Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Russian ‘Nationalists’ are Anything But, Moscow Commentator Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, October 5 – Contemporary “Russian nationalism,” according to a Moscow commentator who clearly wishes it were otherwise, is in many respects “just the opposite of what its name suggests,” with its self-identified supporters displaying “a nihilistic” attitude toward “the real Russian nation, its historical memory, its mentality, its saints and its statehood.”
In an essay on the “Russky zhurnal” portal, Andrey Tarasenko says that “there is hardly any other milieu besides that of the Russian nationalists (for brevity, [he says he] will not use quotation marks around [that term]) in which hostility to the Russian nation is manifested so sharply” (www.russ.ru/pole/Portret-russkogo-nacionalista).
This characteristic of Russian “nationalists,” he continues, is displayed in the attitudes of those calling themselves that toward Russian Orthodoxy, Russia as great power, and Russia’s victory in the Great Fatherland War. It isn’t necessary for a Russian nationalist to agree on all of these, but if he disagrees on most, there is a problem.
With regard to Orthodoxy, few “nationalists” declare themselves atheists. Most consider themselves “believers.” But many of these do not have anything to do with the Moscow Patriarchate, preferring instead to be part of the émigré church, which despite its communion with Moscow remains a very different thing.
“The softest form of non-acceptance of the Russian Orthodox Church,” Tarasenko says, “is a rejection of its existing leadership.” But some Russian nationalists reject Christianity altogether, preferring paganism, Gnosticism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism or some other religious faith.
Such people often “consider Orthodoxy as the chief cause of all the misfortunes of the Russian nation.” One consequence of this is that increasingly “Russian nationalists who support Orthodoxy have begun to call themselves nationalists more rarely,” thus leading to a situation in which Russian nationalism and “anti-Orthodoxy” are conflated.
As far as the second factor – support of Russian statehood as it has existed – many Russian “nationalists” believe that the misfortunes of the Russian nation have arisen from the pre-1917 empire and the post-1917 Soviet Union and call for disassembling “what still remains from Russian statehood” or creating “Russian republics” on the country’s current territory.
According to Tarasenko, “a small group of Russian nationalists” who do believe in empire want to make it an empire of a new type. Instead, of it being “a prison house of peoples” as Lenin described it, they want to make it a real “’prison’ for the non-Russian peoples” so that the Russians could become “a nation of rulers.”
And Russian “nationalists” also divide on the third element, Russia’s victory in the Great Fatherland War. “For some this was a victory of ‘the godless communist regime’ with some not forgetting to add ‘Jewish-communist.’” For others, it was purchased at too high a cost. And for still others, the wrong side won.
Obviously, Tarasenko says, “one nationalist can respect the victory of the Russian people in the Great Fatherland War but be a pagan and strive for the separation of ‘a Russian Republic.’ Another can confess Orthodoxy and be a supporter of Russia as a great power but nonetheless be a follower of General Vlasov, Krasnov, Shkuro and von Pannwitz.”
“And a third cannot conceal his sympathies to Hitler and Nazism, burn icons at ‘pagan holidays’ and dream about a 100 percent racially pure ‘Nordic’ Rus in the forests of the Northern Dvina River valley,” Tarasenko says, adding that “the level of real Russophobia among these people can be different but the common trend is obvious.”
The commentator says that his use of Russophobia to describe such Russian nationalists is no accident. “How else could you call” such ideas? He asks rhetorically, because it is all too obvious that “Russian nationalists serve not the Russian people as it is but the one that it must become in their imaginations.”
And that is “the root” of the problem, he argues. “Russian nationalists do not like their own people, its history, customs and culture.” Consequently, even though they “angrily deny their Russophobia,” that is exactly the problem with them, and that attitude not only limits their ability to cooperate with others but to win support from Russians.
“Of course,” Tarasenko concedes, “there are some bright spots” in this picture, but given the dominance of these negative trends, one has to ask whether the real nationalists will adapt and be corrupted or whether they will decide that they should not be nationalists at all given what “Russian nationalists” now are.
“The orders of one of these ‘bright spots’ are just,” Tarasenko concludes, noting that that individual gave thanks regularly that the Lord God has “preserved” Russia from what would be worse than its past and current situation: “from the coming to power of the current Russian nationalists!”

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