Monday, March 30, 2009

Window on Eurasia: An ‘Orange’ Revolution in Russia is Impossible by Definition, Writer Says

Paul Goble

Tallinn, March 31 – Many Russian commentators are predicting dramatic, even transforming changes in their country in the months ahead, but one writer has taken the unusual step of arguing why one kind of change that some in the Russian government say they fear and others in the population say they would like – an “orange”-style revolution – will not occur.
In an article posted on the portal at the end of last week, Dimitry Savvin argues that now that the discussion over the threat and/or possibility of such a revolution in Russia has subsided somewhat, it is a good time to focus on why such a revolution is simply and forever impossible in that country (
Orange-style revolutions, he begins, are generally dated with the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic in Yugoslavia, but in fact, Savvin continues, “the schema of orange revolutions extremely strongly recall that of the anti-communist transformations in a number of countries in Eastern Europe at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s.”
And he stresses that he is speaking “not so much about technologies” to which many Russian writers have devoted so much attention either from fear or from hope in recent months “but rather about the idea which lays at the foundation of such a kind of method of ‘regime change.’”
After the color revolutions happened in Ukraine and Georgia, Savvin continues, many Russians concluded that there was no reason that such techniques could be applied in Russia itself, forgetting that technologies of regime change and the ideas on which regime change is possible are two very different things.
If one thinks about the ideology of these “color” revolutions, he argues, “the formula involved is simple: a combination of pro-Western nationalism and democracy,” a combination that Savvin says represents “the most alchemistic ‘marriage’ of two seemly extremely disparate elements.”
That reality in turn means that each of these revolutions must be different because nationalism by definition is different in different places – “otherwise it would not be nationalism” – and that he suggests should prompt attention to one key difference that many commentators have been unwilling to articulate.
According to Savvin, “for some peoples it is natural to be great and for others just the reverse. Even ‘a small’ Russia in the world will play an immeasurably greater role than ‘greater Albania’ or ‘greater Latvia,’” not in the sense of superiority of the one compared to the other, but rather because of the role some nations have played as centers of a civilization.
“All nations are representatives of one or another civilization,” he continues, but not all nations are centers of civilizations. There are a few of those and around them are satellites, and the differences between the former and the latter with respect to the possibility of an orange-style revolution are enormous and impassible.
For peoples who are “centers of civilization, nationalism is always based on their own tradition and the essence of that involves the idea of their own development as a center of independent value. For those peoples are satellites, the situation is difference because they follow one center but can shift to another under certain conditions.
Russia is a center of civilization based on Orthodox Christianity, Savvin argues, while Western civilization is centered on Western Europe, an area that consisted of all the members of NATO as of 1990 minus Turkey. And what has happened since is that the satellites of one cultural center have shifted to be satellites of the other cultural center.
In countries like Yugoslavia, Ukraine, and Georgia, this shift which can be called an orange-style revolution worked well. It did not work in Belarus but only for “subjective” rather than “objective” reasons, largely having to do with the personality of the current Belarusian president.
But such a shift from one side to the other is not available to countries that form civilizational centers, Savvin argues, and consequently, it is not and will not be available to Russia as long as Russia maintains its position as a center of a unique civilization. For it to change in this way, if it were possible, would be to engage in an act of self-destruction.
And consequently, both those who fear the possibility of an orange-style revolution in Russia and those who would welcome it share in common a lack of understanding of the ideological basis of such changes, a product of their assumption that technology can trump ideology, something Savvin argues is not possible.
Consequently, he concludes, at least one kind of change in Russia is excluded, although other changes, positive and negative, are possible – at least as long as Russia, by remaining a center of civilization, continues to work out its own fate not by shifting sides, something it cannot then do, but rather by recovering what some fear it could lose.

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