Saturday, November 22, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Russian Nationalism from the Outset is Anti-Liberal, Moscow Scholar Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, November 22 – Contemporary Russian nationalism, in marked contrast to the nationalisms of many other peoples now and in the past, is by definition anti-liberal because it reflects “the trauma” many Russians feel about the collapse of the USSR and their desire to reverse that event, according to Vladimir Malakhov.


            A professor at the Moscow Higher School of Social and Economic Sciences and a researcher at the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Malakhov says that in Eastern Europe at the end of the 1980s, nationalism and liberalism shared many goals, but that was not true of Russian nationalism (


            Instead, the two trends quickly separated, with liberals seeking democratization and Westernization and nationalists viewing those trends, whatever names they are given, as a betrayal of Russia’s “national roots.” Given such feelings, no real alliance between the two has ever been possible.


            Aleksey Navalny is not an exception, Malakhov says.  He has tried to “appropriate nationalist slogans and include them in the liberal agenda.”  But he has not been very successful because the nationalists do not view him as one of their own, and the liberals view all such attempts as raising questions about his loyalty to their program.


            Vladimir Putin has also made use of Russian nationalist feelings especially “in connection with Crimea and the war in the Donbas. But it is important to understand that this mobilization while massive is “administered mobilization” and does not embrace “the multitude of actors of Russian nationalism” who are not ready to be mobilized in this way.


            Underlying their mobilization, Malakhov says, is “the collective trauma which was the result of the disintegration of the state in 1991. One should not underrate the depth of this trauma” or the extent that it requires “cure or as it were compensation,” something that no one action can provide.


            The Moscow scholar notes that Russians are divided about the events in Ukraine and that even those fighting in Ukraine are divided as well. Russian nationalists are split between those who favor what Moscow is doing and those who oppose his actions either as an affront to fellow Slavs or as a distraction from the needs of Russians at home.


            “Among those who are fighting in [Ukraine’s] South-East on the Russian side, there also exists a palpable emotional-ideological split,” Malakhov argues. Some local people doing the fighting are “pro-Kremlin” because “for them Putin is a sacral figure,” but others who have come in from outside “are often extremely critical about the current Russian authorities.”


            Asked by his “Russkaya planeta” interviewer about the prospects for the national-democratic trend in Russian nationalism, Malakhov replied that “there is just as much democratic in these trends as there was socialism in German national socialism” and that what will happen depends “not so much on ideas as one the administrative and financial resources” of the sides.



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