Former Communists Turn to Nationalism

Party press adopts theme of 'Great Russia'

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

BEFORE the aborted August putsch, the masthead of Pravda proudly carried the communist exhortation: "Workers of the world, unite!"The slogan has been removed and the space left blank. But if it were replaced, it might read instead: "Russians unite!" Russian nationalism, once condemned as the enemy of proletarian internationalism, is finding a comfortable home in the pages of the former Communist Party press these days. Both in print and in the activities of the communist faction in the Russian parliament, the remnants of the Soviet Communist Party are rapidly shedding the globalist revolutionary pretensions of Leninism in favor of an openly anti-Western, Russian nationalism. Pravda, the paper founded by Vladimir Lenin in 1912, has taken a particularly nationalist tack in the last couple of weeks. The strongest signal of this shift was a front page article on Nov. 2 by Igor Shafarevich, a reknowned mathematician who caused a stir in early 1990 with the publication of a Russian nationalist - and some say, anti-Semitic - pamphlet entitled "Russophobia." The collapse of the Soviet Union, which Pravda once regularly lamented, is no great tragedy, Mr. Shafarevich writes. "Coming to our senses after the first shock, we see that Russia in its new borders may become a more viable country, may stand more firmly on its feet than the former USSR," he argues. Russia's viability comes in large part from its ethnic homogeneity, he continues. Its population is 81 percent Russian. "Russia is now more ethnically homogeneous than Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Spain or Great Britain," he says. "We have liberated ourselves from the yoke of 'internationalism,' and have returned to the normal existence of a national Russian state which traditionally includes many national minorities," Shafarevich writes. The problem now is to rid Russia of a narrow ruling elite of 'former' communists - he notes Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and Russian President Boris Yeltsin - who continue to "think in international terms." After the country is liberated from these rulers and a new leadership with a nationalist orientation established, "one of the first acts should be the secession of Russia from the nonexistent USSR," Shafarevich concludes. He rejects even economic union as "a means of pumping resources out of a bleeding Russia." The desire to restore "Great Russia" is not hidden in this tract. The article assails those who have abandoned the Russian minority in the Baltic states or want to "hand over the Kurile Islands" to Japan. Referring in passing to the Soviet-American alliance in promoting Middle East peace and in the Gulf war, Shafarevich attacks the current leadership for "attaching us to the American chariot and ruining our friendly relations with the Islamic world." Svetlana Goryacheva, a Russian communist and former deputy chairman of the Russian parliament, expressed that anti-Western sentiment strongly in an interview published in the weekly Glasnost, formerly the publication of the Communist Party Central Committee. Mr. Yeltsin is surrounded by "people who idolize the capitalist way of development, who are sure there is a necessity for the Americanization our our state." The Americans are now dictating Russia's future and determining who "will be head of the uni on," she says. But sooner or later the people will awake, Goryacheva predicts. "Genuine citizens and patriots will soon unite and save their multinational fatherland," she says in the interview published Nov. 7. A clearly anti-Western vision of Russia also appeared in Pravda on Nov. 7 in an open letter from popular film director Nikita Mikhalkov, son of a famous Russian writer. Talk of Russia becoming a part of the "common European home," a favorite theme of Mr. Gorbachev's and Yeltsin's is "yet another enthusiastic delusion of our intelligensia," he writes. "The Russian people, the people of the Russian world, are neither Europeans nor Asians," Mikhalkov says. "We had, we have, and I believe we will have, our own path - that of Eurasianism.... We are the people who remember their history, who love their land and for whom the Russian Orthodox Church was always a pillar." "There is nothing strange in this combination of Russian nationalism and Russian communism," says political scientist Andranik Migranyan. The fall of the "central imperial structures" and the disappearance of "communist rhetoric" since the failed coup has removed the barriers between Russian communists and the rest of the nationalist movement, he says. Indeed, since the coup the communist faction in the Russian parliament has been a strong backer of those of Yeltsin's policies which lead toward a strengthening of an independent Russian state. They supported Yeltsin's moves to strengthen the powers of the presidency in order to implement radical reforms. But many see a cynical motive in the national communists' support: that they anticipate the failure of the economic reforms, the population's alienation from pro-market liberals, and the opportunity to inherit the structure of a strong state. This resurgence, some observers worry, could be accompanied by a Russian version of fascism. "The emergence of a wide and strong block of Russian nationalist forces can help Yeltsin consolidate his power," says Migranyan. "But in the long run this can create a national socialist regime."

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