The Rise of Nationalism and its Implications for Russian Democracy
1. Introduction
The project focuses on the rise of nationalism and its implications for Russian democracy. The author had made a right choice in picking this subject as Russia turns into more and more nationalistic by the day. So the writer explores how this concept of “autochthonic nationalism”, which means native nationalism, came to light. Such type of nationalism only exists in multi-ethnic states. Nationalism is totally different from patriotism. Nationalism is an extreme type of feeling that it’s best to always put your nation before other international locations. Nationalism focuses you to further try for making your nation much more higher than it already is. Patriotism isn’t that narrow. Patriotism is when individuals feel some form of love for his or her nation. Nationalism is if you really feel that love, and it causes you to try to make your country the most effective. Nevertheless, in the events around World War 1, widespread patriotism turned linked with government policy, and this is where primary roots of nationalism may be discovered. The bombings and gas assaults of World War 1 led to widespread nationalism.
1.1. Background of Nationalism
The term “nationalism” is usually defined as a belief, creed or political ideology that involves an individual identifying with, or becoming attached to, one’s nation. This should not be confused with patriotism, which is the pride and devotion expressed for a nation. Nationalism is now seen by many political scientists as a globalizing and integral factor in our contemporary world, but it is still seen as a very modern political and social phenomenon. The rise of nationalism in the modern era is fundamentally linked to the ‘cultural turn’ taken by European intellectuals throughout the 19th century. This saw the emphasis shift from purely political considerations to a focus on the importance of national culture and identity. Although the concept of ‘nation’ can be traced back to before the 19th century, the role of nationalism as being the precursor to the modern ‘nation-state’ is a common historical argument from the modern era. Nationalism became a significant instrument through which the emerging modern world invoked self-legitimacy and authenticity. Thinkers like Ernest Gellner and Eric Hobsbawm have suggested that the development and rise of nationalist sentiments in the 19th century were essentially a response to the challenges presented by the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution saw the increasing development of a more global and mobile society; people began to move increasingly frequently and further from their ‘traditional’ homelands in migration flows unprecedented in both size and scope. Gellner’s theory is that new social mobility and increasing urbanization led to the erosion of the old local and political structures, and the subsequent rise in popularity of cultural nationalism.
1.2. Definition of Democracy
The legal definition of democracy implies popular sovereignty, implying those in power are constitutionally selected by the people. The assertion and protection of individual rights under the rule of law characterizes democracy. These are “approved” and “liberty.” In the word “democracy,” popular leadership, that is, leadership by the people, is secured. “Liberty” indicates being released from tyrannical authority to choose and act in conformity with the political framework and moving the pursuit of individual happiness and well-being. From this, it can be assumed liberty represents the fulfillment of the purpose desired by popular sovereignty. It is necessary to observe the origin and process of democracy to appreciate how it has emerged and expanded as a political tradition. Original democracy originated in Athens from the revolutionary implications of the power of the rising merchant class and the agricultural class. The king was disposed and replaced by the authority and management of mundane affairs of existence and the fluke of being human. Exercise of public authority and political direction was placed upon all citizens. The perception and understanding of democracy has been changed thanks to the works of key authors in political concept throughout history. John Locke, for example, held the concept that liberty and the function of government pursuing the welfare of the individual instead of the polity itself. His theories on popular sovereignty and the subjection of governors who turn into tyrant still finds its way into the most contemporary understanding of democracy today. It is a requirement to recognize where the roots of contemporary political thought emerge and how these theories of democracy and power grew and expanded. By doing this, it is possible to gain a more thorough and deeper appreciation of the complexity of different interpretations and meanings of democracy in a modern sense. And this kind of learning can potentially educate people so that they are aware of the influential and detrimental impacts which can be present when governments align themselves with autocratic or tyrannical values.
1.3. Significance of the Topic
The interaction of nationalism and democracy is of great significance. For many years, scholars have been debating about the origins of nationalism. Many agree that nationalism is a product of the modern era. In modern times, nationalism has played a crucial role in the development of democracy. This is because nation-states and democracy are seen as the most suitable form of political organization in the modern age. Nationalism provides a sense of community and trust, necessary for the existence of a successful democracy. However, as we shall see, nationalism also poses a great challenge to the successful functioning of modern democracy. This is because it creates tension between different communal groups and challenges the possibility of an inclusive democratic society. The interaction of nationalism and democracy is of great significance for different disciplines, including sociology, political science and history. By studying the two phenomena together, it is argued that the principles, claims, and fatalities of each can be illuminated in a fruitful way. As a result, we can acquire a better knowledge about modern society and politics. This mainly includes understanding the ways in which nation-centred politics are associated with the lives of individuals and communities and the best tools to foster a harmonious multicultural society. Other relevant subjects such as history can also benefit from this interdisciplinary approach. The study of the impact of nationalism on democracy can help us to understand the dynamics of past and current political events and the factors which contribute to the development of nations and nation-states. This field of study is now more important than ever. In the light of the rise of far-right nationalist parties and populist leaders across the world, there has been increasing interest in understanding and finding ways to combat nationalist rhetoric. Furthermore, as modern technology and media provide an easy way for nationalist groups to publicize their ideas, there is a fear that many modern democracies are in the process of losing their core values of freedom, equality and diversity. It is hoped that an insight generated from interdisciplinary studies, like what we have done in this piece about the interaction of nationalism and democracy, will help to formulate effective strategies of safeguarding modern democracy against the infiltrating influence of nationalism.
2. Historical Context of Russian Nationalism
The early history of Russian nationalism dates back to the pre-Soviet era, where the intellectual elite began to articulate the concept of a national community based on language, cultural and religious ties as well as the distinction between the Russian people and those subjugated by the Russian Empire – for example, the Poles and the Finns. These were sentiments shared by many of the subject people who had been incorporated into the Russian Empire from the late 18th century onwards. However, the nationalisms of these subject peoples became fragmented and weakened as a consequence of the Soviet government policies of korenizatsiya (indigenisation) and the delimitation of national territories, which provided for freedom of cultural expression but within boundaries drawn by the regime and served to mitigate against nationalist pan movements. During the Soviet era, there was an ongoing tension between the promoting of Russian national culture and identity on the one hand and the need of the Soviet regime to deny outlets for nationalist sentiment – particularly as a response to the erosion and eventual collapse of the multinational Russian Empire and the emergence of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In the post-Soviet era, the presidency of Boris Yeltsin saw the promotion of Russian nationalism in order to secure his core support amongst the people and the military. This also involved the marginalization of the non-Russians within the Russian Federation. For example, Gaidar’s economic shock therapy led to widespread misery for ordinary citizens and in this time some of the autonomous ethnic republics began to demand an enhancement of their own ethnic sovereignty; Dasan Jon’s brief presidency of Chechnya between 19 was due to the support of the nationalist and pro-independence movement. The true potential for this sort of politics to successfully oppose the central power was demonstrated when a series of apartment block bombings in Moscow and other cities that killed over 300 people were blamed by the Kremlin on Chechen separatists and became the pretext for the second Chechen war. It started in September 2001 and led to the leadership of the republic being taken by someone who was prepared to pursue a pro-Moscow policy. This shows very clearly how the use of nationalist propaganda and message can influence events and change the makeup of political structures – an approach that Putin has continued with his concentration of power in Moscow and his use of “sovereign democracy”.
2.1. Pre-Soviet Era Nationalism
The ideology of Russian nationalism has a long history, dating back to the 1850s, when Slavophiles advanced the ideas of “Russianness” and the distinctiveness of the Russian civilization. Defining the Russian nation based on the unique culture and traditions of the Russian people, Slavophiles rejected the influences from the West and advocated for a return to traditional Russian practices. Particularly, Slavophiles idealized the Russian peasantry as the bearers of true Russian culture, in stark comparison to the intellectual and Europeanized upper class in the cities. This marked the first instance in the development of Russian nationalism in which a division between the people and the ruling class formed the basis of nationalist views. Traditional nationalist thinkers before the Soviet era, such as Konstantin Leontiev and Nikolai Danilevsky, continued to build upon this early ideology of Russian nationalism and the idealization of the Russian peasantry as the heart of the nation. However, Tsarist authorities feared the revolutionary elements of such nationalist claims and suppressed any nationalist movements. For instance, Tsar Alexander III implemented an assimilationist policy of Panslavism in the Western territories of Poland and Lithuania, attempting to diminish the national identities of the local population to assert Russian dominance. Such policies revealed that Russian nationalism in the pre-Soviet era was not always compatible with the political movements of the time, particularly as the parochial nationalist ideal of a Slavic brotherhood under Russian leadership conflicted with the nationalist desires for independence in Poland and Lithuania.
2.2. Soviet Era Suppression of Nationalism
During the Soviet era, there were widespread and systematic efforts to suppress the diverse forms of nationalism found in the Soviet republics. Soviet authorities rejected nationalism as a parochial and irrational force. Instead, the Soviet state was officially committed to a universalist ideology which sought to elevate the status of the individual and create a world that was more materially and culturally advanced. According to this communist ideology, nationalism was a retrogressive force that could be used by the ruling class to maintain their power and to prevent the establishment of communism. In reality, the Soviet state seemed to fear that nationalism could serve as a potential rallying point for anti-Soviet movements and therefore Soviet leaders responded with repressive measures against nationalist sentiment. The most powerful repressive tool used by the Soviet state to suppress nationalist sentiment was the structure of the Soviet state itself. The Soviet Union was officially portrayed as a family of nations working together in a voluntary and equal union and enjoying each a federal form of multinational socialist government. In practice, however, each of the federal republics’ political and administrative structure closely followed the model of the central Russian state and power remained effectively in the hands of local communist party members who were responsible to cadres of the ruling party centrally in Moscow, and therefore to the leaders of the entire Soviet Union. In other words, the federal structure of the Soviet Union was actually a form of subordination in which the nominal independence of the member republics was illusory and real authority vested in the central Russian state. This system of republic subordination was designed to control power and to crush the aspirations for nationhood within the Soviet republics and create a homogenised, unitary Soviet people. The actuality of course was that the highly centralized state and party system coupled with the threat of force of the military and the KGB, precluded by the end of 1920s any possibility of an opposition of any kind and the autonomy of the Soviet republics was effectively eradicated. Nationalism was rejected and defined as a parasitical excrescence of the past and it was not admitted that a plurality of modern, liberal nations could co-exist within the Soviet Union.
2.3. Post-Soviet Nationalist Movements
To preserve the Soviet Union, nationalism in any form was vehemently suppressed. However, the period of liberalization and openness under Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s saw a surge in nationalist sentiments across the various republics. A mass movement known as the “Soviet March” in 1987 in Moscow, organized in response to the policies of the central government, involved many nationalist and non-Russian movements and became a significant catalyst for the disintegration of the Soviet Union. In the same year, the first non-Communist party in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) was established, named the “All Union National Salvation Front”. The Front, led by Boris Yeltsin, united various nationalist movements and aimed to promote separatism in the national republics, thus posing a direct threat to the rule of Communist Party and the Soviet system. After the failed coup d’├ętat by the Communist hardliners in August 1991, Boris Yeltsin emerged as the dominant figure in Russian politics and national republics began to declare independence one after another. On Christmas Day of the same year, the Soviet Union was officially disbanded and by the end of 1992, the RSFSR was internationally recognized as an independent country under the name of the Russian Federation. Hence, nationalist leaders in the post-Soviet era have been widely celebrated in contemporary Russian political discourse as defenders of democracy and the pioneers of Russian sovereignty. These leaders, including Yeltsin himself and Vladimir Putin, have consistently emphasized the importance of national unity and the protection of national interests. As a result, the Russian government has adopted a range of nationalist policies, from strengthening patriotic education and increasing military expenditure to the annexation of Crimea in 2014. However, it is important to note that the nationalism promoted by the post-Soviet leaders is mainly state nationalism, which is an authoritarian or far-right iteration of nationalism based upon a strong loyalty to the state and the cultural assimilation of minority groups into a homogeneous national identity. Nevertheless, signs of ethnic nationalism, a far-right ideology which advocates for the separate development and eventual independence of an ethnically defined nation, continue to exist and have given rise to many anti-minority campaigns in recent years. Such phenomenon will be discussed in the following section.
3. Impacts of Nationalism on Russian Democracy
The development and strengthening of Russian nationalism in recent years has had a profound effect on the country’s democratic processes and institutions. The increasing prevalence of nationalist ideologies has served to diminish the effectiveness and fairness of democratic systems, and has permitted nationalist politicians and groups to gain greater influence in political affairs. Furthermore, the rise of Russian nationalism has exacerbated existing societal divisions, and has led to a fracturing of public opinion which further damages the potential for a well-functioning democracy. This section will explore these key impacts of nationalism on Russian democracy. It will also consider the implications of these processes on the developing of international perspectives of Russian nationalism, a theme which will be revisited in the following section. As Putin’s regime has consolidated power and moved further away from democracy through elections and the media, democracy in Russia has become destabilized and not as strong as it could be. First and foremost, though it must be noted that Russia has seen in the last decade a rise of a personal politics over party politics, with Putin consolidating power as a powerful president, which has been a concern as it dragged Russia away from the path of democracy – his first presidency, we note, began with the jailing of high-profile oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, on charges of fraud and tax evasion and many critics have seen this as a turning point in Russia’s move away from democratic processes. Similarly, as Money and Browne have noted, “Putin has tightened restrictions on non-governmental organizations and activists, and harassment was stepped up after Putin’s decision to return to the presidency in 2012, leading to a new law requiring all NGOs who ‘receive foreign funds’ and who engage in political activities, to register as ‘foreign agents’, which has continued. This shows that democratic processes such as the right to be able to criticize or protest, have experienced significant restrictions under the more nationalist regime that Putin has created.
3.1. Erosion of Democratic Institutions
Democratic institutions in Russia from the 1990s onwards. The significance of genuine democratic reform and the need to dismantle the remnants of authoritarianism in Russia have been noted by scholars in the field. Indeed, it has been argued that the presence of superficial reforms like the liberalization or formal pluralism have ceased to distract the view from the absence of genuine democratic change. Gel’man highlights that characteristics of the Russian federal system have led to a ‘competitive over-centralization’, where asymmetric regionalism or the different functions and status of various territories in the federation have culminated in an insidious power play between different levels of government. This, added alongside ‘legal pluralism’, or the disjuncture between the constitutional rules and the practices of civil law at different levels of governance, has meant that federal law in Russia is seen to be ‘incomplete’ in its capacity to sustain a value-based constitutionalism. Stopping short of the intended democratic development, the effect of said ‘sustainable authoritarianism’ within the thesis of Levitsky and Way is that dominant political organizations – based on electoral manipulation and limiting civil liberties – can become institutionalized; effectively locking out any genuine challenge to the ruling elite, themselves a demagogue to the ‘danger’ of societal ills like opposition to unity or mob rule. This maintenance of so-called ‘competitive authoritarianism’ in Russia through the preservation of systemic bias and the reliance on patronage ties has led to both the collapse of any ‘electoral pluralism’ and the compromise of opposition parties’ policies to suit the interests of the ruling elite; the result has seen the entrenchment of Putin’s brand of sovereign democracy, effectively abandoning any pretense to the importance of a circumventing civil society within a genuine democratic government.
3.2. Rise of Populist Nationalist Leaders
One of the most common manifestations of nationalism throughout history has been the rise of populist nationalist leaders who claim to represent the ‘true essence’ of the nation and its people. In recent years, numerous nationalist leaders have risen to prominence in Russian politics. The most famous of these is Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. Zhirinovsky is known for his flamboyant and controversial rhetoric, and has become a recognisable figure both inside and outside Russia. During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Zhirinovsky made headlines by expressing his support for Donald Trump and stating that a Trump presidency would “be a great gift to Russia” – a reflection of the common ground between contemporary Russian nationalist leaders and certain current strands of U.S. political thought. According to Luke Harding, an award-winning foreign correspondent for the Guardian, Alexander Dugin is another leading nationalist ideologue. His political program calls for the creation of a Eurasian empire under Russian control and according to BBC Researcher, Dugin’s anti-Westernist and anti-liberal ideology has reportedly received attention in the West due to its alleged role in shaping Russian national policy. This trend of populist nationalist leaders attaining significant influence is a cause for concern for theorists of democracy and nationalism. Populist nationalist leaders often develop and promote chauvinistic ideologies that are exclusionary and divisive, designed to draw boundaries between their preferred vision of national identity and exclude various minority groups from membership of the national community. Such leaders frequently engage in de-legitimising and undemocratic actions, such as suppressing dissent, weakening political opposition, and undermining the fairness and legitimacy of democratic processes. This means that the rise of populist nationalist leaders in Russia is possibly one of the most serious challenges to Russian democracy at the current time. Populist nationalist rhetoric and policies contribute to the marginalisation and disempowerment of minority groups within the country, as well as providing intellectual and moral respectability for illiberal and undemocratic practices. Moreover, the general focus on national strength, unity and ‘greatness’ lends an ideological willingness to pick ‘strong’ centralised leadership and government efficacy over the complex, messy and sometimes inconvenient processes of compromise, negotiation and tolerance that democracy requires. These factors – the exclusion of minorities, the undermining of democratic norms and the attempted redefinition of ‘the people’ and ‘the nation’ to reflect a chauvinistic and exclusionary ideology – represent a threefold threat that has serious implications for the future of Russian democracy.
3.3. Polarization and Fragmentation of Society
One of the key impacts of nationalism on Russian democracy is the polarization and fragmentation of society. In the general public discourse, the mark of nationalism has a tendency to overly categorize individuals, as per their identity and one’s upstandingness or enthusiasm for the nation. This prompts the formation of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ attitude which separates the entire society in light of good, ethnic and social lines. As indicated by S. White, the researcher of nationalism, this procedure of making an internal and external circle in the general public cultivates an antagonistic vibe among various identity groups within the society, which is eventually simple to control. Mr. Goble, a political analyst in Russia, also called attention to that the polarization of society brings about various identity groups turning inwards, fragmented and neglect to configure their request to the political system. This is particularly clear in Russian society where various nationalist movements drove by different identity groups are basically focusing on safeguarding their own advantages. Without a brought together front in battling against the power, the possibility of cultivating a well practical majority rules system which regards distinctive voices appears to be to a great degree thin. Notwithstanding, polarization and fragmentation do not simply influence the society on a psychological level. It has additionally extended its effect to the political field, especially for the legislature as a powerful indirect rule can be accomplished. As indicated by a report distributed by the Human Rights First, an autonomous guard dog association, the Russian government has been utilizing the cover of patriotism for a considerable length of time to fix its grip over power by controlling the political account and confining the limits of political talk. In the meantime, the managing power is effectively connecting with and supporting nationalist developments. As the current society has turned out to be profoundly divided, the legislature can basically pick and pick various demands started by various identity groups and had them smothered, so as to weaken any potential risk to its position. However, such manipulative approach in benefiting from society’s division is creating and maintaining a circumstance which will come back to haunt its maker eventually. As put by Mr. Goble, even a transient political strength created by progression to nationalist advantages will unavoidably solidify the status quo, which can breed discontent and resilience among various groups, mounting difficulties and dangers to the managing power in long run.
4. Future Prospects for Russian Democracy
The discussion with nationalism in Russia focuses on the impacts of nationalism in terms of eroding democratic institutions and empowering nationalist leaders; fragmenting society and depoliticizing the masses; and also the potential strategies including civic education and international cooperation. This is ongoing work and of course the situation is evolving. My personal experience was that I am taking a close look at the recent nationalist surge in Russia and I found this topic to be very challenging but also enlightening and eye-opening.
This is particularly relevant to Russia. As a multinational and multi-faith state, Russia has hundreds of different ethnic groups with a wide range of different languages and cultures. The geographical vastness of the country and the relative autonomy enjoyed by different regions means that Russia is faced with the difficult task of managing and harmonizing this diversity. The surge of nationalist fervor associated with the idea of creating a “Ruskiy Mir” or “Russian World” is therefore a significant threat to the stability, prosperity and democratic health of the Russian nation.
With this in mind, it is clear that nationalism poses a significant challenge to the functioning of a democratic society. Well-established democratic theories, particularly the idea of pluralism, argue that the multitude of different opinions, values and cultures found in a modern society should be reflected by a political system that incorporates this diversity. But the existence of strong nationalist ideals may run the risk of smothering this very diversity which is vital to the health of the democracy.
The recent surge of nationalist sentiments in Russia has aroused much concern in the field of human rights and democracy. This section focuses on the nature of nationalism and its impact on Russian democracy. Firstly, it might be helpful to consider what we mean by the term “nationalism”, as it appears to come in many different shapes and forms. Essentially, nationalism refers to the various attempts made by individuals or collectives to redefine the nation in their own image. Nationalism may be associated with efforts to attain sovereignty and form an independent polity, such as in the case of national liberation movements. In other instances, nationalism can be manifested as a centralizing force through the promotion of a universal and exclusive national identity. It is often linked to anti-minority sentiments.
4.1. Challenges in Combating Nationalist Influences
In the contemporary world, Russia has been facing a serious threat from various nationalist extremist groups that have been restricting the popularity of democracy. One of the main reasons for the propagation of nationalist ideas is that the political leadership in Russia has been using nationalistic ideas for their own benefits. An example of a person who used nationalist ideas to become popular is Vladimir Zhirinovsky. He is a leader of the Liberal Democratic Party but his ideas are not liberal by any means. His election speeches are full of nationalistic quotes such as “Russia is only for Russians” and “other nationalities should be sent back to their own countries”. His proposals include depriving people who do not have a Russian passport from owning any land in Russia and stopping teaching all languages other than Russian in independent states of the former Soviet Union, like Lithuania and Latvia. Some tough steps have been taken to fight with nationalist propaganda such as the introduction of exit exams from social studies where students have to show their knowledge in the area of extreme activities and ways of combating that. Also, the State Duma passed the bill which provides a legal definition of extremism and gives the government authority to track extremist activities on the internet. However, none of these steps can guarantee that the influence of nationalists will decrease in the nearest future because the ideology of national superiority and ethnic purity has already settled in the minds of many people. Also, by giving the government more powers, there is a risk that freedom of speech and human rights could be compromised. So, it is crucial not to undermine democracy itself while fighting with nationalist autocracy. The best way to deal with that is to promote the idea of human rights and preserve cultural diversity among people.
4.2. Potential Strategies to Safeguard Democracy
Two main measures have been proposed by analysts and academics for safeguarding democracy against the rise of nationalist movements. The first strategy is to foster a democratic culture among Russian citizens. Many argue that the democratic institutions and principles that are being so threatened by nationalist influences can only be preserved if and when a sufficient number of Russian citizens internalize these democratic values and believe in the legitimacy of these institutions. Two main sub-strategies are generally proposed under this heading. First, it is argued that widespread political education should be provided to Russian citizens, and particularly to younger citizens still active in the school system. Such political education would aim to teach not only the facts of Russian and world politics, but also the importance of democracy and democratic decision making. By providing an early exposure to these principles, it is argued that the younger generation of Russians may come to share a commitment to democratic decision making that is not present among their parents or grandparents. The second proposal for fostering a democratic culture in Russia is the encouragement of greater participation in civil society groups and activities. These groups, which include organizations such as non-governmental organizations, charities, professional associations and community groups, can help to encourage a sense of social cohesion and shared values which are necessary for a stable and democratic political society. They can also help to shift the focus of political life away from a preoccupation with nationalist or authoritarian principles and instead encourage a focus on genuine grassroots concerns and mechanisms of accountability. By encouraging citizens to become actively involved in the kinds of pluralistic, open and inclusive civil society groups that are so threatened in Russia’s nationalist political climate, it is hoped that both the spread of nationalist ideologies and the concentration of power around nationalist political figures can be resisted. In turn, this can help to shore up the influence of democratic political institutions, which should be seen as both competitive and stable in the presence of a multiplicity of political and civic actors, rather than as the exclusive preserve of a single nationalist elite. These proposals are not, however, without their problems and uncertainties, and most certainly not without their implementation issues. For example, establishing a consensus about what the content of political education should be and who should write curricula is likely to be a highly contentious affair in a climate of nationalist censorship and propaganda. Similarly, there is a danger that civil society groups can be branded as oppositional or disloyal elements by a nationalist regime; President Putin’s Russia has already implemented controversial legislation which seeks to control and monitor the activities of such groups by branding them as ‘foreign agents’. The greater the number of citizens actively mobilized in such civil society groups, the greater the threat to the power and influence of nationalist figures, and it is unlikely that any such opposition to the status quo would be tolerated lightly. However, fostering a democratic culture among Russian citizens with a view to sustaining democracy is widely recognized as a long-term goal that may take generations to realize, and these uncertainties should not be taken as a reason to abandon the approach entirely.
4.3. International Perspectives on Russian Nationalism
Overall, this paper provides a comprehensive analysis of the rise of nationalism in Russia and its implications for democracy.
There are some arguments that nationalism in Russia is very different to nationalism in the West, and it is therefore difficult to understand. Russian nationalism has often been linked with xenophobia, and is usually interpreted as a rejection of Western domination. The European Union (EU) has a standard programme whereby citizens of Russia can apply for funding to explore the political and cultural issues of the EU. However, this is not an option for research students in European Studies (a course deemed to be relevant to such research) because Russia is not a member of the EU and so students there cannot apply. This is a clear example of the political implications of Russian nationalist sentiments, as even at a small level such funding options for research are restricted. At the same time, some argue that the dominant Western view of Russia as a potentially unstable and dangerous territory is itself a form of nationalism. As such, there is little agreement in the West as to how we should interpret Russian nationalism, and this lack of consensus further complicates the issue when considering how Russia should be engaged with. This helps to shed light on some international perspectives on the issue of nationalism in Russia and why different perceptions exist. One of the crucial features of modern Russian nationalism is its top-down nature – in recent years, the term ‘official nationalism’ has emerged to describe a government-driven promotion of national identity. This is best illustrated by the Kremlin’s clear interest in promoting ‘patriotic education’ among Russia’s youth. Such moves have drawn criticism from Western liberal commentators, yet from a realist perspective, these moves have to be recognized as strengthening the regime and providing internal stability. This highlights the fact that the lack of consensus on how to approach and engage with the issue in an international context may be down to a lack of understanding about the reasons behind different forms of Russian nationalism.

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