Conservative Russia

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Vladimir Pachkov, SJ

 Vladimir Pachkov, SJ / People / 27 May 2021


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“Russia needs to be frozen”: these words, which are attributed to a 19th century thinker and also to a government official, best express the current intentions of those wielding power and of conservative ideologues in Russia.

During the inauguration of a monument dedicated to Czar Alexander III – who on March 13, 1881, had succeeded the reformer Alexander II, killed by leftist terrorists – Putin claimed  that he himself had given Russia 13 years of peace, not by making concessions, but by his firmness.[1]

Today, as in the 19th century, there is a convergence, on one side, of political interests looking to keep the government in power, and on the other side, some intellectuals who believe that conservative values constitute the essence of civilization in Russia. Those who have studied Russian history and are now observing its developments may feel a sense of déjà-vu, especially if one takes the government’s rhetoric seriously. How serious is this return to the old values? Or does something else lie behind it?

It is interesting to note that in Russia not only the support for the government, but also the fiercest opposition to it does not come from the liberals, but from the conservatives, for whom Putin is certainly preferable to Yeltsin and his liberals, although thought to be too “pro-Western” and too “pragmatic.” However, the interaction between ideologues – particularly conservatives – and the government is not a straightforward matter. If the government is accused by the conservative ideologues of being too pragmatic or even too pro-Western, this particular ideology is nevertheless chosen by the government as the main tool to stabilize society. And this stabilization serves not only to maintain the elite in power, but also to affect the modernization of the country.

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