Staunton, Oct 7 – The Soviet Union died when the rhetoric of its communist leaders failed and ever more non-Russians asserted that “we aren’t Soviets” but rather members of this or that nationality. Now something analogous is happening in Putin’s Russia, the rhetoric of the Russian world no longer works and people there are saying “we aren’t Russians.”
That is what women in Daghestan who have been taking part in anti-mobilization and anti-war demonstrations in that North Caucasus republic have told journalists from the Meduza news agency (meduza.io/feature/2022/10/07/ritorika-pro-russkiy-mir-zdes-ne-deystvuet-my-ne-russkie).
And their declarations to the extent they spread to other non-Russian areas may be the single most important response within Russia to a Putin regime that has staked its power and ability to act on the supposed existence of “a Russian world” of which all the residents of the Russian Federation and some abroad are members.
If non-Russians opt out of being Russian even in the broadest political sense now just as they opted out of being Soviet more than three decades ago, then Putin will either have to find a new mobilizing principle, something he seems disinclined to do, or use force alone, something he may be willing to do but likely lacks enough to be effective all the time.
This shift in identity doesn’t mean that the Russian Federation is about to fall apart in the near future, but it does mean that it no longer has the most important element that holds a country together, a common identity. And without that, its long-term prospects are anything but bright.
Window on Eurasia — New Series