A Critique of the Russian Ideology
Quite ranty and contains no graph
As I got suspended on Twitter for calling people names, I want to write up several posts related to the Russian-Ukranian war here on several topics, from more quantitative ones to wildly speculative ones like this one.
I have seen this post from Sergei and I think the presentation of Russia in the West both from anti-Russian and pro-Russian people is wrong in a very fundamental way: it’s a society with a very weak political engagement and you can’t call either the government or the population fervently nationalist for a large number of reasons.
The second part is once again from Sergei and it relates to the entire discourse about multipolarity and the fight with the West.
The Nationalism and the Void
There is a common position that Putin or Russian people in the current war are overtly Russian nationalists. I think it’s wrong in the fundamental sense in two ways.
On the one hand, Russia lacks almost any democratic politics, almost all social movements that existed in a very weak form in the 90s and early 00s were destroyed, and don’t exist as coherent political forces with organizations capable of almost anything. It also includes nationalism, you can’t have nationalism without nationalist intellectuals, organizers, and leaders, Solovyov is not a person who has read the Question of Nationalism.
On the other hand, there is confusion between the commitment to the nation and the commitment to the state and the status quo (I often call it etatism, the Russian word for it is “охранительство”). If you have seen the endless stories about the infinite wisdom of Putin from pro-Russian Westerners, imagine having it as the ideology that subsumes everything: from domestic policies to foreign ones. You can’t have any opinions about anything that much, there are only reasons to justify Putin’s opinions (or fight against them, which creates the other problem for Russian society, but it’s a different story). Putin’s elections are the fairest because he is Putin, his repressions are not real or are fine and needed because he is Putin, his decisions in Ukraine are always the best because he is Putin, his national policies are the best, his economic decisions are the best; he knows everything, he always plays 4D chess and you just don’t understand (a Russian word for it is “многоходовочка”).
In general, every activity that is not controlled directly or through proxies affiliated with the government that can’t be taxed through corrupt schemes is viewed with suspicion including volunteers who ship equipment for a war or nationalists who want to fight (think about the epopea of Strelkov getting to the frontline).
Remnants of nationalist movements generally hated Putin before the invasion of ‘22 started for different reasons (from the betrayal and total mismanagement of Donbas to the situation with migration to the position of Russians abroad), the first months of the war brought some sympathy but it’s disappearing now.
I think there is a very telling moment about the entire thing: Egor Prosvirnin (now dead), the founder of the main nationalist magazine of the Internet era (Sputnik & Pogrom), was harassed by FSB for his anti-Ukranian posts after the war in Donbas started and his site was banned in Russia after. Nationalists were either subsumed into the government structure if possible or repressed.
In the background of the constant talk about “saving the Russians/Russian-speaking,” the government had a continuous disinterest in the lives and destinies of the Russian populations in the majority of countries of the ex-Soviet Union (as the general disinterest and the lack of any competent diplomacy in them as such), it never came to the simple idea of a national state to have clear laws of return that will create a preferential and streamlined way to get the citizenship based on your Russian ethnicity in a comprehensive manner.
It ties to the point that Russia is still a multi-ethnic federation, the government consistently emphasizes it, and there is zero desire to establish a unitary Russian state. Chechnya, the non-Russian region with the absolutely shameful and insane internal situation that badly damages the politics of the country, is the Crown Jewel that holds together the current regime. Who among the nationalists would have thought that Russia will be killing thousands upon thousands of Russians in Ukraine before the abolition of the Soviet autonomies (even after the president told them that they are evil on the first days of the war)?
In the background of murder, cruelty, and destruction in Ukraine, there is no nationalist frenzy in the population at home that we may have seen in our fellow Yugoslavs during the dissolution or in Azeris recently. There are no ethnic cleansings against Ukranians or Westerners or even noticeable pogroms in Russia. A Ukranian with a Ukranian passport is still safe in Russia now, and probably even somewhat safer than a person with a Russian passport as he will be not conscripted into the army and still can move through and out of the country mostly freely. Foreigners with Western passports are safer and in a better position than Russians with Russian passports, police still treat them with great caution. Moscow is still full of Western symbolism and music on the radio is still Western, even though never in history have so many Russians been killed on Western money with so much Western help, the times of Andrei Zhdanov had far less basis for the fight against the Western (or cosmopolitan, non-multipolar) influence than the current situation has. There isn’t really almost anything except very surface things and the crusade against the American gender manifold and yaoi (gay) fanfics about pioners for teenage girls.
Multipolarity, Rot, and Impunity
I’m one of the few people who always used “anti-imperialism” as a sarcastic slur through the years and currently moved into doing so with “multipolarity” in a similar manner.
Anti-imperialism as rhetorics in the 20th century, especially in its 3rd worldist iteration, was always the rhetorics of demagoguery and incompetence, coupled with “national liberation” it was the omen of vicious cruelty and ethnic cleansing to come. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the rhetorical position completely lost any remaining luster that was given to it by the modernist and universalist mood of Soviet socialism, and moved into the hagiographies of coming “multipolarity”. Coming multipolarity has been promising the end of the Western or American hegemony, but the way it has been promising it is quite peculiar.
The rhetoric of multipolarity is a mix of old timely imperialist ideas and fascist ideas (for example from Carl Schmitt that specifically was concerned about proving liberal universalist hypocrisy by the practical nature of world politics) with rhetorics of 3rd worldists: promises of the new world with unique paths with deeply non-Western sovereignty are galore. The problem is similar to the problem with original 3rd worldism, that they are not real.
But some “Third World” political leaders, intellectuals, and Western supporters went further and saw it as the source of revolutionary promise; the locus of a novel, compelling, better way of life, neither liberal nor Leninist. For Frantz Fanon, it was a question “of the Third World starting a new history of Man, a history which will have regard to the sometimes prodigious theses which Europe has put forward, but which will also not forget Europe’s crimes, of which the most horrible was committed in the heart of man, and consisted of the pathological tearing apart of his functions and the crumbling away of his unity.” “Third World” countries were “to do their utmost to find their own particular values and methods and a style which shall be peculiar to them.”
But the “promise” hasn’t (yet) been realized. No new way of life has emerged anywhere in the “Third World.” No new ideology has been embraced by leaders who go on to create a new political vocabulary for, and recruit a new leadership stratum from, a mobilized social base that “populates” innovative institutions, pursues historically extraordinary tasks, and draws from, as well as relies on, a powerful, prestigious core area. No London, Moscow, Mecca, or Rome has appeared in the “Third World.” In stark contrast to a new international way of life, for the most part, one finds depressingly familiar examples of tyranny, corruption, famine, and rage in a pre-national setting. Still, it is premature to write the "Third World" off as a potential source of a new way of life. After all, the ex-colonial world has been independent for less than half a century.
But now the most horrible crime committed by Europe (or America) in the heart of man is not slavery or genocides, no, my reader. The most horrible crimes committed by Europe (or America) are transgender teenagers, gays, and 85 genders in general, thousands and thousands of Russians shall die for them and we will constantly talk about it because they are quite disturbing for the people who were born in the 1950s and the 1960s.
Back in the world of promised multipolarity: the world of promised multipolarity is the world of incompetent corrupt sadistic hacks who may do whatever they want, who don’t believe in anything and can’t be judged for it, because it’s their sovereign right and you must respect them as the ultimate form of anti-imperialist struggle and human morality.
The spiral of Russian official rhetorics that only accelerated during the war is not surprising in the slightest, there is no more perfect justification for rot and general nastiness than the insistence on the sovereign right to do so and angry philippics which blame everyone around for your own mistakes and failures. The true Nomos of the World, the Confederacy of Grifters, but we are sovereign and incommensurable and don’t have gay propaganda.