Friday, October 8, 2021

Putin Fears Any Linkage of Civic Nationalism and Liberalism, Sidorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 3 – Liberalism as embodied in parties like Yabloko is a declining presence in Russia; and because that is so, many consider that nationalism is the future. But there are two kinds of nationalism, imperial nationalism and nationalism concerned with the development of the nation, Vadim Sidorov says.

            The former is what Vladimir Putin now promotes with imperialism providing him with a justification for repression and unchanging government at home, the Prague-based Russian commentator says. But nationalism concerned with the development of the nation, a nationalism that links up with liberalism, is what he most fears.

            The latter kind of nationalism, one based “on a synthesis of liberal institutional reforms and republic nationalism,” powered the national movements in many countries in the former Soviet space and those of Ukraine and Georgia in particular, Sidorov says (

            Initially, Putin spoke in ways that suggested he favored such a synthesis in Russia. But more recently, his Presidential Administration has “done everything so that this link up will not occur,” fearful that a nationalism focused on the fate of Russians as opposed to the fate of the Russian state would be his undoing.

            As a result, the numerous attempts to create such a liberal nationalism have failed, less because they might not have been able to find an audience and support among the population but rather because Putin and his regime viewed them as a dangerous threat to the current regime and its revanchism.

            As long as Putin is in power, that has two consequences. On the one hand, it is unlikely that any civic Russian nationalism can emerge, however much some view the proposals by Valery Tishkov for a non-ethnic Russian nationalism as an opening in that direction. In fact, of course, civic nationalism must be built from below and not from above as Tishkov proposes.

            And on the other, it is almost certain that Russia will not be able to make the progress toward modernization and liberalization that countries like Ukraine and Georgia have because only the link between the two makes it possible to mobilize people for both. Instead, Russia will remain imperialist and not Russian nationalist, and its people will suffer as a result.


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