking up;” and its demise is worrisome because right now the authorities have nothing else to offer the people, Zhelenin concludes.

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