Anglophone Bloggers Parse Russian Nationalism


Nationalist march, Moscow, Russia, 4 November 2012, photo by RiMarkin, CC 2.0.

Nationalist march, Moscow, Russia, 4 November 2012, photo by RiMarkin, CC 2.0.

Ethnic nationalism now seems to be enjoying a renaissance in Russia. There has been a wave of nationalist events and heightened ethnic tensions in recent months. The nationalist theme is especially pronounced in RuNet commentary, and Anglophone Russia bloggers have noticed this trend, too.

In a post on the Power Vertical blog, Brian Whitmore recently wrote about the government facing an influx of nationalists-turned-oppositionists into Russian politics, implying that the Kremlin bears some responsibility for the recent spike in xenophobic activism:

After years of successfully manipulating nationalists for their own purposes and cultivating xenophobia among the population, the Kremlin is now standing face-to-face with the monster it helped create. […] It is this latent nationalism of the silent majority that is driving much of the political dynamic right now. These aren't black-clad skinheads. Many are respectable urban professionals, students, and entrepreneurs.

Whitmore goes on to describe Alexey Navalny’s refusal to attend this year's Russian March as a “balancing act” designed to cater to the “silent majority”:

Numerous Russia-watchers have noted that he is trying to find that sweet spot that allows him to hold on to both his liberal and nationalist supporters. […] Navalny has long argued that Russian nationalism needs to be brought into the mainstream and liberalized to keep it from being monopolized by retrograde elements. But what exactly is liberal nationalism in a multiethnic state? Ideally, it wouldn't be nationalistic at all, but rather an inclusive form of civic patriotism.

Blogger LaRussophobe took issue with a report published on Russia Beyond the Headlines about Russia’s new ranking as the world's ninth most popular tourist destination. LaRu objected to the fact that the report failed of mention Russia's rising levels of xenophobia. Attacking RBTH as a Kremlin mouthpiece, LaRu blamed Vladimir Putin for Russians’ growing fears of foreigners:

Recent footage of Russian skinheads torturing a young black student in the city of Belgorod, including forcing him to kiss a watermelon, gives vivid insight into the way Russians view those who are different from themselves. […] RBTH admits that Russia has erected a horrific web of visa-related hurdles which actively prevent many tourists from even considering a trip to Russia, hurdles which are holdovers from the old Soviet era when xenophobia was official state policy and every foreign guest was considered a dangerous spy. It’s hardly a surprise, however, that RBTH doesn’t pause even for a second to ask whether having a proud KGB spy as president might be playing a negative role in promotion of tourism, much less to ask whether that spy, Vladimir Putin, even wants foreigners present in Russia.

The author of the blog MoscowMatters addressed the linguistic subtleties of Russian nationality, explaining that the words meaning “Russian”  are themselves points of contention in the language:

One of the first distinctions I was taught to make here [Russia] was that between pусские ‘Russkiye’, and россияне ‘Rassiyane’ […] Without going into the history underlying these terms, it is an undisputed fact that these two words are being used on a daily basis to differentiate in a most matter-of-factly way between those who are truly Russian, by blood, and those who aren’t. The underlying thought being: it does not matter how long you have been here, but what matters is where you came from to begin with.

MoscowMatters’ post, written in response to the ethnic riots in Biryulyovo in late October 2013, implies that economic unrest in Russia plays a major role in the country's recent ethnic violence:

What ‘Russians’ need at this moment in time is a vision of the future that includes ‘Russian nationals’ as fulfilling a large, and necessary, role in Russian economics and society rather than the unwanted burden they are now being made out to be. This is a broader societal debate that is not being acknowledged by either the opposition or ruling politicians and yet such a vision could do more than fingerprinting hundreds of thousands of migrants could ever hope to achieve.

Commenting on the blog Dictmókus, user mokus11 linked Russia's nationalist tendencies to a larger, global wave of xenophobia:

I think it’s important to think about these events in Russia not as something “the Russians do” but something that is linked to our global society, that shows once again the worrying global tendency towards right-wing propaganda, and xenophobia that just got over the tops in Russia but can be observed to different degrees almost everywhere. And the first step to let it gain power is to naturalize it, to ignore it, to shut our eyes, our ears, our newspapers.

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