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The Effects of Globalization on Russia: An Analysis of New Russian Nationalism Eduard D. Ponarin European University at St. Petersburg mmediately after the breakup of the Soviet Union, the term Russian was defined in opposition to the term Soviet. Russia was also defined as a nation in transition to democracy, a prodigal son coming back to the family of Western nations. Soon enough, however, this anti-Soviet, pro- Western, and democratic idea was superseded by its opposite. Democ- racy and the West are now seen in very negative terms by increasing segments of Russian society. The current anti-Western tide in Russian public opinion coincides with the formative period in the Russian na- tional identity. It may solidify the image of the West, and the United States in particular, as Russia's national enemy and may determine our relations for many years to come. Drawing on theories of Ernest Gellner and Liah Greenfeld, a theoretical explanation of the attitude change is advanced and related to globalization. The shift started among certain segments of the elite, who passed it on to the masses. When around 1998 the new attitude was fixed on the mass level, it became a factor in the political competition. Then a logic of elite outbidding reinforced the change. This model found confirmation in a preliminary analysis of thick journals, mass media, and VTsIOM [All-Russian Center on Research of Public Opinion] polls. THEORETICAL ARGUMENT AND HYPOTHESES Nationalism as a Reaction to a Powerful Alien Culture Many students of Russian nationalism agree that Russians, tradition- ally the dominant imperial group, have had only a vague ethnic aware- 69
70 CONFLICT AND RECONSTRUCTION IN MULTIETHNIC SOCIETIES ness and identified primarily with the state, rather than with their ethnic group. This follows from theories of nationalism that relate its rise to the emergence in a modernizing multiethnic state of a single standardized culture that allows even perfect strangers to easily get along in formal contexts. If, for whatever reason, people cannot easily switch to this new standard culture or are simply excluded from it by the dominant group, they get into the humiliating position of being second-rate citizens strug- gling with a hostile bureaucracy. Such people become acutely aware of the difference between the standard culture and their own, that is, they become nationalists (Gellner, 1983~. Russians have easily identified with dominant standard Russian cul- tures, be it Russian Orthodox, Russian Imperial, or Russian Soviet. It was other peoples of the empire, in particular Moslem and Western Christian (whether Roman Catholic or Protestant), who found it difficult to merge with those cultures. This is in part why Russians did not have a strong ethnic identity, whereas their many non-Russian neighbors did. How- ever, this has been changing. Globalization and New Russian Nationalism Modernization is leading to globalization. It has nurtured the emer- gence of a global culture rooted in the North European Protestant ethic and epitomized by the U.S. culture. Many Russians who encounter this new standard culture find it alien and exclusionary. The alienation it produces among Russians is felt right at the entrance to the U.S. consu- lates throughout Russia, which is ironic, since one would expect the Rus- sians who seek U.S. visas to be most sympathetic to the West. The alienation is due, first, to the American and Russian cultures being very different. The distance between cultures may partially explain the degree of the nationalist reaction to globalization. For instance, whereas Great Britain has few problems with it, France does experience a conflict of cultures, as well as some anti-American attitudes. The cultural distance for Russia is far greater than for France: Consider, for instance, how different are Russian villages and American suburbia or Russian and Western gender relations. Second, whereas the European countries associate globalization with good economic prospects, military security, and other advantages that may make even the French swallow the burger, as it were, the pro-West- ern reforms in Russia are associated with economic hardship and loss of prestige in the world. Such negative associations do not help Russians to embrace the global culture. And third, NATO expansion followed by the action in Yugoslavia that sidelined the United Nations Security Council and in particular Russia means to Russians not only a loss of prestige but
THE EFFECTS OF GLOBALIZATION ON RUSSIA 71 also fears of potential problems with the security of their country. How can Russians identify with a culture that does not want them and seems to threaten them? This process of alienation in its most basic aspects seems very similar to the eighteenth century ressentiment felt by the native elite in France, Germany, and Russia with respect to cultures of their ostensibly more successful neighbors (Greenfeld, 1992~. The German elite fed its resent- ment against the French to common people. The nationalist fervor whipped up by German political entrepreneurs determined Franco-Ger- man relations for about a century. On the other hand, Russian aristocrats failed to ground their nationalism in the Russian masses, in part because of low literacy levels of prorevolutionary Russian peasants. Today, how- ever, technologies of mass communication present a more favorable envi- ronment for a spread of nationalist ideas among an impoverished, but generally well-educated, Russian population. Whereas in Gellner's theory, nationalism is a reaction to modernization, new Russian nationalism may be thought of as a reaction to globalization. New Russian nationalism emerged within two segments of the Rus- sian elite. What they both had in common was (1) contact with the West and (2) loss of status in the course of reform; these are necessary compo- nents for the emergence of an anti-Western sentiment. The segments are Russian intelligentsia and the foreign policy community. Both have more contacts with the West or Western people than average. In the wake of liberal pro-Western reforms, Russian intelligentsia lost its traditional sta- tus of spiritual leadership, as well as material benefits given by the Soviet state to its recognized artists, writers, poets, scholars, and so forth. The Russian foreign policy community lost the status of superpower agents; their material well-being deteriorated, too. ADDITIONAL FACTORS SHAPING NEW RUSSIAN NATIONALISM The Beached Diaspora In late 1991, 25 million Russians, about 17 percent of the total number of Soviet Russians then (which was 150 million), woke up to find them- selves in various foreign countries of the near abroad. David Laitin calls those Russians the beached diaspora. Unlike most other diasporas, whose members consciously migrated from their home countries to foreign terri- tories, those Russians became a diaspora because what they thought was their home country suddenly shrank as an ocean during the ebb-tide, and they found themselves beached like stray ships whose crews were too careless to keep the ships safe in deeper waters. In most of those newly
72 CONFLICT AND RECONSTRUCTION IN MULTIETHNIC SOCIETIES independent countries the Russians experienced status reversal, which produced various degrees of resentment among them, often in various forms of Sovietism, or nostalgia for the old times and ways. In the most extreme case of Moldova, the diaspora members took up arms to re- establish a Soviet-like rule on a narrow strip of land along the Dniester River. In many other cases, they have migrated to the Russian Federation where they feed the emerging Russian nationalism. Whereas most permanent Russian residents continue the long histori- cal tradition of being the dominant group in Russia and, according to the previously proposed model, do not think much about ethnic issues, the new Russian migrants are often quite nationalistic, as they have already bitterly felt the difference between their own culture and those of various newly independent countries. For example, the Russian Cossacks, who traditionally lived in what is now northern and eastern Kazakhstan, that recently migrated to the Russian Federation areas bordering Kazakhstan are often intensely anti-Kazakh; for example, they strongly resent Kazakh migration to the same areas.1 That may reflect their experiences in inde- pendent Kazakhstan where their organizations were prohibited and some of their leaders arrested. While this is a special case, many other migrant Russians share less intense but still unpleasant experiences associated with their status reversal in the newly independent states. Similar experi- ences of a German beached diaspora in such places as Poland and Czecho- slovakia in the wake of World War I and the Treaty of Versailles fed German nationalism in Germany. A similar process is taking place in modern Russia. Federalism Another problem that contributes to and shapes the emerging Rus- sian nationalism is the legacy left to post-Soviet Russia by Soviet federal- ism. Although the Russian Constitution postulates that all subjects of the federation have equal rights, in reality some of the ethnic republics were able to negotiate special rights and privileges for themselves. For example, Ingushetia and Kalmykia secured a special status for themselves as tax- free zones. In effect, this means that Russian regions subsidized ambitious construction projects in those republics, including the newly built city of Magas (the new capital of Ingushetia) and Chess City in Kalmykia. That is when many Russian regions experienced a shortage of regular housing. 1For more on Russian migration as driven by economics vs. ethnicity, see Smith, G. 1998. Nation-Building in the Post-Soviet Borderlands: The Politics of National Identities. Cam- bridge: Cambridge University Press.
THE EFFECTS OF GLOBALIZATION ON RUSSIA 73 Redistribution of economic resources was one of the issues that had fed various nationalisms during the Soviet period. Today, it may feed Rus- sian nationalism. On the other hand, the vestiges of imperial consciousness among Russians, including Russia's leadership, work to ban any of the ethnic republics from seceding from the Federation. For instance, even though Russians do not perceive Chechnya as a real Russian territory, they fight to keep it within Russia's boundaries. A sore sense of status loss in the post-Cold War era prevents what could seem a humiliating disintegration of the country. The problem of territorial institutionalization of ethnicity often inter- acts with passport institutionalization of ethnicity. The Russian Constitu- tion stipulates that all its citizens are equal. However, there is an informal practice of institutionalized group rights left over from the Soviet period that often contradicts the constitutional equality. For example, Bashkirs are the third largest group in their republic after Russians and Tatars, or about 22 percent of the republic's population. Yet ethnic Bashkirs have an exclusive position of power in their republic, including various levels of government, law enforcement agencies, and so forth. Attempts to chal- lenge the status quo are ruthlessly squelched by the Bashkir-controlled government; there is virtually no free press, no free speech, and no inde- pendent political activities. Discrimination of nontitulars is certainly an- other source that feeds Russian nationalism. Another aspect of passport institutionalization of ethnicity is that people have been taught to think of themselves in terms of ethnicity, and this will not change suddenly. Even Russified Tatars, for example, may find it hard to fully merge into the Russian nation as both they and Rus- sians continue to think of such Tatars in old terms. This is an obstacle that makes it more difficult to build an inclusive Russian nation and feeds a narrower ethnic version of national identity. LOOKING FOR EVIDENCE: A PRELIMINARY APPLICATION OF THE THEORETICAL ARGUMENT TO RUSSIAN POLITICS AND SOCIETY Russian Intelligentsia's Ressentiment A few people predicted that the fall of the Soviet Union was inevi- table. In their opinion, the system under which an authoritarian govern- ment industrialized the country contained a fatal internal flaw: It nur- tured a class of intellectuals whose liberal aspirations were incompatible with the Soviet Union's authoritarian government (Lipset and Dobson, 1972; Parkin, 1972~. Indeed, a survey of Soviet emigres showed that edu-
74 CONFLICT AND RECONSTRUCTION IN MULTIETHNIC SOCIETIES cation was negatively associated with the regime's norms (Silver, 1987~. Soviet liberal journals, such as Novyi Mir, helped to pass the values held by the liberal intelligentsia on to other segments of the population (Hahn, 1991~. In effect, the intelligentsia buried the Soviet Union. Soon enough, however, the liberal tide was rolled back. Liberal intel- ligentsia who had supported perestroika en masse in the late 1980s and early 1990s were hit hard by new Russian realities. In 1993 a former flag- ship of perestroika, Novyi Mir, published an article by Yulia Latynina that questioned the value of democracy. On the popular level, an album of remake songs from Stalin's era became the top hit of 1995. At about the same time, old Soviet movies became successful competitors in the mar- ket hitherto filled with Hollywood action movies. Yet VTsIOM polls in 1993 and 1995 still showed that the United States remained on the list of most admired countries. Evidently, new Russian nationalism had not be- come anti-Western or was still confined to rather narrow segments of the elite. The situation changed dramatically in the wake of the Kosovo crisis. The resentment of intelligentsia, combined with frustration of politicians, spilt over to mass media. Anti-Western sentiment became a semiofficially sanctioned mainstream phenomenon. Since the Kosovo crisis, it has spread to more than half of the Russian population. Kozyrev to Primakov: Evidence of Growing Nationalism The public opinion change has been going on in spite of the Western humanitarian aid, financial loans, and on the whole prodemocratic Rus- sian media. What is causing such radical changes? The answer may be in the emerging national sentiment of the Russian people. Since the end of the Cold War, Russians have encountered a powerful, alien culture that makes them feel powerless, disadvantaged, and inferior. Yet because of the nature of globalization they cannot avoid it and are confronted by it every day: on television, in print media, in advertising, and (with the appearance of Western companies in some Russian cities) even in the workplace. Coupled with the general failure of economic reform, the nationalist alternative, which manifested itself by 1993, presented a formidable chal- lenge to the political regime. While older segments of the Russian popula- tion were getting increasingly nostalgic about the Soviet past, the younger generation of Russians was more prone to look for a nationalist answer. Even the supposedly internationalist Communist Party was gradually becoming a nationalist party in the new Russian context. The regime's response in 1993 was to prevent nationalist parties from running in the elections. The only exception was made for LDPR [the Liberal Democratic
THE EFFECTS OF GLOBALIZATION ON RUSSIA 75 Party of Russia] run by Vladimir Zhirinovsky who, as many observers agree, was in fact a government stooge. Perhaps his task was to make the protest vote manageable for the government. Yet the overwhelming success of Zhirinovsky's party in December 1993 highlighted the power of nationalist sentiment. The ever-decreasing popularity of his party since then can be attributed not only to wide- spread disappointment in the personality of Zhirinovsky but also to the fact that ever since December 1993, virtually all Russian parties, including the mainstream of Russian politics, have been steadily becoming more nationalist, thus taking votes away from Zhirinovsky. During the last presidential elections, all major presidential candidates except Grigory Yavlinsky were using nationalist rhetoric. It makes one wonder if that is why Mr. Yavlinsky could not score much higher than 5 percent of the vote in spite of running a very costly campaign. Furthermore, the regime itself has grown nationalist. Pro-Western Andrei Kozyrev had to quit his job as Foreign Minister to be replaced by Yevgeny Primakov, who was later promoted to the position of Prime Minister. Mr. Primakov was by far more assertive about Russian national interests than Andrei Kozyrev, as is evidenced by his famous U-turn over the Atlantic during the Kosovo crisis. His tough stance on international issues, cessation of hostilities with the Russian legislative body, and suc- cessful handling of the financial crisis unleashed by his predecessor Sergei Kirienko made him a prime minister of unprecedented popularity. Primakov and Putin: Evidence of Nationalist Outbidding Mr. Primakov became so popular that he could act independently of President Yeltsin. The move by the powerful prime minister against cor- ruption, and in particular against Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, made him dangerous for the continuity of the political regime. President Yeltsin fired Mr. Primakov and replaced him by dull but personally faithful Sergei Stepashin. Yet it only increased Mr. Primakov's popularity. His alliance with Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who had at his disposal substantial finan- cial and organizational resources, made him a potent political competitor. Mr. Yeltsin's pathetic efforts to outbid his former prime minister in the nationalist field were hopeless. (The last instance of this effort was Mr. Yeltsin's incoherent threats to President Clinton during the former's visit to Beijing.) It seemed as if Mr. Primakov was set to become the next Russian president. It was against this background that Vladimir Putin emerged out of obscurity to become first a new prime minister and soon afterwards the acting president. On many dimensions the opposite of feeble Boris Yeltsin,
76 CONFLICT AND RECONSTRUCTION IN MULTIETHNIC SOCIETIES young and energetic Vladimir Putin could successfully compete with the Luzhkov-Primakov alliance. Equally important, he successfully competed with other heavyweight politicians in the nationalist field. Playing in that particular field, he ventured into the second Chechen War, a move that all other major politicians met with apprehension. Yet Putin turned it into an electoral success. Chechens, who are different from Russians culturally, religiously, and physically, were disliked by many people and were easy to demonize. The early stages of the war made the impression of a revitalized Russian army and government. In the wake of Kosovo, Western criticisms of the Chechen war fell on deaf ears of a nation thirsty for a national success. Nationalism got fixed on the mass level and became a factor of domestic politics. In lieu of a conclusion, I would like to emphasize that, whatever the sources of new Russian nationalism are, the national sentiment has much to do with a sense of dignity, status, and prestige. If Russia is able to become an insider of the international community, if it is able to economi- cally benefit from globalization, and if ethnic Russians in the near abroad and in the ethnic republics of the Russian Federation feel themselves well- respected citizens, then the nastier aspects of Russian nationalism will likely become less common or benign and vice versa. REFERENCES Gellner, E. 1983. Nations and Nationalism. Oxford: Basic Blackwell. Greenfeld, L. 1992. Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Hahn, J. W. 1991. Continuity and Change in Russian Political Culture. British Journal of Political Science 21: 393421. Lipset, S. M., and R. Dobson. 1972. The Intellectual as Critic and Rebel. Daedalus 101: 137- 185. Parkin, F. 1972. System Contradiction and Political Transformation. European Journal of Sociology 13: 45-62. Silver, B. D. 1987. Political Beliefs of the Soviet Citizen: Sources of Support for Regime's Norms in Politics, Work, and Daily Life in the USSR, J. R. Miller, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.