chapter  2
36 Pages

Rethinking Russian nationalism: Historical continuity, political diversity, and doctrinal fragmentation


This aim of this chapter is to rework some of the standard notions pertaining to the issue of nationalism. First of all, it seeks to inscribe contemporary Russian nationalism in a historical continuity by showing how its internal logic and its conflictual relation to the state are rooted in the tsarist and above all the Soviet past. Second, it attempts to show that it is no longer possible to define the various doctrines and currents of nationalism in strictly ideological terms, since their postulates are very widely spread throughout Russian society. In order to obtain a precise vision of their capacity to influence political life, it seems preferable to distinguish them on the basis of their access to power and their social representativeness. So, instead of analyzing Russian nationalism in purely ideological terms, I have divided the political spectrum into four more or less distinct concentric circles in the hope of better understanding its multiplicity and relevance. Finally, I put into question the standard way of classifying the nationalist movement, arguing against the widespread use of “fascism” and “Nazism,” not to mention distinctions between left and right, orthodoxy and neo-paganism, and ethnocentrism and imperialism. My objectives here are to show that Russian nationalism presents a far less fragmented picture than that usually painted, and to shed light on the shifting character of its institutional antagonisms and ideological divisions, and the trajectories of its leading figures. What emerges from this is an understanding of how this “nationalist climate” has come to have such success in contemporary Russia.