Monday, July 15, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Regional Myths Now ‘Inalienable’ Part of Russian Political Culture, Kazan Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 15 – With the collapse of Soviet identity and the failure of an equally strong Russian identity to put in its pllace, regional identities and the myths on which they rest have become an “inalienable” part of Russia’s political culture and now occupy a critical place in center-periphery and inter-ethnic relations, according to a Kazan-based scholar.

            In an article in the current issue of “Vlast,” a publication of the Moscow Institute of Sociology, Dilyara Murzina, a researcher at two Kazan universities, argues that these myths, promoted by local political elites, play six major roles in Russian political life (

            First of all, she says, such myths serve as “a psychological compensation for the complex of provincialism” and thus allow residents of a particular region to have a positive view of where they live.  In Soviet times, she notes, “communist ideology was able to level he images of the regions in the political consciousness of Russians;” but that is no longer the case.

            Instead, people in many regions feel that they are being treated less well than others, the researcher argues; and as a result, “a mythologized opposition of ‘we-they’ frequently lies at the basis of contemporary political, ethno-confessional, and inter-cultural conflicts.”

            Second, “regional political myths are a structural element of regional identity, and [thus] mythmaking forms a component part of the politics of regional identity.” Given the lack of democratic traditions and an opposition, the chief myth-makers both at the center and in the regions are inevitably the top figures in the political elites.

            Third, such regional political myths “lead to the creation of a positive image of the region and a strengthening in the consciousness of local residents of a regional idea,” sometimes only to the point of suggesting that the region has a special identity like a “Russian Detroit” and at others as the basis for ultimate political independence such as Tatarstan or the Urals Republic.

            Fourth, these political myths, Murzina argues, “make possible the cultural-political integration of the local population. Indeed, “despite the fact that the nation and religion are traditionally the main resources for integration, the regional myth also makes possible” the integration and unification of people for the achievement of political goals.

            Fifth, “the regional myth can serve as a mediating element of political activity,” linking the population to their rulers. She quotes another Russian scholar, D. Nechayev to the effect that “in the absence of federal traditions in the Russian Federation” such myths provide “a source of power” for the regions.

            Sixth, regional myths often become part of the struggle for power within the region and between the region and the center.  Murzina suggests that if governors are again subject to election, “the significance of this function may expand in an extraordinary fashion.” But that is only one way in which they are part of the political game and perhaps not the most important.

            The Kazan scholar says that “regional communities with developed regional identities are an obstacle to the further growth of unitarist tendencies in the development of the contemporary state system of the country” and that they help the regions achieve their own economic and social goals.

            At the same time, she argues, such identities do not represent an obstacle “to the development of an all-national unity.” Instead, “the rise of a ‘matryoshka-doll-like’ model of identifications is probable, in which peacefully co-exist various types of identities” at one and the same time.

No comments:

Post a Comment