Category: Russian/Slavic EGI
On October 24, Putin touched on the topic in his speech to Russia experts of the Valdai Club in Sochi. “I am the biggest nationalist in Russia,” he said. “However, the greatest and most appropriate kind of nationalism is when you act and conduct policies that will benefit the people. However, if nationalism means intolerance of other people, chauvinism — this would destroy this country, which was created as a multiethnic and multiconfessional state.”
With this statement, Putin was “trying to define the acceptable parameters of nationalism,” says Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University and author of the blog “In Moscow’s Shadows.”
“He’s trying to redefine or define the acceptable level of nationalism as being not about racism, not about intercommunal violence or intercommunal tensions, not about essentially a radical social agenda,” he says. “But instead being about patriotism. I think that’s the key thing. When he says ‘nationalism,’ he really means patriotism — in other words, loyalty to the status quo.”
“Putin is no nationalist — he’s just a spectator,” Yegor Prosvirnin, the editor of the popular nationalist website Sputnik & Pogrom, said in a recent interview. “He was put there by the ruling corporation to manage the political process, while the noble members of the secret police buy villas and mansions in Cote d’Azur.”
Galeotti argues there are four key pillars of the Russian nationalist movement — imperialism, social conservatism (support for the Russian Orthodox Church and antipathy toward homosexuality), ethnic chauvinism, and an economic radicalism of redistribution based on ethnic criteria.
On the first two points, Galeotti argues, Putin has done just about as much as he can to meet nationalist expectations. And the last two are too dangerous and anti-Kremlin to even be touched.
“[The Kremlin’s] opportunities for traction on the nationalist movement are diminished and the risks within nationalism are increasing,” he says. “So I think that’s why they are probably trying to nip it in bud prophylactically now.”
Kevin Rothrock, editor of RuNet Echo at Global Voices, notes that Prosvirnin and other nationalist leaders have been predicting that the worsening economic climate in Russia will bring ethnic tensions inside the country to the fore. This is potentially dangerous for Putin, although Rothrock does not expect the issue to take center stage at this year’s Russian March.
“If they get at all a little bit antigovernment, it might have to do more with immigration services — don’t give visas to people from Central Asia and so on,” he says. “They are even officially marching under some of those slogans. Granted, those are not overtly anti-Putin causes, but I think immigration and the kind of slippery slope into ethnic issues or racism — that can very quickly become anti-Kremlin and then anti-Putin.”
…but was first proposed as a concept by the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, during a 1994 speech at a Moscow university.
…since the member countries have a comparable level of economic development, as well as common history and values.