Academic journal article McNair Papers

3. Zhirinovskiy and Increasing Russian Nationalism

Academic journal article McNair Papers

3. Zhirinovskiy and Increasing Russian Nationalism

Article excerpt

Zhirinovskiy appears to have both drawn upon and helped stimulate an increasing nationalistic sentiment in Russia. He has appealed to this sentiment in his campaigns and in his post-election statements and activities (see Chapter 4 and the Appendix of this paper). In turn, his campaigning and the relative success of his Liberal Democratic Party in the parliamentary elections appear to have helped stimulate other political leaders and the Russian government to pay increased attention to this issue and in some cases adopt positions that are more nationalistic than in recent years.

Defining Russian Nationalism

There is an apparent rise and broadening of Russian nationalism. While the scope of this paper can only touch on the definition of Russian nationalism, the concept merits considered and detailed definition and analysis, and degrees of Russian nationalism should be differentiated.

Using a broad definition, one could say that expressions of Russian nationalism range from the patriotism one might expect of a citizen of the newly independent and sovereign Russian Federation to the views of Zhirinovskiy and other ultra-nationalists. A narrower definition of Russian nationalism and Russian nationalists might focus on people sometimes described as traditionalists, who advocate hardline, anti-reform policies and positions, perhaps excluding Communists who at least philosophically would not espouse nationalism. An even narrower definition would focus on Zhirinovskiy, members of his Liberal Democratic Party, and other such groups, but the term "ultra-nationalist" seems appropriate for these people.

Without addressing the more historic Russian nationalism and its many facets, one can point to a few salient features that characterize the new, revived Russian nationalism.

Beyond affinity and support for Russia per se, the most important factors and common threads that run throughout the range of expressions of Russian nationalism are:

* a sense of Russian "greatness" and the right and responsibility to exercise Russian leadership within the total area made up of states now comprising the Commonwealth of Independent States and perhaps beyond; and

* an expressed desire to protect and promote the interests of citizens not only within the Russian Federation but Russian Federation citizens living outside Russia (perhaps with dual citizenship) and other ethnic Russians or even Russian-speaking populations outside Russia.

Less important and less universal elements in Russian nationalism appear to be a sense of pan-Slavism and, perhaps even to a lesser extent, affinity for the Orthodox Church. These are manifest most notably in Russian sentiment toward Serbs in the former Yugoslavia.

Another element--reflected in varying degrees in expressions of Russian nationalism--is a love-hate or partnership-adversary view of the West. Some speak admiringly of the West, or at least parts of it. There is often an expressed desire for Western assistance and technology and even government and business partnerships. On the other hand, there is often suspicion of Western motives. Some appear to believe that the West wants to keep Russia weak; that it is able but unwilling to provide the assistance that Russia needs; and that it wants to restrict Russian influence and involvement in world affairs, in the "near abroad" of the former Soviet Union, and in arms sales abroad. Some also express concern about the impact of Western influence within Russia and complain that the West wants to impose Western solutions and practices in Russia.

To illustrate the range of nationalistic sentiment, at the far extreme are ultra-nationalists such as Zhirinovskiy who envision a Russia led by Russians that includes all the territory and people encompassed in the former Soviet Union, without ethnic or nationally-based republics. These ultra-nationalists deprecate smaller nationalities and minority groups, especially Jews. …

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