The level of patriotism in Russia has rapidly grown since the beginning of 2014. Primarily, this is expressed in the level of trust towards President Vladimir Putin and the Government of the Russian Federation. The growth was due to the successful Olympic Games in Sochi, but precisely the annexation of the Crimean peninsula and the subsequent confrontation with the West have become the most important catalysts for the lifting of the national patriotism. Unprecedented patriotic excitement that gripped the country in March 2014 have led to a sharp growth of Putin’s popularity, as Russians believe he was the resolute leader who saved Crimea from fascism, returning a piece of Russia that Khrushchev had given to Ukrainian neighbors and, by doing so, retorting appropriately the aggression put in place by the Western countries. The people have become as unite as they have never been for the last 20-25 years, and even opposition parties have expressed their support for the president in his foreign policy. Since the annexation of the Crimea up to the present time, the level of nationalism in the Eurasian country continues to grow, apparently unabated. The war of the pro-Moscow eastern separatists against the Ukrainian army is mainly perceived as a fair fight for minorities’ rights (that is to speak, study in Russian etc.). In fact, the Russian people consider it necessary to protect these people from the hostile newly-formed pro-European government, and they want the Kremlin to provide them with all the support, in the first place diplomatic. Given that the Russian government has been doing it for a year (and quite successfully, objectively speaking), the level of people’s trust toward national institutions is still very high. However, there are several reasons to be seriously worried about Russia’s sharp jump of patriotism and what, in my opinion, it might lead to.
I have always believed that everyone should be proud of his country. I mean, he may dislike the government or the people with whom he lives, but at least he must know and respect the history of his homeland, as well as the national culture. This is the very essence of a nation’s grandeur. However, it must be said that the level of patriotism in Russia wasn’t high until the end of 2013: young professionals were leaving, and the teens didn’t link their future to the places they came from. Only in recent months, Russian people have re-discovered a deep love for their country, very close to chauvinism. Anyway, modern Russia’s patriotism is to love Putin, to hate the West and despise people with different opinions and, therefore, this way of loving the motherland is necessarily, somewhat blind. So-called patriots blame the West for most of the internal problems, as they believe that Western nations are conspiring in order to undermine Russia’s foundations, and that Euro-American values are part of a plan to destroy the national identity. The government actively supports their belief in this, as it helps to distract them from domestic problems and to strengthen their political positions.
As far as I’m concerned, I don’t support the policy of the West towards Russia, and, furthermore, I believe that current Putin’s foreign policy is generally correct. However, I think that blaming the West for the whole of Russia’s problems is extremely mindless and I cannot agree to the fact that Western values would aim at destroying Russian identity and culture (I’m perfectly aware not to sympathize with the majority of today’s Russian ‘patriots’). I’m also worried about the radicalization of patriotism, whose advocates reach marasmus in their actions and don’t want to see (or cannot see) what consequences their radicalism will have for their own country in the future. For example, they have offered to lift the ban on state ideology in the constitution, wanting to support Putin, in an undisguised desire to go back to the 1930s (Stalin would have wept with joy). Words which were quite familiar to our grandparents, such as “pest” or “enemy of the people”, is today actively used in patriotic propaganda. The equation is always the same: be you an American, an European, an opposition member, homosexual, a critic of Putin, or any other feature not part of the category of the ‘patriots’, you are regarded as an enemy, a pest, and so on.
I’m fearful of Russia’s fate, as I cannot recall when radical patriotism has ever brought benefits for any State. Instead, I can easily bring a couple of dozens of examples when such chauvinism has led nations to chaos. Some analysts consider that today’s Russia can be compared to post-WWI Weimar Republic, namely an abused country desiring to return to its seat of a great power, to decide the fates of nations and peoples, slowly walking towards the abyss. If nationalist tones will dominate the political discourse and become the main factor in 2018 (or 2024) elections, then 2018 or 2024 will be most likely regarded as Russia’s annus horribilis, the same way 1933 was for Germany. And just like 1933, that year will be fatal not only for Russia. It will be fatal for the whole world.