July 22, 2005 by AK

A healthy xenophobic response

Russian liberal observer Leonid Radzikhovsky writes:

If taken to extremes, Russian society’s response to its wrenching modernization could degenerate into a nationalist revolution led by xenophobes. A different and healthy conservative response is possible if the tattered remnants of old threads, torn apart in the course of postcommunist modernization, can reconnect and grow together in a new way.

I think I know what the guy means, and I more or less agree. Except that I am a nationalist and a xenophobe myself.

I am a nationalist because I want a Russian political nation to emerge at last.

I am a xenophobe because I do not want Russia to be swamped by unassimilable immigrants. I am also against guest workers’ taking jobs that, with the right economic policies, would go to native-born Russians.

A “healthy conservative response” should not be contrasted with xenophobia. Healthy conservatism has to be mildly xenophobic because conservatism is common sense: “do not trust strangers.”

I don’t think Radzikhovsky would have a problem with me. The guys he has in mind, as far as I can reconstruct his fears, are extremists. He seems to think an extremely ugly ultra-ethnonationalist revolution of the “kill the Jews” variety is still possible in Russia.

To some degree, he’s right. That is precisely the type of revolt that Putin would be happy to put down — and emerge the Protector of All That Is Good.

But to suppress a revolution, you must first create it. Will Putin go that far?


  1. Michael B says:

    Or to put it in direct and pedantic terms, not an ultra-nationalist but a sovereigntist and therein an awareness of borders, a sense of what would constitute violation, a sense of internal responsibility certainly as well; as a correlate to what constitutes the nation, a sense of what constitutes the sovereign self. The nation’s sense of sovereignty constitutes the state and if it does not assert itself in that qualitative sense, however awkwardly, destructive forms of decay, dissimulation, revolt, suppression can result.

  2. Alex(ei) says:

    Alas, the nation’s sense of sovereignty is too weak, or the nation is too impotent to force the state to act more in the nation’s interest and less in the interest of certain narrow elites.

    There is another aspect to my “nationalism.” The average ethnic Russia seems a lonely atom, or at best part of a small molecule — a nuclear family — in an alien society. She has few relatives, and other horizontal networks are weak. Subconsciously, she wants to belong somewhere, and this desire can be easily exploited by a totalitarian regime or movement. I’d rather give her a chance to belong to something more moderate and humane.

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