Russian Nationalism A Middle Class Phenomenon – Analysis
By Paul Woodward - War in Context
Most analysts have suggested that Russian nationalism is “a reaction of the poor to social problems” and even is “the path of failures,” but one Russian nationalist commentator argues that Russian nationalism is the ideology of “the middle stratum which wants to become a middle class” but is blocked in its efforts by “ethnic problems.”
Last Friday, at a roundtable at St. Petersburg State University’s political science faculty on “Youth and Nationalism in Russia,” speaker after speaker stressed that Russian nationalism is “the reaction of the poor to social problems, a primitive ideology, and the path of failures (www.rus-obr.ru/lj/10723).
But one of those in attendance, Igor Kholmogorov, a nationalist commentator, advanced an alternative thesis. He argued that “the path of failures in contemporary Russia is alcoholism not nationalism” and that the Russian “middle stratum” has adopted nationalism because ethnic problems stand on its path of self-realization as a class.
“The middle stratum,” he continues, consists of educated, employed and independent people who “would like to become a middle class, that is to achieve a table self-reproduction of themselves as a social stratum. But in contemporary Russia, this is impossible for it,” Kholmogorov argues.
The main reason for this, he says, is that “the representative of the middle stratum cannot put his child in a normal school because the school is filled up with children who do not know the Russian language and hold back the educational process, he cannot go on the street normally and drink beer with friends without encountering everywhere a criminal danger.”
The ability of the middle stratum to become a middle class, therefore, Kholmogorov says, argues depends on the development of “all-national social infrastructure which will appear at the same time with a national state.” The absence of this infrastructure, he says, has led the members of this stratum to turn to Russian nationalism.
But that is not the only reason they are doing so, Kholmogorov says. The members of this stratum are also doing so because of the impact they feel from “the de-industrialization of contemporary Russia and the degeneration of production both in central Russia and in the national borderlands.”
And they are upset, as are the young, by the imposition of special programs to promote tolerance, programs that Kholmogorov says are having exactly the opposite effect. That is because such programs have the effect of heightening attention to differences that many individuals do not even suspect.
“The ordinary Russian youth hardly distinguishes himself from a Mari or suspects the existence of the Yukagirs,” the Russian nationalist commentator says, “and even the Chukhi for him is a hero from anecdotes” rather than someone he doesn’t like. For most Russians, there are only two categories of ethnic groups, Russians and those who look different from the south.
“After having informed Russian young people about the existence of 150 peoples and nationalities and about their principle distinctions from the Russian,” Kholmogorov says, “wqe will obtain only one thing – a 150 times increase in negative reactions to other ethnic groups and the growth of the syndrome of a fortress under siege.”
“Therefore,” the Russian nationalist commentator argues, “if we really want to calm young people then we need to tell Russians not about the particular features of the Vaynakh lezginka but about what the distinction features of the Russians themselves are.” Then it will become obvious that we can tell others how to live and that “to argue with Russians is useless.”
Those who are confident of the power of their own nation will be peaceful in their relationships with others; those who are not won’t be, Kholmogorov argues. And if Moscow continues to promote the idea that Russians are surrounded on all sides by enemies, then there will be “a powerful response” in the form of aggression.