Liberal Nationalism

Vladimir Milov calls liberals to arms?

Though everything under the sun in Russian politics is hours away from revolving solely and entirely around the (likely guilty) verdict handed down to Mikhail Khodorkovsky on the morning of December 27th, I’d like to take a moment to draw a bit of attention to the debate among liberal democrats about the question of Russian nationalism. The question itself can be phrased any number of ways — and even after centuries of rivalry and debate between Westernizers and Slavophiles, Russians are still finding new reasons to return to the issue and argue their case.

Roughly a week ago, DemVybory leader and potential Partiia Narodnoi Svobody presidential candidate Vladimir Milov published an op-ed in Gazeta.ru titled “Liberal-Nationalism versus Fascism.” In a nutshell, Milov claims that liberals, by rejecting the issue outright on moral grounds, have surrendered nationalism to the extremists. (He uses the word “natisonal’nyi” to describe good nationalism and “natsionalisticheskii” to describe the other kind.)

That the nationalist [natsional'naia] component was lost completely by the Russian liberal movement and substituted with “universal [values]” (and that liberals completely lost the national discourse to hawks and nationalists) has contributed greatly to the failure of the liberal project in Russia over the past twenty years. It has broadly helped form the false view of liberals as a “fifth column” that rejects national origins in Russian politics.

This paragraph appears a little past the midpoint of Milov’s article. The first half addresses the rising numbers of (largely Caucasian) migrant workers, whose immigration to Moscow has risen “twenty times” since the 1990s, he says. This gives way to a discussion about the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe (and even the orange revolutions of the previous decade), which Milov says had a “strong nationalist [natsionalisticheskii] undertone.”

After declaring that liberals shot themselves in the foot by ditching the nuts and bolts of nationalism in order to pursue some fruity ideal of “universal values” (which he describes as a “fig leaf”), Milov attacks “Eurasianists” (taking special aim at Aleksandr Dugin, who runs the nationalist “International Eurasian Movement”), arguing that Russia must turn to Western, not Eastern, values and political structures. This latter half of Milov’s op-ed is undoubtedly more frustrating for Russian liberals, who inevitably are committed Westernizers, but are equally committed to a rhetoric of tolerance and cultural respect.

Podrabinek is good at making enemies.

Two days later in an article for Ezhednevnyi Zhurnal, Aleksandr Podrabinek decided to take on the concept of “Liberal-Nationalism,” calling Milov’s idea a “nonviable” attempt to simultaneously ingratiate himself to liberals and nationalists. Podrabinek’s language does not pull punches. He accuses Milov of lecturing “us stupid liberals” with his “wise life experiences.” (Podrabinek is roughly twenty years older than Milov.) He implies that Milov is tacitly endorsing the “Russia for Russians” slogan in the Gazeta.ru article, where he attacks Luzhkov and Moscow municipal authorities for not better regulating the flow of migrant workers from the Caucasus. Podrabinek goes on to accuse Milov of defending Soviet imperialism, inciting cultural animosity, and blaming migrant workers for their own poverty and abuse. Of Europe and Eurasia, Podrabinek has this to say:

But Europe isn’t just a piece of territory, it’s the European way of life and European values — not least of which is a culture of tolerance. […] We can kiss Europe goodbye if we solve the ethnic problem as Vladimir Milov advises. “Russia needs a coherent policy for the North Caucasus to limit the export of [its] lawless culture and cults of power and total corruption to the rest of Russia,” affirms Milov. I’d like to know in greater detail how he imagines this playing out. You can only counter one culture with another. Total corruption and a cult of power can only be countered with law. […] What exactly is an “export” if we’re talking about Russian domestic issues? And what kind of awful hangover does it take to convince someone that total corruption was exported to us from the North Caucasus? I refer Vladimir Stanislavovich to a paper titled “Luzhkov. Itogi,” written by a certain Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov!

Vadim Novikov

The same day that Milov’s piece hit the web (still before Podrabinek’s response), Forbes.ru published (what I would describe to be) a snotty little piece by Vadim Novikov. Titled “Russian Nationalists Split the Liberals,” the article addresses many of the sore points around which people like Milov and Podrabinek have their disagreements. Novikov’s proudest zinger seems to be that liberals are caught between the impossible choices of tolerance and promoting Western culture:

The argument about principles turns into a clash of tastes between those who feel xenophobia toward other peoples and those who feel exactly the same thing against people who hold different ideas. The problem can be put another way: the success of the slogan “Fascists are a lower race” (or “Fascists are second-class citizens”) would hardly qualify as a real victory of liberalism over fascism. Liberalism has become just another lifestyle demanding that the government be purged of foreign cultural elements.

Novikov may be correct that a culture of tolerance is inherently challenged when confronted by a culture of intolerance (as any Frenchman who’s quarreled over headscarves can tell you), but this Forbes.ru piece is thoroughly idiotic in its approach to the problem. For starters, let’s highlight the fact that the phrase “Fascists are a lower race” is found exactly once on all of the Internet: exclusively in Mr. Novikov’s December 20th article. The reason it surfaces nowhere else is undoubtedly because the statement makes absolutely zero sense. Categorically demoting an entire class of people (based on some immutable identifying characteristic) is not in any way comparable — morally, rhetorically, or logically — to disagreeing with and stigmatizing adherents to a hateful ideology. Fascists can’t be a lower race precisely because they’re not a race at all — they’re just a psychotic collective of misled, paranoid morons, who are entirely capable of becoming less (or more) stupid at some other stage of life.

It’s worth noting, however, that Podrabinek does struggle some with defending tolerance and “universal values” in the face of Milov’s arguments. But to better appreciate the real competition to Podrabinek’s open-arms liberalism, one needs to cast aside Milov’s wishy-washy “liberal-nationalism” and take in Yulia Latynina’s balls-to-the-wall frontal assault on “Caucasian fascism”:

“The problem,” Latynina explains, “is that nazism is the unrestrained philosophy of the traditional society, specially designed in opposition to open civilization. “I am a Somalian (or a Chechen, or an Arab, or a Kikuiu); I have a family and honor; I am lord of my women; and I kill my own daughter if she acts out. Therefore, I am better than these cowardly swine [from the West] who have neither family nor honor.”

This is the side of cultural animosity that liberals like Podrabinek wish to ignore. When Russian fascists demonstrate this kind of racism, they are guilty of compromising the country’s European image. A Caucasian who frowns on women’s rights in Moscow (to the degree that they exist) is rather embarrassing to someone who just chastised his own people for expressing intolerance. Indeed — on the subject of one’s “own people” — there is admittedly something awkward about Podrabinek’s attempt to shame Milov for accusing the North Caucasus of exporting corruption. “But it was OUR authorities who created migrants’ social conditions and OUR authorities who exploited their slave labor and OUR authorities who were nurtured by the corruption,” Podrabinek repeats in an effort to claim that all Russian citizens are members of the same country. Throughout his writing, the possessive pronouns reveal a point of view that is distinctly Muscovite and clearly not Caucasian.

One suspects that Milov is hyperbolic to argue that Russian corruption is imported from the south. It is equally likely that people like Latynina misrepresent the Caucasus by spreading fears about its “fascist threat,” as though the majority of its residents support some kind of expansive terrorism. And yet the liberals’ defense (or sometimes ignorance) of their antithesis outside Moscow seems doomed to discredit their tolerance-peddling aims at home, as average ethnic Russians — from nationalists to political misanthropes — will inevitably interpret this apparent double-standard to be unfair, disloyal, and unpatriotic. How Podrabinek and company are supposed to get around this without adopting various nationalist sympathies, I don’t know. Perhaps that is why the ambitious Mr. Milov set out to set himself apart. This was presumably in the interests of “political realism,” given the unpalatability of going against one’s own nationality in the ethnic conflict. The question now is this: does a stunt like Milov’s gain him more supporters outside the liberal establishment than it loses him inside?

Update (December 28, 2010): Vladimir Milov has published a follow-up article that partly responds to Podrabinek’s critique. It is primarily directed at the recent “Moscow for All” anti-fascist rally organized by Viktor Shenderovich. Milov’s piece was published in Ekho Moskvy’s blogs and is titled “Так для всех или не для всех?

63 Comments

  1. Commentators on the question of nationalism continue to miss the point similar to your last post on Manezh. No one is asking why there is an upsurge in nationalist sentiment beyond evoking nationalist narratives of “THEY bring crime to US” or political opportunism in turning its upsurge into a proxy war.

    Milov wants to harness it as positive force (there is no nationalism-lite imho. History has shown that even nationalism as revolution reverts back to its exclusionary essence). The history of Russian nationalism has always had trouble containing its populist elements. Alexander III and Nicholas II flirted with it too enthusiastically, and they got the Black Hundreds in return (not that the two minded a good pogrom here or there). The Soviets just liquidated it. Now we see the results of the Russian government flirting with it again. Populism always produces uncontainable excesses.

    Podrabinek works from some sort of imagined idea of tolerance in Europe. I wonder what tolerance is he thinking of? The tolerance toward the Roma? The tolerance toward the Muslim and African youth in the Parisian ghettos? True, Europe likes to think that it’s tolerant, but its practices reveal something else. I think Europeans would find far more kinship with Latynina on this issue. Sadly, when it comes to tolerance the rhetoric of the Russian government is far more palatable.

    The only way I see out of this is to address the social and economic undercurrents of nationalism. It always flares in particular conditions. But I guess we can’t expect that from Russia’s liberals. After all, their vision is too focused on the “regime” and/or they don’t realize that the economics they espouse require the cheap labor from the very dark masses they decry.

    • Sean, I’d say Podrabinek gets at some of the “social and economic undercurrents” you talk about. He does chide Milov for “blaming the victim” when it comes to the “slave-like status” of гастарбайтеры. His piece is a polemic, not a policy memo, so I don’t think we can really expect very substantive socioeconomic policy recommendations.

      The fact is that Russian liberal democrats, as few as they may be, are actually a fairly quarrelsome bunch. This, I’d say, is what kept parties like Yabloko and SPS separate for so many years (until SPS eventually disbanded entirely) — all despite the desperate need for a united liberal front.

      In today’s environment, you get a weird alliance (particularly in the oppositionist press) of social and free market liberals — which is in many ways like packing the American left and right wings into a single group.

      As for Latynina finding more resonance among Europeans feeling threatened by Muslims and Gypsies, I think you make the reasonable point that Podrabinek is dealing in “imagined ideas” instead of reality — but it’s not as if you can’t find large numbers of idealists in the West, too. Furthermore, Russia (even more than a country like France) is dealing with a primarily internal migration “problem.” This is, I think, why Russian officialdom today only flirts with nationalism peripherally, never endorsing the perspective directly. In the end, we’re talking about the movement of Russian citizens within the confines of the Russian Federation. That puts off limits a lot of the (undoubtedly tempting) anti-immigrant rhetoric.

      If you haven’t already, I recommend reading the full text of Latynina’s article (linked in my post). She calls the pro-Kremlin puppet youth groups an aborted, half-baked effort to hijack nationalism (“fascism light” in her own words). Here’s the most amusing bit:

      У г-на Суркова случилась та же проблема, что в большинстве арабских государств. Их правители не проводили реформ, жрали в три горла, а чтобы объяснить населению свое право на власть, говорили: «Мы мусульмане». Потом пришел бен Ладен и сказал: «Нет, это я мусульманин. А вы — дерьмо».

      Кремлевские идеологи думали, что они будут летать в Лондон, шопиться в Париже, загорать в Ницце, а потом прилетать на Селигер и объяснять там быдлу: «Мы русские». А пришел наш, российский бен Ладен и сказал: «Нет. Русские — это мы».

      This is that “uncontainable excess” you mentioned. The bothersome thing about Latynina’s piece is that she breaks off midway to attack Russian “fascism light” without ever explaining what must be done about “Caucasian fascism” (not light). She doesn’t strike me as a lady to hold back, so I assume she either has no answer or Novaya Gazeta refused to publish a particularly wild Yulia-Latynina-style call to arms.

      • AGT, I think she ( Latynina) has put it very nicely ( talking about “Russian Bin Ladin,” Seliger and all.)
        But whenever there is a mentioning of “Caucasian fascism” – we are really talking about Northern Caucasus, and Northern Caucasian nations happen to be mostly associated with Islam. Not just Islam at that, but the most militant and aggressive form of it, as the events in Beslan proved it. The animosity between Russians and North Caucasians go back in history of Tzarist Russia and only Soviet authorities were basically the most effective in suppressing Islam in Caucasus and Central Asia. Sometimes I think it was not a coincidence that Stalin ( Caucasian himself) have deported Chechens from the Caucasus. This idea of dispersing the “warrior-like people of Caucasus” throughout Russia as a solution to the problem has been already expressed by the Decembrists earlier in history.
        Unfortunately ( as far as I am concerned) it hasn’t been applied in those days.

        • In your last sentence, are you advocating some kind of genocide against Caucasian muslims on the grounds that they’re all “militant and aggressive”? As Americans, God help us all if militancy and aggression are sufficient justification for extermination.

          As much as I found Latynina’s article amusing, my problem with her theory is that it isn’t the pro-Kremlin youth that is spinning out of control. She tries very hard to use Vasily Stepanov’s involvement in the Manezh riot to connect Nashi and Surkov to the recent nationalist violence, but most evidence seems to indicate that these provocations were the work of other groups — and it didn’t even take all that many people to cause the panic and incite a crowd. The large gathering outside Red Square was mostly peaceful and the mobilizing factor was only indirectly political.

          In short, I think Latynina is exaggerating both “Caucasian fascism” and “Russian fascism.” This is true to her nature, after all, as she is an unrelenting hawk on Islamic terrorism and an unhesitating critic of the Kremlin.

          • In your last sentence, are you advocating some kind of genocide against Caucasian muslims on the grounds that they’re all “militant and aggressive”?

            No, not exactly :)
            My grandfather ( well, one of them) came to Moscow from Caucasus in the first part of the previous century, when part of the territory that used to belong to Iran, went to Russians. At that time his younger brother was studying in German University – he didn’t dare to come back. The older generation of our relatives could barely speak Russian – at least it was difficult for me to understand them, when they were coming to visit us in Moscow. Their Islamic culture was not all that visible to me, until I went to visit them. That was not the only time ( and location) when I traveled to Caucasus. So I know a thing or two about that region and what I am saying is that the perception of Caucasus by Decembrists was probably the most correct. They were advocating to leave the “peaceful nations” of Caucasus to be – just to send there Russian superiors. However they were advising to disperse the “militant nations” of Caucasus throughout Russia, as a solution to never-ending problem. That goes to people of Northern Caucasus first of all, who don’t even seem to be the natives of Caucasus. Their warrior-like culture is much more reminiscent of Arabic tribes that came to conquer Caucasus back in 7th century. It does not correspond very well with agricultural skills, ancient literature and art of other more developed nations of Caucasus, whose history goes way back in times. I am talking Georgians, Armenians first of all and even Azerbaijanis. Had Decembists have their way (or even Stalin for this matter, because removing at least Chechens from the region was already good enough,) there would be no Beslan down the road.

            PS. For the most part I do not take Latynina seriously. Although her observations can be at time quite interesting, her conclusions for the most part are not very bright as far a I can see.

  2. “(there is no nationalism-lite imho. History has shown that even nationalism as revolution reverts back to its exclusionary essence)”

    W..wait. So there is no essential difference between the Amish and the NSDSAP.

    There is also I think a conceptual confusion lurking around here, According to various pomoisms (pardon the term) to which I _think_ you subscribe (??), exclusionism _is a necessary part of forming a social group_. So unless we say that exclusionism is necessarily bad, and thus by extension that forming a social group is necessarily bad (or at least necessarily participates in badness), then the badness of nationalism cannot lie in its exclusionism. ALL social structures involve exclusionism.

    • Last I checked the Amish weren’t nationalists. There is no or, as far as I know, a desire for an Amish nation. They’re a religious group, which of course excludes those who fall outside their norms to maintain the internal cohesion of their identity.

      Yes, all social groups are based in exclusion, but that doesn’t necessarily make them all bad. It depends on power, the form of exclusion, and its consequences for the excluded. The exclusion at the heart of nationalism, however, is bad, in my opinion, because 1) I think all nationalism is problematic; 2) the exclusionary practices of nationalism usually call for the denial of rights and legal recognition, access to resources, violence, and the dehumanization of the excluded. The slogan “Russia for Russians” seems to fall into this. Or for another example, just look at what Zionism does to Palestinian *citizens* of Israel, its Filipino and Ethiopian guest workers, or some Russian immigrants for that matter. They are legally excluded from the Israeli nation because they aren’t, nor can ever be, defined as “Jewish” according to the laws of the Israeli ethno-religious state.

  3. If you would know what a party’s aims are, look at everyone who supports it. Had Novikov not gotten bogged down in the issues of race and fascism, there would have been something to his contention that Liberals promote Western culture. It’s hardly an accident that dilettantes like Nemtsov spend a great deal of time in the west, being feted and stroked by western politicians who would like to see a westward-looking idealist in charge. And not because they fear a military threat from Russia, either; because Russia is the last remaining large ideological opponent. There might be some problems down the road with China, but nobody seems to be looking that far ahead – perhaps comforted by the notion that the burgeoning Chinese middle class ensures the Chinese will never again turn to revolution.

    Meanwhile, if the liberal opposition doesn’t want to be seen as a fifth column for westernization complete with bowling alleys and hamburger joints on every corner, it should stop cultivating and basking in the approval of western commercial interests and conservative western politicians. It’s not making any positive impression at home.

    • I agree that liberals don’t do themselves any favors in the popularity department by constantly appealing to the West to censure and punish Russia. That said, their universalism is at least philosophically consistent, and it does at least take aim at their greatest constituency (anti-Kremlin interests abroad). In this respect, there’s no shortage of short-term sense in the liberals’ behavior.

      Like erasure, I’d like to know what you mean exactly by “ideological opponent.”

      • On reflection, that perhaps wasn’t the best choice of words. I didn’t mean to suggest that Russia is still the Soviet Union and wedded to a Communist course, but to suggest influential (that means loud) members of the U.S. government think it is, as well as Russia having more of a nationalist European view to doing business. Russia continues to remain outside international organizations such as the WTO (although that may be resolved – hopefully – as early as this summer) largely due to U.S. opposition, although it includes pariahs like Chad, Zimbabwe and Myanmar. This suggests differences that transcend business pique and Russia’s refusal to raffle off off its natural resources on favourable terms.

        The west’s willingness to censure Russia, as you say, and threaten punishment (although I question its ability to back up the threat) at the request of liberal Russian political figures both alienates those politicians at home (except for their eccentric base), and promotes a nationalistic brand of sullen anti-Americanism that does nobody any good.

        That particular anti-western angst when Russia’s best chance of rapid progress lies with freer trade policies and a more westernized (but not liberal, and still recognizably Russian) population has the feel of ideology to me. But since it’s not – exactly – and since it would be more difficult to defend it than abandon it, I withdraw it.

  4. “Last I checked the Amish weren’t nationalists. There is no or, as far as I know, a desire for an Amish nation. They’re a religious group, which of course excludes those who fall outside their norms to maintain the internal cohesion of their identity.”

    Unless you accept biological racism as a reality, you’re going to find making a rigid distinction between nationalists and religious groups very very hard to do.

    “2) the exclusionary practices of nationalism usually call for the denial of rights and legal recognition, access to resources, violence, and the dehumanization of the excluded.”

    Exclusionary practices of most social groups do this.

    • Another question – what does “biological racism” exactly means ( sorry if I am asking too many questions today)
      Another thing I’d like to mention is that bagging up Amish with Russian nationalists ( no, make it ANY nationalists) is a bit of a stretch. Somehow I have hard time to picture Amish ( who are plenty in the neck of the woods where I live) beating ethnic minorities into the ground.
      Of course it’s a different story when we are talking about the beauty of Islam.

  5. IMO the liberal opposition is just starting to follow, with some delay, the new Western xenophobic fashion. European tolerance and cultural respect are things of the past, the new European values are represented by Sarkozy that expelled the Romas, or by Wilders that built his consensus on islamophobia.
    So, no surprise that the liberal opposition is seen as a fifth column of the West in Russia. What is surprising is that the liberals don’t realize why they’re seen as a fifth column.

        • You’re welcome.

          Explains why the enthusiasm for EU membership in Moldova and Ukraine has shown signs of a decline.

          The issue of EU membership has a good degree of apprehension in Croatia and Serbia as well.

          A loose analogy to the attraction to a given country club’s perks being decreased by a tedious application process and some sense of discrimination within the club.

          Another loose one having to do with the reality that it’s simply more practical to consider some other more probable option or options.

      • I can’t blame neither krauts nor frog-eaters, lol.
        Of course corruption is everywhere, but everything is learned in comparison.
        Putin would looove to get visa-free regime with Europe, but hey – Europeans don’t have visa-free regime with Columbia as well))))
        ( Besides, that Turkish-Bulgarian border IS a legitimate concern for the Europeans. There is a reason why they are not in a rush to include Turkey in EU, no matter how much US would love to see it happening.

    • “European tolerance and cultural respect are things of the past, the new European values are represented by Sarkozy that expelled the Romas, or by Wilders that built his consensus on islamophobia.
      So, no surprise that the liberal opposition is seen as a fifth column of the West in Russia.”

      Quite honestly I don’t think that this is why liberal opposition is regarded as a fifth column in Russia. Overall I’d say that Russian population does not have realistic understanding about contemporary “things European” in general. Part of them either still regard Europe as what it used to be during Soviet times ( or as you’ve rightfully put it “things of the past,”) or they have eternal mistrust to it.
      The real reasons behind the contempt towards “liberal opposition” goes back to the nineties and is connected rather to US then Europe.

  6. …and the last but not least – I’ve got a kick out of Vova speech on the “Soviet past” regarding ethnic relations, when I’ve followed one of the AGT link ( thank you very much for providing them – no, seriously))))
    Is he a complete idiot or what?
    After all the Soviet subsidies for the economically-depressed regions were abolished, after everyone was left fending for himself, after the hunger, poverty and desperation settled in, thus paving way for hatred and religious extremism, while few “lucky ones” ( Vova including) were building personal “happy capitalist future” – what has got into his puny brain now to lament about Soviet past, lol? The fact that the house is on fire?

  7. While Bush is testament to the reality that one really can have a tiny brain and still reach the nation’s highest office, I doubt Bush would have been able to stay on top of the rough-and-tumble of Russian politics for much more than a month. Putin’s been in politics a good deal longer than that, and is most assuredly not an idiot.

    When people are agog at something he says (or does, like riding around on a Harley trike, or some such attention-getting stunt), it usually turns out that he is playing to a particular audience or otherwise competing for the loyalty of a target group. If what he said appears stupid, you’re probably not in the target group. But I’d bet it appeals to someone, and he probably calculated it would do him more good than damage.

    • “If what he said appears stupid, you’re probably not in the target group. But I’d bet it appeals to someone, and he probably calculated it would do him more good than damage.”

      Mark, and who said that this “someone” or someones – (“the target audience” so to speak,) who are going to buy Putin’s shtick(s) are not idiots as well? :)
      That’s number one, and number two, I assure you Bush would have been able to stay on top of the rough and tumble of Russian politics just fine, because Russia is not America.
      Russian population for the most part is cut off by the language and meager financial resources from the rest of the world; it’s much easier for Tzars to fool this kind of subjects and to manipulate by them.

  8. It’s just one more reason, not the only or main reason. By “things of the past” I’m not referring to Soviet times, but to 5-10 years ago, when parties like those of Wilders still had a “pariah” state (like Le Pen’s party in France) and kicking out the Roma because they’re Roma was considered uncivilized. At that time the western press made a lot of fuss about hate crimes in Russia by nazi groups.
    The average Russian surely missed the various signs that Western Europe was going xenophobic, although these were not missed by attentive observers. But I doubt that the average Russian today is unaware of Wilders and Sarkozy policies.

    • “By “things of the past” I’m not referring to Soviet times, but to 5-10 years ago, when parties like those of Wilders still had a “pariah” state (like Le Pen’s party in France) and kicking out the Roma because they’re Roma was considered uncivilized. At that time the western press made a lot of fuss about hate crimes in Russia by nazi groups.”

      Did they (Russian nazi) were just “kicking out” Tadjicks for example from Russia? No, they were killing them. How about that? You don’t see the difference?

      “But I doubt that the average Russian today is unaware of Wilders and Sarkozy policies.”

      It is quite possible, but I read a lot of discussions on Russian sites and I have never seen them ( Russians) using the names of these politicians or their policies in their arguments.

      • Did they (Russian nazi) were just “kicking out” Tadjicks for example from Russia? No, they were killing them. How about that? You don’t see the difference?

        Russian nazi should be compared with Western ones, and the Russian government should be compared with Western governments. Western xenophobes used and still use violence against immigrants, at times with fatal consequences. Here I fail to see any difference, but there are some differences in governments. The Russian government doesn’t use xenophobic/islamophobic behavior or rhetoric, at the least not at the extent it is used in some Western country.

  9. “Russian nazi should be compared with Western ones, and the Russian government should be compared with Western governments.”

    Well it can be done of course, but this comparison will not be in favor of the current Russian government.
    What Russian government says, has little to do with the reality of things. ( Are you following a story on Kushevskaya by the way? Because the atrocities were taking place there, all while Mr. Medvedev was making public speeches about the “fight with corruption.”)
    Now xenophobia definitely exists in the West as it exists in Russia, but if Western xenophobes are using violence against immigrants as you claim, the law steps in, and the xenophobes get persecuted. It is a different story in Russia, where not as far as in 2004 the ethnologist and human rights activists was gunned down in his own apartment, before he testified in court against the crimes of one of the Russian Nationalist organizations.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolai_Girenko
    At least this case made it to the court while numerous other, where “people of inferior races” were maimed or left dead remain routinely unsolved. Did I mention that there is too much crime and corruption going on in Russia, that such things would be dutifully persecuted by the law?
    Now about the “Xenophobic/Islamophobic behavior or rhetoric,” that Russian government does not use unlike in “some Western country” – let me explain to you why it is not happening in Russian Federation.
    For the most part Russia does not deal with the brand of Islam and the kind of muslims that West is dealing with – Middle Easterners and East Africans with another words. Muslims that historically live in Russian empire – Tatars, Uzbeks and Tadzhiks are not your Middle Easterners or East Africans; they were probably never driven by the ideas of the *Holly War* to begin with, and in Bukhara and Samarkand ( major cities in Central Asia) they were peacefully coexisting side by side with Jews and Russians alike. And even if there were any pious muslims among them, the 80 years of Soviet rule castrated Islam for good. Their women were set free and they’ve received equal rights with Russian women. When you nip Islam at the bud, there is not much left there, really. It’s only after the collapse of the Soviet Union ( i.e. within the last 10-15 years,) Islam was revived in Central Asia, and up to a certain extent – in the Russian Federation. When Russian government has to deal with aggressive form of Islam that threatens the unity of the Russian Federation ( I am talking about the Tartars in this case and certain ideas floating among them to create an autonomous Tartar Islamic Republic,) – there you are right, Russian government “does not use any Islamophobic rhetoric.” It just quietly steps in and confiscates computers, Islamic literature – whatever it finds suitable, and arrests the activists of such movement. In yet another case, when the Russian government is dealing with Chechens who represent the aggressive brand of Islam, closest to the one that West is dealing with, then again Russian government does not use any “Islamophobic rhetoric.” Again – it just steps in and kills the “separatists” with impunity. It kidnaps them, it maims and tortures guilty and innocent alike – with another words it employs the tactics “eye for an eye.” (This is one more reason why I wish Chechens would have been removed from Caucasus long time ago. It would have saved a lot of innocent victims among Russians, Chechens and anyone in-between, be that Ossetians, or Ingush. Islam is detrimental for Caucasus first of all, not just Russia.)
    But what about the absence of “Xenophobic rhetoric” on behalf of the Russian government?
    Here it’s easy to paraphrase Sean’s words directed at Russian liberals – “they don’t realize that the economics they espouse require the cheap labor from the very dark masses they decry.”
    Since both liberals and the current government are really coming from the same mall of the nineties, same can be said about them. Why would *Putin and Co* decry the presence of the “dark masses” such as Tadzhiks for example, when their recent buddies Luzhkov or Deripaska always needed cheap labor for construction sites? Tadzhics (and such) would accept the life of subhuman conditions somewhere in Moscow just to send few rubles back home where economy is in ruin. The rest is left up to Russian nationalists, for whom these defenseless migrant workers become an easy pray. See, they are the “reason why Russian nation is dying out” – these rats that accept to work for this miserable salary that “no proud Russian should accept.”

    *Sigh.*

    • Nice self-flagellation! As you may have understood from my nickname, I’m Italian. What you probably don’t know is that Russians and Italians have many things in common. One of these is the attitude at deluding ourselves that our country is one of the worst and that there is a mythical abroad where everything is close to perfection, and in any case better than in our country. Since I know that there isn’t an easy remedy to this self-flagellation syndrome, I won’t argue anymore with you.

      Regards.

      • Giuseppe, actually what can be inferred from your nickname is that you’re Jewish :) erasure is an emigre, so that explains a lot, you must’ve witnessed what they like. And you’re right deciding not to waste your breath on him. I can assure you that his view is rare among Russians, but you indeed have a point when you say about the propensity to self-flagellation.

        • “I can assure you that his view is rare among Russians, but you indeed have a point when you say about the propensity to self-flagellation.”

          1. If my view is “rare among Russians,” that does not mean it does not exist ( are you trying to say that everyone in Russia loooves comrade Putin?)
          2. By the way this mentioned above “propensity to self-flagellation” has a very unpleasant downside to it , namely – nationalistic boastfulness and self-glorification, when the rest of the world is pronounced as “dumb and worthless.” The mighty Russians and Russians only are the ones who carry the torch of enlightenment for hopeless humankind, they are the most capable and indomitable people on this Earth, particularly when it concerns the “decadent West,” lol.
          So yes, it’s very much within the lines of “things Russian” – to swing between self-flagellation and self-aggrandizement, with nothing in-between.
          ( Oh, and since I DID find certain similarities between Russians and Italians while staying in Italy, I can only guess that it might be a similar case with Italians, if “self-flagellation” is inseparable part of their national character as well. )

          PS. Kovane, do you realize that I’ve left Moscow when comrade Vova was still among “the great defenders” of “motherland” and the Soviet system?
          If I didn’t like him too much when he was a part of KGB that dictated me how I should live my life, watching the “morals of the Soviet citizens,” do you think I would like him more when he turned to be a “capitalist” thug overnight? I don’t think so. I despise him more than his ex-communist comrades, who did stick to their beliefs and refused to participate in plunder.

          • erasure,

            We’ve gone through more than one time, and I know how hopeless it is, but let’s entertain the idea nevertheless.

            1. You should change your dictionary if it indicates that “rare” equals “doesn’t exist”. And how did you even derive Putin from that? By them way, you can look at opinion polls to determine the extent of his popularity. Yes, Russian ultranationalists do exist in Russia, but they are extremely marginal force.

            2. For once, I agree with you, there’s the opposite folly, self-aggrandizement, equally dangerous. But are that the two only choices? To me, your morbid dirt-digging where there’s no dirt is as equally despicable as naive gung-ho antics of “Nashi”.

            erasure, I do realise that, moreover, I was sure about that. Are you even aware of how stereotypical you are? I’ve met a lot of Soviet emigres, and it’s like some sickness running through their veins. Half of them hate Russia more that anything else in the world, the other half sign ridiculous praises to the USSR. For God’s sake, you left Russia more than 20 years ago, would it be kind of healthy to let the issue go already?

            • “1. You should change your dictionary if it indicates that “rare” equals “doesn’t exist”.

              Yes, it does exist and more often then you are trying to picture here. Just *listen* to Russian internet, listen to it closer and try not to ignore statements/observations that don’t support your own point of view.

              By the way, you can look at opinion polls to determine the extent of his popularity.

              By the way let me remind you that I used to live in the Soviet Union where the “popularity of the CPSU” was even higher.

              “2. For once, I agree with you, there’s the opposite folly, self-aggrandizement, equally dangerous. But are that the two only choices?”

              Your question quite honestly does not make much sense to me. I’ve made an observation that Russian culture seems to have two extreme points of self-flagellation and self-aggrandizement with nothing in-between. The danger of it as far as I can see, is that with these two extremities, Russians for the most part can’t give realistic self-appraisal, and can’t make realistic judgment about the true state of affairs in their own country or of their own culture. Which in its turn often impedes the practical and rational decision necessary for future developments. Just an observation. How did you turn it into “digging dirt” I have no idea. Giuseppe Flavio is talking about self-flagellation tendency of Italians with no intention of “digging dirt” on Italian culture, I’m sure. It’s just the way things are.

              “Are you even aware of how stereotypical you are? I’ve met a lot of Soviet emigres, and it’s like some sickness running through their veins. Half of them hate Russia more that anything else in the world, the other half sign ridiculous praises to the USSR.”

              Kovane, are you even aware how stereotypical you are for the mouthpiece of the authoritarian regime? “If you don’t like Soviet system, you don’t like Russia;” “if you don’t like Putin’s government, you hate Russia” and so forth and so on. As for the “ridiculous praises to the USSR,” you better start paying attention to Vova’s speeches, such as this one, starting from these words, heh))))

              “В.ПУТИН: Спасибо большое.

              Уважаемые коллеги!

              Конечно, нам должно быть стыдно за то, что сейчас происходит. Вы посмотрите, мы же все родом из недалёкого прошлого. Ведь в Советском Союзе не было таких проблем с межнациональными отношениями. Советской власти удалось создать обстановку межэтнического и межконфессионального мира. Не было таких проблем, где бы мы ни жили. Мы с Дмитрием Анатольевичем родились и выросли в Ленинграде. Выросли. Я не помню, никогда не было, чтобы в Ленинграде были проявления какого-то национализма. Да и в Москве наверняка не было такого, в других частях Советского Союза ничего подобного не было.”
              http://kremlin.ru/transcripts/9913

              Look who is making “ridiculous praises to the Soviet Union” – chuckle-chuckle.

              “For God’s sake, you left Russia more than 20 years ago, would it be kind of healthy to let the issue go already?”

              What “issue” are you talking about? The fact that the same thugs are still in charge of the country that were “devoted communists” twenty years ago? Have a look here please -
              http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1078952.html
              No wonder what people somewhere in Kuschevskaya ( and anywhere else) are going through, when scum of the scum is in charge of the country, because as I’ve already said, those communists who had more decency in them, stepped aside from the cesspool of “Russian powerhouse” back in the nineties. The most greedy and ruthless of them remained in power, so Kuschevskaya events are the direct result of it, whether you like it or not. Yet you’d like me to forget about the horrors that ordinary people are going through in Putin’s Russia, because of someone like you, apparently, would like to pretend that there are no issues there, and that Russia *is not all that different from the West.*
              Nice try to polish shop-windows, but your goodies don’t sell – sorry.

        • But also adopted by an influent Roman family :-)
          The psychology of the self-flagellating emigre, and more generally of the liberast can be the subject of a future post on Mark’s blog. Re. self-flagellation, it has a positive effect when it’s the starting point of self-criticism which is the first step toward improvements. Too much of it has unpleasant consequences (besides the scars), like repeating the mistakes made by others.
          Anyway, Happy new year!

  10. “The psychology of the self-flagellating emigre, and more generally of the liberast can be the subject of a future post on Mark’s blog.”

    Putin was one of the liberasts back in the 90ies, when it suited him just fine.
    Later on the myth has been created about “great, Putin, the defender of motherland from the liberasts.” But look closer at Vova’s activities back in the nineties.
    http://www.svobodanews.ru/content/article/1972366.html

    Another thing – I don’t think you know much about my psychology, but Happy New Year anyway :)
    Happy New Year to everyone))))

      • No, reading this kind of articles doesn’t bother me too much. In fact it makes me feel rather good about my own perception of politics, because the prediction I’ve made back in the nineties proved to be true. When I’ve realized that general Russian population has been duped by so-called “liberal government” of Russia, and the plunder on a grand scale was going on encouraged by American government, it was clear to me that after the first phase of chaos and thuggery the second phase of “order restoration” would settle in sooner or later. One doesn’t have to be a genius to figure out that this order would be restored the “Russian way.” I was sure that the KGB would come back in power and basically that’s what happened down the line. I have visited Capitol Hill back in those days ( the beginning of the 90ies) and met with a number of politicians; only few shared my point of view. For the majority I suppose the destruction of Russia looked just fine, it seemed to be serving the purpose of removing her as a global competitor once and for all. So a lot of what these authors are saying in the Counterpunch article is basically true, except for the fact that the right words there are often coming from the wrong mouth – I am talking about Putin of course. When I think of him, the best comparison that comes to my mind is the scene from the old cartoon “The Lion King”(?) if I remember correctly. Putin is a king all right, the kind that created the kingdom where “lions and hyenas are ruling together” or something like that. With another words he is not Mufasa, he is Scar. Therefore that’s where the authors of the article went wrong – Putin didn’t “restore Russia to its former greatness” – far away from it if you look closer at Russian statistics. But even disintegrating and dying Russia is still capable to accumulate enough of strength and venom to take the whole world down with her. Putin is making sure of that, so I suspect we are moving towards the last world conflict slowly but surely.

        • Russia was “disintegrating and dying” under Yeltsin, with the enthusiastic approval and encouragement of the west. If there is a country that “takes the whole world down with her”, it won’t be Russia. The present Russia does not lack for the need of improvement by any stretch of the imagination, but it is not the staggering wreck it was under Yeltsin and Nemtsov – the one too drunk to notice what was going on and the other so dazzled by ambition that he forgot what country he belonged to – and nothing about the present nation suggests it is headed for a revisitation of that nadir.

          • “Russia was “disintegrating and dying” under Yeltsin, with the enthusiastic approval and encouragement of the west.”

            “…and nothing about the present nation suggests it is headed for a revisitation of that nadir.”

            It does not need to head there Mark, in order for Russia to continue her destruction and disintegration. Putin is a logical continuation of Yeltzin as much as Stalin was logical continuation of Lenin back in history. When the first phase of plunder and grab of capital was over under Yeltzin, the second stage of legitimization of the bounty and the protection of it came under Putin ( who, as I repeat again made his little fortune precisely during Yeltin’s “nadir.”) The well-established system of oligarchy, corruption and unstoppable greed keeps on destroying the nation, it’s like the corrosion that eats it up. Even Putin’s *shrewd* policy of oil-based economy was directed at future protection of the stability and prosperity of his own government, which he keeps on substituting for “stability of Russia.” Russian economy under him is stable all right – the flight of capital is going as steady as through Yeltzin’s times, while talks of “foreign investments” are still constantly in the air. Meanwhile as far as scientific research goes, (for example,) Russia already comes close to the level of Brazil ( Brazil!) Overall the sharp decline of Russian presence in science and culture has been noticed by the world community, which is another sign of a decline of once mighty nation. The other signs are there as well – the plummeting birth rates, the depopulation of Russian провинция, the abandoned villages and the rest. Don’t listen to Moscow bloggers, promoting the greatness of Putin’s Russia – just ask them simple questions, how much food stamps the low income families with children receive, how much is the employment compensation in Russia and how long does it last and you’ll understand why the country is bound to be depopulated and disintegrated, all while Putin’s bud Abramovich is still paying 40 euros for a glass of water in European clubs.
            That is unless of course, Russia is up to a nationalist turmoil. But this is yet to be seen.

            • Well, then, by that line of logic, the whole inhabited and civilized world is headed for disintegration and depopulation. Happy fucking New Year, everybody – our best chance lies in an island community somewhere that has no civilized population, and we’ll have to strictly regulate our numbers so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the dying world we just left. No Swiss Family Robinson bullshit, I have to tell you up front. Oh, and I want to be King, because I thought of it first. As soon as you see our community starting to disintegrate, you can assassinate me: meanwhile, I figure I’ll do no less harm running the show than any of the rest of you. If anyone else is really stuck on the idea of being King (or Queen), we can thumb-wrestle for it.

              Incidentally, where did you get your information about plummeting birth rates?

              • Thanks for a good laugh Mark, but I digress.
                (And yes, you can be a king in an island community – who am I to argue?)
                Now about the “information about plummeting birth rates” – you’ve asked where did I get it? Why, I’ve heard it from Vladimir Vladimirovich himself. See – right there “About.com” :)
                http://geography.about.com/od/obtainpopulationdata/a/russiapop.htm
                “Russian President Vladimir Putin recently directed his nation’s parliament to develop a plan to reduce the country’s falling birthrate. In a speech to parliament on May 10, 2006, Putin called the problem of Russia’s dramatically declining population, “The most acute problem of contemporary Russia.” Not only that, but he boldly went forward, giving an explanation for such unfortunate turn of events – stating the reasons of it that is. The answers are obvious he said – low incomes, a lack of normal housing, doubts about the level of medical services and quality education. At times, there are doubts about the ability to provide enough food.”
                See?
                So don’t you want to tell me ( incidentally of course) that within the last four years he has fixed all mentioned above problems, providing Russia with two fishies and few loafs of bread?

                • If Vladimir Vladimirovich’s word is good enough from 2006 (when he cited the problem), it ought to be good enough in 2010 when the problem reversed, and the birth rate is not “plummeting”, but gaining.

                  http://www.d-transition.info/demographic-transition-5/russias-demographic-decline-starting-go-into-reverse-putin-says-143/

                  And since you mention it, yes; the Russian government increased healthcare spending fourfold over 2001, and is “stepping up efforts to raise awareness and promoting healthy lifestyles”. Note the physical example provided by Putin as compared with Yeltsin, the fat drunk.

                  Of course, the Russian government has to share the credit for this reversal with the United States government.

                  http://www.america.gov/st/texttrans-english/2009/August/20090810144831eaifas5.968875e-02.html

                  • “If Vladimir Vladimirovich’s word is good enough from 2006 (when he cited the problem), it ought to be good enough in 2010 when the problem reversed, and the birth rate is not “plummeting”, but gaining.”

                    Mark, do you actually believe in what you are saying here, or you simply like my writing style and want to see more of it? :D
                    Mr. Medvedev seems to disagree with the rosy picture your articles are painting – look what he is saying in that very 2010, on November 30th -
                    “Demographic Crisis Is The Key Threat Facing Russia”
                    http://www.businessinsider.com/medvedev-demographic-crisis-2010-11#ixzz1CCK21sZN
                    Why would he worry so much, if the problem would have been truly “reversed” by 2010, as your articles ( and Vladimir Vladimirovich of course,) are stating?
                    See, the beliefs promoted in the article on “American gov. page” ( with a slogan “engaging the world” – how touchy) – beliefs that “placing the high priority on building healthy families” and allocating additional funds for the mother-child health care is something that’s going to reverse the process of depopulation of Russia is… how should I put it – deceiving. To think that Russia’s birthrates keep on declining dramatically since the collapse of the Soviet system simply because of the absence of decent health care is to think about Russia in terms of your “middle class white America, where in fact in order to understand the true reasons behind the collapse of Russian demographics, one should rather think of the dynamics of the Black community in the US, their families with mothers-grandmothers being in charge of rearing the young, the absence of fathers who don’t stick around for long, and are either in and out of jails, or too poor overall to be interested in supporting the family. Although Russian culture does remind of European/American ones to a certain degree, particularly when we are talking about “intelligencia” or the traditional families of skilled workers, ( I am talking about Soviet times now, of course) it still shares a great deal with ethnic cultures – Blacks come to mind probably because like Russians, they are the villagers in their nature. The African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” could have been a Russian proverb for this matter.
                    It’s true that Soviet system was not providing single/divorced mothers with welfare system, ( as Black single mothers used to be provided in the US,) but it was giving enough of support to encourage every woman to have at least one child. I am talking about the guaranteed income ( i.e. guaranteed jobs,) the absence of homelessness, practically free of charge day cares, free extra-curriculum activities for school-age children, dirt-cheap public transportation, free medical care – the list can go on and on. Obviously every woman felt secure enough to have at least one child in a big city; in country-side there could have been up to three or four, and the birthrate in those years was quite steady.
                    For the most part the divorce rate even back then was extremely high, (with fathers not sticking around quite often,) so the responsibility of rearing the young was befalling mostly on women’s shoulders, with maternal grandmothers ( mostly) helping their daughters financially and in any other sense of this word. The perspective to be abandoned by a man was not a big issue back then – the government was still covering the basics, a generous maternal leave for up to two years including. When Soviet system collapsed, the new “democratic” government supposedly mimicking the American system of “liberalism” and “free market,” didn’t say a word about the replacement of the security net provided by the Soviet system with the welfare system developed in the US – they didn’t want the population to be “dependent on the state” ( read they were determined to not to share the loot.) So when during the draconian reforms of the nineties I saw on the TV the collective outcry of old babushkas forced to sell the last pair of slippers on the market, when their meager savings turned into nothing overnight – I knew right there the scope of the unfolding tragedy, the true meaning of it. It was not the agony over their own fate – not quite so. It was the agony over their daughters and grandchildren’s fate, who were doomed under the circumstances. Needless to say, with absence of jobs and safety net, single mothers and families alike ( but single mothers in particular) were forced to place their children in the orphanages, in order to not to watch them dying from hunger. It became apparent to me as well, that after initial “shock and awe” Russia was doomed for demographic collapse, because how many women would have dared to have children now, with unreliable partners and no safety net in sight?
                    It was as if the “modus operandi” – the very essence of national demographic mechanism of Russia has been targeted and destroyed. The consequences became so painfully obvious in such short time, that even the criminal government couldn’t ignore it any longer. So what did Putin do? Amidst the plunging birth rates and high mortality rates ( that exist for a number of reasons, but the criminal negligence of Russian government is the epicenter of it all; good old-fashioned word “greed” comes to mind,) so amidst these plunging birth rates Putin decides to proceed with “точечными вложениями” – meaning he plans to target only stable families, with sufficient income, trying to entice them having more children. Question – how many “stable families” are out there with sufficient incomes, what’s the general men:women ratio in Russia and the most intriguing question for me personally – how does this particular policy might affect the muslim population of Russia, since we all know ( he-he) that muslim marriages are utterly solid, producing plenty of children. Other then that – do the math and figure out whether Putin’s policies are good enough to “reverse the process” as he claims.
                    So as you can see, “placing the high priority on building healthy families” sounds nice, but it doesn’t quite cut it. The loss of population is still happening much faster in Russia then its replacement.
                    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE70O22X20110125?pageNumber=3

  11. You don’t think that Russia has competition for having the potential to bring the world down?

    On a more pleasant note, a Merry Christmas for the old calender followers and Russia’s junior men’s ice hockey team was AWESOME in winning the IIHF championship.

    As I recently said elsewhere, sports can serve as a nice diversion.

    Salut!

    • “You don’t think that Russia has competition for having the potential to bring the world down?”

      It depends how you look at things, from what angle, in 3D or what’s not.:D
      Although at this stage of events I am saying that it’s Russia that has ability to bring the world down, you can look at the US and its quest for the world dominance and picture it as a culprit for the world’s downfall. See, if in the nineties the US wouldn’t have taken its chance to eliminate Russia as a global competitor once and for all, we would have probably lived in a a different world right now, and most likely – without 9/11. I suspect that in spite of the fact that Russia had a lot of interesting ideas, be that in social or scientific field, from a certain point in history it was operating more as a counter-balance to US dominance in the world, than a power capable of developing and progressing on its own. Only with a downfall of Soviet system it received another chance of becoming equally progressive force in the world, provided that it would not have destroyed some positive developments of Soviet foundation. However that’s precisely what happened ( not without Western involvement as it has been already noticed here,) and Russia has lost its chance to become a positive counter-balance to US. Did US came out as a winner in this situation? Hardly so, because Russia still did ( and will) remain the negative force, counter-balancing the US dominance in the world, and it will continue doing so, making alliances with whomever it will deem suitable for the purpose. And that in turn will only make the international conflict grow, bringing it to inevitable confrontation. Apparently we live in the world that has a button of self-destruction, once things go into the wrong mode. In this case I’d identify the “wrong mode” as an attempt of something as imperfect as US to take over the world. What/who exactly is bringing the world down with it – Russia or US, I’ll leave you to decide for yourself.;)

  12. I see post-Soviet Russia as taking more of a stay at home defense within its so-called “near abroad,” as opposed to being more prone to getting involved elsewhere. Especially when compared to the Cold War era Soviet period, the contemporary Russian body politic seems to be generally aware of the need to practically go counter to a guns over butter approach.

    Please expand on your notion that an “elimination” of Russia wouldn’t have likely resulted in 9/11? The attempt to eliminate Russia would’ve taken away from the concentration of other global issues. One also has to wonder whether Russia could’ve been successfully eliminated?

    As Russia is comparatively taking a stay at home defense, some Western neocon to neolib leaning global pursuits have left something to be desired.

    • “I see post-Soviet Russia as taking more of a stay at home defense within its so-called “near abroad,” as opposed to being more prone to getting involved elsewhere.”

      Not quite so. One should watch Mr. Putin’s actions a bit closer, when it comes to his cobweb of international politics. Yes he is somewhat limited in his actions ( comparably to abilities of Soviet government back in time,) but to say that he is solely preoccupied with “stay at home defense” would be incorrect.

      “Please expand on your notion that an “elimination” of Russia wouldn’t have likely resulted in 9/11?”

      It can be done on two levels – the first one is rather unorthodox. In this case you should go back in history and think about Russia’s connection with Byzantium, the role in Christendom that Russia played supporting the interests of Christian population of Byzantium after it fell to Islam, the containment of Islam ( Caucasus and Central Asia including) through Imperial times and through Soviet times ( Georgia owes Russia in that sense big time.) With another words – Russia was the gate to the East and for the long time in history she was keeping the delicate balance between the Christendom and Islamic world, while being a big and influential country. Once the column supporting this balance went crashing down in the 90ies, Islam went on offensive all over the world. After all the ideas of Pan-Islamism is nothing new in history either.
      If we are talking in very practical sense of it, then the collapse of the Russian economy in the nineties provoked a huge wave of immigration to Israel. Russian Jews have never seen the radical Islam that they’ve encountered in the Middle East, so they’ve voted overwhelmingly for the right-wing policies of the government, becoming a substantial chunk of the voters. That in turn brought an escalation of violence in the Middle East. The country that’s ultimately blamed for the support of Israel is the United States of course, so it’s one of the reasons why it has been hit.
      PS. I didn’t say that “Russia was successfully eliminated” – I’ve said that it was eliminated as a potentially successful competitor. So instead of becoming a positive force in the development of the world events, Russia is serving yet again as a negative force that’s simply trying to control the US global domination. ( In a way same can be said about such country as Iran.)

  13. With a practical attitude, post-Soviet Russia doesn’t seem hell bent on pursuing a guns over butter economy to satisfy some kind of imperial grandeur – whether in the form of what existed in prior periods (East and West) and the present (like the selectively questionable neocon to neolib “humanitarian intervention” approach).

    Your claim that Russia had taken a balanced approach between predominately Christian and Muslim countries can be applied in the present.

    Putting its faults aside, Iran hasn’t been involved with 9/11, the Taliban and the unrest in the Caucasus. Terror based Muslim extremism has other origins, which include countries that have received a good deal of Western support.

    Russia is relatively close to Iran. The latter doesn’t appear to have given Russia a hard time. This aspect serves to explain the Russian stance in dealing with Iran. Russia seeks a difficult balance of good relations with Iran, Israel and the US. I sense that Russia is wary of the idea of being overly negative against Iran, in exchange for the possibility of better relations with America and Israel. The reason for this second guessing stance concerns whether such a position will actually better ensure Russian security.

    It has been argued that the more hardline of Israeli policies haven’t served Israel’s best interests. In turn, there’s a counter-argument to that point. International disputes aren’t always so easy to settle in contrast to what some suggest.

    BTW, when Russia’s post-Soviet economy noticeably improved, the ratio of people from Israel going to Russia exceeded the reverse for a good few years. I’m not offhand sure of more recent times. Hardline Israeli attitudes are by no means monopolized by people of former Soviet origin. On this point, I’m suspect of some of the polling. Over the course of time, I’ve come across some hardline non-Soviet origin Israelis who question the commitment that many former Soviet Israelis have towards Israel.

    If anything, you seem to be suggesting that the 1990s mayhem in Russia encouraged a wave of former Soviets to Israel, who (as you seem to suggest) adopted hardline attitudes to Islamist anti-Israeli elements. Actually, there’s a good sized pre-Soviet breakup migration of now former Soviets in Israel.

    • Most Muslim extremist groups do not even see Iranians as fellow Muslims. They could ally, in the same way that bin Laden was allied with the US in Afghanistan and Bosnia.

      The Soviet Union was an important column keeping European and Islamic nationalism from consuming large chunks of the world. The United States was never a major force controlling either of those, so I shudder to think what could happen today with no safety net. In the end, the US will always be too distant and isolationist to solve real problems.

      BTW, a large chunk of Soviet Israelis have no Jewish background. They are usually Russian or Ukrainian.

    • “With a practical attitude, post-Soviet Russia doesn’t seem hell bent on pursuing a guns over butter economy to satisfy some kind of imperial grandeur”

      Russia does not have means for it any longer – it’s that simple.

      “(like the selectively questionable neocon to neolib “humanitarian intervention” approach).”

      Have no idea what you are talking about here…

      “Your claim that Russia had taken a balanced approach between predominately Christian and Muslim countries can be applied in the present.”

      No it can’t because it requires totally different economic approach ( hint – Soviets were heavily subsidizing both Caucasus and Central Asia that their inhabitants wouldn’t have been escaping en mass and that it wouldn’t have turned into a cesspool of medieval lawlessness and thuggery governed by chieftains and radical Islam.

      “Putting its faults aside, Iran hasn’t been involved with 9/11, the Taliban and the unrest in the Caucasus. Terror based Muslim extremism has other origins, which include countries that have received a good deal of Western support.”

      I know that much.

      “Russia seeks a difficult balance of good relations with Iran, Israel and the US.”

      Russia ( or rather Putin’s government) seeks what’s more convenient for them for the moment being. If it suits them well, they’ll denounce the US with their usual claptrap and support Iran, yet
      given a chance to join WTO, they’ll wag their tail to US and bark at Iran. Personal mercantile interests above all – that’s what really rules today’s Russian government.

      “It has been argued that the more hardline of Israeli policies haven’t served Israel’s best interests.”

      I honestly don’t know WHAT can serve “Israel’s best interests” if we are talking about their security. They are living side by side with muslims who are predisposed to radical Islam, so what ” best interests” are we talking about))))

      Sorry, I don’t quite understand the rest (what you write about Israel.)

      • Pardon my last set of comments, which were in part an answer to Cartman and weren’t placed below his comments.

        The bottom line is that within reason, Russia (depending on the given issue) can’t be exclusively, or mostly, or partly faulted for much of the problematical global issues getting primary attention.

        Foreign policy isn’t typically motivated by sheer altruism. This point doesn’t exclusively apply to Russia. Holding Russia to higher standards and faulting it for problems it either didn’t create or wasn’t solely responsible for is an inaccurate position.

        “The selectively questionable neocon to neolib ‘humanitarian intervention’ approach,” refers to situations like bombing Yugoslavia which was actively opposing the KLA – while not bombing NATO member Turkey, when it was militarily engaged against the PKK.

        In some circles, the mess in Kosovo gets downplayed as Russia (Putin in particular) is wrongly blamed for a number of occurrences.

        On the subject of former Yugoslavia, a site which offers counter perspectives to the stances favored by neolib to neocon leaning venues:

        http;//www.balkansstudies.org

        • “Foreign policy isn’t typically motivated by sheer altruism. This point doesn’t exclusively apply to Russia. Holding Russia to higher standards and faulting it for problems it either didn’t create or wasn’t solely responsible for is an inaccurate position.”

          Misha, you are missing the point. It’s understood that politically and economically influential countries play their games and create their international policies the way they see it fit, in their own national interests no matter what slogans they might use. So you don’t need to go on and on about Yugoslavia, “neolibs” “neocons” and what’s not. What I am saying here is that Russian international politics (as much as domestic politics) are driven solely by the mercantile interests of Putin’s сleptocratic government, that it substitutes for the national interests of Russia. That’s where I see a big difference between Russia and say the United States, mkay?

          • Really Erasure?

            There’re little if any economic or military industrial complex issues pertaining to what’s motivating American foreign policy?

            Aired this past week on CSPAN:

            http://www.c-spanarchives.org/program/ComplexS

            During this panel discussion, John Hulsman cites a survey on the significant foreign policy differences of opinion (mostly having to do with what the American government should be focussed on – monetarily and otherwise) among professional wonks (particularly among the neocon to neolib leaning) with thr rest of the American population.

            • “Really Erasure?

              There’re little if any economic or military industrial complex issues pertaining to what’s motivating American foreign policy?”

              Misha, you are missing the point. Again.
              It’s one thing when the government (US government in this case) sets the priorities where to spend the money in the national interests which might ( or might not) be approved by the rest of the population. Indeed politicians in any country have a better access to the information on international affairs then your average Joe, and they might make decisions based on that information that might prove to be right ( or wrong.) They might consider the development of the military industrial complex to be beneficial for the “big money” that in turn stimulate the economy of the country and therefore serve the national interests anyway. It is another thing when the government ( and its cronies) simply siphon state funds for the private use to the off-shore accounts or develop only the branches of industry that bring quick revenue to their own pockets. Something like that you know;
              http://himmelfarb.livejournal.com/198476.html

              The foreign policies of such government- again – will be directed first of all to support their mercantile interests, and assure their control of power. Whether such policies are congruent with national interests is a different matter.

              • Erasure

                On the average Joe, for quite some time in the US, the pay ratio differential between CEOs and workers has been far greater than that of other Western countries and Japan. One can find great wealth disparity in the US. This aspect can be overlooked because of the US being at a still comparatively higher standard of living than most countries.

                The Russian economy has seen growth from what was evident in the years immediately following the Soviet breakup. Russia maintains an emerging economy status. You seem to be of the view that Russia can do better. The same can be said elsewhere. Meantime, the doom and gloom commentary on Russia is IMO a bit on the over-dramatized side.

                Concerning foreign policy, I don’t see how it’s in Russia’s best interests to do things like recognize Kosovo’s independence and support the bombing of Yugoslavia and the second American government led attack against Iraq. In addition, one can reasonably question how appropriate such actions have been in relation to American interests.

                It’s within reason for Russia to try to maintain good relations with a number of countries which aren’t on the best of terms with each other.

                From the point of view of Russian interests, I don’t see much wisdom in the foreign policy views of the “liberals” opposed to “Putvedev.”

  14. You remind me of a recent set of comments at a thread which touches on this subject. There’ a reason for what you describe. At the same time, there’re also numerous instances of a partial Jewish background and folks of a more direct Jewish heritage, who seek to come closer to that background.

    I’m suddenly reminded of the background of the transplanted from Ukraine to Brighton Beach family in the “Lord of War” movie starring Nicholas Gage.

    Some greater discussion of this subject at the aforementioned link:

    http://marknesop.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/breaking-the-apple-pie-ceiling-russias-accession-to-the-wto/#comment-1794

    Excerpt:

    On the reference to Soviet Jews, Jackson-Vanik nurtured the scenario where Jewish identity was in some instances stretched as a means to leave the USSR. The honestly stated desire to leave for economic reasons was discouraged. On a somewhat related note, recall what the character played by Al Pacino said in the movie Scarface as a basis for seeking entry into the US. I know a Jewish neocon leaning attorney with the INS who became suspect of some of the stories he heard from people claiming a Jewish identity and discrimination. This observation doesn’t deny that problems existed. Ethically, these problems shouldn’t get belittled. At the same time, there was also some exaggeration.
    The aforementioned INS attorney gave credence to the view that the implemented policy on Soviet Jewry served to further encourage anti-Jewish sentiment in the USSR. Anti-Jewish propaganda had a theme of how Jews (as a group) had it comparatively well in the USSR, while having an easier time getting out.

    ****

    Touching on some of your other comments, the Clinton administration and Iran had an indirect alliance of sorts during the Bosnian Civil War. Iran flew into Croatia supplies that went to the Izetbegovic regime. The Croats going along with this constituted a shift from their leaning of seeing the Serbs and supporters of secular Muslim leader Fikret Abdic as a better alternative to Izetbegovic. It’s thought that the Clinton Administration cut an unofficial deal with Zagreb that could explain the lack of Western opposition to Croatia’s led “Operation Storm” (ethnic cleansing of 150,000 Krajina Serbs).

    On Kosovo, Iran doesn’t recognize that disputed territory’s independence. This stance contrasts from the Saudi and Turkish support for the Albanian nationalists there.

    Note that Russia has sent at least one high level delegation (including Putin if I’m not offhand mistaken) to at least one key gathering of the Organixzation of the Islamic Conference.

  15. “You seem to be of the view that Russia can do better.”

    No Misha – I am of the view that Putin’s government is way too corrupt that anything good would come out of its policies at the end. Not only that, but today’s Lib. opposition (Nemtzov et al) doesn’t have a chance to succeed because it doesn’t have a sufficient voter base and never will. Communists are a lost case and Yabloko doesn’t know what it’s doing. So I suspect that nationalists are going to gain more and more power and clout.

  16. Which “nationalists” Erasure?

    I’m all for a responsibly patriotic Russia that reasonably addresses anti-Russian biases. This advocacy shouldn’t be confused with the agenda of narrow-minded bigots.

    You don’t seem to give Putin any credit for limiting the abuses undergone in the 1990s.

    I agree that one shouldn’t exclusively live on past exploits and that further advancement is needed.

    • Erasure

      Your comment on Putin, liberals and nationalists reminds me of how some pro-Putin leaning elements see “the regime” in Russia as being the relatively better alternative.

      Shortly after the so called “Orange Revolution” Sergei Markov suggested (in a segment on the now defunct, CBC affiliated News World International) that the Orange government was counterproductive, because its Russia unfriendly elements served to provoke a nationalist backlash in Russia. From a Russian vantage point, this wasn’t good public relations, in addition to not offering the most accurate of thoughts on the subject. Markov’s emphasis on Russia conjures up the image of a Russian not concerned with how Ukraine feels and provides fodder for the notion of Russia being collectively ripe with overly aggressive nationalists. The more appropriate observation notes that the newly inaugurated (at the time) Orange government’s not so Russia friendly elements are an anathema to many in Ukraine, who don’t view Russia with hostility. Their advocacy in turn could create greater instability within Ukraine, which in the long run wouldn’t benefit Russia, Ukraine and the West. In any event, present day Ukraine has taken a somewhat different turn, with Russia and the West now taking a more hands off approach on that former Soviet republic.

      The Russian nationalist brouhaha is relative to what’s going on elsewhere.

      Note some recent news on Ukraine, concerning a Soviet like “Hero” designation for Bandera getting formally annulled and what motivated that arbitrary action:

      http://newsru.com/world/12jan2011/bandera.html

      http://newsru.com/world/14jan2011/jushenko_oun.html

      Unless mistaken, this story didn’t seem to get picked up by RT, InoSMI, JRL and RFE/RL among others. Instead, the likelihood is greater to see stories on comparatively limited pro-Stalin sentiment in Russia and claims of Ukraine becoming more censored under the current presidency there.

      Unlike post-Soviet Ukraine under Yushchenko, post-Soviet Russia hasn’t seen arbitrarily approved government “Hero” designations to historical figures which conjure up some negativity.

Leave a Reply