Tolerance and Nationalism

The Financial Times is running an editorial today suggesting that the Russian leadership would be wise to change its tune with regard to ultra-right nationalists

The Kremlin itself must share the blame for the fact that it now faces such a sizeable core of ultranationalists. The Russian leadership, under Vladimir Putin, has long flirted with chauvinism and xenophobia. Putinism itself is built around soft nationalism. Mr Putin rode to power on the back of the second war against the separatist republic of Chechnya in 1999. The narrative of his decade as Russia’s pre-eminent political figure has been of Russia scrambling back to its feet after the humiliations of the 1990s, surrounded by hostile external forces determined to stop it from doing so.

The authorities have also shown a dangerous tolerance for far right groups. The motive seems to have been in part to use such groups as a safety valve, and in part an attempt to control them – turning a blind eye to their violence towards immigrants, provided they steer clear of politics.

Allowing such extremist groups, rather visibly, to exist, is hazardous.

To his credit, Putin has promised to use harsher methods to crack down against these groups,  but most people just assume that these measures would be turned against the opposition.