In Russia Anti-Westernism is the New National Idea

7 08 2007

Lilia Shevtsova in The Moscow Times

The Russian political elite has long dreamed of finding a national idea capable of rallying the people. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev tried to consolidate the country with his idea of socialism “with a human face.” Former President Boris Yeltsin roused the people around anti-communism.

And President Vladimir Putin came to power under the unofficial slogan: “Let’s put an end to the Yeltsin-era chaos.” Now the elite is pushing a new national idea to rally the nation. It can be stated as follows: “We will protect the country from external enemies and establish a new global order to replace the one that so humiliated Russia in the 1990s.” To put it more simply, Putin’s motto is: “Russia is back!”

The closer we come to the end of Putin’s second term, the more the Kremlin needs to find an idea that would preserve everything it has achieved during the past eight years. Searching for enemies and casting the West in the role of the principal foe has turned out to be the most successful method for rallying the people. Russia has adopted an aggressive foreign policy rhetoric; Putin’s fiery Munich speech is a classic example. Anti-Western sentiment has become the new national idea, and national revival has taken the form of revisionism.

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