Russian nationalism is gaining in political influence argues the Financial Times. Russia’s so-called “ultra-nationalists” (and I do wonder what the difference is between nationalism and its “ultra-” variety) have been steadily climbing in political influence, particularly among Russia’s elite. Their big political bump has come with Russia success in Georgia which proved to them that Russia was indeed back. The FT reports,
Against the backdrop of conflict in Georgia and deteriorating relations with the west, Russia’s ultra-nationalist thinkers are starting to exert unprecedented influence. The wide acceptance of a group of ideas once dismissed as laughable signals a new era in Russia’s foreign relations, as Moscow seeks to protect what President Dmitry Medvedev calls a “region of privileged interest” in parts of the former Soviet Union.
One of Russia’s chief theorists of Euraisanism, Aleksandr Dugin agrees with this political shift. He told the FT,
“The people that formed the centre under [former president, now prime minister Vladimir] Putin will now become marginal. And another pole will appear that did not exist under Putin at all. That is the army, the military and patriotic movements. That is us. Under Putin we were the extremists: respectable, yes, but radicals. Now we are moving right into the centre.”
I’m not too familiar with Eurasianism or Dugin, but the a recent LA Times interview gives a sample of his take on current events.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
“Only by uniting our efforts can we achieve results in developing our country and ensure that it take an appropriate place in the world,” Putin said in reference to National Unity Day. “That is why, the idea that inspired this holiday seems to be very important to me and deserves support.”
By all accounts, on this National Unity Day is an empty holiday created by the Kremlin to replace Revolution Day on November 7. Even more a sign of desperation, is the fact that the historical event chosen to mark said unity is Russia “liberation” from the Poles in 1612. If you have to look back four centuries to find national unity, then you know you are in trouble.
But everyone knows that the historical reasons for National Unity Day are a sham, and to emphasize that again really isn’t the point. The point is that the celebration of especially this year’s holiday is a reminder of how Russia’s past and present is marked with disunity. And while Putin is for the most part something for the Russia people to unite around, his words can’t help contain a tinge of desperation.
This year’s unity day is like none since its invention in 2005 by the simple fact that November 7 marks the 90th Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. No there won’t be any grand celebrations. Nor will there be much recognition of the anniversary on global scale. It’s a bit sad really especially since it’s not a stretch to say that the Bolshevik Revolution was the most important event of the 20th century. Some honest reevaluation of it seems necessary to me, but maybe that is just the historian in me talking.
Celebrations marking the Revolution’s 90th Anniversary will surely be small. Only the most staunchest of communists will probably commemorate it. Still, most Russians, according to a poll conducted by the Levada Center, continue to view it as positive. 31% of respondents felt that the Revolution spearheaded “Russia’s economic and social progress.” 26% said that it “helped Russia turn over a new leaf.” Only 16% said it was an impediment to Russia’s development, and 15% saw it as a national disaster. Given how tendentious the Revolution continues to be, there is no doubt that many will argue about what these percentages actually mean.
No matter how one views the Revolution, whether it was a “coup,” a “social revolution,” or simply some kind of back room hatched conspiracy, one can’t deny that it symbolized and continues to symbolize more disunity rather than unity. Such was the case in November 1917. Speaking to the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, Lenin crafted the Bolshevik’s victory in terms of unity. “We have now learned to make a concerted effort,” he said. “The revolution that has just been accomplished is evidence of this. We possess the strength of mass organization, which will overcome everything and lead the proletariat to the world revolution.” Lenin knew that taking power was a gamble and that his party’s strength was concentrated in Russia’s urban centers and among the soldiers. So Lenin, as he would do until his death, preached unity at the moment when disunity was at its most virulent.
But whatever unity among the toiling classes Lenin hoped to retain, they were dashed by the realities of rule. By January 1918, Lenin’s government was getting flooded with letters of protest against disbanding the Constituent Assembly, failing to fulfill its promises, and incapable of dealing with the burden of rule. One unsigned letter “from the front” dated 15 January 1918 to Lenin is especially telling. It reads:
Comrade Lenin: It’s been been four whole days since we’ve had a glimpse of bread, we are walking around naked and barefoot. Yet still there’s no peace and none is expected. Comrade Lenin, did you really seize power so that you could drag the war out three more years? Comrade Lenin, where is your conscience, where are the words you promised: peace bread land and liberty in three days’ time? Did you promise all that just so you could seize power? And then what? But no, you don’t want to fulfill your obligation. Now, this is all lies. If you don’t keep your promises by 1 February, then you’re going to get what Dukhonin got: you’ll drop like a fly. If you’ve picked up the reins then go ahead and drive, and if you can’t then, honey, you can take a flying fuck to hell, or as we say in Siberia, you’re a goddamned motherfucker, son of an Irkutsk cunt (если взяли вожжи то правте а если неможите то летика ты свет нахуй посибирски сказать к ебёной матери ты ёб тваю мать иркутская блядь), who’d like to sell us out to the Germans. No you won’t be selling us out: don’t forget that we Siberians are all convicts.
It’s unknown whether Putin has received any letters from “Siberian convicts” calling him a “motherfucker” or a “son of an Irkutsk cunt,” though if he did, it wouldn’t be all that surprising. Because like with Lenin 90 years ago, Putin’s increasing calls for unity against outsiders, between peoples, and even between security organs speaks more to the reality of its opposite. True, Russia is hardly in the condition it was in 90 years ago, but one should not take Putin’s stability as a sign for greater social harmony.
Perhaps this is why it was a mistake to call the holiday National Unity Day in the first place. Many disgruntled Russian youth have appropriated it as a symbol of their own perceived disenfranchisement. For them, “national unity” means Russkii unity rather than Rossiiskii unity. In weeks leading up to National Unity Day, the few racial attacks were interpreted as examples of this. It’s unlikely that they had any connection to the holiday. If anything they speak to what many fear is a “mushrooming” of Russian ultranationalist groups. And it is clear that authorities are taking more and more notice. The far right presents even more a threat to Russia’s political stability than the liberal or even radical left. 5000 police were mobilized around Moscow and non-Russians were advised to stay off the streets.
The rally for a “Russia for Russians” missed its goal of 7,000, but only by a few grand. 5,000 nationalists turned up including an American named Preston Wiginton. Wiginton, a white supremacist from Texas, addressed the crowd with black cowboy hat and all. “I’m taking my hat off as a sign of respect for your strong identity in ethnicity, nation and race,” he told onlookers weathering the light Moscow drizzle. “Glory to Russia!” he said in broken Russian. “White power!” he shouted in his native English. It just goes to show that despite tensions between Russia and the US, Russian and American racists can find common ground. Moreover, for all the talk about racism and xenophobia in Russia, one should recognize that spitting on immigrants has become a favorite pastime of the US Congress and the EU.
Nashi activists countered the Russian March with its own calls for unity. Taking a page out to the Soviet notion of the “friendship of peoples,” 30,000 Nashi, United Russia’s Young Guard, and Mestnye activists marched through central Moscow carrying a “blanket of peace” which they sewed together to symbolize Russia’s multiethnicity. “Young Guard and other guys will come together to show the will of the people unified against those who want to divide the country,” State Duma and United Russia rep Valerii Riazanskii told Kommersant on Friday. “Nashi will present 4 November as a new tradition of celebration, and to Russian (россиян) confidence in multinational friendship and unity of peoples,” said representatives of Nashi. As a group that employs xenophobia as a campaign tactic, I don’t think Nashi is really a good symbol of tolerance.
Of all the marches and rallies around National Unity Day/Revolution Day, I think Saturday’s “March of the Empty Saucepans” in St. Petersburg is my favorite. Comprised of 1,500 protesters, half of which were pensioners, the rag tag crowd shouted slogans like “Putin’s plan is trouble for Russia” and “We’re awaiting a bread uprising” to express their anger at rising food prices and inflation. As NPB organizer Andrei Dmitriev told Reuters, “In Russia, 90 years ago, everything also began as a result of rising bread prices. People took to the streets and the tsar was overthrown.” Well, yes bread riots do have a exceptional place in revolutionary lore but I would advise Dmitriev to not get his hopes up.Post Views: 192
By Sean — 9 years ago
Yaroslav Kuzminov, the head of the Higher School of Economics (VShE) in Moscow received a disturbing letter from the Main Department of Internal Affairs (GUVD). The letter strongly recommended that the dean expel “politically unreliable” students, reports Nezavisimaya gazeta. “Politically unreliable” in the police’s opinion, are those youth who participated in last December’s Dissenters March sponsored by “Other Russia.” Six students from VShE’s Economics and Political Science departments were detained as they were leaving the Mayakovskaya metro station on their way to the demonstration. They never made it. Now the police recommends that the university consider expelling them. NG reports:
The most specific passage of the document is: “Participation in unsanctioned protests are one type of extreme activity and have a high level of social danger that demands security organs to take the adequate measures of reaction.” GUVD asked “to examine the question about removing conditions that contribute to the perpetration of offenses” and “to decide on the necessity to continue educating the aforementioned persons.” After this the security organs spelled out the appropriate measures.
This is not all. The heads of two departments, political science and economy, were ordered to answer an inquiry into “extremists” and to force the most frequent perpetrators to sign declaratory statements. The names of “said persons” in the letter were numerous.
How VShE will officially respond remains to be seen. They have to make an official declaration by 4 Feburary. In the meantime, Tatiana Chetvernina, the university’s vice dean gave this comment to Nezavisimaya:
“The letter that came from the police was a recommendation. They, of course, have the right to recommend what they think is necessary. Just like the university has the right to make a decision in accordance with the workings of laws on the property of the Higher School of Economics. And namely, if a student participates in meetings and groups and if he is not breaking the law, then that is the private affair of the students. We live in a free country and we have a working Constitution. If they break the law then the university will look into it. But, certainly, this question is connected not so much with dismissal as with violating law and order. Participating in groups has no relation to studying.”
Olga Kolesnikova, the school’s press secretary, was more blunt. “We can dismiss students if they are underachievers,” she said. “But if they study well, what right do we have to expel them? They are not criminal offenders, why should we forbid them from studying? In a word, we don’t let anyone get at our children.”
Of course, the letter harks back to both Tsarist and Soviet times when students were expelled for participating in political activities. Except this time, in the words of Oleg Shchebakov, a Moscow lawyer, where the parameters of acceptable political ideology are murky unlike in Soviet times the ideological lines were clearer. “The punished understood and clearly accepted that he lived in a rigidly ideological political system.” Now, he contents, “There is no general ideology! We complain about its absence all the time. It is simply undeveloped! So excuse me, what kind of ideology should these students use that someone has established? Today fascists are even permitted to go out into the streets. And no one singles them out . . . Evidently, they are not politically suspect in the opinion of the authorities.”
Moskovskii komsomolets reports that similar letters were sent to other universities in Moscow. And apparently, the cops can’t even get their information straight when they send out such “recommendations.” Of the six students named in the letter to VShE, two don’t even study there.Post Views: 179
By Sean — 7 years ago
This Russia Today report is a perfect supplement to other trends regarding the appeal of neo-Nazism and ultra-nationalism in Russia. Just in time for Victory Day too, when 26-28 million Soviet citizens perished at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators.
To top off the week of national festivities, yesterday, Russian nationalists, who’ve had their organizations increasingly banned by Russian courts, have announced that they were uniting under a nationalist umbrella group. From Kommersant:
As Dmitrii Demushkin, the leader of Slavic Strength, told Kommersant, the unification of nationalist organizations became possible after the banning of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI). “After that every nationalist force agreed with the descision to unite in a new movement called “Russians”. Its framework consists of the largest nationalist organizations–DPNI and the Slavic Union,” Mr. Demushkin explained. According to him, today’s new unification included more than 40 nationalist organizations. The minimal goal for “Russians” is to facilitate universal ethno-political Russian solidarity and the maximum is to bring to power a nationalist government which would proclaim a nationalist state.
. . .
The movement has adopted the following structure: national committee of action, national committee of control, and also a high court of honor [These bodies, I assume are to maintain discipline, ideological correctness, and purge those who don’t follow the directives and statutes of the organization.–Sean]. As Mr. Demushkin told Kommersant, “I guarantee that the new movement will not repeat the fate of other banned nationalist organizations. But we have purposely called ourselves an inconvenient name. You see the courts and the security organs will not be banning nationalists, but “Russians,” Mr. Demushkin explained.
This new group shows the limits of the state bans on nationalist groups. The state can legally chop off one head, but another quickly appears like Hydra in the Avengers comics, and more importantly, more concentrated and united. And be sure there is a growing pool of young people eager to hear “Russians” message. You don’t have to turn to Russia Today nor the hate-monitoring group SOVA for this. All you have to do is turn to the Russian government itself, in particular, the results of State Prosecutor Chaika’s annual report to the President which notes an alarming growth in “extremism.”
The state’s efforts to excoriate the nationalist scourge from Russian society are mixed. While Chaika pointed to corruption as a source for both the growth in extremist activity and the ineffectiveness and indifference on the part of Russia’s police organs to prioritize it, Russia’s judicial organs are sending more nationalists to jail. For this you can look at the recent conviction of five teens (granted though the group of assailants estimated 25-30 youths) in St. Petersburg for beating two students of Central Asia origin. What allowed the court to convict the five was the court’s ruling that “Beat the darkies!” and “Russians for Russia!,” both of which were shouted as Tagir Karimov and Suleiman Ramazanov were beaten, indicated that the incident was a hate crime. More importantly, the conviction constituted both slogans as extremism under the law.
The biggest recent win against ultranationalism, however, came this week when Nikita Tikhonov and Evgeniia Khasis were sentenced to life and 18 years respectfully for the murder of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova in January 2009. Failing to solve, try, and convict anyone for such murders has been a constant bat for domestic and international human rights groups to bludgeon the Russian state with. With Tikhonov and Khasis’ sentencings the government can boast a win-win in fighting nationalism–both perpetrators were members of the neo-Nazi group Russkii Obraz–and bringing those who murder human rights activists and journalists to justice.
Still, one can conclude from Chaika’s report that the fact more nationalists are being thrown in jail also means there are more of them out there just waiting for Demushkin to be pulled into the ranks of “Russians.”
Gazeta on Chaika’s report:
“A serious factor and formative prerequisite for the formation and spread of extremist ideology is corruption in state organs, local government, and police organs,” this is noted by the obvious links with the “Primorye Partisans” and the riot on Manezh square in Moscow.
The conflict in the center of the capital on 11 December last year, as the Prosecutor’s examination confirms, was actually provoked by “the inaction of police organs,” the report reads.
The bacchanalia of extremism threatens the security of society and the state, Chaika concluded.
The most active work to be conducted for containing the spread of extremism, the number of radical nationalist groups, and ideology is on the internet, the report says. But a common preventative measure against has not produced the necessary results–“the conditions for the increased growth of extremist attitudes,” as it was called in the report, have not changed. “In connection with the operational situation in the area of opposing extremism can’t be called stable or be predicted,” Chaika said.
Still, the report did present some success on the legal front:
For all of 2010, there were 656 cases categorized as extremism under the Criminal Code. That is 19.7% more than last year. Solving these crimes, however, can be concluded from the report, is far higher: 632 cases are considered solved, and what is more 609 criminal cases were brought to court.
Along with this extremism is increasingly becoming the act of loners. The number of crimes committed by participants in organized groups fell by 14.8% to 104, but to identify the participants in these groups was met with great success in 2010. 101 persons were arrested a quarter more than last year.
Image: KommersantPost Views: 221