Staunton, February 18 – One of Vladimir Putin’s greatest tactical skills is his ability to claim he is against what he is in fact doing, something that not only disorders his opponents but ensures that those who want to find reasons for supporting or cooperating with him will have evidence of his good faith.
Thus, the Kremlin leader regularly decries aggression while equally often engaging in it, speaks about the independence of the Russian judiciary while ensuring it is completely under his thumb, and talks about ensuring the transparency and fairness of elections in Russia while doing everything he can to make them opaque and anything but fair.
Now, he is applying that same approach to the nationality question. Yesterday, in response to a call by Vladimir Zhirinovsky to keep Central Asians out of Russia, Putin said that such a proposal was a form of “troglodyte nationalism” and if implemented would undermine the country (currenttime.tv/a/putin-russia-for-russians-slogan/31107598.html).
The very notion behind the slogan “Russia for the Russians,” Putin continued, “would only harm Russia and promote instability within. And we must not allow this. Of course, we must guarantee that the culture of each people, its history, and sources are considered, developed and respected in our country.”
Putin does not admit to any contradiction between this statement and the things he has done ranging from the adoption of a constitutional amendment declaring Russian the language of “the state-forming people” of the country to attacks on non-Russian languages and non-Russian republics and his celebration of what he calls “the Russian world.”
As the Kremlin leader said, “of course, the individual Russian and the Russian people are interested in the preservation of the country where it is the main constituent force. In order to preserve Russia which is multi-national and poly-confessional, the representative of each ethnos, even the smallest must feel that this is his motherland and he has no other.”
Hypocritical remarks like these are why many non-Russians and their supporters believe that Putin does believe in “Russia for the Russians.” They have many reasons for that conclusion. But in one important respect, they are wrong. Putin doesn’t want a Russia for the Russians but not for them. Instead, he wants a Russia for his own power.
And consequently, as observers since I.A. Kurganov more than half a century ago have observed, denizens of the Kremlin are just as much opposed to the Russian people as they are to anyone else. A country in which Russians as a nation were in control might not be pleasant for non-Russians, but it would be equally unpleasant for rulers like Putin.