Originating as a project of the imperial elite, Russian nationalism has evolved over a hundred years from one of the branches of government to the anti-power project. Another stage that Russian nationalism must go through, if it intends to stop being marginal - democratism.
Interpreter Blog’s friend Sergei Prostakov describes how Russian nationalism passed through the developmental stages of the 20th century.
Today, Russian nationalism for the first time in its stories turned to anti-imperial rhetoric. Historically, both in the Romanov empire and in the Soviet Union, the state used Russian nationalism as a tool for maintaining imperial statehood. The concepts of the “Third Rome” and “Rurik inheritances” not only denoted imperial claims, but also created a territorial framework of the nation, which included the Orthodox Slavic population of the former lands of Kievan Rus. Meanwhile, the very concept of a nation in the interpretation, which was established after the Great French Revolution, which had pronounced anti-imperial and anti-monarchist features, was unacceptable for the Russian state. But to stop the ideas of the Enlightenment in the XIX century, not a single European state was able to, therefore, the empire was in dire need of its alternative reading of the “nation” concept.
Under Emperor Nicholas I, the ideology of the “official nationality” was developed and received all possible state support. It solved a dual problem: the non-arisen majority nationalism created and put in the service of the state, and the nationalism of the suburbs (whether Polish or Ukrainian nationalism) received a powerful ideological rival. Such use of nationalist rhetoric by the imperial states to combat marginal separatism has been given the name of "official nationalism" in the research literature. Such a model allowed the Russian Empire to resist the nationalist claims of the suburbs throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Attempts at the political formation of Russian nationalism in the pre-revolutionary years were also carried out within the framework of the theory of “official nationality,” setting as its main goal the maintenance of the monarchical system and imperial statehood. So in the political program of the Union of the Russian People it was written: “The Union of the Russian People ... supplies with its sacred immutable duty by all means to help ensure that the land conquered by the blood of the ancestors forever remains an integral part of the Russian state and that all attempts to dismember Russia, under whatever it was a kind, resolutely and unconditionally removable. ” Already in the years of the Civil War, the rhetoric of “united and indivisible Russia” did not allow the White movement to make an alliance with the Ukrainians and Poles to speak with one front against the Bolsheviks.
V. I. Lenin was one of the first to point out the use of Russian nationalism by the monarchy in order to maintain imperial statehood. Indeed, created by the Bolsheviks in 1920. The Soviet Union was strikingly different in the sphere of national politics from all the states that had ever existed. The historian T. Martin called it the “empire of positive activity”, pointing to its main feature: targeted support and development of nationalism in the republics. One of the main objectives of this policy was the suppression of the nationalism of the Russian majority. Already after the curtailment of the policy of localization, Stalin actually returned to the concept of the "official nationality" with an amendment to Marxist rhetoric, putting Russian nationalism in the service of the Soviet empire. Naturally, there was no talk of any official political form of Russian nationalism.
The post-Soviet period made many significant changes to the discourse of Russian nationalism. Among the nationalists, there was a visible ideological split into supporters and opponents of the Soviet project, which, however, originated in the years of the latter. Meanwhile, such an important question of historical memory never became an obstacle for the unification of nationalists into a single political force. But in the post-Soviet history of Russia, situations where nationalists openly displayed their political claims, and even acted with active actions to implement them, can be counted on the fingers of one hand. And in practice, such alliances between Soviet and anti-Soviet nationalists were not viable, as demonstrated by the events of September-October of 1993 in Moscow, when monarchists and Stalinists jointly defended Soviet power.
Another thing is that the state-owned, imperial ideology, in which the place was equally white and red, was always in demand by Russian society. It is characteristic that political opponents from the liberal camp called its ideologues and carriers “red-brown” or communist-fascists. At such positions, in their different variations, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia V.V. Zhirinovsky and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, which in each electoral cycle confidently pass to the State Duma and regional representative meetings, have always stood. The Russian sociologist L. Gudkov in his book “Negative Identity”, devoted to the problems of self-identification of Russian citizens at the turn of the century, shows that during this period the Russians were actively restructuring historical memory. The achievements of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union in the mass consciousness were actively mixed and recognized as equivalent, which gave rise to ideological anomie in society.
In many ways, it was precisely such trends that forced the leadership of the Russian Federation to abandon the pro-Western course taken and turn in the middle of the 1990-s to the idea of a “special path” of Russia, which included, among other things, maintaining imperial status. The red-brown ideology described above was already actively used in official propaganda during the presidency of Vladimir Putin. The marginal ideological union of supporters and opponents of the Soviet past was claimed by the authorities in a situation of ideological vacuum. The fate of the National Bolshevik Party (NBP) of writer E. Limonov, in the program of which such ideas were most pronounced, is indicative. On the one hand, the government almost completely adopted the aesthetics of this movement, the style and content of its actions (Russian support in the post-Soviet countries, the creation of street-oriented youth movements), but also made maximum efforts to neutralize the only uncontrolled competitor based on the same political rhetoric .
Over the past twenty years, the Russian nationalists have not managed to form a strong political movement. Among the many reasons, attention should be focused on two: purposeful opposition of the authorities to these processes and the imperial component of the nationalist ideology. The Russian authorities have consistently either crushed or nullified the influence of all the largest nationalist parties and movements replacing themselves in Russia: the Memory Society, the Russian National Unity A. Barkashov (RNE), the Nazi-skinhead movements at the beginning of 2000, the Movements against illegal migration (DPNI). Introduced into the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation 2002 in 282, the article against inciting national, religious or social discord has become a powerful tool for bringing nationalists to justice. In their turn, the nationalists turned out to be forced companions of the authorities, fully supporting V.Putin’s zero-rate policy against the collapse of Russia and separatism in the national republics. For the past fifteen years, nationalist ideologues have not been able to offer the public anything that the government could not offer them. In turn, the latter allowed herself to flirt with nationalism. So in March, Mr. Putin’s 2008, said that the elected president of Russia, D. Medvedev, is no less a Russian nationalist than himself, and will consistently defend the country's interests in the international arena. But such statements are rare in the public rhetoric of representatives of the Russian authorities, and rather they speak of Russia's return to the world of its former status as a superpower and the desire to prevent the disintegration of the country. It is extremely noteworthy that the “national leader” is agitating for the empire, and not the nation state.
But such a state policy turned out to be fertile ground for the possibility of the emergence of a majority nationalism, which would cease to treat the preservation of the empire as an absolute value. Most nationalist ideologues became disillusioned with the state not only as a tool for realizing Russian interests, but also turned the main claims in this not to the external or internal enemy, but to the imperial heritage of Russia itself. The controversial policy of the authorities in the North Caucasus and its inability to regulate migration from this region and the countries of Central Asia to large Russian cities contributed particularly to this metamorphosis. The ethnopolitologist E.Pain remarked: “The empires can resist for a long time the nationalism of minorities on the outskirts or in the colonies, but they are powerless against the majority of nationalism and are quickly destroyed.” And this, in turn, generates a completely new vector of relations between Russian nationalism and the Russian state.
Such a “change of landmarks” in Russian nationalism began in the Soviet period, and in the last two decades, due to the growth of ethnic tension and xenophobia, it began to force the empire out of nationalist discourse. The watershed finally occurred after the 2010-2011 years. The riots on Manezhnaya Square in Moscow in December 2010, caused by dissatisfaction with the course and corruption of the investigation into the killing of football fan E.Sviridov, turned out to be a detonator of the slogan “Stop feeding the Caucasus!”. Under a similar appeal, the Russian March was held in 2011 - the annual November nationalist action. This slogan is interpreted differently: as a reduction of subsidies to the regions of the North Caucasus and their redistribution in favor of the Russian regions or as a call for the direct separation of this region from the country. Surveys of the Levada Center record a steady increase in supporters of the slogan: the number of people supporting it rather than not, from November 2011 to November 2012 increased by 5% (from 34% to 39%). The most famous nationalist slogan “Russia for Russians”, which has enjoyed stable popularity since the middle of 1990, has a worthy competitor.
Anti-Caucasian rhetoric is the most talked about in the nationalist part of Russian social media. The main topics here are crimes by immigrants from the North Caucasus, excessive economic subsidies to these regions by the federal government, and active support by it of anti-Russian actions. But constructive proposals to address these problems among the nationalists is not proposed. Theoretical and practical reflections of the participants of the nationalist Internet communities do not go beyond the forced deportation of all Caucasians from Russian cities and the separation of the Caucasus. So in one of the most popular nationalist publics in the Vkontakte social network “Right” 31 on August 2012, a vote was taken, as a result of which 36,4% of voters supported the idea of disconnecting the republics of the North Caucasus; 16,5% believe that it is necessary to separate not only the Caucasus from Russia.
Another important trend defining the modern transformation of Russian nationalism is the “democratic turn”. Most modern ideologues of Russian nationalism openly proclaim their opposition to the current government. The accusations against her by the nationalists contain mainly complaints about the purposeful suppression of the Russian movement, lack of attention to the problems of the ethnic majority and its unwillingness to fight the influx of migrants in large cities. But such demands by the Russian nationalists in one form or another have been put forward over the past twenty years. The “democratic turn” coincided with the beginning of the formation of the “anti-Soviet consensus”, the most striking manifestation of which was the creation of a separate anti-Soviet column on the “Russian March - 2012”. Nationalist leaders, increasingly, in their public speeches, repudiate authoritarianism and Stalinism. Such tendencies form the main circle of ideas, under the sign of which transformations take place in modern Russian nationalism.
A striking example is the widespread in recent years, the term national democracy, under the marker of which you can gather such different in character actions and ideas of nationalists as K. Krylov, A. Shiropaev, V. Solovey. They are the regulars of the opposition rallies in Moscow in 2011-2013, or they form the nationalist agenda on the Internet. The historian Elena Galkina describes the key differences between national democrats and national patriots, whom the researcher also calls “Orthodox Stalinists”: “National deputies, as a rule, very emotionally blame Soviet Russia for the destruction of the peasantry, the traditions of self-government, for the national policy aimed at suppressing Russian ethnicity, in the dictates of the state and totalitarianism. " Today, these claims are already addressed to the Russian Federation, which is conceived, and in many respects is true, as the direct heir of the Soviet Union.
However, among the “opposition nationalists” there are a lot of those who adhere to traditional ideas. The main organization of this kind is the "Ethnopolitical Association" Russian "." It gathered under its wing the bulk of small nationalist movements. Its backbone is the members of the now crushed RNU, DPNI and the Slavic Union (SS). Its leader, D. Demushkin, is actively represented in the media and is in contact with the authorities. One of his last public actions was the proposal to the Federal Migration Service for assistance in the form of the creation of migration patrols consisting of nationalists. The ideology of this movement is not completely free from the rhetoric of "blood and soil." So in one of the points of their political program it is written “Russians are a Nation, possessing stable genetically transmitted psychophysiological traits, national self-awareness and a unique culture. Russians are carriers of the pheno-and genotype of the White Race. Russian culture is part of Indo-European culture. ” Similar words in the document are combined with statements about the need for the development of civil society.
Also, one of the most important distinctive features of oppositional “non-systemic” nationalism from “systemic” is the pronounced tendency to eliminate red-brown rhetoric. This is mainly due to the fact that in oppositional circles such a discourse is accumulated mainly from the left: the “Left Front” by Sergei Udaltsov and “The Other Russia” (formerly the NBP) by Eduard Limonov.
The pronounced heterogeneity of oppositional nationalism, however, does not affect the tendencies towards mutual consolidation. Despite the fact that many nationalist ideologues compete with each other for the status of a ruler of thoughts, they confidently overcome differences on the basis of opposition to the Putin regime, Caucasus phobia, Islamophobia and migrant phobia. Interestingly, the key difference between nationalist ideologues and the mass nationalist is in opposition to the authorities, in support of democratic slogans. In the mass nationalist environment, ideas about the need for democracy have not yet received wide distribution. However, this contradiction is easily smoothed out, given that the nationalist opposition can become an ally of the government if it supports their anti-immigration demands. And democratic, anti-imperial tendencies are still too weak to spread among the majority of adherents of the nationalist ideology.