20 years under Putin: a timeline

The Institute of Modern Russia concludes its series of articles by well-known scholar Alexander Yanov on the history of Russian nationalism in the USSR. In this essay, the author discusses in depth the nationalist ideology of Alexander Sevastyanov, who has proposed a solution that he claims could have prevented the dramatic demise of one of the largest samizdat magazines.


According to a politician, writer and editor-in-chief of Natsionalnaya Gazeta Alexander Sevastyanov (depicted above), , “geopolitics is merely a projection of ethnopolitics onto the world geography map.” Photo: via-midgard.info.


Off on a tangent

At first glance, the demise of Veche magazine might seem like ancient history. Yet the largest nationalist samizdat (i.e., self-published) magazine ended its illustrious run only forty years ago. The reasons for the magazine’s demise remain a mystery. The majority of Veche’s editorial team (including its editor-in-chief) steadfastly upheld its anti-Chinese position, while a minority of its editors bought into anti-Semitic ideology in the best tradition of Critical Notes of a Russian Man. Veche magazine ultimately failed to reconcile the former imperialistic philosophy and with the latter ethnic one and, consequently, had to split up. To the best of my knowledge, almost any specialist writing on the history of Veche would agree that it could have ended no other way.

Yet within a rather backward and commonplace circle of Russian nationalists, there is a thinker who claims to know the circumstances that would have allowed the magazine to escape its dissolution. He is someone who supports both the anti-Chinese and anti-Semitic positions of Veche’s staff. Not only does he not see the contradiction between the two camps; he is convinced that their beliefs complemented one another.

This point is so intriguing that I will permit myself to diverge from the chronology of this series to dwell upon it in depth, despite the fact that in doing so, I will be intruding into the upcoming post-Soviet chapter of our discourse. This divergence involves not only the history of Veche magazine, but also one of the most important problems of this series: the relationship between two planes of Russian ideology, imperial and ethnic (we will refer to their adherents as “imperial nationalists” and “ethnicists” for short).

The drama between these two planes of ideology developed in Russia in the 1880s, within a circle made up of the third generation of pre-revolutionary Slavophiles. Much like the Napoleon complex, this issue is not exclusively of a Russian or European nature. A century later, however, modern Europe—unlike Russia—predominantly favors ethnic nationalism over imperialistic nationalism. The far-right nationalist parties that scored an impressive victory during the recent elections in the European parliament staunchly advocate the dissolution of the European Union and a return to the “Europe of nations” (which, I must remind you, waged two world wars in the twentieth century). The leaders of modern Russia, on the other hand, are vocal proponents of the “unification of territories.”

The irony of the current situation is that despite the differences between Russian and European nationalists, the latter are close to transforming the continent into a traditional “conservative Europe,” which, according to philosopher and political scientist Alexander Dugin, could become part of a greater Eurasia (from Lisbon to Vladivostok) headed by the national-patriotic and imperial Russia.

Fortunately, the person in question is not even closely associated with such outlandish contrivances, though he has expressed a few bizarre ideas of his own. Alexander Nikitich Sevastyanov (born in 1954), is a man known for his old-Russian-style spade beard and his numerous lofty titles. He is a member of the Union of Russian Writers, president of the National Heritage League, co-chairman of the All-Slavic Union of Journalists, editor-in-chief of Natsyonalnaya Gazeta, and author of the draft law titled “On the Divided State of the Russian Nation and Its Right for Unification” and of the book titled What the Jews Want From Us. He is undoubtedly a prolific man; but for our purposes, we are mainly interested in what he has to say about the cause of Veche magazine’s demise.


“The most formidable foe”

Alexander Sevastyanov fully shares Veche’s editor-in-chief Vladimir Osipov’s view that “the Chinese are a practical, resilient, and merciless people who do not value the Human Rights Declaration, nor human life in general. The national unity of Chinese society is so advanced that it borders on national arrogance and ethnocentrism. In this regard, they can compete even with the Jewish people (Russian readers will be surprised by that, but it is a true fact).” According to Sevastyanov, “the Chinese people in many respects are yellow-skinned Jews.”

Moreover, Sevastyanov presents a number of allegedly undeniable facts, saying, “The recent events in Indonesia have revealed that 4 percent of the population of this large country controls 80 percent of the national capital. The situation in Malaysia is quite similar, which allows us to identify a unique algorithm explaining the economic expansion of the Hun people.” He has no doubt that Jews, who make up .01 percent of the population in the West, control 80 percent of national capital, though he provides no verified information to substantiate his belief.

In addition to all the advantages and threats presented by the Chinese people, one should also consider that “there is seemingly no Jewish fifth column in China” and that, according to Sevastyanov, Confucius promised long ago, “There will be a time when China will conquer the whole world.” If you take into account that Russia shares the world’s longest state border with China, the scenario looks quite dreadful for Russia. “Who will China fight? Whose lands will China conquer?” Sevastyanov writes. “Look at the world map, where the density of the population on Russia’s side of the state border is fewer than 2 people per square kilometer, while the Chinese side registers over 150 people per square kilometer, and you will be able to answer that question yourself,” he continues. What should Russia do in the face of such a threat?

It is important to note that the solutions put forth by Sevastyanov and Veche differ from each other significantly. Veche’s editor-in-chief, Vladimir Osipov, believed that if war with China was inevitable, Russia should make it a patriotic war, mobilize the patriotic feeling of the Russian people, develop Siberia to avoid Chinese “developers,” and bring in “millions of enthusiasts led by defrocked clergy and discharged dissidents.” That was the inspiration for Veche’s Siberian vision, which, in retrospect, turned out to be an effort to use “the Chinese threat” to initiate radical changes in the USSR. It was certainly a utopian vision—of a patriotic kind. Sevastyanov, however, viewed the Chinese threat from a completely different perspective.

Having faced the double Chinese-Jewish threat, Veche should have stuck together and chosen to become Russian patriots. Instead, the magazine split up.

As I said before, Osipov was a national-liberal, while Sevastyanov is solely a radical ethnicist masking himself as an imperial nationalist. He does not deny it, but rather justifies it by “the geopolitics that are merely a reflection of ethnopolitics on a geographical map.” This is why he believes that for Russia to resist China “would be utter madness and idiocy.” Rather, he says, “Our place is away from any global conflicts of the twenty-first century, but should we fail to stay away, we ought to be allies of China and under its umbrella of protection.”

May I interject to ask what we are to do with the dreadful rhetorical question posed by Sevastyanov himself: On whose lands will this “protector of Russia” develop? Can I also challenge my readers to find the answer themselves? It is difficult not to conclude that despite all his “patriotic” titles, Alexander Sevastyanov is suggesting that Russia simply surrender to China and plead for its mercy, without resistance and with gratitude for China’s “protection.” But protection against whom?


The “Code breaker”

Sevastyanov’s answer to this question contains a subterfuge that allows him to salvage his besmirched patriotic reputation, and that, according to him, would eliminate the disagreements that led to the downfall of Veche. The idea is that neither America nor Russia is China’s primary and most formidable foe; the Jews are. It’s quite an absurd line of thinking, but it’s not absurd enough for Sevastyanov. “There is no doubt that in the twenty-first century, we will witness a dramatic battle for world supremacy between two ancient and unique nations. The Chinese people will mainly be represented by the Chinese themselves, while the Jews will be represented by all the people in the Western world.”

As Sevastyanov sees it, China could hardly be concerned with taking over Siberia when faced with the breakout of “the battle of the twenty-first-century behemoths, i.e. between the Jewry and the Chinese people.” Such a battle would require both parties to mobilize all of their resources (human, economic, and political). How important could a “trifle” like Siberia be to China in this event?

Where did Sevastyanov come up with that idea? How could he not think that if China were to mobilize all of its resources, it would not first and foremost turn its interest to the resources in Siberia? And why would China fight the Jews? Where are Israel and China geographically? Don’t bother seeking the answers to these questions, because they are Sevastyanov’s professional secrets. Not even veteran conspiracy theorists like Dugin and Prokhanov would dream up such ideas. But such is the fate of a “code breaker who tries to uncover secret codes and finds things hidden from others.” Interestingly, Sevastyanov discovered that the Jews have also been frantically mobilizing their resources for this imminent conflict—"a cut-throat battle between the Jewish West and Chinese East" (italics mine) that will decide the fate of the world.

In the end, “there will be only one winner, and its opponent could be completely vanquished.” Can you imagine the magnitude and horror of a conflict in whose aftermath 1.5 billion Chinese people could disappear from the face of the earth?


“Qualifying test”

As soon as Sevastyanov mentions his nationalist opponents, his calm voice soars to a falsetto. The author of Critical Notes of a Russian Man hit the same high notes whenever he tried to instruct Veche magazine. Sevastyanov claims that national patriots turn a deaf ear and fail to understand that “the clash of the national interests of the Russians and Jews in Russia is one of the most critical aspects of Russia’s survival.” (Italics mine.) “This is precisely why from now on, every Russian has to assess national leaders and social movements using an intangible yet very important factor, which is whether or not they have burnt all the bridges the Jews have been meticulously building with any more or less influential powers in Russia.” In other words, to recall the statement made by the author of Critical Notes of a Russian Man in his appeal to Vladimir Osipov during Soviet times, “All men fight against Zionism!”

Why would Sevastyanov be so anxious? One would think that national patriots have already achieved what they wanted, in that the exodus of Jews from the USSR in post-Soviet times reached unprecedented proportions. Rates of Russian immigration have also been unprecedented. Even back during Leonid Brezhnev’s rule, a marriage to a Jewish man or woman was “not a luxury but rather a means of transportation.” Where does Sevastyanov’s “friendly fire” criticism come from?

Here is just one possible answer. Known for his fanatical anti-Semitic views and loyalty to the Soviet Union, Yuri Mukhin, editor-in-chief of the red and black Duel newspaper, once took a spiteful shot at “white” nationalists. While discussing the events of 1917, Mukhin said, “At that time, the Bolsheviks were backed by the Jewish intellectuals, which was a shameful fact in Russian history. The Jews turned out to be more Russian by blood than those who trace their ancestry to the Ruriks or Nestor the Chronicler.”

This was a disgraceful statement designed to make an impression, but it was misunderstood by Sevastyanov, who in turn attacked “the national masochism” of his ideological ally. It is true that Sevastyanov’s explanation of the Chinese threat is similar to those of the majority of Veche’s editorial team; however, neither Osipov nor Mukhin, in his opinion, correctly understood “what Jews want from Russia.” Moreover, the author of Critical Notes of a Russian Man also failed to see the Jewish plot. According to Sevastyanov, the Jewish plot was remarkably simple: “The bridges that the Jews have been meticulously building with any more or less influential powers in Russia” were important because they would have been used to divert the Chinese blow from the Jewry and to throw Russia into a conflict with China. Having faced the double Chinese-Jewish threat, Veche should have stuck together and chosen to become Russian patriots. Instead, the magazine split up. This infinite foolishness on the part of national patriots caused Sevastyanov to despair, because he strongly believed that national patriots were the only people who could save Russia when the time came for the world to decide its fate.

This historical account reveals two truths that are of paramount importance to the future of Russian nationalist ideology. First, it shows how impossible it would have been to save Veche (to do this, Osipov would have to condone Russia’s complete surrender to China, which contradicted his core beliefs), or to ever reconcile the ideology of imperial nationalists with that of ethnicists.

Second, it sheds new light upon the mysterious and almost mystical horror some feel toward the supernatural powers of the Jewish people. It also explains the worldview of the third generation of pre-revolutionary Slavophiles that pushed Russia into its fateful war and, consequently, handed down to us The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Finally, this article clearly proves that this worldview is thriving even today.