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The coat of arms of the Russian Empire.
The flag of Russia.

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 repression during early Bolshevik rule, and a brief revival in the Soviet Union during World War II.


Further information: History of Russia

Imperial Russian nationalism

Further information: Pan-Slavism, Slavophilia, Russification, and Great Russian chauvinism

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

Nationalism during the Soviet epoch

Further information: Soviet patriotism and Sovietization

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

Further information: Eurasianism, Nostalgia for the Soviet Union, Russia under Vladimir Putin, and Russian irredentism

The first "State flag" of the Russian Empire (1858–1896) is used by some Russian nationalists and monarchists.
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, 4 November 2011.
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, 4 November 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 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
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 was Russian National Unity, a far-right group that organised paramilitary brigades of its younger members before it was banned in 1999.[17][18] Others include BORN (Militant Organization of Russian Nationalists) which was involved in the murder of Stanislav Markelov,[19] 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]

Following the 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine, United Russia has increasingly relied on Russian nationalism for support.[20] Politicians like Vladimir Zhirinovsky started building their narrative on categorically denying Ukrainian ethnos.[21] 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.[22]

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;[23][24] 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.[25][26]

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.[23][24]

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.[27]

In November 2018, Vladimir Putin described himself as the most effective nationalist.[28]

Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Zhirinovsky are both considered Russian nationalists
Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Zhirinovsky are both considered Russian nationalists
A rally in support of Novorossiya in Moscow on 11 June 2014
A rally in support of Novorossiya in Moscow on 11 June 2014

According to Michael Hirsh, a senior correspondent at Foreign Policy:

Graham and other Russia experts said it is a mistake to view Putin merely as an angry former KGB apparatchik upset at the fall of the Soviet Union and NATO’s encroachment after the Cold War, as he is often portrayed by Western commentators. Putin, himself, made this clear in his Feb. 21 speech, when he disavowed the Soviet legacy, inveighing against the mistakes made by former leaders Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin to grant Ukraine even partial autonomy. ... Putin is rather a messianic Russian nationalist and Eurasianist whose constant invocation of history going back to Kievan Rus, however specious, is the best explanation for his view that Ukraine must be part of Russia’s sphere of influence, experts say. In his essay last July, Putin even suggested that the formation of a separate, democratic Ukrainian nation “is comparable in its consequences to the use of weapons of mass destruction against us.”[29]

Extremist nationalism

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) promote 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.[30] 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.[31]

Neo-Nazism in Russia

The Russian National Unity was a neo-Nazi paramilitary organization founded by Alexander Barkashov in 1990. It uses a left-pointed swastika and emphasizes the “primary importance” of Russian blood. Concerning Adolf Hitler, the organizations's leader Barkashov declared: "I consider [Hitler] a great hero of the German nation and of all white races. He succeeded in inspiring the entire nation to fight against degradation and the washing away of national values."[32] Before its breakup in late 2000 the Russian National Unity was estimated to have had approximately 20,000 to 25,000 members.[33] Barkashov along with other former members of the group engaged in religious activities and pro-Russian activism in the Russian-Ukrainian War.[34][35][36][37]

Russian nationalism and ethnic minorities

See also: List of ethnic groups in Russia

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.[38] Since in English there is no word to differ the meaning of "Russian", it is either regarded in Russian as an ethnic people ("Русский" – ethnic Russian) and as inhabitants of Russia ("Россиянин" – Russian citizen).[39]

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.[40][41] 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. Furthermore, Tatar and Bashkir imams have worked to spread the Russian nationalist ideology in accordance to its Islamic faith.[42][43]

In the Caucasus, Russia gained significant supports from the Ossetians, one of the few Christian-based people in the mountainous region.[44][45] There was also strong support for Russia among Armenians and Greeks, largely due to similar in religion with the Orthodox government of Russia.[46][47] 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.[48]

Ukrainians in Russia have been largely integrated and the majority of them pledged loyalty over Russia, while some 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.[49] Ukrainian Prince Alexander Bezborodko was responsible for manifesting the modern diplomacies of Russia under the reign of Catherine the Great.[50] Soviet leaders Nikita Khrushchev, Konstantin Chernenko and Mikhail Gorbachev also had some ancestral connections to Ukraine.[51][52][53] In addition, Russia's biggest opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, is also of paternally of Ukrainian origin as well as being a potential Russian nationalist.[54]

RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, who is of Armenian descent, spoke out against the 2022 anti-war protests in Russia, stating that "If you are ashamed of being Russian now, don't worry, you are not Russian."[55]
RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, who is of Armenian descent, spoke out against the 2022 anti-war protests in Russia, stating that "If you are ashamed of being Russian now, don't worry, you are not Russian."[55]

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.[56] 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.[57]

Russian geographical adventurer Nikolay Przhevalsky was an ethnically Polish on his father's side, 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.[58]

Georgians in Russia have been not very positive of Russian nationalism, with some maintain a neutral or negative opinion.[59] However, Russian expansion into the Caucasus mountains has been driven by Georgian figures such as Pavel Tsitsianov, who initiated the conquest of Caucasus.[60] 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.[61]

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.[62] Khabib Nurmagomedov's rise to popularity and fame has earned a divisive opinion among Russians and Dagestanis.[63] 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.[64]

Germans in Russia have long been treated with privileges under the Tsarist government and many Germans became prominent in Russian politics, education and economy, including the Tsarist House of Romanov, which also included many German-based figures, most notably Catherine the Great.[65][66][67] Many Germans fought in the Russian Civil War and regarded themselves as Russian nationalists, such as Pyotr Wrangel.

Parties and organizations

See also


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Further reading


in Russian