Vladimir Putin occupies so much political space in Russia than healthy, democratic, political competitors cannot take root. Like a great tree, Putin shades out lesser saplings. Unfortunately, poisonous weeds are creeping in the place of normal political fauna. The latest piece at HNN from Dr. Andreas Umland:
The roots of Russia’s currently rising nationalism are threefold: pre-Soviet, Soviet and post-Soviet. The idea of Moscow as the “Third Rome,” i.e. of a special Russian mission in world history, goes back several centuries. Russian nationalism had been – contrary to what many in the West believed – an important element of Soviet ideology ever since the 1930s. Like in the early 19th century when Moscow’s so-called Slavophiles applied German nativist thought to Russian conditions, ideas of various Russian nationalist movements today are often imported from the West.
….The main difference between Russian and Western forms of nationalism is that, in the contemporary West, the intellectual and political mainstream of a given country usually more or less clearly distances itself from that country’s – sometimes, also rather strong – nationalist movement. While the Russian mainstream is quick to condemn racist violence, its relationship to the world view standing behind such violence is, in contrast, more ambivalent. Thus, authors who, in the West, would be regarded as being far beyond the pale of permissible discourse, such as the ultra-nationalist publicist Aleksandr Prokhanov or ideologue of fascism Aleksandr Dugin, are esteemed participants in political and intellectual debates at prime-time TV shows. The bizarre, pseudo-scientific ideas of the late neo-racist theoretician Lev Gumilev are required reading in Russia’s middle and higher schools. Gumilev teaches that world history is defined by the rise and fall of ethnic groups that are biological units under the influence, moreover, of cosmic emissions.
Russia has always had a deep streak of xenophobic, romantic, mysticism as part of it’s character; a part that comes from it’s Pre-Petrine heritage but one that has continued to resurface despite the best efforts of Westernizing modernizers or Soviet commissars to extinguish it. This latest resurgence is reminiscient of the wildest rhetoric from the racial lunacy of the 1920’s Volkish far Right in Weimar Germany in which the nascent Nazi Party incubated amidst Freikorps paramilitaries, Bavarian separatists and ultranationalist conspiracies.
In comparison, the siloviki do not look too bad.