Russian nationalism

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Russian nationalism is a form of nationalism that promotes Russian cultural identity and unity. Russian nationalism first rose to prominence in the early 19th century, and became closely related to pan-Slavism, from its origin during the Russian Empire to its brief revival in the Soviet Union during World War II. Contemporary Russian nationalism is either viewed as a form of ethnic nationalism or multi-racial nationalism.


Imperial Russian nationalism[edit]

The Millennium of Russia monument built in 1862 that celebrated one-thousand years of Russian history.

The Russian motto "Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality" was coined by Count Sergey Uvarov and adopted by Emperor Nicholas I as official ideology.[1] Three components of Uvarov's triad were:

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. Aleksey Khomyakov, Ivan Kireyevsky, and Konstantin Aksakov are credited with co-founding the movement.

Russian World War I era poster calling to buy war bonds.

A notable folk revival in Russian art was loosely related to Slavophilia.[3] Many works concerning Russian history, mythology and fairy tales appeared. Operas by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Mikhail Glinka and Alexander Borodin; paintings by Viktor Vasnetsov, Ivan Bilibin and Ilya Repin; and poems by Nikolay Nekrasov, Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy, among others, are considered masterpieces of Russian romantic nationalism.[4] According to Fyodor Tyutchev, 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.[citation needed]

White Russian anti-Bolshevik poster, c. 1932

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 Nikolay 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.[citation needed]

In the beginning of 20th century, new nationalist and rightist organizations and parties emerged in Russia, such as the Russian Assembly, the Union of the Russian People, the Union of Archangel Michael and others. Their motto was "Russia for Russians". These parties remained monarchist and anti-Semitic; they were organized by wealthy, powerful aristocrats such as Vladimir Purishkevich and Nikolai Yevgenyevich Markov.

Nationalism during the Soviet Epoch[edit]

The Bolshevik revolutionaries who seized power in 1917 were nominally "antinationalists" and "antipatriots". The newborn Soviet republic under Vladimir Lenin proclaimed internationalism as its official ideology using the Russian language—which was also the language of their party and government.[5] 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 the Civil War. Some of their followers disagreed; 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.[6]

Romantic Russian nationalist themes appeared in art, such as the historical epic films by Sergei Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin, as well as Sergei Sergeyev-Tsensky's patriotic novels.[citation needed]

The creation of an international communist state under control of the workers was perceived by some as accomplishment of Russian nationalistic dreams.[7] Poet Pavel Kogan described his feelings of the Soviet patriotism just before World War II:[8]

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.[9]

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!".[10] At the same time, Nazi Germany organised collaborationist military units such as Andrey Vlasov's Russian Liberation Army and Pyotr Krasnov's Cossacks. During the Second World War, the strong patriotism of Vlasov's army presented Russians with an alternative to the state-centered nationalism promoted by Stalin's government.[11] In 1944, the Soviet Union abandoned its communist anthem The Internationale and adopted new national anthem.

Contemporary nationalism[edit]

The first "State flag" of the Russian Empire (1858–1896) is used by some Russian nationalists and monarchists.
A march of about 7,000 people waving Tsarist flags, chanting anti-immigrant slogans and carrying a big banner that reads "Let's return Russia to the Russians" (Вернём Россию русским) in Moscow, November 4, 2011.

Russia’s main problem after the Cold War was trying to present a strong image because other nations considered it as a “nation of lawlessness”.[12] Even when Vladimir Putin started to be in power during the 2000s, he himself addressed that issue, besides being present on official documents.[13] An official Kremlin documents entitled ‘The Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation’ was released in 2000, and updated in 2008, that listed the promotion of ‘an objective image of the Russian Federation globally’ and promoting the “Russian language and Russian peoples’ culture” among its priority in foreign policy.[14][15]

After the dissolution 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] Vladimir Putin's government is also using natalist policies by giving rewards and promoting more children in families.[16]

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 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 A Just Russia.[citation needed]

Rally of supporters of the Donetsk People's Republic on occasion of Victory Day held in Donetsk, 9 May 2014

One of the more radical, ultranationalist movements is Russian National Unity, a far-right group that organises paramilitary brigades of its younger members.[citation needed] Others include BORN (Militant Organization of Russian Nationalists) which was involved in the murder of Stanislav Markelov,[17] the neo-monarchist Pamyat, the Union of Orthodox Banner-Bearers, and the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, which revived the slogan "Russia for Russians." These parties organise an annual rally called the Russian March.[citation needed]

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;[18][19] 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.[20][21]

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 successful in getting jobs, would turn to crime.[18][19]

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 the Baltic states and Georgia, with some embracing anti-Russian sentiment.[22]

Following the 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine, United Russia has increasingly relied on Russian nationalism for support.[23] Politicians like Vladimir Zhirinovsky started building their narrative on categorically denying Ukrainian ethnos.[24] At the same time, the ruling party cultivated close ties with Eurosceptic, far-right and far-left political movements, supporting them financially and inviting them to Eurasian conferences in Crimea and Saint Petersburg.[25]

Extremist nationalism[edit]

Extremist nationalism in Russia refers to many far-right and a few far-left ultra-nationalist movements and organizations. Of note, the term nationalism in Russia often refers to extremist nationalism. However, it is often mixed up with "fascism" in Russia. While this terminology does not exactly match the formal definitions of fascism, the common denominator is chauvinism. In all other respects the positions vary over a wide spectrum. Some movements hold a political position that the state must be an instrument of nationalism (such as the National Bolshevik Party, headed by Eduard Limonov), while others (for example, Russian National Unity) resolve to vigilante tactics against the perceived "enemies of Russia" without going into politics.

Historically, the first prototype of such groups started with the Black Hundreds in Imperial Russia. More recent antisemitic, supremacist and neo-fascist organizations include Pamyat, Russian National Socialist Party and others.

In 1997, the Moscow Anti-Fascist Center estimated there were 40 (nationalist) extremist groups operating in Russia.[26] The same source reported 35 extremist newspapers, the largest among these being Zavtra. In spite of repression by governmental authorities, a far-right extremist movement has established itself in Russia.[27]

Russian nationalism and ethnic minorities[edit]

The issue in regard to Russian nationalism's relationship with its ethnic minorities has been under subject of study since the rapid expansion of Russia from 16th century onward.[28] Since in English there is no word to differ the meaning of "Russian", it is either regarded in Russian as an ethnic people ("Русские" – ethnic Russians) and as inhabitants of Russia ("Россиянин" – Russian people).[29]

Russian conquest of Muslim Kazan have been a significant part of understanding Russia's first step from a nearly homogenous nation into a multi-ethnic society.[30][31] Over years, Russia, from the basis of conquest it gained in Kazan, managed to conquer Siberia, Manchuria as well as expanding to the Caucasus. In a point, Russia managed to annex a large territory of Eastern Europe, Finland, Central Asia, Mongolia and, in some parts, encroached into Turkish, Chinese, Afghan and Iranian territories. Various ethnic minorities have become increasingly viral and integrated into the mainstream Russian society, and created a mixing picture of racial relations in modern Russian nationalist mindset. The work of understanding different ethnic minorities in relations with Russian state had to be traced from the work of Philip Johan von Strahlenberg, a Swedish war prisoner who became a geographer of the Tsarist Russia.

The concept is understood strongly by the learning of various minorities in Russia. The Volga Tatars and Bashkirs, the two main Muslim people in Russia, have long been lauded as model minorities in Russia, and has been historically seen more positive in the eyes of Russian nationalist movement; in addition, Tatar and Bashkir imams have worked to spread the Russian nationalist ideology in accordance to its Islamic faith.[32][33]

In the Caucasus, Russia gained significant supports from the Ossetians, one of the few Christian-based people in the mountainous region.[34][35] There was also strong support for Russia among Armenians and Greeks, largely due to similar in religion with the Orthodox government of Russia.[36][37] Thus, these people have long been a staunch supporter of Russian nationalism in the Caucasus, and frequently refer themselves together as Russians and its ethnic roots, colloquially.

The Koreans have also been regarded as model minority of Russia, and has been used to colonize in sparsely less-populated part of Russia, this was inherited from the Tsarist era and continued to even today, since Koreans are seen not hostile to Russian nationalism.[38]

Ukrainians in Russia have been largely integrated and the majority of them pledged loyalty over Russia, with many Ukrainians managed to occupy significant positions in Russian history. Bohdan Khmelnytsky is one of Russia's most celebrated figures who brought Ukraine to the Tsardom of Russia throughout the Pereyaslav Council.[39] Ukrainian Prince Alexander Bezborodko was responsible for manifesting the modern diplomacies of Russia under the reign of Catherine the Great.[40] Some of the Soviet leaders had Ukrainian origins, notably Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev and Mikhail Gorbachev.[41][42][43] In addition, Russia's biggest opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, is also of Ukrainian origin as well as being a potential Russian nationalist.[44]

Akhmad Kadyrov and his son Ramzan defected to Russia during the Second Chechen War, pledging loyalty to Russia following the fear of Wahhabi takeover in Chechnya.[45] Vladislav Surkov, who is of Chechen origin, was the chief figure who initiated the idea of Russian democracy, in which nationalism is part of the ideology.[46]

Russian geographical adventurer Nikolay Przhevalsky was an ethnic Pole who helped Russia to expand to far east and Central Asia; he also regarded himself as a Russian and developed a racist opinion on non-Russian peoples in the far east and Central Asia.[47] One of Russia's greatest composer in 20th century was a Russified Pole, Dmitry Shostakovich.

Georgians in Russia have been not very positive of Russian nationalism, with some maintain a neutral or negative opinion.[48] However, Russian expansionism has been the results of mostly Russified Georgian figures; Pavel Tsitsianov, who initiated the conquest of Caucasus, was a Russified Georgian.[49] Pyotr Bagration was another Georgian who went on to become one of Russia's most celebrated heroes. Soviet Union's transformation into a superpower was the work of yet another Russified Georgian, Joseph Stalin, whom had a complex relationship with Russian nationalism.[50]

Some of Dagestan's revered figures have long been respected by Russian nationalists, such as Rasul Gamzatov, who is one of Russia's most respected poets despite his Avar origin.[51] Khabib Nurmagomedov's rise to popularity and fame has earned a divisive opinion among Russians and Dagestanis.[52] Many Dagestanis supported Russia against Chechnya, during the previous Caucasian War when the Dagestanis found Chechens incapable to obey and follow order, and during the Second Chechen War, owning by Chechen expansionist attempt to conquer Dagestan in 1999.[53]

Germans in Russia have long been treated with privileges under the Tsarist government and many Germans dominated Russian politics, education and economy, including the Tsarist House of Romanov, which also included many German-based figures, most notably Catherine the Great.[54][55][56] Many Germans fought in the Russian Civil War and regarded themselves as Russian nationalists, such as Pyotr Wrangel.

Parties and organizations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, Nicholas I and Official Nationality in Russia 1825 - 1855 (1969)
  2. ^ Hutchings, Stephen C. (2004). Russian Literary Culture in the Camera Age: The Word as Image. Routledge. p. 86.
  3. ^ [1] Edward C. Thaden. The Beginnings of Romantic Nationalism in Russia. American Slavic and East European Review, Vol. 13, No. 4 (Dec., 1954), pp. 500-521. Published by: The American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies
  4. ^ "O. I. Senkovskii and Romantic Empire" (PDF).
  5. ^ 2001: Perry Anderson, Professor of History and Sociology, UCLA; Editor, New Left Review: Internationalism: Metamorphoses of a Meaning. See also the interview with Anderson.
  6. ^ Timo Vihavainen: Nationalism and Internationalism. How did the Bolsheviks Cope with National Sentiments? in Chulos & Piirainen 2000.
  7. ^ Benedikt Sarnov, Our Soviet Newspeak: A Short Encyclopedia of Real Socialism., pages 446-447. Moscow: 2002, ISBN 5-85646-059-6 (Наш советский новояз. Маленькая энциклопедия реального социализма.)
  8. ^ "isbn:5457554619 - Google Search".
  9. ^ Quoted from book by Benedikt Sarnov,Our Soviet Newspeak: A Short Encyclopedia of Real Socialism., pages 446-447. Moscow: 2002, ISBN 5-85646-059-6 (Наш советский новояз. Маленькая энциклопедия реального социализма.)
  10. ^ Roberts, Geoffrey. Stalin's Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939–1953. New Haven, CT; London: Yale University Press, 2006 (hardcover, ISBN 0-300-11204-1), page 132
  11. ^ Cathrine Andreyev, Vlasov and the Russian Liberation Movement: Soviet reality and emigre theories. Cambridge University Press, 1987.
  12. ^ Lebedenko 2004, p. 72
  13. ^ Feklyunina 2008
  14. ^ Concept 2008
  15. ^ Just, Thomas (2016). "Promoting Russia abroad: Russia's post-Cold war national identity and public diplomacy". The Journal of International Communication. 22: 82–95. doi:10.1080/13216597.2015.1123168. S2CID 156907535.
  16. ^ "Putin's Family Values".
  17. ^ "Leader of "Kremlin project" found guilty of ultranationalist BORN murders ::". Retrieved 2015-07-17.
  18. ^ a b Berg-Nordlie, Mikkel and Aadne Aasland: Migration and National Identity in Russia Archived 2011-04-30 at the Wayback Machine (NIBR International Blog 07.02.2011)
  19. ^ a b Berg-Nordlie, Mikkel; Aasland, Aadne & Olga Tkach: Compatriots or Competitors? A Glance at Rossiyskaya Gazeta's Immigration Debate 2004-2009, in Sociālo Zinātņu Vēstnesis 2/2010 (pp. 7-26)
  20. ^ "Влади Антоневич и его фильм "Кредит на убийство"". ИноСМИ. 2015-05-19. Retrieved 2015-09-12.
  21. ^ "Russia: Western Businesses and the Return of the Cold War Mentality". Stratfor. Retrieved 2015-09-12.
  22. ^ Neil Melvin Russians Beyond Russia: The Politics of National Identity. London Royal Inst. of Internat. Affairs 1995
  23. ^ Van Herpen, Marcel H. (27 February 2014). Putin's Wars: The Rise of Russia's New Imperialism. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 296 pp. ISBN 978-1442231375.
  24. ^ Echols, William. "Fiery Russian Nationalist Politico Denies Ukraine History". Retrieved 2018-11-11.
  25. ^ Max Seddon (2015-03-22). "Racists, Neo-Nazis, Far Right Flock to Russia for Joint Conference". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2015-03-23.
  26. ^ "Chronology of events - NUPI". Archived from the original on 2007-09-30.
  27. ^ Racist Violence and Neo-Nazi Movements in Russia, Robert Kusche, Dresden, August 2013
  28. ^ "Contemporary Russian Nationalism between East and West | IWM WEBSITE".
  29. ^ "What is the difference between "русские " and "россиянин" ? "русские " vs "россиянин" ?".
  30. ^ Davies, Brian L. (2014). "Muscovy's Conquest of Kazan". Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History. 15 (4): 873–883. doi:10.1353/kri.2014.0050. S2CID 159827537.
  31. ^ "Kazan: In Search of a Recipe for Its Melting Pot | Wilson Center".
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  33. ^ Yemelianova, Galina M. (1999). "Volga Tatars, Russians and the Russian State at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century: Relationships and Perceptions". The Slavonic and East European Review. 77 (3): 448–484. JSTOR 4212902.
  34. ^ "The Ossetian neverendum – European Council on Foreign Relations". September 2016.
  35. ^
  36. ^ Hovannisian, Richard G. (1973). "Armenia and the Caucasus in the Genesis of the Soviet-Turkish Entente". International Journal of Middle East Studies. 4 (2): 129–147. doi:10.1017/S0020743800027409. JSTOR 162238.
  37. ^
  38. ^ Chang, Jon K. (30 June 2016). Burnt by the Sun: The Koreans of the Russian Far East. ISBN 978-0824856786.
  39. ^ Plokhy, Serhii (2001). "The Ghosts of Pereyaslav: Russo-Ukrainian Historical Debates in the Post-Soviet Era". Europe-Asia Studies. 53 (3): 489–505. doi:10.1080/09668130120045906. JSTOR 826545. S2CID 144594680.
  40. ^
  41. ^ "Blame Khrushchev for Ukraine's Newest Crisis". 25 February 2014.
  42. ^
  43. ^ "The International Non-Govermental foundation for socio-economic and political studies (The Gorbachev Foundation) - Mikhail Gorbachev - Biography".
  44. ^ "Алексей Навальный и украинцы".
  45. ^ Russell, John (2008). "Ramzan Kadyrov: The Indigenous Key to Success in Putin's Chechenization Strategy?". Nationalities Papers. 36 (4): 659–687. doi:10.1080/00905990802230605. S2CID 154611444.
  46. ^
  47. ^ Tatiana, Yusupova. "National and nationalistic in the motives for Russian expeditions in Central Asia". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  48. ^
  49. ^ Morshedloo, Javad (23 August 2019). "Double Identity in Favor of Colonial Strategy: Pavel Tsitsianov and the Foundation of Russian Colonialism in South Caucasus (1803-1806)". Historical Study of War. 3 (2): 129–150.
  50. ^ Rees, E. A. (1998). "Stalin and Russian Nationalism". Russian Nationalism Past and Present. pp. 77–106. doi:10.1007/978-1-349-26532-9_6. ISBN 978-1-349-26534-3.
  51. ^ Dunlop, John B. (14 July 2014). The Faces of Contemporary Russian Nationalism. ISBN 9781400853861.
  52. ^ "Feature: Khabib Nurmagomedov and the role of cultural censorship in Dagestan". 5 March 2019.
  53. ^ "Imam Shamil: A contested legacy that still resonates in the Caucasus".
  54. ^ "Russia's Love Affair with Germany". 27 August 2015.
  55. ^ "The Germans from Odessa and the Black Sea".
  56. ^ "Museum für russlanddeutsche Kulturgeschichte - the history of Russian-Germans".

Further reading[edit]

  • John B. Dunlop.
    • The Faces of Contemporary Russian Nationalism. Princeton University Press, 1983.
    • The New Russian Nationalism, 1985


  • Barghoorn, Frederick C, Soviet Russian nationalism (1956)
  • Brudny, Yitzhak M. Reinventing Russia: Russian Nationalism and the Soviet State, 1953-1991 (2000)
  • Cosgrove, Simon. Russian Nationalism and the Politics of Soviet Literature: The Case of Nash Souremennik, 1981-1991 (2004) excerpt
  • Duncan, Peter JS. "Contemporary Russian identity between east and west." Historical Journal 48.1 (2005): 277-294. online
  • Dunlop, John B. The Faces of Contemporary Russian Nationalism (1983)
  • Frolova-Walker, Marina. Russian Music and Nationalism: from Glinka to Stalin (Yale UP, 2019)
  • Laruelle, Marlene. Russian Nationalism: Imaginaries, Doctrines, and Political Battlefields (2018) on recent history excerpt[dead link]
  • Riasanovsky, Nicholas V. Nicholas I and Official Nationality in Russia 1825 - 1855 (1969)
  • Shenfield, Stephen D. Russian Fascism: Traditions, Tendencies, Movements, 2001 ISBN 0-7656-0634-8 or ISBN 978-0-7656-0634-1
  • Tuminez, Astrid S. Russian Nationalism since 1856: Ideology and the Making of Foreign Policy (2000)
  • Verkhovsky, Alexander (December 2000). "Ultra-nationalists in Russia at the onset of Putin's rule". Nationalities Papers. 28 (4): 707–722. doi:10.1080/00905990020009692. S2CID 154911479.

in Russian[edit]

External links[edit]