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Between Past and Future

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Sorin Antohi

IV. The New Europe: Prospects for Cooperation and Conflict

18. Nationalism in Postcommunist Russia: From Resignation to Anger

Ilya Prizel

Texte intégral

  • 1 Quoted in Igor N. Ionov, “The Crisis of Historical Consciousness in Russia and the Ways to Overcom (...)

“Besides ours, no other nation in Europe has such a peculiar understanding of its own past and present. No other nation’s consciousness is torn into two halves, completely foreign to one another and utterly disconnected. Like us, all the European nations have experienced abrupt turning points in their histories, sometimes more than once….But neither pre-revolutionary France nor pre-revolutionary Germany is separated, in the eyes of Frenchmen and Germans, from their reality by a wall as impassable as that separating ancient Russia, according to our perception, from modern Petrine Russia….To this day we Russians are deprived of a unified national consciousness. Theoretically, abstractly, we understand that…Peter and his reforms were prepared…but all this somehow seems dry to us, bookish and dead; it comes into our heads somehow without emotion, like the result of a mathematical calculation. In our immediate living consciousness we continue to be split in two, and this half-heartedness lies like a heavy stone on our whole being and on all our endeavors.”—K.D. Kavelin 18561

Nationalism: The Ubiquitous Factor

  • 2 Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History? ”, National Interest 16 (Summer 1988)

1The defeat of Nazism in 1945 divided the international community into two hostile ideological blocs and also provided perhaps the sole point of convergence between western liberalism and Soviet-style Marxism—the rejection of nationalism as a historic force in favor of a universalist ideology. In the eastern bloc nationalism was supposed to give way to class solidarity; in the capitalist West the spread of individualistic liberalism was allegedly to lead to the inevitable “end of history2”.

  • 3 America’s inability to come to terms with the potent force of nationalism can be demonstrated by W (...)

2The universalist notion of an institution-based liberal polity was enormously reinforced by the rise of the United States to economic, political, and cultural hegemony after World War II3. Although there was a plethora of evidence that the teleological “universalist Utopian” approach to history had no basis in reality, a powerful intellectual orthodoxy constrained debate that might question the inevitable rise of what Jürgen Habermas called Verfassungspatriotismus, or civic polities devoid of distinct nationalism. The apparent success of the United States and other English-speaking countries convinced an array of thinkers ranging from Hannah Arendt to Charles Taylor that the acceptance of a common political formula can create a successfully functioning polity with no reference to either ethnic or cultural nationalism.

  • 4 Michael Ignatieff, “Identity Parades”, Prospect (April 1998).

3The notion of a polity based on a political formula devoid of nationalist tendencies was further reinforced by the ability of political elites, enjoying twenty-five years (1948-73) of uninterrupted growth, to portray themselves also as agents of equitable growth, reconstructing the image of the nation as an agent of social justice. Thus, the new political coin of economic and social justice enabled Konrad Adenauer to legitimize the Bonn Republic on the basis of the “German economic miracle” and “social market;” Harold Macmillan to legitimize Britain’s withdrawal from the empire following the Suez debacle with the motto “you never had it so good”; and Jawharlal Nehru to forge an Indian state on the basis of the “Indian socialism” of the Congress Party. Explaining the sources of strength of a denationalized civic society, Michael Ignatieff noted: “A strong ‘civic’ culture depends on public investment and public services: schools, hospitals, roads, street lighting, police, libraries, swimming pools, parks. These are the sinews of a strong [civic] national identity. If these services deteriorate, three things happen: the wealthy secede from the public realm and purchase these amenities on the private market; they cease to be willing to pay extra taxes to renew a public realm from which they decided to secede; those who are left both abandoned and dependent on failing services are tempted to withdraw from the national project4”.

  • 5 Whereas prior to 1973, for each one-percent growth of gross domestic product, a twopercent increas (...)
  • 6 See David Brown, “Why is the Nation-State So Vulnerable to Ethnic Nationalism? ”, Nations and Nati (...)

4The world economic crisis that followed the 1973 oil embargo triggered5 a postindustrial age dominated by the globalization of services and a databased global economy. It also eroded the ability of political elites to claim political legitimacy on the basis of social justice, leading to a resurgence of ethnonationalism6. All industrial countries saw a surge of unemployment and a growing economic gap between those who could participate in the global economy and those who could not. High levels of unemployment had a minor impact on those adapted to the global economy, but fundamentally fragmented the “civic” based polities that grounded their legitimacy in social justice.

  • 7 Yitzhak Brudny, Re-Inventing History: Russian Nationalism and the Soviet State, 1953-91 (Cambridge (...)
  • 8 The Iranian Revolution of 1979-80 should have raised the question of whether modern liberal politi (...)
  • 9 Ignatieff, “Belonging in the Past”.

5Political elites on both sides of the Iron Curtain, unable to cope with the postindustrial economic reality, resorted to harnessing nationalism as a source of legitimacy and social cohesion. In the Soviet bloc, leaders such as Brezhnev and Ceauşescu abandoned their internationalist ideology in favor of nationalist legitimacy7. Similarly, in the West the advent of the “global village” and individualism not only did not lead to the decline of nationalism, but also led to the strengthening of the reliance on nationalism as a source of identity and belonging due to the deepening atomization and anomie of the postmodern world8. Ignatieff, analyzing the political success of Thatcherism, noted that, “the more anomic her [Margaret Thatcher’s] vision of ‘society’, the more important it became to her to emphasize the stabilizing virtues of national belonging9”. The negation of nationalism as the central force in politics was a short interlude that lasted less than an intellectual generation.

6Not only have most postcolonial states that appeared in Asia and Africa succumbed to nationalism as their main legitimating force, but even the institutionalized liberal polities of Europe and the English-speaking world have increasingly relied on nationalism as the underpinning of their respective political legitimacy and cohesion. For example, in Belgium the national pension fund was divided along ethnic lines among the French-speaking Walloons and the Dutch-speaking Flems. In West Germany, Verfassungspatriotismus notwithstanding, there was a willingness to admit millions of immigrants from the former Soviet Union on the basis of ethnic solidarity, although the Volga Germans had emigrated to Russia in the eighteenth century. The willingness of West Germans to spend trillions of deutschmarks on the rehabilitation of East Germany and the mammoth reconstruction of Berlin are testaments to the enduring power of nationalism.

  • 10 On the contradiction between civil society and multiculturalism, see Eamonn Callan, Creating Citiz (...)
  • 11 See Margaret Canovan, Nationhood and Political Theory (Cheltenham, England: Edward Elgar, 1996).

7Even the English-speaking countries, the foremost proponents of civic as opposed to ethnocultural nationalism, did not manage to avoid the ubiquitous power of nationalism. The centrifugal ethnonational forces challenging the integrity of Canada and the United Kingdom are driven by powerful nationalisms, despite their centuries-old traditions of universal political institutions. Similarly, the rejection of the “melting pot” mythology in Australia and the United States in favor of “multi-culturalism” is evident in response to the “One Nation” movement in Australia and to growing anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States. Despite powerful and well-established political institutions, polities cannot rely exclusively on inclusive political institutions as a substitute for a nationalist basis for legitimacy and coherence. Multiculturalism, which supposedly can thrive in institutional civic polities, is increasingly perceived by broad segments of the western body politic as a mere apology for relativism10. The historic reality is that nationalism, a force that has been present on the European scene at least since the Reformation, continues to be the dominant political force that endows polities with the essential consensus and sense of cohesion without which they cannot function11. Every polity relies on a mythical national ideal that determines the contours of its political life and institutions.

8All national identities are continuous “works in progress” subject to endless debate, change, and revision. However, overwhelming empirical evidence suggests that no society can effectively react to the challenges of the day without a broadly accepted mythic “national ideal” legitimizing the existing order. The source of virtually all-legitimating ideology is an irrational and incoherent mélange of religion and nationalism that is the keystone to any nation-building endeavor. It is the manipulation of the irrational forces of nationalism that affects the political direction of polities. Historically, the more fugitive and incoherent the sense of self in a polity, the less stable it tends to be.

Russia’s Embryonic National Identity

9It should be noted that in all empires, the people who form the “core” of the empire tend to have a weaker extraimperial identity than do the “subject” people. Therefore, the English have a weaker identity than the peoples of the “Celtic fringe”; the Austrians in the Habsburg empire had a weaker identity than either the Hungarians or the Slavs; Turks were less conscious of their distinct culture than either the peoples of the Balkans or the sultan’s Arab subjects. Thus, it is not surprising that the Russians have long had a far weaker sense of national consciousness than the subject peoples of the western borderlands or the Transcaucasus. It is therefore axiomatic that the postimperial adaptation of the “core” peoples is far more traumatic and complex than that of the “subject” peoples.

10In the case of Russia, however, the weakness of the identity of the core population may well be more extreme than in any other case. There, the boundary between the nation and the empire was thoroughly blurred. As Geoffrey Hoskings noted: “Britain had an empire, Russia was an empire”. Despite Russia’s cultural wealth, Russian political nationalism is in its embryonic stages and, as with all young nationalisms, is subject to very rapid and radical redefinitions. Currently, the unstable nature of Russia’s self-definition is a significant factor in the country’s extreme political volatility. And Russia’s underdeveloped national identity lies in the country’s peculiar history. Russia is unique in that the birth of the Russian empire preceded the birth of a distinct national polity. As a result of this reversed sequence of national development, from the sixteenth century to the present, the concept of Russianness became blurred with that of empire.

  • 12 The only other analogous situation where the empire preceded the formation of a nation is the Otto (...)
  • 13 Sergei Witte, Vospominania Vol. 3 (Moscow: 1900), 273

11Long before Russia could develop its distinct national institutions, those institutions were converted into imperial institutions, with no clear interest in distinctly Russian issues12. Since Russian leaders derived their legitimacy from a messianic-universalist ideology, notions of a distinct Russian identity were discouraged and at times even suppressed during both the Tsarist and Soviet periods. Although Russia did experience an intellectual reawakening after the Crimean War (1854-55), it was unlike what occurred in East-Central Europe, where the reawakening spurred the development of nationalism and a distinct national agenda. Russia’s restless intelligentsia, whether westernizing or Slavophile, continued with a messianic agenda, all but ignoring Russia’s distinct needs. As Russia’s first prime minister, Count Sergei Witte noted: “[We] still have not realized that ever since the times of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great there has not been such a thing as Russia, only the Russian Empire13”.

  • 14 Ilya Prizel, National Identity and Foreign Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), c (...)

12While there were times, in both the Tsarist and Soviet periods, when weakened regimes turned to Russian nationalism as a source of legitimacy, these intervals did little to create a sense of national community. During these times of state-promoted nationalism, such as the reign of Alexander III, late Stalinism, and late Brezhnevism, the thrust of “official” Russian nationalism was directed at the glorification of Russia’s leading role within the empire; any discussion of Russia’s distinct interests or agenda was suppressed. Consequently, neither the Tsarist nor the Soviet regime’s use of nationalism managed to narrow the gap between the state and society14.

13The collapse of the Soviet empire failed to generate the political experience that would help shape a clear Russian national identity. In a similar situation, the birth of the Turkish national state was ushered in by the Ottoman empire’s defeat in World War I and by the massive population shifts caused by the Greco-Turkish War and the consolidation of a distinct Turkish nationalism. In the case of Russia, however, the demise of the Soviet Union occurred primarily because of the atrophy of a cohesive elite, rather than a popular challenge to the system. When the Soviet Union was dissolved in December 1991, most Russians, including the political elite, were not certain whether the Belovezhsk agreement (Minsk) signaled a new form of federalism or some other new arrangement. It was this uncertainty among the Russian elite that explains Russia’s prolonged failure to establish either its own defense ministry or central bank. Therefore, the collapse of the Soviet Union cannot be equated with the birth of Russia. In fact, initially, the breakup of the Soviet Union was perceived by many Russians as a power-sharing deal between various elements of the Soviet nomenklatura, which had little relevance to their lives.

14It is symptomatic of the psychological disorientation befalling Russia that eight years after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russians have yet to agree on the proper name for the country, much less its borders, flag, seal, or national anthem. Russia at the end of the twentieth century has yet to find its “usable past”—its historic heroes and villains or, for that matter, a universal definition of what a Russian is. Sigmund Freud once observed that humanity always lives in the past and (guided by the past) is constantly thinking about the future; humanity never lives in the present. Contemporary Russia has not yet arrived at a consensus about its past, and thus is forced to contend with conflicting and contradictory visions of its future.

Russian Statehood: The Rise and Fall of Westernization

15Russia’s emergence as an independent state was not a “rebirth”. Unlike the Baltic states or the republics of the Transcaucasus, there was no passionate national identity to invigorate the polity as a result of the Soviet collapse. Unlike Ukrainians, Russians could neither marvel at their newly won sovereignty nor anticipate a rapid improvement in their living standards as most Ukrainians did. To most Russians, the demise of the Soviet Union engineered by the intelligentsia and nomenklatura represented a rollback of Russia’s frontiers to their pre-Petrine configuration, resulting in the loss of many “ancestral Russian lands”, the creation of a massive diaspora of Russians in the “near abroad”, and a profound sense of humiliation and defeat. Furthermore, the borders of the Russian Federation, its federalist structure, and the existence within it of quasi-sovereign republics dominated by their titular nationalities made the new state appear much more like an ersatz, truncated Soviet Union rather than a Russian state. Under these circumstances it was all but impossible to devise a postimperial myth as a compass for the new state.

16While it is beyond the scope of this paper to retrace the dynamics that led to the dismantling of the Soviet Union, it is essential to note that the intellectual force behind Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika—and later the supporters of Boris Yeltsin’s reforms—were primarily the Moscow-based westernized intelligentsia. Like other groups, the westernized intelligentsia was a complex body with a variety of subgroups, though several common beliefs applied to most of its members. Their basic dogma consisted of the following assumptions:

  1. The source of all the evils that befell the Soviet Union was Russia’s “falling out” of its natural western cultural orbit.
  2. Nationality problems were a direct outgrowth of Bolshevik totalitarianism; thus, once the Soviet Union adopted “(western) common values”, the nationality problem would resolve itself.
  3. The Soviet Union’s (and later Russia’s) daunting economic problems could be easily overcome, given the country’s human and mineral wealth. With a rapid integration into western structures, Russia would relive the post-World War II experience of Germany or Japan and rapidly become a pillar of the “civilized North”, escaping the intelligentsia’s nightmare of Aziatshchina.
  4. The integration into the West or the “civilized North” would be facilitated by the West’s appreciation of Russia’s unilateral ending of the cold war and by the gratitude of the East Europeans and the citizens of the former Soviet republics for making their independence possible.
  • 15 See Robert Sharlet, “Legal Transplants and Political Mutations: The Reception of Constitutional La (...)

17Both the Russian westernizers and their western counterparts agreed that macroeconomic reform and stabilization through a spillover effect would bring about democratization and the rule of law15.

  • 16 See Oleg Khakhordin, “Civil Society and Orthodox Christianity”, Europe-Asia 50:6 (1998).
  • 17 Boris Kagarlitsky, Restoration in Russia: Why Capitalism Failed (London: Verso Press, 1995).
  • 18 See Michael Urban, “Remythologising the Russian State”, Europe-Asia Studies 50:6 (September 1998): (...)
  • 19 See Colin Leys, The Rise and Fall of Development Theory (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 19 (...)

18Like Russia’s westernizers in the nineteenth century, the new Moscow intelligentsia adopted the prevailing western model of neoliberalism fashionable in the Thatcher-Reagan years, with little criticism of or allowance for the Soviet Union’s distinct features. For example, they paid no heed to the fact that the keystone of the liberal economic model, a Lockian-type civil society where a strong, largely self-regulating society “tolerates” a weak and constrained state, was a phenomenon distinctive to a small group of predominantly Anglo-Saxon states. They ignored also Russia’s Hegelian legacy of the primacy of the state as the “rational extension of the individual” and the fact that the post-Stalinist Soviet Union had attained something of a Montesqueian version of civil society where the citizenry organized into smaller subgroups which institutionally acted as intermediaries between the individual and the state16. Thus, the westernized elite proceeded to dismantle all intermediate institutions with an almost religious zeal, in the belief that these Bolshevik leftovers stymied the emergence of both a self-sufficient Russian citizen and the “free” market. Unlike their democratic counterparts in East-Central Europe, where the agenda to destroy Bolshevik autocracy did not automatically coincide with the establishment of neoliberalism and where former dissidents formed either social democratic or Christian democratic parties, the Russian intelligentsia proceeded to “build capitalism” with the same disregard for the predicament of the hinterland (glubinka) as their Marxist predecessors17. Egor Gaidar, the father of Russia’s “shock therapy”, declared the need for the destruction of Russia’s “pathological backwardness” if Russia were ever going to join the civilized world18. Russian westemizers and their western counterparts adopted a neoliberal dogma with the same zeal as their western predecessors, who a generation earlier were enthralled by “development theories19”.

  • 20 See Stephen Holmes, “What Russia Teaches Us Now: How Weak States Threaten Freedom”, The American P (...)

19The dismantling of the many institutions in Russia that mediated between the state and the individual did not result in the birth of a more individualistic citizen but rather led to the complete atomization of the individual. The result was that the individual’s sole point of reference and sole means of interacting with the state was lost. Another result was the metamorphosis of many of these subgroups into criminal formations. In the end, the deliberate and often mechanical dismemberment of old state institutions created a polity which has neither public power nor individual rights, making it an incoherent political society tenuously linked to an ever more deeply atomized and alienated individual20.

  • 21 See Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West (New York: 1926), 189-95
  • 22 See Ernest Gellner, “The Rest of History”, Prospect (May 1996).

20Without a doubt, the massive criminalization and collapse of the economy deprived the Russian government of the ability to use economic wellbeing as an underpinning of legitimacy that was afforded to other postimperial polities after World War II. In addition to that, however, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the sudden willful denunciation of the last seventy years of Russian history, and the debasement of what were heretofore national icons triggered a bitter response across wide segments of Russian society, especially outside the two capital cities. This is a process that Oswald Spengler calls “psuedomorphosis”, in which the borrowed culture overwhelms the receiving culture, leading to a profound disorientation on the part of the populace and creating a growing gap between an elite that assimilate the new culture and the masses that only superficially assimilate it. Societies experiencing psuedomorphosis usually follow two paths: either despotism by the assimilated elite or complete political paralysis21. Thus, even if the agenda of the westernizing elite had been successfully implemented, the cultural break (perelom) would have made the restoration of coherence to the new Russian state a daunting task22. Long before the economic collapse of August 1998, Genadii Zyuganov captured popular feeling when he referred to westernized Moscow as a “wart on the nose of Russia”.

21The Utopian dream of the westernizers, in any case, failed to materialize. The newly independent states of the former Soviet Union not only did not express any gratitude to Russia for their painless liberation, but instead, in their attempt to fortify their own identity, turned Russia into the evil “other” responsible for all the calamities that had befallen them, including Stalinism. The Russian population and Russophone diaspora residing in these newly independent states suddenly became unloved leftovers of imperialism who perceived the growth of discrimination and outright persecution against them. In a similar fashion, within the Russian Federation itself, republics dominated by titular nationalities such as Chechnya, Tatarstan, and Bashkortistan asserted their “native rights”, creating a large Russian population believing itself to be the subject of discrimination and even oppression. The westernizers’ belief that the Soviet Union’s and then Russia’s nationality problems would be easily solved with the advent of democracy turned out to be a bitter disappointment.

  • 23 Urban, “Remythologising the Russian State”, 986.

22Another westernizing notion to meet its Waterloo soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union was the belief that the nations of East-Central Europe would appreciate the Russian role in their liberation and would thus act as a bridge facilitating Russia’s “return to Europe”. As with the former Soviet republics, much of the pent-up hostility toward the Soviet Union was transferred to Russia. Across the region Soviet World War II cemeteries and monuments were vandalized, at times with the apparent blessing of the authorities, thereby attacking perhaps Russia’s sole remaining national icon. Demands by Poland that democratic Russia assume moral responsibility for Stalinist travesties shook the underlying assumption of the westernizers that the peoples of the former Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc would realize that it was the Russians who were the prime victims of Stalinism. The countries of East-Central Europe not only failed to become facilitators for Russia but instead spearheaded the attempt to exclude Russia from Europe, a process that culminated in the applications of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland to enter the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The symbolic value alone of the decision to expand NATO severely discredited the notion of westernization in the Russian body politic. The liberal publicist Kara Muzra eloquently captured the desperation of the Russian westernizers: “We consider ourselves as a part of Europe in the cultural sense. But Europe does not consider Russia to be European. That’s the problem. They fear us. We [are treated as] a guest of Europe. There is a saying: ‘The uninvited guest has already been here for generations’ (making everybody, especially the guest, uncomfortable, it would seem). [Ivan] Silaev [ambassador to the European Union] was right when he said to NATO that you are only stimulating Ziuganov23”.

  • 24 Janine R. Wedel, Collision and Collusion: The Strange Case of Western Aid to Eastern Europe, 1989- (...)

23Perhaps the greatest disappointment to the Russian westernized intelligentsia was in Russia’s relationship with the developed West in general and the United States in particular. By 1995 there was a growing consensus that the attempted return to the “common European home” was an economic, political, and security calamity for Russia. In economic terms the expectation that Russia would soon be integrated into the “civilized North” turned out to be an illusion. Western aid, never reaching the levels that some westemizers such as Yavlinskii anticipated, was either spent on western consultants or simply stolen by a parasitic rent-seeking elite24. Within a very short period, Russian society fragmented to produce a small, criminalized economic elite that, with the West’s blessing, continued to loot the country. The perception of continued western support for Yeltsin regardless of how corrupt and arbitrary he proved to be was engrained in the Russian consciousness, especially following the events of 1993 when Yeltsin used tanks to subdue a duly elected parliament—again, with the approval of the West.

24Similarly, the westernizers’ belief that Russia, with its human and mineral resources along with a population used to low wages, would be able to repeat the experience of Southeast Asia, where export promotion became a locomotive of sustained growth, were dashed, in large part due to the “antidumping” policies of both the United States and the European Union (EU). The requirement that the “nonmarket” economies of the Commonwealth of Independent States illustrate a priori that their manufactured goods were not being dumped on western markets stymied any hope of an export-driven recovery. Thanks to tight monetary policies stemming from the Russian westernizers’ heeding of International Monetary Fund advice, the “demonetized” Russian economy drove much of Russia’s manufacturing sector to rely on barter as the main means of trade. The reliance on barter resulted in the inability of most Russian manufacturers to demonstrate costs and thus avoid countervailing measures designed to thwart dumping. Furthermore, the tight monetary policy foisted on Russia by the West led to an appreciation of Russian currency, creating an import-driven boom in Moscow, where eighty-five percent of foreign capital in Russia was placed, while further constraining the ability of industry to compete, leading to massive impoverishment outside the two major cities.

  • 25 Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (Boston: Be (...)

25The hopes of Russia’s westernizers for an export-driven recovery were crushed. Post-Soviet Russia, shorn of its empire and unable to sell its manufactured goods to its former clients and satellites, was quickly reduced to a mineral and semiprocessed commodities exporter, leading to the collapse of its manufacturing sector and to mass unemployment among the country’s “technical intelligentsia”, which, ironically, many early westernizers saw as the basis of a putative middle class. In what may well turn out to be the ultimate irony of Russia’s experiment with westernization, Russia’s westernizers fell victim to the neoliberal dogma gripping the West between 1979 and 1997. They both ignored Karl Polanyi’s seminal work, The Great Transformation (1944), which so clearly demonstrated how the gold standard and tight monetary policy delegitimized the Weimar Republic25, and forgot that both the New Deal and the Marshall Plan included healthy doses of monetary injections into the economy. Western advisors and their Russian counterparts proceeded with their neoliberal prescriptions, ignoring all evidence that, in Russia’s case at least, tight money did not result in greater savings and investments, but actually drove the economy toward barter and subsistence production. By 1998 the Russian Federation had fragmented into dozens of pseudoclosed economies while the country’s gross domestic product was hovering at fifty percent of its 1988 level. In economic terms the Russian state ceased to be a coherent unit.

26Finally, the westernizers’ assumption that the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the devolution of the Soviet Union would lead to a partnership with the United States and an end to the cold war has failed to materialize in Russian eyes. The decision to expand NATO eastward was perceived across the spectrum of Russia’s political classes at best as a violation of the Zheleznovotsk agreements, and a provocative step to isolate Russia within the international system at worst. This sense of defeat and betrayal was reinforced by the decision of the United States to hold naval exercises off the Crimean peninsula and later by the strong support of the Clinton administration for the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline, despite repeated statements by the oil industry that the project had no economic grounding. To most Russian observers, in security terms westernization did not return Russia to the “civilized West” but moved the line of containment from the heart of Germany to the Polish-Ukrainian border and from the Persian Gulf to the Transcaucasus.

27The Yeltsin years may well be remembered as years of lost opportunities for both Russia and the West. In economic terms the Russian economy shriveled to less than half of its Soviet-era peak. In political terms the collapse of communism failed to create a modern citizenry and instead degraded the population to an amorphous mass, oscillating between atomization and anomie on the one hand, and criminalization on the other. Yet perhaps the most grievous loss inflicted on Russia was in psychological terms. Russia’s westernized elite, ensconced in Moscow, perceived approval by the West as the highest form of legitimacy, giving the increasingly radical opposition almost a monopoly in shaping and defining Russia and its national myth. To many Russians, the warm relationship between Moscow-based westernizers occurring in the background of an ever deepening poverty and corruption appeared to be proof of the elite’s duplicity and the West’s perfidiousness. This was a reminder to them of Alexander Radishchev’s observation in his Journey from Petersburg to Moscow (1790) that, while the French philosophers marveled at the liberalism and enlightenment of Catherine the Great, both the Russian empress and her western interlocutors conveniently forgot that she ruled a realm of enslaved serfs.

  • 26 The universal feature of serfdom is the serf’s inability to leave his place of employment at will. (...)
  • 27 Vladimir Shlapentokh, “Early Feudalism: The Best Parallel for Contemporary Russia”, Europe-Asia St (...)

28Similarly, at a time when millions went unpaid and a new form of serfdom26 was introduced, the heroic treatment accorded to Yeltsin, Chernomyrdin, Chubais, and some of the new Russian tycoons discredited both the merit of westernization and the West27. The collapse of the Russian ruble in August 1998 and Russia’s subsequent default on its foreign debt, followed by a banking crisis that decimated the protomiddle class and was felt even in Moscow and St. Petersburg, dealt a severe blow to the “imagined community” of the Russian intelligentsia.

  • 28 Aleksandr Akhiezer, “Rossiskii liberalism pered litsom krizisa”, Obshchestvennye Nauki i Sovremmen (...)

29While we may be historically too close to analyze thoroughly all the complex reasons behind the collapse of Russia’s liberal westernization, an important general observation can be made. The failure of both the late nineteenth- and late twentieth-century liberalization movements continues to reflect the profound schism in Russian society. The contemporary Russian historian Aleksandr Akhiezer drew a striking analogy: “Every word of the 1861 reform harbored a schism, an abyss of a mutual lack of understanding. Liberal reformers, guided by the values of a developed utilitarianism as ways to become aware of the link between personal efforts and personal benefits, pursued liberal notions of growth and the importance of the individual in society. The peasants, by contrast, strove to close themselves off in their own local worlds; they were oriented toward the dominance of barter relations. Two sets of values, two types of civilization, two kinds of sociocultural reproductions were in conflict28”.

30Russia’s lumpen urbanization and industrialization did not alter many features of Russian society. The end of central planning and the disintegration of the centralized state resulted in the reversion to economic fragmentation that enabled local power-brokers to close themselves in their own local worlds and revert to barter relationships. Thus, liberalization of prices in Russia did not lead to an explosion in production, rational prices, or an individual-based society.

  • 29 Nataliia Tikhonova, “Mirovozzrecheskie tsennosti i politicheskii protsess v Rossii”, Obshchestvenn (...)

31By 1995, fully 64.5 percent of Russian adults were “ashamed of their country”, 55 percent were certain that “[Russia] cannot go on living this way”, and 82 percent longed to see Russia as a “great power29”. In a symbolic coincidence, when in December 1998 one of the “poet laureates” of Gorbachev’s glasnost, Anatolii Rybakov, died in his New York home, much of the Russian press virtually ignored the event. Russia’s bout of political and economic liberalism was over.

Russia at a Crossroads: Ethnonationalism or Pan-Slavism

  • 30 Eduard Batalov, “Kuda put’ derzhim? O natsional’noi idee i gosudarstvennoi ideologii”, Rossiiskaia (...)

32The new Russian national idea cannot be other than a continuation and a development of previous national ideas formed over the course of centuries and the embodiment of the integral experience of the nation and the principles of its existence30.

  • 31 See Stephen E. Hanson and Jeffrey S. Kopstein, “The Weimar/ Russia Comparison”, Post Soviet Affair (...)
  • 32 Missing reference.

33It may well be that the greatest strength of Russia’s pseudodemocracy is the absence of programmatic political parties and the very deep atomi-zatton of society, both of which act as obstacles to the formation of authoritarianism31. However, this apparent apathy should not be confused with the profound rejection of the current Russian reality. In the popular arts, themes of Stalinist brutality, communist oppression, and Brezhnevite banality have all but disappeared. Russian music of today, especially among the heavy metal bands popular with the young, dwells on people’s feelings of anger and humiliation, with xenophobic and antiwestern overtones. Among the middle-aged, there is a powerful return to Soviet era estrada and a mix of war songs from both World War II and the Civil War32. In the case of Civil War songs, however, it is the songs of the whites fighting for “holy Russia”, rather than the reds fighting for a “new world”, that are most popular. Betrayal and abandonment by the West are a recurrent theme.

  • 33 Interfax 22 (January 1997).

34Beyond popular art, which is one measure of public sentiment, public opinion polls indicate profound nostalgia for the Soviet past. Though as noted above nearly two-thirds of Russians are “ashamed” of their country, at the same time eighty-four percent regret the breakup of the Soviet Union33. The failure of the westernizing paradigm has left a huge psychological void in Russia, a void that is being filled with mythologies relying on nationalism as the basis of legitimacy. As was the case with German and Hungarian nationalism during the interwar period, there are two major variants of the nationalist paradigm competing within Russia’s body politic: a nativist group that focuses on Russia in its current “narrow definition” of ethnic Russians within the Russian Federation, and a group with a “pan-Slavic” vision which extends the definition of Russians across the Slavic-Orthodox lands of the former Soviet Union. Both of the above currents in Russian politics are poorly formed and fluid in structure, with many individuals defying a strict characterization; however, while the process of formation might not be complete, several general observations can be made.

Nativist “Moderate “ Nationalism

35Nativist “moderate” nationalism emerged fairly soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union and, indeed, found some resonance across wide segments of Russian society. Among the prominent political actors that may fit in this nationalist paradigm, albeit imperfectly, would be all three major presidential contenders—Lebed, Luzhkov, and Primakov—along with Lukin and Solzhenitsyn. While the above-mentioned nationalists do not have identical views, there are several key characteristics common to all of them.

  1. In terms of a usable past, they all refuse to categorize either the Soviet era or the Tsarist period in any unidimensional manner. While freely admitting the shortcomings of the previous eras, they invariably stress the accomplishments of Russia and its people under both the Soviet and Tsarist regimes.
  2. They perceive Russia as a distinct culture and, while avoiding Messianism or anti-status quo policies, they nevertheless support a vigorous defense of the country’s distinct culture and an assertive foreign policy defending Russia’s national interests. This includes a sphere of influence across the formerly Soviet territory.
  • 34 I. Klymakin and V. Lapkin, “Russkii vopros v Rossii”, Polis 5:29: 87.
  • 35 Igor Zevelev, “The Russian Quest for New Identity: Implications for Security in Eurasia”, in Globa (...)
  • 36 “Nashe interv’iu’ Solzhenitsyn o Chechne”, Argumentyi i Fakty 1-2 (January 1995): 1.
  • 37 See Vera Tolz, “Conflicting ‘Homeland Myths’ and Nation-State Building in Postcommunist Russia,” S (...)
  • 38 See Vera Tolz, “Forging the Nation: National Identity and Nation-Building in Post Communist Russia (...)

36Their definition of Russianness tends to be relatively broad, with language and culture as the main markers of national identity34. However, unlike the westernizing liberals who insist that decentralization and federalism are essential pillars of Russia’s democracy, moderate nationalists fear that uncontrolled decentralization will lead to the fragmentation of the Russian Federation and a repeat of the experience of the Soviet Union. Vladimir Lukin has noted that, given the regional and “civilizational” centrifugal forces across the unwieldy federation, Russia’s sole priority over the next two decades is simply to “survive35”. Solzhenitsyn has noted that federalism was a “Leninist invention” meant to culturally dilute and denude Russia36. The solution for preventing the disintegration of Russia is to create a unitary ethnonational state. Some of the more radical among the “narrow nationalists” (such as Vladimir Kabuzan, Ksenia Mialo, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn), while supporting independence for the Chechens, included in their agenda the recovery of “Russian lands” such as the Crimea, Donbass, the Narvan region, and Northern Kazakhstan37. Interestingly, while Ksenia Mialo narrowly focuses on Russia as a distinct entity (she traces the origin of the Russian state to Novgorod), others among the nativists link the birth of the Russian nation to the formation of a strong Muscovite state, abandoning the myth of Kievan Rus’ as the birthplace of Russia as the Slavophiles tend to do38.

37Strong centralized statehood is a key to Russian identity according to this group.

  • 39 Sergei Kortunov, “Kaitsa Rossii ne v chem”, Nezavisimaia Gazeta (26 September 1996).

38Their attitude toward the West is very ambiguous, often indicating suppressed hostility. They firmly believe that the West—and particularly the United States—is not “anticommunist” but rather “Russophobic”. Thus, the liberals’ dream of partnership with the United States never had grounding in reality. The United States, according to the “narrow” nationalists, have humiliated Russia and exploited Russia’s weakness in order to undermine the Russian state39. However, while perceiving the United States as a rival, the narrow nationalists recognize that given Russia’s economic weakness, Russia must avoid tension with the West until such time that its economy, particularly its industrial base, has recovered. While most “narrow” nationalists blame the West for the economic misfortunes that have befallen Russia, they remain very cognizant of Russia’s dependence on western credits and hence are careful not to provoke a confrontation on truly substantive issues. Thus, at the current stage, Russia’s policy should be limited to sustaining the integrity of Russia, for only upon regaining its strength can Russia asserts itself across “Russian lands”.

  • 40 See Dmitry Shlapentokh, “A Problem in Self Identity: Russian Intellectual Thought in the Context o (...)
  • 41 See Vladimir Shlapentokh, “How Russians Will See the Status of Their Country by the End of the Cen (...)

39Although the narrow nativist nationalist school may well contain some of the most respected names in Russian politics, and indeed dominated the political arena in the first five years of Russia’s independence, their ideological paradigm suffered a severe setback with the outbreak of war with Chechnya and the subsequent Russian defeat. While the narrow Russian nationalists long rejected an intimate relationship with the West because it was seen as degrading to Russia’s culture and status, many of these same nationalists adopted the view of the emigré “Eurasians” of the 1920s who perceived the non-Slavic peoples of Russia to be symbiotic friends of Russia in confrontations with the West40. The war in Chechnya followed by the rise of fundamentalist Islam (Wahabism) there as well as in Daghastan and in other parts of the Russian Federation, coupled with the quagmire in Tajikistan and the ascent of the Taliban in Afghanistan, shattered all notions of “Eurasianism” or of an “Orthodox-Muslim axis” against the West. Aleksandr Prokhanov, the editor of the ultra-nationalist publication Zavtra and a strong proponent of “Eurasianism”, wrote in late 1996 that it will be China and the Muslim world that will benefit most from the dissolution of Russia41.

  • 42 Mikhail Smolin, “‘Mein Kampf’ po-Dagastanskii ili protokoly gorskogo mudretsa”, Moskva 11 (1998): (...)
  • 43 Smolin, “Mein Kampf, 147.

40The defeat in Chechnya has become a turning point in post-Soviet Russian history. On the one hand that war exposed the decay in Yeltsin’s Russia; at the same time, it delegitimized the Russian state that had emerged in 1991. Observing the status of the Russian state in 1998, the nationalist journal Moskva noted that “federalism destroyed Russia within the frontiers of the Soviet Union and will destroy the Russian Federation unless [federalism] ceases to be the state dogma42”. He cites the writing of the Dagastani nationalist Mohamed Tagaev, who has claimed that the stated aim of the Islamic population in the Russian Federation is to reduce Russia to the medieval “Moscovy, Tver, and Novgorod principalities43”. This initiated yet another shift in the center of gravity of Russian nationalism away from Eurasian nativism toward pan-Slavic imperialism, a process that would accelerate greatly after the economic crisis of summer 1998.

Pan-Slavists and Empire-Builders

  • 44 Roman Szporluk, “Nationalism After Communism: Reflections on Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland” (...)

41There have always been segments within the Russian body politic that have never accepted the demise of the Soviet Union. However, after the defeat of the communist coup attempt in August 1991, the massive vote in Ukraine to secede from the Soviet Union, and the willingness of vast parts of the Soviet Armed Forces to “betray” the Soviet Union and declare loyalty to Ukraine and other newly emerged states reduced those whose sought the restoration of the Soviet Union to fringe groups consisting mainly of communists and other disaffected types. In the months following the demise of the Soviet Union, peripheral groups, such as the National Salvation Front led by Ilya Konstantinov, called for the restoration of the Soviet Union in the context of a “multi-ethnic nation” (mnogonarodnaia natsiia). The communists, both in Russia and Ukraine, from the very start did not accept the demise of the Soviet Union. As Roman Szporluk observed, “Independent Russia and independent Ukraine in their own ways define themselves through the negation of the Soviet Union44”, a definition that from the start was rejected by hard-core communists. The regrouped Communist Party called for the revival of the Soviet Union on the basis “one Soviet people” (edinnyi sovietskii narod).

  • 45 Vera Tolz, “Conflicting ‘Homeland Myths,’” 288.
  • 46 Gennadi Zyuganov, Geograflia Pobedy: Osnovy Rossisskoi Geopolitiki (Moscow: 1997), 249.

42By 1993 the view of those wishing to restore the empire significantly changed. The growing crime wave in Russian cities coupled with the prevailing perception that immigrants from Central Asia and the Transcaucasus represented a “criminal element” cooled the internationalist ardor of many communists. The popularity of the expulsion of “Asians” from Moscow by Mayor Luzhkov in October 1993 followed by the outbreak of war in Chechnya led the communists to shift from calling for the restoration of the Soviet Union to an embrace of a pan-Slavic paradigm. The waves of Slavic immigrants from Central Asia and the perception of the oppression of Russians in the Baltic states and the titular republics of the Russian Federation rekindled an imperial version of pan-Slavism. Instead of stressing internationalism, the leader of the Russian communists, Zyuganov, declared that since only a nation can generate human values, “Slavic values” are superior to abstract “human values”. Vladimir Govorukhin, a former advocate of Soviet restoration, declared his preference for a unitary Slavic state45. By 1997, Zyuganov asserted a distinctly pan-Slavic vision: “Our task is the reunification of Ukraine and Belarus with Russia46”.

  • 47 Zyuganov, Geografiia Pobedy, 249

43As the economic situation in Russia declined, an ever growing segment of the Russian population perceived the Russian polity as an illegitimate criminal entity. The illegitimacy of the Russian state was further accelerated by mass disenchantment in both Belarus and Ukraine with their respective independence. Interestingly, the term “the Soviet Union” was relegated to disuse, while the Russian political lexicon became increasingly dominated by terms such as “Slavic brotherhood” (Sla-vianskoe bratstvo) and the “triune Orthodox Russian nation” (triedinaya pravoslavniia russkaya narodnost’) consisting of Russians, Ukrainians, and Belorusians47.

  • 48 Konstantin Dushenov, “By Silence God is Betrayed”, Moskva 2 (1997).
  • 49 Dushenov, “By Silence God is Betrayed”.

44Other important political actors joined this shift toward a pan-Slavic orientation in Russia, including the Russian Orthodox Church, large segments of the officer corps, and most recently, members of the middle class ruined by the collapse of 1998. The Russian Orthodox Church, historically an organ of empire, reacted to the demise of the Soviet Union with dismay. The breakup of the Soviet Union meant the rise of autocephalous churches in Estonia, Moldova, and Ukraine, de facto dethroning the patriarch of “Moscow and all Russias”. Thus, from the very beginning the Orthodox Church launched a campaign against its twin enemies: “ecumenism”, as represented by the westernizing liberals, and “renovationism”, manifested in the rise of national Orthodox churches in the newly independent states48. Appealing to Russian nationalism, Orthodox Church leaders equated ecumenism with the creeping “Catholici-zation” of Russia, recalling the resistance of Aleksandr Nevskii to the Teutonic Knights49.

  • 50 See loann, “Russkii uzel”, Rus’ Pravoslavnaia 2; Sovetskaia Rossia 83 (15 July 1993): 3.

45An even more extreme nationalist position was advocated by the late metropolitan of St. Petersburg, Ioann, who praised Stalin as the gatherer of the “lands of Rus”’ and called for a crusade against the genocidal “Russophobes”—including Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Jews, and American capitalists—all conspiring to break up the “greatest empire in the world50”. In Belarus, Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk routinely referred to “our homeland between the Baltic and the Pacific”. While not all clerics embraced loann’s sense of paranoia, Alexii II, patriarch of Moscow and all Russias, declined to take issue with the ultra-nationalist sentiments emanating from his church. Significantly, when presidents Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus and Boris Yeltsin of Russia launched the process of integration between the two countries, Alexii II presided over the ceremony, referring to it as a sacred task (sviatoe delo).

46The call for a synthesis of Orthodox Christianity and a pan-Slavic ideology was enthusiastically endorsed by the publication Literaturnaia Rossia of the Union of Russian Writers.

  • 51 V.E. Gidirinskii, Russkaia idea i armiia (Moscow: Voennyi Universitet, 1997), 283

47Another advocate of pan-Slavic integration was the Russian Armed Forces. While the Armed Forces was once the embodiment of the Soviet Union as superpower, it is now reduced to humiliating poverty. The Russian Armed Forces—both institutionally and as individual officers— increasingly sees the current situation as untenable. In a text published by the Russian ministry of defense, both alarm about the current situation and a blueprint for the future was laid out: “Today (at the end of the twentieth century) Russia has no national idea, no national consciousness. We are about to resemble a modern day Atlantis indifferently plunging into the ocean51”.

  • 52 Gidirinskii, Russkaia idea i armiia, 286-89

48The authors, commissioned by the Russian defense ministry, argue that if Russia is not to disintegrate or become a band of mercenaries, a Russian state organically linked to the Russian Orthodox Church and to the legacy of Kievan Rus’ must supplant the current incoherence52.

  • 53 Interpress Service (1 July 1998).
  • 54 See Aleksandr Borodai, “Kavakzskii khaos”, Zavtra 38: 251 (22 September 1998). See also his “Sud’b (...)
  • 55 Krasnaia Zvezda (22 November 1998).

49The Union of Slavic Officers, representing military officers from three Slavic states, has been active since 1993, organizing congresses and calling for a “Slavic rebirth”. Many officers, especially on duty within the ministry of the interior, developed overt links with the fascist Russian National Union (RNU), a relationship that allowed members of the RNU to acquire weapons53. A recurrent theme among nationalist military officers is that only a “united Slavdom” can confront the tidal wave of Islam from the South as well as that of the latter day Teutonic Knights, by which he meant NATO54. In a bulletin published by the Union of Slavic Officers, there was a call for the defense of the “all-Russian” Slavic ethnos against a crusade to destroy Russia, a defense which is attainable only in the context of a “unified all-Russian state”. Yeltsin, cognizant of the growing pan-Slavic sentiment in the Russian Armed Forces, stated in an official address to military officers: “It is impossible to tear Ukraine from our hearts. The Ukrainians are our own people. That is our destiny—our common destiny55”. A few days after Orthodox Christmas, Primakov attended a gathering organized by Alexii, bringing churchmen, officers, and intellectuals together.

50Another important indication of the shift of the Russian body politic from liberal to pan-Slavic orientation is the change in the elites’ perceptions of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). To the westernizers the CIS was a vital tool in dismantling the Soviet Union. Although the initial hope of the liberals that the CIS would resemble a “new and improved federalism” was dashed, the liberals found the CIS useful for several reasons. As Paul Goble aptly noted, they used the CIS as a “fig leaf to deny the breakup of the Soviet Union—a reality that no Russian politician wanted to face. Trade relationships that developed between the banking oligarchs and the new elites in the newly independent states were favored as a means of participating in the “privatizations” of CIS countries and as a conduit to export commodities out of Russia. Boris Berezovskii and Gazprom were among the most vocal champions ofthe CIS.

  • 56 See, for example, Semyon Ulanich and Oleg Medvedev, “A Farewell to the Commonwealth”, Business in (...)

51The economic collapse of 1998, the demise of the banking oligarchs, and the ensuing shift of elites toward pan-Slavism changed the political attitude toward the CIS. Whereas in the past only nationalists and communists depicted the CIS as Yeltsin’s fig leaf and fraudulent façade, in post-August 1998 even mainstream Russian media56 started to depict the CIS as a Potemkin village, allowing Yeltsin the role of a Mongol khan, holding court for minor vassals.

  • 57 Ulanich and Medvedev, “A Farewell to the Commonwealth”, 28.
  • 58 BBC Russia Survey (radio), 11 January 1998.

52Increasingly the CIS was perceived as a charade sustained with essentially free Russian natural gas, loans, trade concessions, and peacekeeping, robbing Russia of twenty-one percent of its national income57. The reelection of Nazarbaev (one of the most vocal supporters of the CIS) as president of Kazakhstan drew derision from Russian nationalist politicians. Several upheld Nazarbaev as a prototypical leader using the CIS to take advantage of Russia58. The calls for Russian withdrawal from the CIS were accompanied by ever louder calls for bilateral relationships. In fact, increasingly the term bilateralism has acquired a dual meaning. When dealing with Belarus, Ukraine and, at times, Kazakhstan, it implies degrees of integration, while when dealing with other states of the Transcaucasus and Central Asia the same term means cold, pragmatic relations without any Russian concessions. Reflecting the mindset of postliberal Russia, while most Russians claim to perceive the CIS as irrelevant, eighty percent welcomed the new plan to integrate with Belarus.

Conclusion: The Radicalization of Russian Politics, Prospects for the Future

  • 59 “Zyuganov’s Attack on Zionism”, Sovetsaia Rossiia 24 (December 1998
  • 60 See interview with Valentin Rasputin, Sovetskaia Rossiia (reported in Johnson’s List, 5 January 19 (...)

53All three Slavic countries were overcome with a tidal wave of nostalgia for the Soviet Union and a deepening perception that the only way for these Slavic peoples to survive the machinations of the “perfidious West”, the “Zionist conspiracy”, and “Wahabist adversity” was to join together. Within a very short time, a profound radicalization of Russian nationalism has occurred, fundamentally shifting the parameters of debate in Russia and launching to center stage what was in years past a fringe view. Xenophobic and nationalist rhetoric once considered unacceptable arrived with a vengeance and, indeed, gained respectability inconceivable only a year ago59. Nationalism and pan-Slavic or all-Russian (obsherusskogo) unification have become tools of rhetoric across the political continuum. The current Russian state has no legitimacy, and public imagination is increasingly dominated by a blend of nostalgia and paranoia, perceiving the West and its “agents” as the culprits responsible for calamities ranging from betrayal to “ethno-genocide”. Russian nationalists increasingly wallow in self-pity, depicting Russia as an innocent entity driven by perfidious forces toward extinction60.

  • 61 Many of Mussolini’s ideologues—Roberto Michles, Paolo Orano, Sergio Panunizo—were Marxists before (...)

54The mutation from Marxism to fascism is both possible and has its historic precedents61. A drift in Russia toward greater corporatism and state intervention is likely if not inevitable. The use of nationalist rhetoric, laced with doses of antiwestern verbiage will most likely dominate the political discourse in Russia as the Yeltsin era comes to an end. The mythology of a “distinct civilization” and some sort of restoration will continue to dominate the agenda of all political actors to varying degrees. Some remilitarization of the polity is bound to take place. The muted reaction even by liberals to the decision of the army to spend scarce resources on the Topol-M program is indicative of the current mindset of the Russian body politic.

55However, the currently fashionable talk of “Weimar Russia” or “fascist Russia” is premature and potentially dangerous, as it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Despite the obvious similarities between interwar Germany and contemporary Russia, two key differences should not be overlooked. Unlike Germany with its hyper-politicized population and tight network of political organizations, Russian society is extremely atomized, with most of its population struggling to survive rather than eager to participate in politics of any variety. Additionally, Germany during the interwar period had a young population convinced of its superiority over its neighbors; Russia’s population is aging and declining. Having lived through the political violence of both Stalin and Hitler, the Russian people make poor material for the anti-status quo politics of fascists.

56The main danger that the West faces from Russia is not aggression but rather disintegration. This will potentially be accompanied by uncontrolled refugee flows, export of nuclear technology, and dissipation of its human capital to rogue states. The West cannot, nor should it try to, promote the “westernization” of Russia as it did in the 1990s. Russia simply lacks the infrastructure for a modern civil society, and the imposition of westernization from above (and from the outside) merely distances the elites from the country at large, adding to the country’s political instability. All functioning polities retain their stability and viability through a strange mix of practical results and legitimizing mythology. Contemporary Russia has neither of these preconditions. The West, through an enlightened aid policy that actually reaches the people in need and a clairvoyant trade policy that bolsters and ultimately expands the tiny middle class, can introduce a degree of legitimacy to the current Russian state. It is noteworthy that what keeps the countries of East-Central Europe on the path toward modern democratic politics is the belief that they will be rewarded by the West, whether through membership in the EU, NATO, or the World Trade Organization. Although neo-liberalism drew both Poland and Russia toward subsistence economies, the outcome was different. The Poles were able to capitalize on the shuttle trade that actually integrated individual Poles into the world economy and provided a locomotive for future growth. Russia’s subsistence economy deepened the isolation of individual Russians, driving them to anomie and xenophobia. The Russians have nothing to hope for in this regard. Greater sensitivity to Russian national sensibilities on symbolic issues may help to prevent symbolic and psychological issues from boiling over into a real crisis.

57The latest war in the Balkans and NATO unilateral action against Serbia appear to have drastically shifted the mindset of the Russian nationalists from the nativism focused on Russian spiritual and cultural values and an inward looking preoccupation with Russian internal woes. The perception of danger and the sense of humiliation of NATO’s action pushed Russian nationalism toward the strand associated with statism and a powerful Russian state.

  • 62 Business in Russia (January 1999): 23
  • 63 My definition of middle class is based on the ownership of economic property, not education.

58Nationalism, at times bombastic, will remain the coin in Russian politics for a long time to come. However, Russia’s integration into the world may well lead to the emergence of a kind of Russian DeGaullism, in reference to a situation in which nationalism was used as an anaesthetic during a painful period of adjustment and modernization and, in the end, helped to create a new polity. At the current juncture of history, even ardent liberals such as Aleksandr Livshits concede that Russia’s experiment with liberalism has failed and must be deferred until at least 2004, if not longer62. However, although Russia is bound for an authoritarian or chaotic period, it would be a mistake on the part of the West to write off Russia. We must be mindful that until the outbreak of the Korean War the United States tried to recast both Germany and Japan in its own image with very mixed results. It was only following the outbreak of the Korean War that the United States shifted its policy toward the integration of Germany and Japan into the world economy, despite obvious dumping by both countries and despite the odious pedigree of many members of the German and Japanese industrial elite. In the case of Latin America where dictatorships arose, again, since 1970 the policy of the United States was not to overthrow “disagreeable” regimes but instead to bolster the economic and political power of the middle class. The West must rise above the narrow interests of domestic lobbies and commence a profound integration of the Russian economy into the world economy and nourishment of its middle class. The West must also abandon its missionary effort to “enlighten” the Russians. In the next generation Russia is unlikely to become the democratic state we all seek; in the absence of a middle class, it cannot be63. The successful economic integration of Russia may lead to a repeat of the process of democratization through international economic integration as was seen in the cases of Northern Mexico, Spain, Taiwan, and other countries, where a shift from nationalism and a move to seek legitimacy through the provision of social justice led to gradual democratization.

  • 64 Alexander Yanov, “Russian Nationalism: Ideology of Counter-Reform”, RFE/RL Reports (19 December 19 (...)

59Failure to integrate Russia may lead that country to echo its nineteenth-century cycle so aptly described by the historian Yanov, where a failed liberalization, mutated to inward-looking parochialism, resulted in an autocracy made possible by isolation64. An isolated Russia will repeat its historic cycle. It will experience a prolonged period of disintegration, chaos, and misery, a new “Time of Trouble” (smutnoe vremya) which will be followed by the consolidation of a new autocracy. The West may not be able to choose the future of this vast and enigmatic land; however, it can influence the choice the Russian people make, and indeed, it must.

Notes

1 Quoted in Igor N. Ionov, “The Crisis of Historical Consciousness in Russia and the Ways to Overcome It”, Obshchestvennye nauka i sovremennost’ 6 (1994)

2 Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History? ”, National Interest 16 (Summer 1988)

3 America’s inability to come to terms with the potent force of nationalism can be demonstrated by Washington’s stubborn refusal to consider the partition of Bosnia- Herzegovina or Kosovo along ethnic lines, despite the clear indication that this was the will of the native population.

4 Michael Ignatieff, “Identity Parades”, Prospect (April 1998).

5 Whereas prior to 1973, for each one-percent growth of gross domestic product, a twopercent increase in the consumption of energy was demanded. Following the increase in the prices of imports, the greatest value-added product became intellectual property, accelerating the process toward postindustrialism.

6 See David Brown, “Why is the Nation-State So Vulnerable to Ethnic Nationalism? ”, Nations and Nationalism 4:1(1998)

7 Yitzhak Brudny, Re-Inventing History: Russian Nationalism and the Soviet State, 1953-91 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998); Katherine Verdery, National Ideology Under Socialism: Identity and Cultural Politics in Ceausescu’s Romania (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995).

8 The Iranian Revolution of 1979-80 should have raised the question of whether modern liberal polities are a historical inevitability.

9 Ignatieff, “Belonging in the Past”.

10 On the contradiction between civil society and multiculturalism, see Eamonn Callan, Creating Citizens: Political Education and Liberal Democracy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997).

11 See Margaret Canovan, Nationhood and Political Theory (Cheltenham, England: Edward Elgar, 1996).

12 The only other analogous situation where the empire preceded the formation of a nation is the Ottoman empire.

13 Sergei Witte, Vospominania Vol. 3 (Moscow: 1900), 273

14 Ilya Prizel, National Identity and Foreign Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), chapters 5-6.

15 See Robert Sharlet, “Legal Transplants and Political Mutations: The Reception of Constitutional Law in Russia and the Newly Independent States”, East European Constitutional Review 7:4:62

16 See Oleg Khakhordin, “Civil Society and Orthodox Christianity”, Europe-Asia 50:6 (1998).

17 Boris Kagarlitsky, Restoration in Russia: Why Capitalism Failed (London: Verso Press, 1995).

18 See Michael Urban, “Remythologising the Russian State”, Europe-Asia Studies 50:6 (September 1998): 975.

19 See Colin Leys, The Rise and Fall of Development Theory (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996).

20 See Stephen Holmes, “What Russia Teaches Us Now: How Weak States Threaten Freedom”, The American Prospect 33 (July-August 1997)

21 See Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West (New York: 1926), 189-95

22 See Ernest Gellner, “The Rest of History”, Prospect (May 1996).

23 Urban, “Remythologising the Russian State”, 986.

24 Janine R. Wedel, Collision and Collusion: The Strange Case of Western Aid to Eastern Europe, 1989-1998 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998

25 Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (Boston: Beacon Press, 1944).

26 The universal feature of serfdom is the serf’s inability to leave his place of employment at will. Millions of Russian workers, who are not paid by their employers in legal tender but rather either in parallel currency or kind, have become de facto serfs, as they cannot leave their employer at will.

27 Vladimir Shlapentokh, “Early Feudalism: The Best Parallel for Contemporary Russia”, Europe-Asia Studies 48:3 (May 1995)

28 Aleksandr Akhiezer, “Rossiskii liberalism pered litsom krizisa”, Obshchestvennye Nauki i Sovremmenost ‘1(1993). Reprinted in Russian Social Review

29 Nataliia Tikhonova, “Mirovozzrecheskie tsennosti i politicheskii protsess v Rossii”, Obshchestvennye Nauki i Sovremmenost’ 4 (1996): 15-27. Reprinted in Russian So¬cialReview 38:5 (1997).

30 Eduard Batalov, “Kuda put’ derzhim? O natsional’noi idee i gosudarstvennoi ideologii”, Rossiiskaia Federatsiia 15 (1996).

31 See Stephen E. Hanson and Jeffrey S. Kopstein, “The Weimar/ Russia Comparison”, Post Soviet Affairs 13:3 (1997): 252-83

32 Missing reference.

33 Interfax 22 (January 1997).

34 I. Klymakin and V. Lapkin, “Russkii vopros v Rossii”, Polis 5:29: 87.

35 Igor Zevelev, “The Russian Quest for New Identity: Implications for Security in Eurasia”, in Global Security Beyond the Millennium: American and Russian Perspectives, eds. Sharyl Cross, Igor Zevelev, Victor Kremenyuk, and Vagan Gevorgian (London: Macmillan, 1998), 111.

36 “Nashe interv’iu’ Solzhenitsyn o Chechne”, Argumentyi i Fakty 1-2 (January 1995): 1.

37 See Vera Tolz, “Conflicting ‘Homeland Myths’ and Nation-State Building in Postcommunist Russia,” Slavic Review (Summer 1998): 282

38 See Vera Tolz, “Forging the Nation: National Identity and Nation-Building in Post Communist Russia”, Europe-Asia Studies 50:6 (September 1998): 1001

39 Sergei Kortunov, “Kaitsa Rossii ne v chem”, Nezavisimaia Gazeta (26 September 1996).

40 See Dmitry Shlapentokh, “A Problem in Self Identity: Russian Intellectual Thought in the Context of the French Revolution”, Journal of European Studies 26:1 (March 1998).

41 See Vladimir Shlapentokh, “How Russians Will See the Status of Their Country by the End of the Century”, Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics 13:3 (1997): 12.

42 Mikhail Smolin, “‘Mein Kampf’ po-Dagastanskii ili protokoly gorskogo mudretsa”, Moskva 11 (1998): 147.

43 Smolin, “Mein Kampf, 147.

44 Roman Szporluk, “Nationalism After Communism: Reflections on Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland”, Nations and Nationalism 4:3 (1998): 317

45 Vera Tolz, “Conflicting ‘Homeland Myths,’” 288.

46 Gennadi Zyuganov, Geograflia Pobedy: Osnovy Rossisskoi Geopolitiki (Moscow: 1997), 249.

47 Zyuganov, Geografiia Pobedy, 249

48 Konstantin Dushenov, “By Silence God is Betrayed”, Moskva 2 (1997).

49 Dushenov, “By Silence God is Betrayed”.

50 See loann, “Russkii uzel”, Rus’ Pravoslavnaia 2; Sovetskaia Rossia 83 (15 July 1993): 3.

51 V.E. Gidirinskii, Russkaia idea i armiia (Moscow: Voennyi Universitet, 1997), 283

52 Gidirinskii, Russkaia idea i armiia, 286-89

53 Interpress Service (1 July 1998).

54 See Aleksandr Borodai, “Kavakzskii khaos”, Zavtra 38: 251 (22 September 1998). See also his “Sud’ba prussov-Rossii? ”, Duel (28 January 1998).

55 Krasnaia Zvezda (22 November 1998).

56 See, for example, Semyon Ulanich and Oleg Medvedev, “A Farewell to the Commonwealth”, Business in Russia (January 1999

57 Ulanich and Medvedev, “A Farewell to the Commonwealth”, 28.

58 BBC Russia Survey (radio), 11 January 1998.

59 “Zyuganov’s Attack on Zionism”, Sovetsaia Rossiia 24 (December 1998

60 See interview with Valentin Rasputin, Sovetskaia Rossiia (reported in Johnson’s List, 5 January 1999).

61 Many of Mussolini’s ideologues—Roberto Michles, Paolo Orano, Sergio Panunizo—were Marxists before World War I. Similarly, in the 1930s much of the Japanese communist leadership defected to the “national” cause.

62 Business in Russia (January 1999): 23

63 My definition of middle class is based on the ownership of economic property, not education.

64 Alexander Yanov, “Russian Nationalism: Ideology of Counter-Reform”, RFE/RL Reports (19 December 1989).

Auteur

Ilya Prizel is associate professor of Russian area and East European studies at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.

© Central European University Press, 2000

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