December 15, 2004 by AK

Russia’s liberals: Blind, deaf, and dumb

Peter Lavelle is a little harsh on the Russian “liberals,” and, besides, his piece is sloppily penned, but it’s still better than the whining you’re likely to read in The Moscow Times or even the NYT. Here’s what I think is the most controversial bit:

Russia’s liberals fail to understand the Putin is in fact a moderate. They actually have more in common with Putin than with many members of the security forces, military, and Russia’s oligarchs – and, if like it or not, with the majority of Russian voters.

One of Putin’s biggest problems is the lack of competent people around him. It is a pity that many of Russia’s liberals are unwilling to help Putin when he needs all the help he can get. […]

Well, I don’t know. What I would suggest, though, is that a strong Russian “grassroot” democracy movement will have to be nationalistic and relatively illiberal.

By “nationalism” I mean any ideology that would help forge a semblance of a Russian political nation; it could be inward-looking and ethnic-based, or culture-based and imperialistic, or something else — but it should provide some sort of common ground for the “oppressed masses.” Chances are, it won’t be a nice and clean teaching. “Illiberal” it will have to be in that it will take little heed of minorities’ plight — since its thrust will be restoring the rights of the majority — and in the ugliest scenario, it may build on hatred of minorities.

“Any real expression of “people’s power” in the streets of Russia will not be liberal; it will be angry, violent, and very intolerant,” writes Lavelle; maybe not violent or very intolerant, but marred by violent incidents and a stong dislike for certain social and ethnic groups. The Ukrainian scenario, as it has unfolded so far, seems too good for Russia.


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