Monday, January 3, 2011

Window on Eurasia: New Russian Nationalists Very Different from Their Predecessors, Activist Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, January 3 – Such unity as exists among Russian nationalists, acknowledges one of their number, is the product of a common opposition to the “russophobic” regime of Vladimir Putin, but the current generation of Russian nationalists, a nationalist analyst says, is very different from its more familiar predecessor of late Soviet times.
In an essay on the “Pravy vzglyad” portal, Dimitry Savvin suggests that “the destruction of the Putin regime, a regime neo-bolshevist by its essence, is the task of the next few years” and that “any new political system which will be formed in Russia “will be forced to consider the Russian question” (
“Today,” he acknowledges, “the Russian National-Liberation Movement, just like the White Movement of 1918-1922 is unified chiefly by a common opponent, the genocidal russophobic regime” rather than on the basis of any common platform. Consequently, it is important to recognize the divisions within it.
According to Savvin, “the avant garde of Russian nationalism today is beyond any doubt the national democrats,” a group, even a generation, that is very different from its predecessors in the Russian movement in the final years of the Soviet period but one that, he argues will yield to a third sometime in the future.
“The first generation of Russian nationalists of the end of the Soviet period and the first years of the Russian Federation had several characteristic aspects, Savvin says. First of all, these people positioned themselves as Orthodox Christians, although their ignorance of religious led some of them to mix it together with the occult.
Second, he suggests, they were strongly affected “esthetically” by the Black Hundreds movement of the late imperial period and by aspects of the Third Reich, often using symbols from one or the other without necessarily sharing the views of either, despite what their opponents assumed.
Third, their ideological efforts were largely “imitative” and “as a result” could not “develop a real methodology of political struggle” under current conditions. Fourth, most of the members of this generation put the maintenance of the empire above the defense of the nation or at least as a necessary basis for that.
And fifth, most of the members of this generation had “a negative attitude on the role of Jews in Russian and world history,” an attitude that was a legacy of the past rather than the product of the existing political situation and thus one that allowed their opponents to denounce them effectively.
It would be wrong, Savvin insists, “to say that the first generation of Russian nationalists of the post-Soviet period did not achieve anything.” In fact, they achieved the most important thing: “the very idea of Russian nationalism survived precisely thanks to these people” for which achievement Russian nationalists now should be grateful.
But by the second half of the 1990s, “it became obvious” that “this version” of Russian nationalism, with its “attempt at copying organized models of 90 and 60 years ago” was clearly a failure. A major reason for this was the decision of the Moscow Patriarchate in which some nationalists had placed their hopes to “support the anti-Russian powers that be.”
Out of that failure emerged “a second generation of Russian nationalists” that now “dominates” the Russian national movement. Its “most clear representatives” are the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) and the “intelligent-elite Russian Social Movement of Konstantin Krylov.”
The basic ideology of this generation is that of “national democracy,” a set of ideas characterized by “religious indifference” or even hostility to the Moscow Patriarchate, efforts to position itself within “the respectable right” of today’s Europe, an “anti-imperial” approach that considers empire as a threat to the nation, and indifference to or even support for Jews.
This combination of ideas, Savvin suggests, is “much more understandable to a larger part of society (this concerns both Russia and also the European Union and the United States) than classical conservatism,” allows for its representatives to be elected and ensures that they will not be denied visas to the US because of anti-Semitism.
Clearly, all this represents “a tactical victory” for the Russian nationalist cause, Savvin says. “Russian national democrats are completely correct when they say that contemporary European democracy with all its shortcomings is much better than Putin’s genocidal regime and national democracy in its turn is much better than what exists in the EU and the US today.”
“With this,” he says, “it would be stupid to argue.” But in the event such Russian nationalists came to power, they would not be able to solve on their own what Savvin says are “the shortcomings of the democratic model of statehood” because those problems are deeper than the national democrats understand.
They consist not just in “’the dictatorship of minorities’ as established in the European Union,” he argues. They are part of the democratic idea itself, part of its “genetic code which first became obvious already in 1789-1793 when out of necessity it would seem free France established the dictatorship of the Jacobin minority.”
Consequently, a Russian national democratic regime would “immediately begin to self-destruct,” either through “a drift toward classical liberalism” or toward “a national-Russian dictatorship.” The second might be better from a Russian nationalist perspective, but it too would likely prove “harmful,” Savvin says.
What is needed, he suggests, in order to escape this “dead end” of “democracy versus dictatorship” can only be “a national monarchy or if you like national monarchism,” an ideology based on the ideas of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Lev Tikhomirov and one that Savvin says needs to be developed for the sake of Russia and Russians.
Today, he concludes, is “the time” of the national democrats, and tomorrow will be their time of triumph. For the time being, they are “the comrades in arms” of all Russian nationalists “in the common struggle” against Putinism. “The time of the Russian national-monarchists,” he insists, will come later, and it is necessary to be prepared for that time.”

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