Putin is Russophobe-in-chief in Russia’s war between the pro-Soviet and the post-Soviet

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2015/07/07 • Analysis & Opinion, Op-ed

Ukraine today has become the frontier of a struggle in Russia between those who want to go back to the Soviet past and those who want to go beyond it.

Vladimir Putin’s statements about the need of the Russian state to come to the aid of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers outside the Russian Federation shows that he has no confidence in the ability of these people to survive more than a generation or two without the intervention of the Russian state, according to Pavel Kazarin.

And that shows that the Kremlin leader’s views of Russians as a nation are so negative that he and his regime merit the title as “the main Russophobe,” yet another example of Putin’s tendency of saying that others are doing what he himself is guilty of, according to the Ukrainian commentator.

A year ago, Putin “promised to defend ethnic Russians in Ukraine and those Ukrainians who feel an unbroken connect with Russia,” words that he has continued to live by and that have made him and the Kremlin behave as “the most consistent Russophobe,” precisely the kind of person he says he is fighting against.

Putin’s regime, Kazarin continues, have been “exploiting the thought that Russians outside of Russia are something unthinkable, that they will lose their definition, that they will assimilate over the course of two or three generations leaving behind them amusing trademarks with the ending –off.”

Putin and the Kremlin have also acted on the assumption that the state is the only basis for the continued existence of the Russians as a nation and “from this comes the conclusion that Russians must be resettled in Russia either individually or together with the territories” on which they are now living.

“More than that,” Kazarin says, “Moscow actively sells ‘Russianness’ as a kind of good.”

The Kremlin’s Russophobia means that “over the last year and a half, namely the Kremlin itself has been able to marginalize ethnic Russians on the entire space of the former Union, It has in fact closed off the potential possibility for them to engage in social struggles for their rights.”

The Kremlin, he argues, “has made impossible any participation by them in the political life of this or that country,” given that any effort to do so will look to everyone else as the first step toward another Crimea or Donbas. Putin’s regime has “convinced everyone that any organization with the word ‘Russian’ in the title is only an irredenta movement and a covert agent of influence oriented toward Moscow and not to the capital of their own country.”

In addition, the Kremlin has reduced to zero the chance that Russians can be integrated completely in the post-Soviet countries.”  It has managed to convince everyone that Russiannness is a synonym for archaic thinking, obscurantism and chauvinism and that anyone who doesn’t go along is “a fifth column.”

This has important consequences for those whom the Kremlin has attacked. Every time some of those equate the Kremlin and Russians, he is pouring water on the mill of official Moscow because the current war is not an ethnic one but a war of values. It is a fight of the pro-Soviet and the post-Soviet.”

“Ukraine today has become the frontier of a struggle” between those who want to go back to the Soviet past and those who want to go beyond it.  That is an issue which divides people in many ways: “the ending of their last names and blood are very much secondary matters.

Anyone who suggests that Russians are capable of making their own choices independent of the Kremlin is likely going to be accused of being “an agent of the State Department” because “such Russians are a threat for the Kremlin: by their nature, they contradict everything that official Moscow has affixed on its banners.”

“The Kremlin is compromising ‘Russian’ in a consistent way by attempting to cut off this same ‘Russian’ any path for retreat.” Putin and his regime “are privatizing it and imposing one single treatment of their own past and future. The right to an alternative system isn’t recognized, any disagreement” with the official line is treated as betrayal.

“The aesthetic archaic quality is being combined with the ethical,” Kazarin says. “Soviet flags with state homophobia; Soviet rhetoric with a system of public denunciations. Self-respect built on the absence of respect and a denigrating attitude to others.”

The Kremlin just has one problem in this regard, the Ukrainian commentator says. “All this construction is stillborn. It is impossible to win in a battle for the future if in the present you are attempting to revive the past.” Moreover, “the Kremlin’s effort to monopolize all things Russian is nothing more than ordinary raiding.”

When people say there is a war going on with Russians, everyone should be aware that “this is not so.” Instead, it is a war with the pro-Soviet past and with a Russian government whose leaders have nothing but contempt for Russians as an independent and self-standing people.

The good news is that many Russians are on the other side of the battle lines from the Kremlin, something that “pro-Kremlin writers declare this position a heresy.” That of course, Kazarin points out, “inspires hope” that the chief Russophobe in the world is now very much on the wrong side of history.

Edited by: Paula Chertok

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  • Nowhere Girl

    Russians outside of Russia are a fact and have been extensively used already in the Tsar period.
    An example after Ivan Dziuba’s “Internationalism or Russification?”: imagine you are a construction worker somewhere in Kyiv and there are Russian workers on your team. What language will you speak? – You are expected to accomodate to the Russians’ needs and switch to their language (also as, indeed, the mot widely understood language in the USSR). Now imagine you are a Ukrainian worker somewhere in Moscow, with a whole group of Ukrainians. What language are you expected to use? “Of course” here nobody will accomodate to your needs, you are expected to speak Russian…

  • Terry Washington

    When in Rome- do as the Romans do! If you are a Ukrainian in Moscow speak Russian, (just as a Russian in Kyiv would do well to speak Ukrainian- the languages are broadly similar anyway more so than Russian and Polish!)