Friday, February 2, 2024

RSFSR’s Lack of Key Institutions of Its Own in Soviet Times Contributed to Return to Imperialism under Putin, Levchenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 29 – Many factors have contributed to the revival of imperialism as a core value of the Russian state, but one that has not received as much attention as it deserves is the fact that the RSFSR, the Soviet-era predecessor of the Russian Federation, did not have its own communist party or many key ministries, Yan Levchenko says.

            Instead, and in contrast to the non-Russian republics, it used all-union institutions and thus disposed those who grew up in them to think about the USSR as a whole rather than about the republic, the editor of the Russian-language version of Estonia’s Postimees newspaper and former scholar at Moscow’s HSE says (

            In Soviet times, many Russian nationalists wanted the RSFSR to gain its own communist party, its own capital (usually seen as Leningrad), and its own key ministries so that that republic could stand against what such people saw as the less than full support the Soviet government and the CPSU gave to Russians.

            But Soviet leaders from Stalin to Gorbachev opposed giving the Russians such institutions of their own, believing that such organizations would oppose the center and weaken the country. Since 1991, however, that Soviet position has had the effect of limiting Russia’s ability to move from an imperial state to a national one.

            People who rose through Soviet rather than specifically Russian institutions viewed the rest of the country as consisting not of republics like their own but as subordinate to them, Levchenko suggests, and that has played a key if underrated role in allowing for the revival of imperialism in Moscow and preventing the emergence of a Russian nation state.

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