January 18, 2005 by AK

Putin and his crowd may be as primitive as they are incompetent. But he shouldn’t expect ordinary Russians to share his imperialist instincts.

Russia was a peasant country a hundred years ago, and to this day a peasant (not imperial, but specifically peasant) mentality keeps hold of millions of minds when it comes to politics. For the post-Soviet “peasant,” the most important are his (I have a male head of a household in mind) family, his home, his job (if he’s lucky); he also respects the Tsar, the Church and the Army — as long as the Tsar has a big stick for the bureaucracy and leaves him, the peasant, alone; as long as he does not have to attend church services; as long as his kids don’t have to serve in the army. The ultimate value is the survival of one’s family, and the rest of the world can go down the drain.

What is that attractor value? The nation; and the ideology, nationalism.

A sense of belonging to a group can alter its members’ behavior. Behavioral patterns are major determinants to the group’s success or failure. A shared sense of belonging to a nation can thus condition economic and social development. Nationalism is a value that has practical consequences.

We don’t have to break down local affiliations to build nationhood. Outside of the elites, they are too weak. Our immediate neighbors are our family and friends; after that, there is nothing but the Nation — the true society of friends.

Nationalism. Not the “bad” variety — ethnically exclusive, divisive, totalitarian and eventually suicidal. The “good” nationalism is inclusive and humanistic; on the other hand, it is simply a practicaly necessity. This commonsense nationalism would be based on the most obvious observation: we Russians are all in the same sinking boat; we’ve got nowhere to go, and it makes perfect sense to play by the same rules to survive. We are tremendously talented — even though the mighty and the noblest perished in the 20th-century grinders — our creative vitality is still enormous. We want to make Russia livable for our children. We’re not after abundance, just a decent life. Economic growth is not enough: it does not equal decency. Rule of law, an accountable bureaucracy, education for the children and health care for all — how do we get there? We need to discover within ourselves a value that would make us care about greater things in everyday life and alter

Nobody likes us. Many despise us. Some even hate us. Fine. We can live with it. What do we care? After God, we value Russia. But the Russia we believe in is not an abstract idea but the sum total of Russian families and individual Russians. The dead and the unborn are not to be excluded either. There are too few of us left. Our people have suffered more than any great Christian nation; we deserve a better lot. Maybe we don’t, but that’s how we feel. It’s practical, too, for it helps us stick to the same set of rules. The bottom line is simple: Russia will unite us, and the only thing that matters is the Russian citizen.


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