Paul Goble: Putin Wants to Form a New Soviet People but Without Marxist-Leninism, Savvin Says

Staunton, May 10 – Much that Vladimir Putin is doing makes no sense unless one understands that he is trying to create a new Soviet people but one not limited by Marixst-Leninist ideology and thus a new ethnicity rather than an ephemeral political community that could disintegrate as quickly as the original version did in 1991, Dimitry Savvin says. On no other occasion has the Kremlin leader’s progress been more obvious than on Victory Day, an event that provides the basis for forming a new ethnic community that cuts Russians and others off from their past in order to render them permanently subservient to the Kremlin, the editor of the Riga-based Harbin portal says (harbin.lv/tarzan-raspravil-plechi). The May 9 “carnival” looks absurd only if one fails to recognize what Putin is trying to do. Once one does that, the conservative Russian nationalist commentator says, everything makes sense, although it is no less disturbing for those who would like to

see the Russian nation flourish and integrate into Europe. For Putin, Savvin argues, May 9 is “not connected with the Russian people or with Russian culture” but rather is a kind of “mass folkloric manifestation whichhas given rise to an extremely primitive ethno-cultural community, the Soviet,” but the Soviet without the limitations and distortions introduced by Marxism-Leninism. Dressing everyone up into military uniforms of the World War II period “seems strange only if one considers this as a military dress. But if one considers it as a traditional ethnic garb of Soviet values, then the picture becomes clear and logical.” The same is true if one views fake veterans and young people dressed up in such uniforms as Soviet in the old sense. “And even the phenomenon of the eternally young veterans who become more numerous from year to year becomes natural and logical if one considers them not as real veterans but as a necessary function of any primitive or archaic ethnic culture,” the Russian émigré commentator continues. “In general,” Savvin argues, “everything becomes logical, natural and understandable but only if we recognize that the soviet is a recently born and extremely weakly developed ethno-cultural community at the basis of whose identity lies the epic myth about ‘the Great Fatherland War.’” What we are watching then, he insists, is an effort to create a new “’ethnicity’” which isn’t limited by either Russian identity from the past or by Marxism-Leninism but is defined instead by a single event that the Kremlin believes can create new nation subordinate to itself and one that justifies the kind of regime Putin wants to have. This is many ways is a far weaker basis for the development of a new ethnic identity than exists in many other places, but it is in some ways stronger than the one, Marxism-Leninism, which underlay Soviet efforts to create “a new people.” That identity, thanks to this ideology remained “in the first instance a worldview and political identity and not an ethnic one.” It was thus extremely weak and disintegrated into thin air in 1991. What Putin wants to do, however, could be longer lasting because it draws on Russian identity but ultimately works to destroy that distinctive identity more thoroughly than even the Soviets succeeded in doing and thus is for Russians an even greater threat. In principle, creating such a new ethnic identity is not impossible; but Putin faces both objective obstacles and the opposition of those who want to see Russian and other national identities survive and flourish. And consequently, in the coming decades, there will be an intense struggle between this new ethnicity and the Russian one. “If the Soviet in this race overtakes the Russians, then there will not be any chances to reverse it. Then Russia will face its final degradation and disappearance,” Savvin says. “And Russians if they survive will be approximately like what the Byzantine Romans were, small communities spread about across the space of their former Empire.” A group known if at all and of interest only to ethnographers, the Russian commentator says. source: window on eurasia

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