Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Confrontation with West has Led Moscow to Seek to Create an Ethnic Russian Nation in Place of Non-Ethnic Russian One the West Preferred, Gaponenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 7 – The Russian language has two words for Russian, russky which refers to the ethnic nation of Russians and rossiisky which refers to the state in which they and other peoples live. After 1991, the West insisted and Moscow elites agreed to promote the first even to the detriment of the latter. But now things have changed, Aleksandr Gaponenko says.

            According to the Russian nationalist commentator, the goal of the West and its Russian allies in promoting the rossiisky variant was to destroy the russky one and thus leave the country without a core capable of defending itself. But the confrontation with the West has prompted many in the Russian capital to recognize how dangerous that was.

            As a result, the APN commentator says, Russia now has shifted from plans promoted and approved by the West to promote a deracinated rossiisky people and is actively working to promote a russky nation, one that will embrace all the peoples of the Russian state but do so around the Russian ethnic component (

            This recognition of the dangers of the earlier course can only be welcomed, Gaponenko says, as can plans to promote russky national culture in the schools and elsewhere. But far too little has been done and as a result those in Moscow intellectual circles are still doing what they can to promote the rossiisky variant.

            More must be done to promote russky national culture and identity, including the creation of a Russian National Cemetery corresponding to Arlington Cemetery in the US. But at the same time, it is critical to expose, isolate and even drive out all those who still remain tied to the rossiisky approach.

            Gaponenko is certainly correct that over the last three decades, those supporting the rossiisky variant have had the upper hand at least in intellectual discussions; but his article is perhaps the clearest sign yet that their days are over and that the authorities are going to press everyone to accept the russky variant.

            In his programmatic article, the commentator makes one point that perhaps matters even more. He says that the russky variant, while it may draw on Russian Orthodox memes and practices, must not be too closely tied with that church because the russky nation includes not only Orthodox Christians, but Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Animists and even Protestants.

            In short, Gaponenko seeks to promote a secular russky nationalism that will lead to the russification of all these groups but that will avoid making conversion to Orthodoxy a precondition for being accepted as part of the russky nation. Whether that is sustainable politically or practically very much remains to be seen. 

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