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Theorizing Post-Soviet Russia's Extreme Right: Comparative Political, Historical and Sociological Approaches


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Theorizing Post-Soviet Russia's Extreme Right: Comparative Political, Historical and Sociological Approaches.
Hrsg.: Umland, Andreas
Armonk, NY : M. E. Sharpe, 2008. - 92 S. - (Russian Politics and Law ; 46,4)
ISBN 1061-1940


Editor’s Introduction:
Although Russian nationalism has become a major force in post-Soviet politics and, arguably, an issue of current world affairs, it remains an understudied subject in such disciplines as comparative politics, contemporary history, and international relations as well as a minor theme in regional and cultural studies. Thanks, above all, to the impressive output of the researchers of Moscow’s Panorama and SOVA Centers – Galina Kozhevnikova, Vladimir Pribylovsky, Aleksandr Verkhovsky, Nikolai Mitrokhin, Viacheslav Likhachev, and others – there now exists a large collection of empirical data on Russian right-wing extremist groupings, trends, and leaders. In contrast, the hermeneutic interpretation, comparative assessment, scholarly conceptualization, and theory-driven explanation of these phenomena continue to lag behind the state of international research into, for instance, West European ultra-nationalist politics.
It is a fortunate coincidence that the most important book on the post-Soviet extreme right, the acclaimed monograph Russian Fascism published by M. E. Sharpe in 2001, has been authored by none other than Stephen Shenfield, who translated the articles in this issue. In his groundbreaking study, Shenfield set the standards for such research in a number of ways. His book provides exceptionally detailed and dense descriptions of the persons and groupings in question. He made exemplary use of a wide variety of Russian and English language primary and secondary sources. And, last but not least, he presented the first well-informed, elaborate attempt to apply to contemporary Russian phenomena a major generic concept from international right-wing extremism studies -- namely, “fascism.” For these reasons, Shenfield’s monograph will continue to exert crucial influence on the analysis of post-Soviet affairs, and may be considered a seminal work for the emerging sub-field of Russian right-wing extremism studies.
The five texts that follow were originally published in four Russian scholarly journals between 2005 and 2008. They can be seen as answers to or elaborations of questions that Shenfield first raised in his book. In the first two selections, I apply Roger Griffin’s conceptual apparatus for the study of generic fascism to an interpretation of Russian National Unity (RNU), Aleksandr Dugin’s “neo-Eurasianist” movement, and Vladimir Zhirinovskii’s idea of Russia’s “last dash to the South.” Referring to the findings of Griffin and other comparativists on the international radical right, I attack some “commonplaces” in reports on post-Soviet ultra-nationalism. First, I argue that the mimetic character and historic context of RNU’s neo-Nazism implies that this organization should be seen as a social or sub-cultural rather than fully political phenomenon. Second, I point out the undoubtedly fascist nature of the Dugin phenomenon while questioning the adequacy of descriptions of Dugin as a “neo-Eurasianist” and suggesting tactical rather than ideological reasons for Dugin’s demonstrative embrace of classical Eurasianism. Finally, I argue that Zhirinovskii, often perceived merely as a political clown, is also the propagator of an essentially fascist plan to bring about Russia’s rebirth through her revolutionary expansion to the South.
The next article was published in Russian as recently as February 2008, and approaches post-Soviet society and culture from a historical-analogical perspective. A leading specialist on totalitarianism and contemporary Central and East European history, Leonid Luks synthesizes a wide array of findings from German, Russian, and English studies – including some relevant primary sources – in order critically to assess the degree to which post-Soviet Russia resembles Germany’s abortive first democracy of 1918-33. Luks avoids both traps into which previous analyses have fallen: he is neither alarmist nor blind concerning some obvious resemblances between the post-imperial, crisis-ridden and subverted semi-democracies of interwar Germany and today’s Russia. Instead, Luks soberly lists the similarities and dissimilarities, displaying considerable erudition concerning the modern political history of both countries. On the basis of his comprehensive overview, Luks comes to the conclusion that, while there is sufficient likeness between Weimar Germany and post-Soviet Russia to make their comparison an informative intellectual endeavor, a number of weighty differences make it altogether unlikely that Russia’s post-Soviet managed democracy will end in the same way as Germany’s first attempt to democratize.
In the concluding two papers on the political style and rhetoric of Russia’s radical nationalist movement, Mikhail Sokolov focuses on RNU, which he regards (somewhat diverging from my assessment) as an important segment of Russia’s ultra-right spectrum. Before embarking on empirical analysis, Sokolov presents the sophisticated theoretical lenses through which he observes various public statements and behavior by RNU activists. Sokolov succeeds in identifying and explaining, in a revealing way, RNU’s stylistic peculiarities not only thanks to his explicitly theory-driven interpretation, inspired in large measure by Pierre Bourdieu, but also through his frequent juxtaposition of the traits of RNU with those of its “rivals” within Russia’s nationalist spectrum. Above all, he contrasts RNU with Eduard Limonov’s National-Bolshevik Party, which, while sharing a number of ideological suppositions with RNU, was even in the 1990s a markedly different public actor. Sokolov also shows that, counter-intuitively, RNU was not an organization dominated by paranoid people, but developed a discourse that had a certain coherence of its own.
Although the five contributions to this issue were written by scholars with different disciplinary backgrounds – political science, history, and sociology, respectively – these analyses are all informed by a decidedly comparative approach. The first two papers use generic concepts developed outside Russian studies to conceptualize post-Soviet phenomena. Luks’ broad survey provides a far-reaching cross-cultural and diachronic juxtaposition of two defective democracies. Sokolov’s articles actively engage in revealing intra-national comparison, and apply sociological theory to Russian phenomena. It is to be hoped that scholarly inquiry into Russian ultra-nationalism will in the future be further integrated into the larger field of international right-wing extremist and fascist studies.

Weitere Angaben

Schlagwörter:Russland, Faschismus, Rechtsextremismus, Nationalismus, Transformation
Institutionen der Universität:Geschichts- und Gesellschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät > Geschichte > Lehrstuhl für Mittel- und Osteuropäische Zeitgeschichte
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Eingestellt am:26. Jun 2009 14:14
Letzte Änderung:01. Jan 2010 21:22
URL zu dieser Anzeige:http://edoc.ku-eichstaett.de/119/