Russian nationalism is a form of nationalism that asserts that Russians are a nation and promotes their cultural unity. Russian nationalism first arose in the 18th century and is closely related to Pan-Slavism, from its origin during the Russian Empire to the Soviet Union.
According to nationalists, Russian greatness originated in the 15th century when the Grand Duchy of Moscow subordinated the northern Rus principalities. In 1469, Grand Prince Ivan III the Great of Moscow married Sophia Palaiologina, a niece of the last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI. Upon this marriage, Ivan adopted the concept of Moscow as the Third Rome; the heir to Rome and Constantinople—the 'Second Rome'—as capitals of Christianity. This idea originated in a letter concerning a matter of religion and heresy written in 1510 by the Russian monk Philoteus (Filofey) of Pskov to Ivan's son Grand Duke Vasili III; the letter said, "Two Romes have fallen. The third stands. And there will be no fourth. No one shall replace your Christian Tsardom!"
Ivan IV adopted the title of Tsar (from Caesar), the Russian equivalent to the English Emperor. He was styled "Tsar of All Rus" (Царь всея Руси), thus nominally claiming the whole territory of medieval Kievan Rus. The predominant ideology of the time was that Muscovite tsardom as the only state ruled by monarchs of the Rurikid dynasty and the only self-governed part of what once was united Rus was the only legitimate successor to Kievan Rus.
In the early 17th century, part of Muscovy was conquered and occupied by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; this period is known as the Time of Troubles. A national uprising, led by Prince Dmitry Pozharsky, drove out the Poles. The Time of Troubles affected Russian society for the next century, making rulers and common people conservative, and hostile to foreign influence and non-Orthodox beliefs. The new Romanov dynasty continued styling themselves as "Tsars of All Rus"; they eventually conquered and unified most of the territory of Kievan Rus.
Imperial Russian nationalism
The reforms of Peter I brought westernisation to Russia, causing Russian national sentiments to become unpopular and discouraged among the Russian nobility throughout the 18th century. For example, men were fined during Peter I's reign for wearing beards. The nobility preferred to speak French rather than Russian until the mid-19th century. Russian nationalism re-emerged in the 19th century. The Russian motto "Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality" was coined by Count Sergey Uvarov and adopted by Emperor Nicholas I as official ideology. Three components of Uvarov's triad were:
- Orthodoxy—Orthodox Christianity and protection of the Russian Orthodox Church.
- Autocracy—unconditional loyalty to the House of Romanov in return for paternalist protection for all social estates.
- Nationality (Narodnost, has been also translated as national spirit) - recognition of the state-founding role on Russian nationality.
The Slavophile movement became popular in 19th-century Russia. Slavophiles opposed influences of Western Europe in Russia and were determined to protect Russian culture and traditions and culture. Aleksey Khomyakov, Ivan Kireevsky, and Konstantin Aksakov are credited with co-founding the movement.
A notable folk revival in Russian art was loosely related to Slavophilia. Many works concerning Russian history, mythology and fairy tales appeared. Operas by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, Mikhail Glinka and Alexander Borodin; paintings by Victor Vasnetsov, Ivan Bilibin and Ilya Repin; and poems by Nikolay Nekrasov, Aleksey K. Tolstoy, among others, are considered masterpieces of Russian romantic nationalism. According to Tutchev, a notable Russian poet of 19th century:
Moscow and Peter's grad, the city of Constantine,
these are the capitals of Russian kingdom.
But where is their limit? And where are their frontiers
to the north, the east, the south and the setting sun?
The Fate will reveal this to future generations.
Seven inland seas and seven great rivers
from the Nile to the Neva, from the Elbe to China,
from the Volga to the Euphrates, from Ganges to the Danube.
That's the Russian Kingdom, and let it be forever,
just as the Spirit foretold and Daniel prophesied.
Pan-Slavism, an ideal of unity of all Slavic Orthodox Christian nations, gained popularity in the mid- to late 19th century. Among its major ideologists were Nikolai Danilevsky. Pan-Slavism was fueled by and was the fuel for Russia's numerous wars against the Ottoman Empire with the goal of liberating Orthodox nations, such as Bulgarians, Romanians, Serbs and Greeks, from Muslim rule. The final goal was Constantinople; the Russian Empire still considered itself the "Third Rome" and saw its duty as conquering the "Second Rome". Pan-Slavism also played a key role in Russia's entry into World War I, since the 1914 war against Serbia by Austria-Hungary triggered Russia's response.
In the closing years of the 19th century, Russia was trying to catch up with Western Europe's Industrial Revolution. The already large gap between the wealth of the rich elite and that of the poor had grown, causing patriotic enthusiasm to decline. Revolutionary activities intensified, culminating in the 1905 Russian Revolution. The revolution led to the emergence of new nationalist and rightist organizations and parties; Russian Assembly, Union of the Russian People, Union of Archangel Michael and others. Their motto was "Russia for Russians". These parties remained monarchist and anti-Semitic; they were organised by wealthy, powerful aristocrats such as Vladimir Purishkevich and Nikolai Yevgenyevich Markov.
World War I revived the national spirit and enthusiasm. However, as the war effort on the eastern front failed, the popularity of Nicholas II declined to the level extant when he abdicated during the February Revolution. After the subsequent October Revolution, which resulted in the overthrow of the Russian Provisional Government and the Russian Civil War, the loosely allied monarchist and anti-communist White Army continued to promote Russian nationalism until they were defeated by the Red Army.
The Bolshevik revolutionaries who seized power in 1917 were nominally "antinationalists" and "antipatriots". The newborn Communist republic under Vladimir Lenin proclaimed internationalism as its official ideology using the Russian language—which was also the language of their party and government. Since Russian patriotism served as a legitimizing prop of old order, Bolshevik leaders were anxious to suppress its manifestations and ensure its eventual extinction. They officially discouraged Russian nationalism and remnants of Imperial patriotism, such as the wearing of military awards received before Civil War. Some their followers were unlike minded; in non-Russian territories Bolshevik power was often regarded as renewed Russian imperialism during 1919 to 1921. After 1923 a policy of nativization, which provided government support for non-Russian culture and languages within the non-Russian republics, was adopted.
After the death of Lenin, Stalin used the slogan "socialism in one country" against his chief rival Trotsky and the latter's doctrine of permanent revolution. Stalin's ascent to power was followed by a gradual downgrading of the internationalist thrust of revolution. In mid-1930s, with the prospect of war looming, Stalin concluded that the slogans of Marxism–Leninism had little appeal and decided to exploit selected aspects of Russian nationalism and patriotic symbols. The terms rodina (motherland or homeland) and otechestvo (fatherland), which had been out-of-currency since the Revolution, became more commonplace in Russian literature. Romantic Russian nationalist themes appeared in art, such as the historical epic films by Sergei Eizenshtein and Vsevolod Pudovkin, as well as Sergei Sergeyev-Tsensky's patriotic novels.
The creation of an international Communist state under control of the workers was perceived by some as accomplishment of Russian nationalistic dreams. Poet Pavel Kogan described his feelings of the Soviet patriotism just before the World War II:
I am a patriot. I love Russian air and Russian soil.
But we will reach the Ganges River,
and we will die in fights,
to make our Motherland shine
from Japan to England
According to Nikolai Berdyaev:
The Russian people did not achieve their ancient dream of Moscow, the Third Rome. The ecclesiastical schism of the 17th century revealed that the muscovite tsardom is not the third Rome. The messianic idea of the Russian people assumed either an apocalyptic form or a revolutionary; and then there occurred an amazing event in the destiny of the Russian people. Instead of the Third Rome in Russia, the Third International was achieved, and many of the features of the Third Rome pass over to the Third International. The Third International is also a Holy Empire, and it also is founded on an Orthodox faith. The Third International is not international, but a Russian national idea.
Another aspect was revanchism. During World War I, much of Russia's Baltic territory declared independence, resulting in the formation of the new nations Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland; the latter also annexed portions of Belarusian and Ukrainian territory. Before and during World War II, the USSR forcefully annexed most of the Russian Empire's former territory such as the Baltic states, which gained independence from the Empire in 1917, but were re-annexed to the USSR by 1940.
The Soviet Union's war against Nazi Germany became known as the Great Patriotic War, recalling the previous use of the term in the Napoleonic Wars, the Patriotic War. The Soviet state called for its citizens to defend the "Motherland"; Stalin proclaimed the slogan "Not a step back!". At the same time, Nazi Germany organised collaborationist military units such as Vlasov's army and Krasnov's Cossacks. During the Second World War, the strong patriotism of Vlasov's liberation army presented Russians with an alternative to the state-centered nationalism promoted by the Stalin's government. In 1944, the Soviet Union abandoned its Communist anthem The Internationale and adopted new national anthem.
In late Soviet years, manifestations of nationalism appeared in literary and cultural spheres. Some nationalistic elements can be seen in Village Prose, a Soviet literary movement beginning during the Khrushchev Thaw. In 1965 the All-Russian Society for the preservation of Historical and Cultural Monuments was founded to halt the wanton destruction of Russian historical monuments, particularly old churches. In 1978 month-long exhibition of paintings by Ilya Glazunov in Moscow with religio-patriotic message attracted around 500,000 visitors. Within the dissident movement, there were many nationalists who spread their thought via samizdat. Between 1971 and 1974, important nationalist samizdat journal Veche was published. The journal's editor Vladimir Osipov had earlier been arrested and sentenced to seven years in camps for samizdat activities. Before the KGB suppressed Veche in 1974, it succeeded in attracting a considerable audience. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was seen as a liberal nationalist and leader of the right wing of the Soviet dissident movement.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church restored much of its Tsarist-Russian influence on the society. The church became a common source of Russian pride and nationalism. The official ideology did not completely turn to Imperial monarchist sentiment but tried to maintain a balance between Tsarist and Soviet ideals. The ruling United Russia party said its view of Russia is that of a multi-national republic and calls for national tolerance one of its key platforms.
Many nationalist movements, both radical and moderate, have arisen in modern Russia. One of the oldest and most popular is Vladimir Zhirinovsky's right-wing populist party LDPR, which had been a member of the State Duma since its creation in 1993. Rodina was a popular moderate left-wing nationalist party under Dmitry Rogozin, which eventually abandoned its nationalist ideology and merged with the larger socialist party Fair Russia.
One of the more radical, ultranationalist movements is Russian National Unity, a far-right group that organises paramilitary brigades of its younger members. Others include BORN (Militant Organization of Russian Nationalists) which was involved in the murder of Stanislav Markelov, neo-monarchist Pamyat, the Union of Orthodox Banner-Bearers, and Movement Against Illegal Immigration, which revived the slogan "Russia for Russians" and usually attract young skinheads. These parties organise an annual rally called Russian March.
A rise of radical nationalism in modern Russia is considered to be a result of several factors; the humiliation felt after the fall of the Soviet Union; a response to the activity of ethnic criminal groups from the South Caucasus and Central Asia and ongoing illegal immigration from these regions; and a reaction to modern, Russian-enforced national tolerance. It is also alleged that the FSB is selectively using nationalist extremism to drive sentiments in the society in desired direction. In modern Russia, the term националист (Russian pronunciation: [nətsɨənɐˈlʲist]) or "nationalist" bears the negative connotation of far-right nationalists and neo-fascists, rather than in the word's original meaning. Some parties like United Russia use the word as a pejorative synonymous with chauvinism regarding their right-wing opponents.
The financial crisis starting 2008-2009 saw the anti-immigration sentiment become more accepted in Russia because of an increased concern that immigrants—particularly illegals—would compete for jobs with the domestic workforce, and if not getting jobs, would turn to crime. In December, 2010, the spread of Russian nationalism became a major issue in the country's media following a series of riots that followed the death of a Russian football fan who was stabbed by migrants from the North Caucasus.
Outside Russia, with the fall of Soviet ideology of enforced internationalism, national clashes among the ethnic groups within its former borders erupted. Because of repressive Soviet occupation politics and the privileged status of Russians in Soviet society, some post-Soviet states rejected all things Russian and Soviet as a symbols of occupation, and particularly in Baltic states and Georgia, embraced russophobia. At the same time, Russians and several other national minorities rejected the split of their country and demanded re-union with Russia. These conflicting ideologies led to wars in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria. Russian minorities in the Baltic states created pro-Russian activist groups, as did the Russian-speaking majority of Crimea.
Following the 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine, Russia started forming close ties with Eurosceptic, far-right and far-left political movements, supporting them financially and inviting them to Euroasian conferences in Crimea and Saint Petersburg. This trend of xenophobia and nationalism was observed by a number of Russian intellectuals and contributed to a new wave of emigration.
Parties, organizations, movements described as radical nationalist
- Black Hundreds
- Eurasia Party
- National Bolshevik Party
- National Bolshevik Front
- National Salvation Front
- People's National Party
- Russian National Socialist Party
- Russian National Union
- Russian National Unity
- Slavic Union
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