Monday, January 24, 2011

Window on Eurasia: Russia is ‘an Anti-Russian Phenomenon’ and Can’t Be ‘for the Russians,’ Russian Nationalist Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, January 24 – Russia is “objectively an anti-Russian historical phenomonenon and therefore it cannot be ‘for the Russians’ by its very nature,” according to one commentator. Instead, Russian nationalists “must radically change” their conception of Russia and finally understand that “in the historical genesis of Russia there was nothing nationally Russian.”
In an essay on the National Democratic Alliance portal, Aleksey Shiropayev argues that those who are advancing the slogan “Russia for the Russians” not only do not understand the nature of their country’s history but are “driving the Russian question into a deadend, making it in essence impossible to solve” (
Those who invoke this slogan start out from the assumption, he says, that Russia was at some point “a Russian national state.” But that assumption is “false,” Shiropayev says. “Russia was NEVER a national state neither before nor after 1917.” Indeed, the last Russian national state was Novgorod which was “destroyed by Moscow at the end of the 15th century.”
It was in fact this action that marked the beginning of Russia, which acted “as the heir and direct continuation of the Horde as an international imperial formation,” something that was further strengthened by the adoption of the Byzantine principles which held that “Russia was created not for the Russians but by means of Russians.”
A reduced status for Russians, Shiropayev continues, “is the centuries-long basic paradigm of Russian statehood,” one in which as the monarchists have pointed out, the other indigenous peoples not only had equal rights with the Russians but often “enjoyed definite privileges.”
Indeed, “the symbol of the status of Russians in Russia,” he points out, “was highlighted by the scandal at the opening of the First State Duma in April 1906 when in the address to His Imperial Highness the deputies excluded the term ‘Russian people’ ‘in order not to offend other nationalities.’”
Moreover, after the Bolshevik revolution, “Lenin did not think up anything new in principle but only followed the Horde-Byzantine paradigm of the Russian Empire when in 1922 he formulated the basic principle of the USSR,” one in which the dominant nation would have a more restricted status than the minority ones.
In 1923, Bolshevik ideologist Nikolay Bukharin put it bluntly: “Russians,” he said,” must put themselves in an UNEQUAL position, lower than the others,” thus pushing the Soviet state in the direction of “the nationality policy of the tsars,” albeit in “a more open and thoroughgoing fashion.”
Predominantly ethnic Russian regions were looted to pay for the development of the Caucasus and Central Asia and Third World countries abroad in Soviet times. “Today,” Shiropayev says, these regions are being looted in the same way to pay for “the restoration” of Chechnya and South Ossetia, the Winter Olympics in Sochi “and so on and so forth.”
Shiropayev says that he is not making this argument in order to set Russians against other people. Rather, he wants Russians to understand their true situation and to oppose their interests to the state which calls itself Russia in its current form. That is because “the Russian people above all” has been its “victim.”
Most of the time, Russians have found themselves in “an historical trap,” one in which “Russia successfully presents itself as the land of the Russians although in fact it is a place of their confinement, a type of zone.” But once Russians understand the true state of affairs, they find themselves in a position much like that of other peoples.
“It is time for Russian nationalism to radically change its conception of Russia and to understand that in the historical genesis of Russia, there is nothing nationally Russian” at all. Instead, “Russian began with the destruction of the genuinely Russian cultural-state and social foundations in the Novgorod democracy.”
“The hatred of Moscow to Novgorod the Great was a retranslation of the Horde’s hatred for Russia as such. The anti-Russian character of historical Russian statehood was set by the role which Moscow fulfilled while being an ulus of the Horde, the role of a pro-Tatar occupation nomenklatura on the Russian land.”
And that relationship, one between “conqueror and conquered,” has been maintained in Russia” and will be until Russians recognize that it is not they but this arrangement that is the main “state forming factor” in their country and that “Russia for the Russians” under these circumstances at least is a contradiction in terms.”
Unfortunately, too many Russians do not understand this, and consequently, they help promote a situation “in which the traitor and sadist Aleksandr Nevsky is ‘a hero,’ and the despotism taken from the Horde ‘tsars’ and decorated by Byzantism is supposedly the Russian form of administration from times immemorial.”
Efforts by the current Moscow rulers to form a non-ethnic Russian nation are a direct continuation of this and have an equally “anti-Russian direction.” They are directed “against the Russians,” against their self-consciousness, but for “imperialism,” one in which Tatars, Kalmyks and Yakuts have rights but Russians are reduced in a melting pot to something else.
This too, Shiropayev says, is nothing new. “If in the USSR, there was the Soviet people, then the Russians were precisely the ones into whose consciousness was able to introduce to the greatest extent the categories of imperial patriotism,” something useful to the regime but fatal to the nation.
There are, the nationalist commentator suggests, three ways to approach the resolution of the Russian question. The first is the imperial one, offered most recently by Putin and Medvedev. It offers a program of the “maximum deprivation of the face of Russians on a national level and discrimination,” even while it seeks support by calling them “state-forming” and “leading.”
The second approach is encapsulated in the slogan “Russia for the Russians.” That slogan might seem to be antithetical to the first, but in fact it works to the benefit of the powers that be because “it orients Russian nationalism into a dead end” because it can’t be realized, because it offends other nations, and because it undermines a liberal Russian project.
The third approach is the national democratic one, formulated by the National Democratic Alliance, Shiropayev continues. It seeks to transform Russia from “a so-called asymmetrical federal” into a genuine one of “equal subjects – national republics, including Russian ones.”
This is not a new idea, Shiropayev concedes. Boris Yeltsin pushed for “seven Russian republics in February 1990, but “those who were interested int eh preservation of the imperial structure opposed the further development and realization of this exceptionally positive idea.” But now it is time to take it up again.
“The genuine development and flourishing of all the people sof Russia can be guaranteed only by the transformation of the Russian Federation” less the North Caucasus which must go its own way “into a full-fledged federation with immeasurably smaller role for the center than now and consisting of equal national republics, including ethnic Russian ones.”
If that happens, Shiropayev argues, then Russian nationalism, often a misnomer for the support of an autocratic state rather than for the interests of the Russian people, can finally become what it should always be: “an anti-imperial and legal-liberal force” that will benefit Russians and others as well.

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