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Rossiyskiy Patriotism: The Russian Zeitgeist (I)

By Andrew KORYBKO (USA)

Rossiyskiy Patriotism: The Russian Zeitgeist (I)

Introduction:

Russia’s civilization is one of the most geographically expansive in the world. Stretching from the shores of the Baltic to the Sea of Japan, and linking the frozen Arctic to the tepid waters of the Black Sea, it envelops the majority of Northern Eurasia. This Eurasian civilization has more than a millennium of history, and comprising a myriad of assimilated peoples and cultures, it is an intricately woven quilt of characteristics.  It is most popularly represented by the Russian ethnos, but it is so much more than that.

Its practitioners have a lot to be proud of, but sadly, expressions of civilizational pride and patriotism are perverted both by narrow-minded individuals within the country and politically oriented observers outside of it. In the first case, Russian Nationalists support a hateful form of racial exclusion, alienating the minority groups that form an inseparable part of Russia’s larger civilization. As regards the second case, Western military-political-information planners and liberal ideologues purposely mislead their audiences to cast heartfelt patriotism as a radical and scary manifestation. Neither of these is an accurate depiction of reality, and both discriminately focus solely on the Russian racial element.

The purpose of the article is to propose the concept of Rossiyskiy Patriotism to accurately describe the Russian zeitgeist and counter negative propaganda (and image hijackings by nationalists) about this peaceful and organic process. Rossiyskiy is used instead of Russian or Russkiy, as the word connotes all the citizens of Russia regardless of their race or religion. It is the all-inclusive foil to exclusionary Russian Nationalism, and it is the true spirit of the times in Russia today. There is nothing wrong or shameful about Rossiyskiy Patriotism, and in fact, it can even serve as a constructive template for other civilizational patriotic expressions struggling against unilateral march of Westernization.

What is Rossiyskiy Patriotism:

Rossiyskiy Patrioism is best defined as the following:

the peaceful and organic outflowing of love and pride that an individual has for Russia’s civilizational heritage and multipolar foreign policy successes

From this simple definition, one can thus discern the most important characteristics of the concept:

Peaceful and Organic:

Solidarity with Crimea manifestation in Saransk, Mordovia, Russia, March 18, 2014.

Solidarity with Crimea manifestation in Saransk, Mordovia, Russia, March 18, 2014.

The Patriots do not preach violence or engage in any aggressive actions. Unlike the Nationalists, they are peaceful, respectful, benign, and largely spontaneous. Examples of their manifestations include assemblies in Crimea, Moscow, and other Russian cities celebrating the reunification. One can notice the involvement of many women and children in such demonstrations (which would be unthinkable in a Nationalist one), further proving their safe and peaceful nature. Participants do not have to be organized well in advance or paid to guarantee their attendance, as they are naturally gravitated towards such an outpouring of love and pride for their country.

Full of Love and Pride:

Patriots are motivated by their love and pride in all things related to Russia, not by the xenophobic hate and racial hubris of Nationalists. They treasure the eclectic nature of their land and are intensely proud of this, not being able to imagine Russia or its history in any other way. The feel-good mood permeating their assemblies and the absence of angry chants testifies to the loving nature of those in attendance.

It can be Practiced Independently or Collectively:

Rossiyskiy Patriotism is not marked solely by large gatherings and public assemblies; every individual can express this idea on their own. For example, accessorizing oneself or property with the Ribbon St. George (commonly displayed to commemorate the Soviet Union’s sacrifice in the Great Patriotic War) is a benign symbol of being a Patriot. The only people who could logically be offended by such an image are Nazi supporters. Another instance of the independent practice of Rossiyskiy Patriotism is when supporters wittily satire the sanctions against Russia. Such actions do not necessarily need groups of others in order to be effective, as the importance is placed in the individual expressing their pride for Russia and everything positive that it stands for.

“The Sky of Holy Russia” painting by Alexander Afonin.

Glorification of Russia’s Civilizational Heritage:

Although it is still hotly disputed exactly what constitutes Russian civilization (is it Western, Eastern, or something in between?), it is indisputable that it does bring together elements of the Eurasian landmass. This is evident from looking at the racial and religious makeup of the Russian Federation today, as well as the country’s borders. If European civilization is largely Christian and Caucasian, and Asian and Eastern Civilization is mostly non-Christian and non-Caucasian, then what does that make transcontinental Russia’s civilizational heritage? It must obviously be some type of Eurasian hybrid, the extent of which is debatable. (‘Rossiyskaya’ civilization is certainly based on the Orthodox Christian core ensuring respectful approach and harmonic co-existence with all traditional faiths and cultural components in Russia. Therefore we should rather talk about Eurasian harmony than “Eurasian hybrid”. – OR.)

It is this Eurasian hybrid nature that Patriots pride themselves in and support, and the celebration of their shared civilizational sentiment is what unites the practitioners. The multicultural and multiconfessional nature of the Russian state, historically united around the majority Orthodox Russian inhabitants, is the cornerstone of this civilization. Without the assimilation and integration of minority groups throughout its history, Russia would not be the way that it is today. The memory of inclusion and respect for minority groups motivate Patriots to express their filial feelings towards Russia.  Conservative social policies and the support of derzhavnost (a strong central state) are also hallmarks of Russia’s civilizational heritage.

Multipolar:

The idea of multipolarity is very dear to Russians and has a strong impact on their psyche. Russia is seen as one civilizational power among equals, and safeguarding its sovereignty, independence, and uniqueness, as Russia has historically done, is of prime importance for both the state and its citizens. The unipolar approach of the US and the West existentially threatens these near-holy ideals, thus making its reversal of prime priority for their survival. (for the reference see e.g. 2013 Russian Foreign Policy Concept).

When Russia successfully reverses the US’ unipolarity and defies its self-appointed exceptionalism (e.g. preventing an American war in Syria), this is of course a cause for civilizational celebration. Russia’s support of multipolarity has not been lost on others, as Syria’s President recently acknowledged that “The important role that Russia is playing on the international scene is today making a clear contribution towards drawing up a new map for a multipolar world…(which helps to) achieve international justice, in the interests of states and people who believe in their sovereignty and independent decision-making”. In this sense, non-Russian citizens all across the world may be drawn to Rossisyskiy Patriotism as an avenue for simultaneously supporting multipolarity and thanking the Russian Federation for loyally working towards this goal.

Complete Inclusiveness:

Ethnic map of Russia

Ethnic map of Russia

By not being tied to a specific race, religion, or citizenship, anyone can practice Rossiyskiy Patriotism. This means that Christian Ossetians, Buddhist Kalmyks, and Jewish Russians can be equally patriotic of their shared homeland. Importantly, one does not even have to be a Russian citizen to share in the sentiment, opening the opportunity for Ukrainians, Germans, and even Americans to participate. This makes it globally democratic, unlike American Exceptionalism and other exclusionary concept.

In opening its doors for everyone, Rossiyskiy Patriotism is mirroring the ideals of the Russian, Byzantine, and Roman Empires. The Roman Empire would allow anyone to become a citizen provided that they respected Roman Laws; the Byzantines were the successors of the Romans; and in their turn, the Russians succeeded both of them to become the “Third Rome”. In continuity with its spiritual predecessors, Russia has always preached the values of assimilation and integration as being the integral foundations of citizenship. Inclusion also goes both ways, as many cultural and traditional elements of minority cultures have filtered upwards into Russia’s national culture, showing the organic nature of integration into the Russian state.

Andrew Korybko is the American Master’s Degree student at the Moscow State University of International Relations (MGIMO).

To be continued…

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