Monday, June 14, 2021

Putin Seeks to Ensure Day of Russia No Longer Anniversary of Disintegration of USSR

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 12 – The Day of Russia holiday on June 12th has been a most difficult one for Russia and its leaders. In the imagination of both, it is associated not with gaining sovereignty but rather with the loss of Moscow’s control over the former Soviet Union republics and challenges to the center by non-Russian autonomies within the country.

            This year, Vladimir Putin has made a concerted effort to redefine the holiday so that it won’t be associated with the disintegration of the USSR but rather will be the occasion for celebrating Russia’s imperial greatness extending back to the times of Alexander Nevsky, URA journalist Sergey Dianov says (

            During his traditional distribution of honors at the start of the day, the Kremlin leader stressed that “this holiday marks not only the present-day development of the Fatherland but also all of its centuries’-long and uninterrupted path, the greatness of its history, its accomplishments, victories and achievements.”

            “This most wealthy inheritance,” Putin continued, “was established by many generations of our ancestors,” and today, “the Fatherland confidently is moving forward and developing thanks to these people.” After that, he visited the Tretyakov Gallery to see the exhibit on the 800th anniversary of the birth of Aleksandr Nevsky.

            Aleksey Makarkin of the Moscow Center for Political Technolgies says that Putin “wants people to forget about the [1992] declaration, to shift from the iamge of Boris Yeltsin and to have the holiday filled with new meanings and unifying symbols.” Nevsky is perfect for that because he has long been a symbol of anti-Westernism.

            Stalin used Nevsky in that way, the analyst continues. And the medieval knight remains extremely popular. During the poll of Russians about figures of the past in 2008, Nevsky received more votes of support than even Stalin, Makarkin points out.

            Sergey Markelov, head of the Markkom Company, says that Putin understands that talking about the demise of the USSR isn’t popular and doesn’t serve his interests. And while he is respectful to Yeltsin, he knows that any talk about the disintegration of the USSR is “toxic for the country.”

            Vadim Shtepa, editor of the Tallinn-based Region.Expert portal, in a commentary for Radio Liberty focuses on what the June 12th holiday has meant and means today for Russia and Russians  (; reposted at

            According to the regionalist, “the June 12 Day of Russia is in fact the only holiday on the calendar which connects the country with its post-Soviet history; and paradoxically, the most uncomfortable one for the authorities who prefer the earlier Soviet and tsarist periods. But they can’t do away with it as then the name of the country would come under question.”

            The Declaration of Russian Sovereignty was an important step forward because it marked a break within the USSR of the common practice of identifying that country as Russia, “as a new political subject and thus in large measure opposed to the policy of the USSR,” something Russians had not done before.

            At that time, “the Russian authorities understood sovereignty in the ‘American’ sense, as the release of the republics from the status of imperial colonies.” But the Russian population in large measure nonetheless “preserved its imperial mentality.” Now the powers that be have swung back into line with such attitudes.

            From the very beginning, however, and especially after the dispersal of the Russian Supreme Soveit in 1993 and the invasion of Chechnya, “’the new Russia’ ever more recalled the old, pre-revolutionary empire.” And its rulers, first Yeltsin and then Vladimir Putin acted as tsars in all but names.

            “The Putin era has led this restoration to its logical conclusion,” Shetpa says. “Today’s Russian Federation already officially considers itself as the direct continuation of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union.” And that makes the June 12 holiday problematic for the authorities who don’t want to talk about what it was based on.

            The Kremlin to this day continues to talk about sovereignty, but it uses it in a completely different sense, not as the application in Russia of international principles but as an expression of Russia’s right and power to act against such principles. Putin is trying to square this circle this year, but he hasn’t been able to overcome the contradictions the holiday contains.

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