May 19, 2017

Russia’s ideology is ‘traditional great power cleansed of communism,’ notes historian

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Both supporters and critics of the Putin regime often say his regime lacks an ideology. Aleksandr Podrabinek is only the latest to make that point ( 28471232.html). But historian Irina Pavlova says the regime does have an ideology: “traditional Russian great power (velikoderzhaviye), cleansed of communism and dressed up in Orthodox clothing.”

Not only should this be obvious to even a casual observer of such events as the just-concluded celebrations of Victory Day, the U.S.-based Russian historian argues that the chord this ideology has struck with the Russian people – much deeper than that of communism – explains support for Vladimir Putin and Putinism (

The majority of the Russian population accepts the idea that Russia must be a great power regardless of the price, because it is surrounded by enemies, Ms. Pavlova says. Indeed, one can say that “if you ‘scratch’ a Russian, you will find a great power chauvinist.” Russians are ready to “talk for hours” about the greatness of Russia and its power, she says.

This is a fait accompli, and it won’t be significantly changed if it is adopted as a formal ideological platform, the historian continues. Attachment to the core ideas of great power “unites the powers, the elite, the people of Russia and also a significant part of progressive society” elsewhere.

This idea has its roots in the 16th century idea of Moscow as “the third Rome.” Over time, “this idea was transformed into an ideology” and now has taken the form of what may be called “Russian fundamentalism,” whose followers accept without question four key notions without asking that they be proven.

First, Russians believe that “the Russian people are the bearers of a special morality and a special feeling of justice.” Second, they reject “the spiritless West as a model of societal development.” Third, they have a “vision of the future of Russia as an empire.” And fourth, they are “certain of its special and unique historical mission.”

That is an ideology, Ms. Pavlova says, no matter what those who deny its existence suggest.


Paul Goble is a long-time specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia who has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau, as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The article above is reprinted with permission from his blog called “Window on Eurasia” (

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