Saturday, December 23, 2023

Putin Does Not Believe Russian National Identity Can Be Promoted Independent of Its Imperial Past, Sidorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 19 – When the Russian Federation emerged after the collapse of the USSR in 1991, many hoped that it “could abandon not only communism but also its imperial past and be rebuilt as a post-imperial nation state,” Vadim Sidorov says. But that possibly was blocked by two things.

            On the one hand, the Prague-based specialist on ethnic relations in the former Soviet space says, there were enormous numbers of non-Russian nationalities within the borders of the Russian Federation, even though ethnic Russians initially made up more than 80 percent of the population.

            And on the other, few among those who came to power in the new Russia, including in particular Vladimir Putin, had any understanding of “how the national identity of ethnic Russians [could] be formed if “the imperial heritage” of tsarist and Soviet times was rejected. Indeed, the leaders came to believe that any Russian national identity must be imperial in nature.

            Sidorov provides support for both of these propositions in “Vladimir Putin’s views on the Russian nation and Russian history as the reason for the aggression against Ukraine,” Studia Ethnologica Pragensia 3 (2023): 39-60 in English at

            For English readers in particular, Sidorov’s essay is an important summation of Putin’s thinking on nationality, on why what he is about is far more radical in its implications that Hitler’s ideas regarding the Sudetenland, and why the empire which has already come about twice is at risk of doing so again.

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