Monday, April 1, 2024

Even as Kremlin Stokes Xenophobia, Putin Gains Some Positive Press in the West by Denouncing Idea of ‘Russia for the Russians’ Alone

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 27 – Kremlin-connected media outlets and Vladimir Putin himself have increasingly stoked xenophobia and hyper-nationalism among ethnic Russians, but whenever major Western outlets begin to notice just how bad the situation has become, the Kremlin leader as he has in the past has denounced the slogan “Russia for the [Ethnic] Russians” as dangerous.

            That ensures him more positive coverage at least for a day in these Western news outlets and that in turn reenforces within the elites of Western countries the notion that however bad Putin himself may be, there are forces around him that could prove to be even worse, exactly the view that he wants to promote.

            At a meeting with Russian military pilots, Putin said that when he hears “hurrah patriots” that “Russia is only for ethnic Russians, I feel concern” given that setting the non-Russian ethnoses and the Russians against one another would be destructive and that “the Russian people would be the chief victim, I am concerned” (

            “Therefore,” the Russian president told the pilots who likely will soon be sent to do battle in Ukraine, “you need to treat this component very adultly, seriously, not wave your arms and wag your tongue, but think when you pronounce every word, every phrase. To think that we have one big united Motherland.”

            Moreover, he continued, “we must be very careful about the unity of the Russian people. And in this sense, I really count on the Armed Forces, on all of you because in the same row here are people of different nationalities - they go into battle together … and when necessary, they cover their comrade with their own bodies not worrying about what nationality or religion he is.”

            Putin’s words on this occasion would be wonderful if his own policies corresponded to what he is saying. But the sad reality is that the divergence between what Putin says and what Putin sanctions or even promotes is enormous and nowhere more in the way he boosts the ethnic Russians and their Orthodox Church and denigrates the other nations and their faiths. 

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