16 Pages

The Historical Evolution of Russian National Identity

Speaking in general terms, the phenomenon of nationalism con­ sists of two discrete elements . One is the feeling of community with individuals who belong to the same group, as defined by language and other criteria, mostly of a subjective nature. The other is a sense of uniqueness, of distinction from all strangers, that is, those outside one's own group. Thus it is both inclusive and exclusive . When the historical conditions are favorable, the feeling of community loyalty may evolve into patriotism, which is the belief in the supreme value of the community. The sense of uniqueness, for its part, can lead to xenophobia and end in geno­ cide . The two emotions - patriotism and xenophobia - coexist in an uneasy relationship, with the balance shifting now in one direction, now in the other, depending on the circumstances. It is certainly as possible to be a patriot without feeling hostility to outsiders, as it is to feel hostil ity toward outsiders without having a corresponding sense of loyalty towards one's own community. It is my contention that in Russia, animosity toward foreigners has always prevailed over national loyalty, and it is my task to explain the reasons for this fact.