Saturday, April 15, 2017

‘Moscowism’ has Displaced ‘Russism’ in Putin’s World, Ikhlov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 15 – The terms people employ to describe things typically have consequences far beyond the thing itself. Thus, it is that four words Yevgeny Ikhlov suggests for describing current ideological trends in Vladimir Putin’s Russia may prove to be more than a terminological exercise.

            On the portal, the Moscow commentator offers four: “Rusism” with one s that has a long history, “Russism” with two that has a more recent one, “Crimea-ism,” and “Moscowism,” the last of which he argues is rapidly overwhelming the others in the Kremlin’s thinking (

             The first of these four terms, “Rusism,” as Ikhlov acknowledges, was in fact introduced into Russian discourse by Aleksandr Herzen to describe “a Great Russian romantic-nationalist xenophobic trend, which had aspects of pro-nazism and was an analogue of Prussian pan-Germanism.”

            The second, “Russism” with a double s, he continues is “the Russian analogue of Italian fascism, an imperial-authoritarian and anti-Western ideology of ‘a conservative revolution.’” The third, “Crimea-ism,” which has as its popular analogue “Crimea-is-Ours-ism,” is a condition of “great power boldness and aggressiveness.”

            “Moscowism,” the fourth, is, according to Ikhlov, “the ideology of Russian messianic imperialism and is connected with xenophobia, despotism, and isolation.” It has dominated Russian political thinking three times, first between the reign of Ivan III and that of Peter I, then from the end of the 1920s to the end of the Cold War, and now again since August 2008.

            One must distinguish between the first Moscowism and the second and third, the commentator continues. The first included “a clear understanding of Russia’s cultural backwardness and even its status as a pupil of the West” and viewed “imperial expansion as the spread of European civilization. The second and third do not share those ideas.

            To better understand some of these aspects of Russia’s Moscowism at various points, it is useful, Ikhlov suggests, to conduct the following “historical thought experiment.”

            There have been two Eurasian empires: the Russian and the Ottoman. “Now,” Ikhlov says, “let us imagine that having defeated Napoleon, the Danube monarchy (where Hungary is the equivalent of Ukraine, Croatia of the Caucasus, the Czech Republic of Poland and Austria of Russia) went made and conquered the Southern Eurasian Empire.

            In such a scenario, “the taking of Istanbul would be like the taking of Kazan, “the occupation of the Balks like the joining of Georgia and Armenia and so on … There would be certain clashes … [but] the only serious competitor would be Persia supported by England” where a real war would break out.

            “Then a revolution occurs. Perhaps because the Danube Empire was exhausted from a war with the Northern Eurasians for Romania or with Prussia for Bavaria. First would come to power the social democrat Victor Adler and then he would be replaced by communist maniac Bela Kun whose regime would insist that the entire population from Yemen to Fiume is a new socialist community of ‘the Danube People.’” 

            And then imagine, Ikhlov says, “those who a quarter of a century later consider the disintegration of the Danubian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic an accident of history and the result of a conspiracy and who assert that not only the residents of Sofia, Belgrad, Zagreb, Athens, and Constantinople but also those of Damascus, Ankara, Mosul, Sana and Baghdad are part of ‘a single people torn apart’” who should be “quickly united into a single state.”

            This comparison, of course, speaks for itself and underlines why Moscowism is both more absurd in the long term and more dangerous in the short than any of its competitors.

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