Staunton, Sept. 6 – The idea that Russia needs cultural sovereignty hasn’t attracted nearly as much attention as it deserves, Marina Simakova says, given that it has proved a way of justifying the unity of Russians at home independent of their various interests and aggression abroad to defend the true independence of Russia’s unique culture.
The historian of ideas at St. Petersburg’s European University traces the way in which ideas about cultural sovereignty have grown in importance for the Kremlin over the last two decades and especially since 2014 in a new article for Posle Media (posle.media/vojna-i-suverennaya-kultura/).
Putin and Surkov focused on culture because they recognized that it was a commonality among Russians that few would ever reject and thus provided a unity that was not the product of agreement based on the consideration of various interests but rather of the acceptance of this commonality as the basis for supporting an increasingly authoritarian regime.
As a result, this idea “systematically consolidated the authoritarian consensus, which opened the way to the formation of Putin’s dictatorship,” Simakova says, a consensus “based not on the political interests of specific individuals or groups but on a romanticized morality emanating from the depths of a supposedly formed Russian culture.”
And more recently, this sense of unity based on cultural sovereignty has come to “stand behind Russia’s military and imperialist aggression in Ukraine and its confrontation with the West.” The St. Petersburg scholar traces in some detail just how this process developed step by step.
And what is especially important, she shows how government officials increasingly dominated the Russian cultural sphere, cutting it off from its international ties and ensuring that cultural sovereignty works both domestically and in foreign policy in the ways that the Kremlin wants.