Friday, November 17, 2006

The Red-Brown Inheritance

In the context of the Georgia-Russia conflict Dmitry Shlapentokh at Prague Watchdog examines some of the wider implications of the crisis. Looking round at Russia today, he finds that although the "Red-Brown" opposition to President Yeltsin's regime is no longer evident on the streets of Russian cities in the conspicuous way it was then, it nonetheless survives in the policies of Putin's government. The "Red" element, Shlapentokh argues, has been reborn in Putin's attempt to create a ""Eurasian" identity - the "Rossiyanin" - which mimics the multi-ethnic, "homo sovieticus" identity of Soviet days. This, in its turn, has spawned a xenophobic reaction in the form of the nationalist movement, heir to the "Brown" element of the Yeltsin era, which sees "Russian-ness" in terms of a "blood and soil" paradigm.

But the Russian state has been getting in on the nationalist act, too:
The assumption that a number of European states will disintegrate in the future was expressed in a Russian TV summer 2006 show, intermingled with news broadcasting.

The news quoted the angry statement of the Georgian president that Georgia would not give up Abkhazia or South Ossetia, indeed, not one meter of Georgian territory. The commentators discarded the statement and implied that Saakashvili plainly did not understand the global trend. The point, at least in Europe, one commentator asserted, is not integration but disintegration of existing states. The disintegration of Yugoslavia and independence of Kosovo from Serbia could lead to the disintegration of other European countries. The UK and Italy could follow their example, and Georgia would hardly be an exception.
This certainly sheds new light on Moscow's strategy in the Georgia crisis, which is obviously intended as a lesson to other European states and countries - a lesson which, Shlapentokh suggests, Europe will not ignore, in spite of its dependence on gas and oil.

Read the whole thing.
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