Nexus of Patriotism and Militarism in Russia, A Quest for Internal Cohesion (Review)

Pamir Dietrich, Ayşe
This collaborative work examines the links between the concepts of patriotism and militarism in today’s Russia and discusses the methods (educational activities, youth organizarions, media and popular culture) used by the authorities to consolidate the Russian society and promote a sense of unity in the last 20 year period. In chapter 1, Katri Pynnoniemi talked about Xenophobia which reinforces Otherness traditionally existed in Russia for centuries. The author claimed that the concept of being Other for Europe has been replaced with a story about enmity. Russia was believed to be surrounded by enemies and the West was viewed as a threat for Russia’s historical-cultural uniqueness by the authorities. It was after the conflict in Ukraine, the national sentiments such as feelings of uniqueness and promoting an artifical enemy used more systematically. On the other hand, the Russian society was hesitant to accept these top down policies mixed with patriotism and militarism. The aim of this book was to shed a new light on the development of enemy images, to show how the society was manipulated with the official presentation of patriotism and militarism and the nexus of the two conceptions, why they were hesitant to accept these top-down government policies in Russia and even developed a strong sense of individual patriotism, and to present the negative effects of patriotism and militarism on country’s domestic developments and relations with Europe. In the 2nd chapter “Enemy Images in the Russian National Narrative”, Kati Parppei claimed that dualism, the otherness begin with the adoption of Christianity and it was best respresented in the Primary Chronicle. At the beginning of the Chronicle, the interaction of Russians with many peoples from the steppe like Pechenegs, Khazars, Bulgars, and Cumans was portrayed relatively neutrally, and there was no negative or pejorative attributes that are connected to them by the writer. The Chronicle continues with the arrival of Christianity to Kievan Rus’. After the Christianization of Rus’, chronicle passages carried hostile encounters with a deeply dualistic tone such as “we are Christians, while Others are pagans”. Parppei provided another negative attitude of the writer’s to non-Christians in relation to the Orthodox Christian realm in the descriptions of the Tatar’s the first assault in 1223. The fighting of the Moscow prince the infidels in cooperation with the Orthodox Church was presented with an increasingly dualistic tone. From the 16th century, with the conquest of Kazan and Astrakhan Khanates, the Russian Empire became a multinational empire, embracing different nations and their cultures, and over time religion ceased to be primary marker of group identity. The author claimed that with the Napoleonic Wars, old dualistic thinking reappeared in the depiction of the pious and God-loving Russian people defending their fatherland against an evil invader and strenghtened with the spirit of pan-Slavism to fight against the Ottomans influence in the Balkans, and she stated that Russia was once again presented as the sole defender of Christianity and the West, that were interested in their own profit in the Balkans, was depicted as an ally of the Ottomans. Parppei pointed out that the dualistic pattern that was previously applied to religion as the dividing line, resurfaced in the form of politics during the Soviet Union, and the capitalist West, the United States became the most significant ideological opponent of the Soviet system. The author stateed that in Russian Federation, finding a balance between the usage of medieval dualistic imagery to strenghten the national narrative and inner cohesion and cherishing the idea of multi-ethnic realm was difficult and requires constant negotiation. It was also effectively applied to contemporary conflicts, as in the case of Crimea. In chapter 3, “Evolution of Russia’s ‘Others’ in Presidential Discourse in 2000–2020”, Veera Laine showed how the understanding of Russia’s Others has evolved during the Putin era. The author examined 21 presidential addresses given at the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, which carried important speeches consisting of information on contemporary state nationalism from the perspective of Othering in Russian politics. Laine stated that the nation was constructed based on creating boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them’ in presidential discourses in Russia. She stated that Othering was seen as a dynamic, constantly ongoing policy having serious political consequences. In order to portray Russia’s Others, the author covered the period of the emergence of state nationalism in the early 2000s, the presidency of Dmitri Medvedev in 2008–2012, which was viewed liberal but, conservative at the same time, the period when Russia’s Others was portrayed by the leaders in internal political legitimacy and global politics. The conservative nature of the presidential rhetoric emerged from domestic problems, but it was exacerbated by the difficulties in the foreign policy sphere. In chapter 4, “Ivan Ilyin and the Kremlin’s Strategic Communication of Threats Evil, Worthy and Hidden Enemies”, Katri Pynnoniemi examined Russian emigre religious - philosopher Ivan Ilyin’s description of Russia’s enemies that were used as a reference point in the analysis of the Kremlin’s strategic communication of threats. The author examines the enemy images in Ilyin’s essays “About Those Who Want Russia’s Dismemberment” written in 1949 and “What Dismemberment of Russia Entails for the World” written in 1950. The aim of the author was to determine possible similarities and relations of Ilyin’s typology of Russia’s enemies with those imaginary enemies and threat developed in Russian government security discourse. The author stated that analysis of Ilyin’s enemy images and their apposition with the Russian government security discourse clearly presented the link between this conservative philosopher and the conservative turn in todays Russia. In the second part, in chapter 5, “An Unattainable Ideal Youth and Patriotism in Russia”, Jussi Lassila discussed the role of top-down patriotism and the effects on the primary target, Russia’s youth, and claimed that young generation were marginally engaged with fixed patriotic identity, and there was a deep gap between the policymakers of patriotism and the youth. He stated that the more the Russian government systematically tried to strengthen patriotism as an ideological tool to control social and cultural life, the more the young generation turned away from it, and this behavior increased demands to strengthen the role of patriotism further. In chapter 6, “A Growing Militarism? Changing Meanings of Russian Patriotism in 2011–2017”, Eemil Mitikka and Margarita Zavadskaya stated that the state-promoted patriotism became increasingly militaristic and in the government discourse the external threats have been more emphasized since the rally around the flag’ in 2014, and the majority of Russians supported the state’s militaristic patriotism, and the state put forward the concept of strong political leadership over democratic rule.The authors claimed that while people’s vision was slightly closer to the state’s vision, being a Russian patriot did not necessarily mean to support authoritarian leadership, and vice versa. In chapter 7, “Patriots on Air Reflections on Patriotism in the Minds of TV Journalists”, Salla Nazarenko examined patriotic speeches on Russian television journalists, and she claimed that the government put pressure on journalist be patriotic. Accoding to her analysis, Russian journalists used three different discourses in approaching the issue of patriotism: intimate patriotism, military patriotism and infowar patriotism. Some journalists interviewed criticized top-down patriotism and admited that it resulted in a loss of quality in mainstream TV programming. The third part of the volume dealt with practices of militarism in Russia. In chapter 8, “Upgrading the Image of the Russian Armed Forces A Task Set for Military-Political Training”, Arseniy Svynarenko stated that there was a general scepticism and reluctance among the youth to the serve in the army. This situation gave the government a strong impulse to improve the image of the army and to make military service more attractive to young Russians with reorganization of military-political training, and with the dominance of the state in the traditional electronic media. The recent surveys showed that there was a growing trust in Russian army among the young people. The author pointed out that the government reintroduced political officers in the army to increase the army’s control over the political moods of soldiers and officers, to strengthen the ideological unity of the army and loyalty to tackle any possible conflict at an early stage. In chapter 9, “Russia’s Young Army Raising New Generations into Militarized Patriots”, Jonna Alava discussed military-patriotic education of children and youth to create a larger draft pool and patriotic citizens in Russia, and the establishment of young army Unarmia in 2015 to unite the country’s fragmented military-patriotic youth organizations placing them in every school by 2020 providing the military-patriotic education against Western influence, globalization, democratization and the prospect of major military conflict. She also pointed out the negative side of this movement claiming that military education for young people might work against the Kremlin, might increase the amount of hostility and nationalist rhetoric in society and might create confrontation between liberals and patriots destabilizing future society. In chapter 10, “Why Did the Seamen Have to Die? The Kursk Tragedy and the Evoking of Old Testament Blood Sacrifice”, Elina Kahla examined church–state relations within the framework of spiritual national defence by discussing different views on the tragedy of the submarine Kursk, which sank in the Barents Sea on 12 August 2000 by a missile attack, killing the entire crew of 118, the apologetics of dying on duty, how the martyrs were commemorated in Russia and how the Russian leadership deal with the trauma and sacrifice. She compared the two commemorative products an album Everlasting Lamp of Kursk by Hegumen Mitrofan (2010) and the drama film Kursk by Danish director Thomas Vinterberg. In chapter 11, “Conclusion”, Katri Pynnoniemi gave a summary of the major conclusions of the chapters and stated that there might be still blind spots in the understanding of national security narratives and threat perceptions which required further research. This valuable book includes very well-researched articles written by the scholars of the field who examine the concepts of patriotism and militarism in today’s Russia and discuss the methods used by the Russian leadership. It is a major contribution to the study of Russian politics and sociology.


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Citation Formats
A. Pamir Dietrich, “Nexus of Patriotism and Militarism in Russia, A Quest for Internal Cohesion (Review),” INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF RUSSIAN STUDIES, pp. 143–146, 2021, Accessed: 00, 2021. [Online]. Available: