Friday, November 29, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Russian Nationalism Can and Must Be Democratic, Krylov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 29 – If Russians regain their confidence in the future, one that involves more than sitting at home and watching television as the Putin regime wants them to, their nationalism can and must be democratic, tolerant, and European, according to the leader of that country’s unregistered National Democratic Party.

                In a wide-ranging interview with Yuri Solomonov, editor of “NG-Stsenarii, published this week, Konstantin Krylov discusses the history of Russian nationalism, the ways in which that movement has been distorted and misunderstood, and why a successful Russian nationalism must be both democratic and liberal (

            Krylov, who graduated from the philosophy faculty of Moscow State University, says that Russian nationalism “in the course of the last century arose several times,” and each time it was suppressed, a pattern that has distorted Russian nationalism and Russians’s understanding of nationalism.

            It arose in the years before the 1917 revolution, he continues, and “even had serious chances for victory during World War I, when the national revolutions had already swept through Eastern Europe.” But that positive development was broken off by the Bolsheviks who viewed Russian nationalism as an enemy.

            Indeed, after the revolution, there is no reason to speak about Russian nationalism at all. Stalin did not support it despite what many think.  The nature of his regime “excluded” that possibility.  “But in the 1960s, at the time of Khrushchev’s thaw, there appeared politically concerned citizens of liberal views.” 

            The circles they formed “could not but be anti-Soviet,” but tragically, it was also “infected by the most serious form of Russophobia,” not least of all as a result of KGB penetration. Instead of blaming Marxism and Soviet power for what had gone wrong, these people blamed the chief victim of the Soviet sytem, the ethnic Russian majority.

             That trend in intellectual circles was reinforced, Krylov says, by the Soviet stte which dealt with Russian dissents “much more harshly” than it did with liberals.  The “only well-known Russian dissent who was officially recognize as a Russian nationalist and who as a result won world-wide fame was Solzhenitsyn.”

            The current generation of Russian liberals has “completely inherited Russophobia as the foundation of its ideology. If an individual doesn’t show hatred to Russians, then he simply won’t be admitted to the ‘liberal’ club.” And Krylov continues, that is especially the case if he is himself an ethnic Russian.

            “As a result, these people strictl speaking have long ceased to be liberals and dmeocrats if they ever were.” They oppose genuine elections because the population might not vote their way since “they are sincerely convinced that the Russian people even two hundred years fom now will not become European.”

            “For them,” Krylov argues, “the Russians are ‘white Negroes,’ who will never become a civilized people.”

In reality, he continues, “the ‘non-European nature’ of Russia is explained by banal poverty and national oppression.” When people say you can’t compare Tuscany and Pskov, Krylov says, he wanted to respond: “Give Pskov Oblast as much money as Tuscany has and then compare the two.”

To say this is not to say that ethnic Russians do not have problems. “Happily, the Russian people is not an invalid. [Its] situation is better: the people have hands, [but unfortunately] they are tied up.”  What is “surprising,” Krylov continues, is that having been subject to state oppression “already 100 years, the people haven’t entirely lost their best qualities.”

The current government of the Russian Fedeation does not understand this reality, he says.  But “the current regime of administration is approaching its final stage.”  At the strt of the Putin era, “the population was offered some inspiring” if not especially clever” ideas, “but now there is only one idea left.”

In simplest terms, this idea can be expressed by the slogan “One must sit at home!” in front of the television tuned to the First Chanel with a bottle of beer.” That is all the Putin regime offers Russians now, Krylov says.

To understand where the Russian national movement is now, he argues, one must understand the history of “the ‘Russian party’ of Soviet times,” a group that is commonly assumed to have been nationalist but in fact was simply an effort by the authorities to redirect protest attitudes that it couldn’t suppress. 

That should be obvious, Krylov says, because “for a Russian nationalist to be a Stalinist” is just as “impossible” as for Jews to be for Hitler, but the Soviets and the liberals succeeded in presenting Russian nationalism as exactly that kind of combination, completely ignoring the fact that “nationalism arises when people begin to distinguish the nation and the state.”

            Krylov argues that Russian nationalists can and must be democratic because the overwhelming majority of the country consists of Russians.  Supporting a dictatorship is “a breeding ground for aggressive minorities” or for those who are without hope.  Russians who support a dictatorship do so because they want everyone to live equally badly.

            “Russians must be free, rich and have power in their own country,” Krylov says.  And everyone needs to recognize that this does not mean that they will ignore the rights of minorities. No one benefits from that. Indeed, he concludes, those Russians who do oppress minorities hurt themselves in the first instance.

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