Friday, September 15, 2023

Ideological Divide in Russia Remains what It was Thirty Years Ago, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 3 – The fundamental political and ideological confrontation in Russia remains the same as it was in the late 1980s, a confrontation between a new nationalism represented by Mikhail Gorbachev and an old-style nationalism embodied by Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Pastukhov says.

            “You can hate Putin and Yeltsin as much as you like but still find yourself in the same ideological boat with them,” the London-based Russian analyst says. And consequently, it must be recognized that “exiting this crisis will inevitably means a return to Gorbachev’s position, cleansed of the hesitations and errors of his period” (

            According to Pastukhov, Gorbachev can be understood only in conjunction with Yeltsin. In fact, “contrary to popular belief, Gorbachev became a real revolutionary while remaining a conservative to the end of his days, while Yeltsin played a counter-revolutionary role, although he gained fame as the destroyer of the old and creator of the new.”

            Most people think the real revolution took place in 1991, but that is wrong, the London analyst says. “The real revolution took place in Russia in 1989.” Gorbachev launched it but couldn’t control it. “In 1991 and 1993, two successive counter-revolutionary coups took place, the result of which was the establishment of a mixed (hybrid we would not say) regime.”

            That regime, Pastukhov continues, “combined state authoritarianism with a free and fairly liberal economy. Unlike Gorbachev, Yeltsin not only rose to the top of the counter-revolutionary wave but succeeded in passing on his place by inheritance” to Vladimir Putin who has continued that approach.

            In many respects, “Gorbachev and Yeltsin embodied two versions of Russian nationalism. Gorbachev moved towards ‘a new nationalism,’ that is, a nationalism of the New Age which is based on civic identities and everything that is historically associated with it,” including human rights, constitutionalism, and the rule of law.

            Yeltsin, in contrast, Pastukhov argues, “embodied “’traditional nationalism,’ that is a nationalism built on language, religion, traditional values and blood. His nationalism was latent wrapped as it was in a beautiful ‘modernization’ agenda.” But under Yeltsin’s successor, it assumed “a completely open form.”

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