Love for the Motherland

(or Why Cheese is More Patriotic than Crimea)

In: Russian Politics
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  • 1 University of Bath

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In recent years, the Russian government has promoted patriotism as a means to unify society and secure the legitimacy of Putin’s regime. This paper considers the effectiveness of this campaign by examining everyday understandings of patriotism among Russian citizens. Drawing on in-depth interviews and focus groups conducted in two regions in –2015, patriotism is lived and experienced among ordinary Russians as a personal, normative, and apolitical ideal that diverges significantly from official patriotic narratives. At the same time, Russians are convinced that the majority of fellow citizens are patriotic in the ways envisioned by the government. As a result, the government’s use of patriotism is more effective in raising barriers to collective action than cultivating legitimacy. At the same time, everyday forms of patriotism encourage citizens to sacrifice public choice and to tolerate authoritarian rule.

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  • 3

    Larry Diamond, “Thinking about Hybrid Regimes,” Journal of Democracy 13, no. 2 (2002): 21–35; Henry E. Hale, Patronal Politics: Eurasian Regime Dynamics in Comparative ­Perspective (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014); Jennifer Gandhi, Political Institutions under Dictatorship (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Stephen Levitsky and Lucan Way, Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes After the Cold War (New York: Cambridge ­University Press, 2010); Beatriz Magaloni, Voting for Autocracy: Hegemonic Party Survival and Its Demise in Mexico (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Andreas Schedler, The Politics of Uncertainty: Sustaining and Subverting Electoral Authoritarianism (Oxford University Press, 2013); Milan W. Svolik, The Politics of Authoritarian Rule (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 5

    Marlene Laruelle, In the Name of the Nation: Nationalism and Politics in Contemporary Russia (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); Marlene Laruelle, ed., Russian Nationalism and the National Reassertion of Russia, Reprint edition (Abingdon: Routledge, 2009); Nicu Popescu, “The Strange Alliance of Democrats and Nationalists,” Journal of Democracy 23 (2012): 46–54; Natal’ia Iudina, Vera Al’perovich, and Aleksandr Verkhovskii, “Mezhdu Manezhnoi i Bolotnoi: Ksenofobiia i radikal’nyi natsionalizm i protivodeistvie im v 2011 godu v Rossii [Between Manezh and Bolotnaya: Xenophobia, radical nationalism, and efforts to counteract them in 2011]” (sova Informatsionno-analiticheskii tsentr, February 24, 2012), http://www.sova-center.ru/racism-xenophobia/publications/2012/02/d23739/; Pål Kolstø, “The Ethnification of Russian Nationalism,” in The New Russian Nationalism: Imperialism, Ethnicity and Authoritarianism 2000–2015, ed. Pål Kolstø and Helge Blakkisrud (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016), 18–45.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 6

    J. Paul Goode, “Nationalism in Quiet Times: Ideational Power and Post-Soviet Electoral ­Authoritarianism,” Problems of Post-Communism 59 (2012): 6–16.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 7

    Walker Connor, “Nationalism and Political Illegitimacy,” in Ethnonationalism in the Contemporary World: Walker Connor and the Study of Nationalism, ed. Daniele Conversi (New York: Routledge, 2002), 38–41.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 12

    Johnny Saldana, The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers (Los Angeles, Calif: Sage Publications Ltd, 2009), 77–81.

  • 14

    Joseph M. Whitmeyer, “Elites and Popular Nationalism,” British Journal of Sociology 53, no. 3 (2002): 321–41, doi:10.1080/0007131022000000536.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 15

    Vladimir Putin, “Obrashchenie Prezidenta Rossiiskoi Federatsii [Address by the President of the Russian Federation],” Prezident Rossii, March 18, 2014, http://kremlin.ru/transcripts/20603.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 18

    Serguei Alex Oushakine, The Patriotism of Despair: Nation, War, and Loss in Russia (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009).

  • 19

    Valerie Sperling, “The Last Refuge of a Scoundrel: Patriotism, Militarism and the Russian National Idea,” Nations and Nationalism 9, no. 2 (2003): 235–53, doi:10.1111/1469-8219.00084; Valerie Sperling, “Making the Public Patriotic: Militarism and Anti-Militarism in Russia,” in Russian Nationalism and the National Reassertion of Russia, ed. Marlene Laruelle, ­Reprint edition (New York: Routledge, 2009), 218–71.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 20

    David Gillespie, “Defence of the Realm: The ‘New’ Russian Patriotism on Screen,” The­ ­Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies. Pipss.org, no. Issue 3 (October 1, 2005), http://pipss.revues.org/369; Stephen M. Norris, Blockbuster History in the New Russia: Movies, Memory, and Patriotism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 22

    Ruth Wodak and Rudolf de Cillia, “Commemorating the Past: The Discursive Construction of Official Narratives about the ‘Rebirth of the Second Austrian Republic’,” Discourse & Communication 1, no. 3 (August 1, 2007): 337–63, doi:10.1177/1750481307079206; James V. Wertsch, “Blank Spots in Collective Memory: A Case Study of Russia,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 617, no. 1 (2008): 58–71, doi:10.1177/0002716207312870.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 66

    Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of ­Nationalism (New York: Verso, 2006), 144.

  • 67

    Timur Kuran, “Now Out of Never: The Element of Surprise in the East European ­Revolution of 1989,” World Politics 44, no. 1 (October 1, 1991): 7–48, doi:10.2307/2010422; Henry E. Hale, “Regime Change Cascades: What We Have Learned from the 1848 ­Revolutions to the 2011 Arab Uprisings,” Annual Review of Political Science 16, no. 1 (2013): 331–53, doi:10.1146/annurev-polisci-032211-212204.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

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