The Ethnic Issue in Modern Russia – Part III

Dear Readers:

Continuing to work our way through  this essay by Irina Alksnis.   But not without a couple of detours and bumps in the road!

Yesterday, November 4, Russia celebrated a big holiday called The Day of National Unity.  We discussed the origins of this holiday in the Russian experience of смута (SMU-ta) – disorder, rebellions, mutinies, etc.   We delved into the ancient Indo-Aryan etymology of that particular word, proving that historical peoples other than Russians have suffered from such processes in the past.  And speaking of etymologies, later it occurred to me that the English word “mutiny” itself (obviously of Latin origin) might be part of that family of cognates.  The online etymological dictionary disagrees, claiming that the word “mutiny” derives from a different root, Latin movere (to move), from there to the French meute (participial form/noun), “a movement”, “a revolt”.  In other words, the English “mutiny” is probably a “false friend” or not a cognate of the Russian “smuta”, even though both words sound alike and have a similar meaning, just by coincidence!

Captain Bligh experiences “smuta” first hand!

The classic Russian “smuta” is also known as the “Time of Troubles“.  The first paragraph of the wiki entry gives a succinct summary of just how troublesome these times were, and how it is wrong to ever wish such events on ordinary people, no matter how dissatisfied one is with the status quo:

The Time of Troubles (Russian: Смутное время) was a period of Russian history comprising the years of interregnum between the death of the last Russian Tsar of the Rurik Dynasty, Feodor Ivanovich, in 1598, and the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty in 1613. In 1601–03, Russia suffered a famine that killed one-third of the population, about two million. At the time, during the Polish–Muscovite War (1605–18) (known as the Dimitriads), Russia was occupied by the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and suffered from many civil uprisings, usurpers and impostors.

Let’s All Come Together….

From the point of view of standard Russian history, as taught to schoolchildren, the expelling of the Polish-Lithuanian invaders, the defeat of the various Imposters, and the crowning of the new Romanov Dynasty constituted the re-enstatement of the (or a) legitimate and sovereign Russian government.

Minin and Pozharsky are particularly beloved heroes of the current Russian government, led by President Putin.  In addition to defeating foreign invaders, they also symbolize the national unity of Russians across class lines.  For example, Kuzma Minin was a representative of the merchant class, the Third Estate.  Whereas Dmitry Pozharsky was an aristocrat, a Prince from the ancient Rurik dynasty.  But the two men were able to put aside their class differences and fight together against a common enemy – Polacks!

In Soviet times the opera was performed, but was called “Ivan Susanin”

In addition to these national heroes who fought to bring an end to the Troubles and to escort the Romanov dynasty into the Kremlin, there was an additional schoolbook hero of this era, named Ivan Susanin.  Susanin was a completely ordinary man, a peasant and widower, a head of his household raising two children, who put aside his personal and family interests and stepped up to the plate to help his country in tough times.  Susanin is an example of what is known in Russia as “self-called” heroes.  These men and women hear the call of duty, and they heed it.  Susanin helped militarily to defeat the Polish invaders; voluntarily sacrificing his own life in the process.  His moving and fascinating story became the basis of the patriotic opera by Mikhail Glinka, called “A Life For The Tsar“.  During Soviet times it was politically incorrect and even a bit gauche to actually utter those words “A life for the Tsar”, so the opera was usually referred to by the name “Ivan Susanin”.  Nonetheless, all three national heroes, Susanin, Minin and Pozharsky, were celebrated in Soviet times as Russian national heroes.  Which proves that the Soviets were not as historically exclusionary as people sometimes think.

When the Soviet socialist system was overthrown and the capitalists came back to power, it became acceptable once again to utter the words “A life for the Tsar”, and so the opera was performed again under its original title.  In fact, once again it became acceptable to be an outright monarchist ideologically.  Which brings us to Natalia Poklonskaya….

Day Of National Disunity

On the day of supposed Russian “national unity”, a sour note of national discord was introduced, not by ragtag dead-ender commies or even zigging fascist skinheads, no…

by the Monarchist faction of Russian society, whose leader is Crimean Prosecutor General Natalia Poklonskaya, otherwise known as the “Prosecutie”, or sometimes just “Cutie Pie”.

Cutie Pie “annexed” our hearts, and then spat in our faces!

Poklonskaya became a beloved Russian national hero in her own right (not to mention an internet celebrity) when she defected from Ukraine and supported Crimean integration with Russia — the then-popular slogan was:  “She will annex your heart!”  Unfortunately, Poklonskaya has become increasingly erratic since those euphoric days.  Her ideological monarchism and devotion to the dead-as-a-doornail Romanov Dynasty finally spilled over into a rant so perverse that it disrupted Russia’s national holiday and has various people calling for her adorably sweet head to be placed on a stick!

In a nutshell:  Prosecutie Natasha disrupted and split a still-fragile Russian society into two bleeding pieces when she compared Soviet/Russian national leader Vladimir Lenin with Hitler; and also, in passing, shit on Chinese national leader and war hero Mao Zedong.  Now, politically, Natasha is a fervent anti-communist, a monarchist, and a religious devotee of the Russian Orthodox Church.  She has the right to believe whatever she likes and even, as private citizen, to express whatever opinions she likes.  But here is the rub:  She is not a private citizen.  She is a government official and a parliamentarian in the Russian Federal Duma.  In which capacity she is supposed to follow a certain comportment of speech and style.

As a result of Natasha’s unacceptable and divisive utterances (which we shall discuss in more depth in tomorrow’s post), Orlov Regional Deputy Ruslan Perelygin has submitted a request to the Prosecutor General’s Office, asking that Natasha be investigated for “Extremism”, according to Statute 282 of the Russian legal Codex.  See, Russia is not a fully “free speech” nation, there are limitations on public speech.  Agree or not agree, but that’s the law.  There are certain restrictions aimed precisely at dampening the type of speech which splits society down the middle along ethnic, or in this case, class, lines.  Has Cutie Pie in fact violated those laws?

[to be continued]

This entry was posted in Friendship of Peoples, Human Dignity, Russian History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Ethnic Issue in Modern Russia – Part III

  1. Lyttenburgh says:

    Putin, as seen by N. Poklonskaya:


  2. anonym2008 says:

    She also compared Trotsky with Hitler, something you did not mention.
    Is it okay to compare Hitler with a revolutionary Jew, but not with a traitorous internationalist and Mao?


    • Lyttenburgh says:

      What do you mean by “traitorous internationalist”?


    • yalensis says:

      I was going to mention Trotsky in today’s post. (Which I haven’t written yet, give me about an hour or so….)
      As always, Trotsky is a touchy subject. People who revere Stalin feel like they have to hate Trotsky. I personally wish they could all get along, but I suppose that’s too much to ask.
      And some people like Lenin but despise Trotsky. And some of the people who hate Trotsky are, frankly, Jew-haters. They see Trotsky as yesterday’s Soros, which is completely slanderous, IMHO. Anyone who believes that Trotsky was an agent of the Rothschild bankers is just pathetic, in my view.

      Here are my personal faves, just to lay my cards on the table and not be coy:

      I give Lenin a gold star. I like him A LOT.

      I like Trotsky insofar as he worked alongside Lenin and helped create the Soviet government and army. I don’t particularly like Trotsky’s personality — I think he was an egotistical diva — but I also believe he was an honorable revolutionary internationalist, and I defend him against people who say he was a German spy, or a no-goodnik Russian-hating Jew, that sort of thing. I believe that Trotsky was an honest Marxist who believed in the proletarian dictatorship just as much as Lenin did.

      My feelings towards Stalin are problematical: I defend Stalin against anti-Sovietchiks who lie about his murderous impulses and compare him with Hitler. On the other hand, I have a beef against Stalin for destroying and repressing pretty much everybody who was associated with Lenin and all the old Bolsheviks. Stalin could get pretty vicious in the political power struggle. And he resorted to lies and slander, which is dishonorable in a Marxist revolutionary.
      Trotsky was right when he called Stalin a “Thermidor” or Napoleon figure. There was an element of counter-revolution going on, and Stalin was the standard-bearer of that pull-back. On the other hand, Stalin showed himself to be a war hero and statesman, and he redeemed himself when he won the war against Hitler.

      As for Mao: He is a huge figure in Chinese history, he liberated the Chinese people, and he should be treated with respect. Even though he made some mistakes, obviously.


      • anonym2008 says:

        Do you like how Lenin regarded the national question too?


        • yalensis says:

          Yes, I do.
          I have done a lot of reading about the history of the Socialist Second International, and all the national issues leading up to WWI. The Bolsheviks did not invent the idea of “self-determination for nations”, but they did carry through a principled national policy along these lines. They maintained a principled attitude during the war itself, by not taking sides among the competing capitalist empires, and by keeping the class issue to the forefront.

          When they constructed the Soviet Union, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and the other Bolsheviks turned their ideas about the rights of national minorities, into practical policies. The Bolsheviks curated national minorities, protected languages and cultures, etc. This resulted in relative equality of all the peoples, and a fairly stable federated system. Lenin took the Russian patchwork “Prison of Nations” as existed under the Romanovs and turned it into a union of equal peoples.

          The system was so stable, in fact that, in the end, it was not the national issue which brought down the Soviet Union. It was the still-unresolved class issue. The fact that the Party Nomenklatura hankered to turn their technical control over the means of production into actual ownership of the means of production. Nomenklatura transformed themselves into oligarchs and looted everything of value.

          A phenomenon which the “accursed Trotsky” warned about prophetically, by the way, as early as the mid 1920’s. And wrote about extensively in his later Thermidor work.


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