Summary: Far right movements are on the march again. In the US, Europe, and Russia. Here Stratfor looks at the disturbing political developments in the one-time superpower as it copes with rapid social change, their lost status as a superpower, and the economic stress from the collapse in oil prices.
Russian Ultra-Nationalism: A Monster of Moscow’s Making
Stratfor, 4 November 2016.
- The rise of Russia’s far right will undermine the Kremlin’s attempts to overcome the country’s deepening ethnic, class and religious divides.
- The ultra-conservative movement will continue only to grow, thanks to its media influence and militant youth groups.
- Moscow will work to curb the forces it has long supported in an effort to ensure that they do not challenge the Kremlin’s writ.
Since taking power some 16 years ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin has worked tirelessly to bring about the return of conservative and nationalist values. His government has enthusiastically promoted the Russian Orthodox Church, depicting its patriarchs as the state’s moral compass. After suffering a period of neglect under the Soviet Union, over 25,000 churches and 800 monasteries have been built or refurbished during Putin’s reign. Meanwhile, the Kremlin has also launched a series of youth programs, the largest being Nashi, that teach conservative courses on politics, foreign policy and family values. Finally, after consolidating strategic economic sectors under its control, the government has presented itself as the people’s savior from the liberal, decadent oligarchs who once controlled the country’s resources.
By stoking these long-dormant sentiments, Putin has managed to shore up his power base and create a moral mandate for Moscow’s domestic and foreign policy. Whereas the West could once accuse the Soviet Union of being a “godless nation,” the Russian Federation can now claim to have God on its side. This thinking has undergirded several of the Kremlin’s actions at home and abroad, including the passage of laws restricting homosexuality and pornography and the launch of interventions into Ukraine and Syria. But Putin’s ideological strategy has its drawbacks. Inflaming far-right extremism has given rise to ideologues who want to push the Kremlin further than it is willing to go. And, when the Kremlin balks at their demands, they are no longer shy about voicing their discontent.