Russians Under Putin Lack Any Sense Of Being A Cohesive National Community – OpEd


“Russia is infinitely far from the fascist ideal which Vladimir Putin has thought up, Leonid Gozman says. Instead, it is like an elderly person who does not feel part of a broader national community, “wants nothing, believes in nothing, hopes for nothing, and dreams only of being left in peace.”

Twenty years ago, these Russians were enamored of Putin; and they even experienced an Indian summer with him in 2014 at the time of the Sochi Olympics and the Anschluss of Crimea, the Russian opposition leader says. “But all this disappeared long ago” (

Russia today is “an atomized country whose people do not feel attached to one another” beyond the limited ties of family and immediate friends. “The bombing of Belgorod, for example, leaves the residents of Tyumen indifferent,” Gozman says. That is true of other disasters as well.

“In this sense,” he continues, “this is not a country which conceives itself as one big family but a territory. This country doesn’t have any feeling of WE.” As a result, there isn’t going to be any mass feelings of “’Arise, Enormous Land’” of the kind that helped power Soviet forces in World War II.

Moreover, “the country is not simply atomized but divided into hostile classes,” something that had not been true since the times of the Russian Civil War at the start of the Bolshevik period. As a result, this aging country and its aging leader do not have a future whatever he says.

The people of Putin’s Russia aren’t especially proud of their achievements in the past or hopeful about what may be possible in the future, Gozman says. As a result, Russia “already is incapable of beginning something new” and has no interest in the grand projects Putin so likes to talk about.

This present Russia “doesn’t want what the government does in its name. It isn’t interested” in what the regime talks about. “It doesn’t want an empire. Russian imperial consciousness is a myth in contrast it would seem to the imperial policy of the government,” Gozman says. 

For that reason, it is wrong to speak of any national solidarity among the larger part of the population. That doesn’t exist. The Russian people ignore their leader far more than do people in other countries with regard to their own. And its members have no enthusiasm for anything he talks about.

Such a country and such a leader do not, indeed, cannot have a future, Gozman concludes.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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