Monday, January 31, 2022

Moscow Must ‘Unleash’ Powers of Ethnic Russian Nation Rather than Be Led by Eurasianist Fantasies, Kochetkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 11 – Aleksey Kochetkov, a Russian activist and commentator closely tied to the Kremlin, says that Moscow must “unleash” the powers of the ethnic Russian nation rather than fall victim to those who argue for a meaningless Eurasianism that in fact is little more than a tool in the hands of Russia’s enemies.

            Speaking yesterday at a Livadia Club conference on Eurasianis as an Ideology of the Future in Yalta, the author offered one of the most sweeping defenses of the idea of Russia for the Russians and broadscale attacks on Eurasianism as an alternative ever from a Kremlin confidant (

            Kochetkov says the earlier Eurasians like Nikolay Trubetskoy wanted to downplay the Russian core of the state and boost the importance of non-Russian nations, religions and cultures, something that puts their ideas even now in conflict with those that anyone concerned about the Russian nation and the Russian world should support.

            “It’s possible that initially, Eurasianism was considered by its founders as an extremely specific continuation of the Russian civilizational project,” one that was being modified by the Bolsheviks who were “de-Russifying ‘the former Russia.” But that trend of thought has “degenerated into an attempt to substitute for the ideas and meaning of Russian civilization” entirely alien Asiatic notions.

            “That is,” he continues, “the ideologues of Eurasianism have denied and thrown out as unnecessary those foundations on which the unique cultural historical type of Russian civilization was built. They are prepared to recognize Russia as Turanian, Mongol, Yaku, Turkic, or whatever else but only not as Russian.”

            Eurasian ideology refuses to recognize the fact that the potential of the Russian people in Russia itself, despite all the catastrophes of the 20th century, to this day has not been completely revealed or exhausted, even despite the fact that 25 million Russian people were left beyond the borders of Russia.”

            Now what is needed, Kotchetkov says, “is not the replacement of Russianness with Eurasianness but a clear articulation of the truth that Russian civilization for the indigenous Asiatic peoples of Russia has become their own, fully corresponds to their interests and thus creates conditions for their comfortable existence” within Russia.

            According to the commentator, “the state-forming Russian people bears on its shoulders all the weight of supporting and preserving the Russian State. But this very State does not as it were acknowledge the existence of Russians.” As a result, “the state-forming people” lacks a status in the state it built.

            “Russia for Russian people is the only home and the only state which they to a complete extent can call their real historical motherland,” Kotchetkov says. That is the case “for all Russian people without exception and not only Great Russians regardless of their actual place of residence.”

            Given that Russians form more than 80 percent of the population, Eurasianist talk about the dangers of Russian nationalism to the state are “absolutely without foundation.” What threatens the country, the commentator says, “is not Russian nationalism but the destruction of the faith of the Russian people in the ability of the Russian state to defend its interests.”

            The development of what he calls “regional nationalisms,” a reference to Ukrainian and Belarusian variants of Russian nationalism and the nationalisms of non-Russian minorities “leads not to the strengthening of ‘Eurasian’ civilization but to its destruction. And the chief victims become the indigenous peoples themselves.”

            As a result, he says, it must be recognized that “present-day Eurasianism for all its externally aesthetics is only a weapon in the hands of Western neo-colonialism.” Given the way things are in the world, it could not be otherwise. Moscow must not cater to it but rather work to “liberate the energy of the Russian people.”

            To that end, the Russian state must ignore the appeals of the Eurasianists and do everything possible to provide “a clear and bright image of the future” for the Russian people so that it can “realize its full spiritual potential.” Failure to do that, Kochetkov says, will only lead to disaster.

            It will promote “apathy in the broadest sense, and apathy under conditions of the intensifying world crisis … is mortally dangerous, above all for the state itself.”

Lviv Deputies ask Kyiv to Call the Russian Federation ‘Muscovy’

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 11 – On the very day Vladimir Putin lashed out at Aleksandr Sokurov for suggesting any republic within Russia that wanted to leave should be allowed to do so, something the Kremlin leader said would reduce the Russian Federation to the size of Muscovy, deputies in Lviv called on Kyiv to start calling Putin’s country precisely that.

            The Lviv council voted overwhelmingly to ask the Ukrainian government to call the country to the east of Ukraine Muscovy instead of Russia or the Russian Federation arguing that doing so would represent “the restoration of historical justice.” The deputies said that Russians would then properly be called “Muscovites” (

            Meanwhile, in what is still called the Russian Federation, the Kremlin orchestrated expressions of outrage by various officials. Their denunciations of Sokurov were so strong that the film director himself expressed concerns that he might be arrested for his remarks (

            Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed those fears. Sokurov had behaved “unprofessionally” and spoke “without knowledge” about “a delicate issue. This is what the president couldn’t tolerate.” But that doesn’t mean Sokurov is about to be arrested. The president is “very well disposed” to him. “But an argument is an argument.”

Another Anniversary of an Event that Cast a Shadow on Russia’s Future – Moscow’s Launch of First Chechen War

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 11 – On December 11, 1994, Boris Yeltsin sent a massive Russian force into the Chechen Republic-Ichkeria, an effort that ultimately failed but that at least in part became the model in many ways for Vladimir Putin’s second post-Soviet war against that North Caucasus republic and his later aggression against other states.

            Few other than the Chechens themselves are marking this anniversary in any way, but the pro-Ichkeria portal KavkazCenter has performed a useful service in assembling a chronology of the weeks leading up to the invasion (

            What is striking about this series of events is how similar they were to the playbook Vladimir Putin used in 1999 when he launched a second post-Soviet Chechen war that boosted him into the presidency and that ended in a nominal Russian victory that has left Moscow paying tribute to Grozny and allowing its leader to act with impunity against others.

            Below is a selection of the most instructive high points of the chronology KavkazCenter has provided:

Nov. 2 – Yeltsin signs “secret order N-2137Ts” outlining plans for military action against Chechnya.

Nov. 13 – Yeltsin issues an ultimatum to the Chechnya to lay down its arms, an ultimatum he knows in advance will not be fulfilled and a refusal which Moscow planned to use to justify military action.

Nov. 17 – Russian special services blow up a railroad bridge in Moscow oblast and blame the Chechens for this action. The next day, the same thing is repeated at another bridge near the Russian capital.

Dec. 1 – Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev announces his willingness to negotiate with Russian President Boris Yeltsin but the Kremlin ignores the offer.

Dec.  6 – The Ingushetia vice president invites Dudayev to negotiate with Russian Defense Minister Grachev.

Dec. 6 – Dudayev declares that “the aggressive policy of Russia is provoking the growth of Islamist attitudes in Chechnya” and warns that outside forces may become a third force in Chechnya working against both his government and cooperation with Moscow.

Dec. 8-10 – Unmarked helicopters distribute circulars of “a top secret order” from Moscow threatening to deport the entire population of Chechnya” to various parts of Russia.

Dec. 9 – Yeltsin signs Order 2169 which calls for all available Russian forces to be used to disarm band formations in the North Caucasus.

And on Dec. 11 – Approximately 100,000 Russian soldiers and 6,000 pieces of military equipment invade the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria from the side of Ingushetia, Daghestan and Stavropol Kray. 


Russia Again at Risk of Defeating Itself Just as It did in 1991, Chadayev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 11 – The analysis of the causes of the collapse of the USSR are “especially important now and perhaps even more now than 20 years ago or than they will be 20 years ‘ahead,’” Aleksey Chadayev, in part because Russia could easily find itself defeating itself just as it did in 1991.

            One of the reasons that is so, the Moscow commentator says, is that Russians to this day have not drawn “the necessary conclusions” about what happened between 1985 and 1991, preferring to blame some outside power like the West rather than to focus on what the Russians themselves did to bring down their own state (

            What occurred in the final years of the Soviet Union was “not a series of tsunamis emanating from somewhere outside,” Chadayev says, but rather the blowing up of the country from the inside as a result of a series of mistakes.  Indeed, he says, if one is going to use any metaphor about 1991, the best choice would be the Chernobyl accident.

            Describing what went wrong in the USSR in the late 1980s, he points out, is far more difficult than identifying what happened at Chernobyl because the USSR was a far more complicated entity than that nuclear power plant. But the fact is that it blew up because of problems with itself not from outside actions. The same was true of the end of the USSR.

            Unfortunately, Chadayev says, the current official cargo cult of ‘the Great Soviet Past’ has come to dominate but not completely replaced the previous cargo cult of ‘The Great West’” which was all powerful and capable of achieving anything it wanted. But this new cult is getting in the way not only of understanding 1991 but of preventing a repetition.

Beloveshchaya was Not the Turning Away from Empire Many Think, Shtepa Says

Paul Goble     

            Staunton, Dec. 11 – The Beloveshchaya accords of December 1991 did not mark “the disintegration of the last empire” as many now think, Vadim Shtepa says. “On the contrary, its rapid restoration has occurred in the years since, most prominently in the very country which was the initiator” of the tripartite talks 30 years ago.

            The Soviet Union ceased to exist in August of that year, the editor of the Tallinn-based Region.Expert portal says. What remained after that was only a confederative project which was all too soon discarded. As a result, “not one of the signatory countries maintained the freedoms they had achieved” under perestroika ( reposted at

            “Already in 1990, the one-party system was done away with, real, free and competitive elections took place at all levels, and an unbelievably liberal Law on the Press was adopted which banned all censorship,” Shtepa continues. There was a sense that history was moving forward, but that did not last long after Beloveshchaya.

            In Russia, the symbols of empire and the reality of authoritarianism have returned with full force and Moscow is now seeking to extend them to Belarus and Ukraine. But it is not just in Russia where this has happened, he argues. It has occurred in almost all the former union republics.

            There has been a widespread retreat from the levels of freedom available in perestroika times, and “instead of an unrealized confederation which made the principles of democracy its basis there has emerged a strange ‘Beloveshchaya empire’ as a community of authoritarian regimes.”

            It is often said that democracy “triumphed only in the Baltic countries, but this is a certain exaggeration,” Shtepa says. The imposition of the status of non-citizens on those moved in by the Soviets, however justified for historical reasons, broke the alliance between Balts and Russians and drove many of the latter into the arms of “Russian neo-imperial propaganda.”

            And even within the Russian opposition, pre-perestroika attitudes have returned. At the recent Free Russia Forum in Vilnius, most delegates viewed developments outside of Russia as secondary and wanted to focus exclusively on changing the entire country according to some single matrix.

            This is reminiscent, the Russian regionalist says, of many of the same people in perestroika times who treated the various republics as “somehow provincial,” an approach which “in the end left them with nothing” and only added to the forces returning Russia and many of the others to “pre-perestroika times.”


Putin has Turned the Constitution Upside Down and Thereby Threatened Russia's Survival as a Country, Shlosberg Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 11 – Beginning with Magna Carta, constitutions were created to limit the ability of the powers to act without the approval of the people, Lev Shlosberg says. But Vladimir Putin has not merely gutted the provisions of the Russian Constitution but reversed its meaning. For him, Russia’s basic law has become a means of freeing the state and suppressing the people.

            In normal countries, the Yabloko Party leader says, “constitutions are in the first instance civic acts which give priority to the rights and freedoms of citizens over the rights of those in power.” They thus become the basis for resistance when the state overreaches and violates the rights of citizens (

            This reversal has enormous consequences, Shlosberg continues. It means that the government “completely loses its significance for the citizen, it ceases to be respected, and it ceases to be the citizens’ own.” Instead, the state is viewed as something separate which acts on its own against the citizens and only for its own interests.

            And that means “the collapse of the entire government system because when the words of the Constitution become a lie … the powers are transformed into a band and the people into victims.” That is what Putin and his regime have done. Their quasi-feudal regime does not operate according to written rules but rather as “a criminal world” with its own understandings.

            Under those conditions, other terms such as “force, fear, cruelty, deception, lies, hypocrisy, shamefulness and cynicism” acquire real meaning. “This is a kind of ‘constitution,’ but it is another reality in which there is no doubt in the meaning of what’s happening and what is worse no practical way to preserve the rights and freedoms of man and citizen.”

            That in turn opens the way to something still worse, Shlosberg says. “If a readiness to actively speak in defense of their political rights does not become a vital necessity for a decisive part of Russian society, then, the country itself, following the Constitution, will cease to have significance and will simply disappear from the political map of the world.”

            Russia too will be gone “as a big word from which any meaning has been stolen.”