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The Role of National Identity in Post-Soviet State Building in the Slavic Core of the CIS. Lien Verpoest Institute for International and European Policy 16 March 2006. Contents & Structure.

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The Role of National Identity in Post-Soviet State Building in the Slavic Core of the CIS


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    1. The Role of National Identity in Post-Soviet State Building in the Slavic Core of the CIS Lien Verpoest Institute for International and European Policy 16 March 2006

    2. Contents & Structure • Professor Malfliet gave introductory courses on theories of state and nation building over the past weeks. In this course  apply some of these theories to East Slavic region  Slavic Core of CIS: Russia, Ukr, Bel • I want to do two things in the next hour; • Describe process of state & nation building Ru/Ukr/Bel after 1991; • Look into interaction between national identity & state building, by assessing how national identity can influence development of a newly independent state. • focus on Slavic Core: because countries make a very good case for comparison • a lot of parallels: common history (Russian empire, USSR), ethnic similarities (east Slavic), cultural similarities (> russification) • despite very similar background & significant common history 3 countries developed very differently since 1991

    3. Before looking into each country’s state and nation building efforts separately, let’s take a quick look at their common history (Russian Empire & Soviet Union)  in order to distinguish some basic tendencies of statebuilding – which might recur in the separate countries after 1991 Common history: State Building • Most basic aspects of Russia, like its surface leads us to preliminary remarks. • The total surface of Russia: appr. 17 million sq km² - about 566 times Belgium. • 20,000km of state borders; currently borders 14 countries  leads to feeling of vulnerability, fear of revolts in the periphery, impression of encirclement. • Montesquieu already remarked in early 18thC that ‘a country of such a size as the Russian Empire could only be successful under a strong, autocratic leader’. • Apparently, Russia’s rulers took M’s advice at heart; Russian Empire was one of longest lasting autocracies in the world. • SO: first tendency: Russia’s vast surface always played role in Russian statebuilding  encouraged the presence of strong, autocratic rulers

    4. 2 other tendencies that can be distinguished in Rus-Ukr-Bel common history • ‘reforms’ and autocracy went hand in hand in Russia • 18th C Russia = known for ‘reformist’ leaders like PdG & Catherine, BUT reform-mindedness had limits • ‘western style’ instit like Senate and State Colleges were introduced • but importance = mainly nominal. autocrats never loosened their grip on state & actually strived for increased centralisation. • Autocratic state structure had 2 important components: centralisation & bureaucratisation • Reason for centralisation: French Revolution 1789 = critical juncture made Russian tsars increasingly afraid of possible revolts  responded very harshly to any protest • Centralisation of power in hands of the monarch became main goal of tsars (esp. N I, Al III & N II) • Growing bureaucratisation (mid-19thC); hand in hand with centralisation  resulted in institutional immobility  led to state inertia. • State could not provide answer to the growing popular unrest & monarch lost touch with reality; beginning of the end of the regime

    5. As you know from courses of Prof Malfliet, Soviet Union Federative State structure started out with very different, anti-autocratic intentions in early 1920s after the Civil War. • Decade later however: USSR had transformed into totalitarian state in which bureaucratisation and centralisation were also key issues. •  again this led to institutional immobility & state intertia, as demonstrated in the last decades of the SU in the regime of Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko where there was total inst & economic stagnation • Especially interesting how state building in these countries evolved after implosion of SU in 1991. After appr 3 centuries of common history, the three countries could develop their own state structure and rediscover their national identity. Surprisingly so, they evolved along rather different lines. • Nevertheless some of these tendencies would recur not only in Russia, but also in Ukr & Belarus after 1991

    6. Now I will look into state & nation building in Russia, Ukraine & Belarus • elaborate national identity before going into Russia first • to keep it simple, I will use only 2 approaches to national identity in this course • Anthony Smith - Fundamental features of national identity: a nation having a • 1. historic territory or homeland • 2. common myths and historical memories • 3. common mass public culture • 4. common legal rights and duties for all members • 5. a common economy with territorial mobility for all members

    7. 2. Benedict Anderson: Imagined Communities • a nation = an imagined political community (constructed identity) • Idea of imagined communities created by the end of the 18th C when there were many dynasties in Europe (a.o. Romanovs- Russian Empire) • begin 19th Century: tendency of self-identification: Romanovs asserted themselves as Great Russians • next step: imposed this self-identification on their subjects through official nationalism • in Russian Empire (so also in Ukr & Bel), this took place through Russification • this form of ‘great-Russian’ identity was followed by and continued in Soviet identity, where periods of russification were followed by periods of ‘indigenisation’ (e.g., Ukrainization)

    8. Russia • State building in Russia: Yeltsin was open to reform, liberal policy in foreign affairs and economy • but: with reactionary streak. 1993 siege of parliament proved that reforms and freedom of speech could only go so far. • Mid-90s: Russia became aware of decreased role in international politics (regional power ipv superpower)  hurt feelings of national identity; re-asserting Russia’s role on the international stage became one of the officious policy priorities of the Russian state. • advent Putin: old tendency recurring! Because centralisation increased significantly again (a.o. through introduction of 7 superregions) • institutional reforms have taken place, western-type institutions have been introduced, but they are more and more dominated by the president • SO, like in 18thC: western type of democratic institutions, but governed with own, Russian interpretation of power • Led to a power vertical

    9. Ukraine • In Ukr: state building hand in hand with growing national consciousness. • National identity: steadily developing since 1989 through top-down perestroika.  national consciousness rose in ‘free-er’ climate. • Creation of Popular Movement for Perestroika in Ukraine (Rukh, 1989)  championed revival of Ukr language & culture triggered unprecedented mass political awakening & mobilisation. • Over 600,000 members, BUT: weakened by regional bias in its membership: majority of members = ethnic Ukrainians from W-Ukr & Kyiv. Appeal & membership in E &S Ukr: limited. • Experience of Rukh demonstrated that identity in Ukraine was strongly regionally bound

    10.  According to last census: 77% of population is Ukrainian, & 17.3% Russian. BUT many people who describe themselves as ‘Ukr’ in census are actually Russian speaking. So amount of Russian speakers = much higher than 17%. Western part of Ukraine harbours most of ethnic Ukr-s, whereas ethnic Russians mostly live the East  identity regionally bound; interlinked with these regions. • On the level of statebuilding, 1st years after 1991: marked by institutional confusion  Soviet-style instit persisted (like Rada) & hardly any new institutions were introduced. Few new ones were created with great haste (like presidency & cabinet system), without sufficient consideration of how they might work. • So  policymakers settled for a hybrid of old Soviet and new (Western) elements. combined institutional continuity with little bit of institutional renewal  nothing really changed  again institutional immobility & state intertia • Kuchma president 1994: became apparent that serious focus on state building was urgent; country needed a constitution in which new instit & division of powers was delineated. The focus of attention shifted from nationbuilding to state building.

    11. Nevertheless, every time elections came near, identity issues resurfaced again in Ukraine and were directly linked to foreign policy preferences • For example, Kravchuk won 1991 elections on a pro-Western program  appealing to Western Ukraine (power base of Rukh). • Kuchma won 1994 elections on a pro-Russ program  appealed to disgruntled eastern Ukrainians. • In 1999, K’s program was more pro-Western (EU membership goal declared in 1998) • Never before did national identity issues arise so sharply than in 2004 elections. Viktor Yush: took a pro-Western stance (openly supported by the US and the EU), mainly supported by W-Ukr. Viktor Yanuk took a pro-Russ stance (openly supported by Putin) & gained support from E-Ukr. •  ethnic divide was apparent. Even in the re-run of the vote in December, Yushchenko still only won with 51% of the vote  demonstrates that country was nationally and ethnically divided over the presidency. • In general, Ukraine’s ‘split’ identity (both Ukr & pro-Russian ‘versions’) applies to Anthony Smith’s definition, referring to a 1. a historic territory or homeland (alternately Ukraine or Russia), 2. common myths and historical memories (Russ or Habsburg Empire) 3. a common mass public culture (Russ language media, newspapers, …) (4. common legal rights and duties for all members, 5. a common economy with territorial mobility for all members)

    12. Belarus • state & nation building in Bel started on a similar footing with Ukr, but evolved in very different manner since mid-90s. • Impt remark! Bel knew very little independence before 1991 • under the Rahvalod dynasty from 10th C onwards (in 14thC Bel became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which later joined a Union with Poland, in18thC, after three partitions of Poland, Belarusian territory became part of the Russian Empire). • 2nd period of Independence: very shortlived, after the Bolshevik Revolution; Bel declared independence on March 25, 1918. The Soviet regime was declared however on January 1st, 1919 • Even though little time to develop strong national identity  cautious national revival between 1989 and 1993 • 1989: Belarusian Popular Front (BPF) founded & headed by Zyanon Pazynak  focused on issues like theChernobyl disaster (70% of radioactive fallout on Belarus;  criticized cover-up reaction of gvt) Belarusian language question (mid-70s: 2/3 of Belarusians Russian speaking, only 1/3 Bel  tried to save Belarusian language by reintroducing it in education, party, and local government)

    13. BPF and other groupings looked West for national identity: to common history with the Central European Countries and Baltic States (mainly Lithuania > GDL) • Belarus independent 1991: went back to brief periods of independence for the new national symbols • white-red-white flag of 1918 • coat of arms with knight (Pahonya) Problems 1991-1993 • BPF: explicitly stressed link between language & ethnic identity discarding importance of civic identity in Bel •  underestimated fact that civic self-identification = not necessarily linked to mother tongue – plays very important role in Belarus civic self-identification accomodated Russian-speaking population in Belarus (11% Russians) • BPF & Paznyak: ignorant of this aspect of identity;  continued to champion increasingly radical form of ethnic identity in Bel  alienating the wider public. • ideas on national revival were mainly popular among intelligentsia and youth in Minsk: failed to bridge the gap to the countryside • unsuccessful in elections (1990 Supreme Soviet elections 86% elected were communists, only 25 members BPF)

    14. State Building: • BPF failed to ground national identity among people  because of this, former communists stayed in power. • Reluctance to change was very high. Up until 1994, virtually no reforms patrimonial communism and clientelism thrived among ruling elite. • Council of Ministers: emerged as top decision making body  became known as ‘Party of Power’ (supported Prime Minister Kebich who ran for president in 1994) • Presid elections 1994: Lukash surprise winner (80.1%) • opposition: ‘100 day grace period’ • BUT Luka soon attacked television and independent media (editors of newspapers replaced) • spoke invariably Russian : had a totally different view on national identity • this also appeared from a referendum he organised: direct attack on Belarusian national identity (see slide referendum)

    15. Referendum of May 1995

    16. Referendum: major success: people rejected national symbols of emerging nation! WHY? Marples: partly conditioning of electorate during soviet times - people still not used to self-initiative& free expression, partly successful propaganda of Luskahenka • Soviet Style Flag and coat of arms • Soviet textbooks reintroduced • Russian became also a state language • introduction of (neo-)Soviet symbols and customs (saturdays as workdays etc) • President sought to strengthen powers even more - felt restricted by parliament  referendum 1996, altered constitution to extend term from 5 to 7 years  dissolved unicameral parl & replaced it with bicameral; Chamber of Representatives & Council of Republic. • Since then, won elections again in 2001, kept on harrassing the opposition & NGOs and strengthened ties through Union with Russia  the last dictator of Europe. • Belarus became known as • ‘The forgotten heart of Europe’ • ‘a natural park of communism’ • the black hole of Europe’ • ‘a denationalised nation’ • ‘a country with a death wish’

    17. Referendum of November 1996protests 16-17 November: Russia intervenedturnout 84%

    18. Thus: Belarus: a denationalised nation? Country with a weak national identity?  more complex than that: country with a divided national identity • Lukashenko & ruling class - Anderson’s Imagined Community  Belarus as an imagined community • reinstating official nationalism: soviet style symbols • By conducting a policy of active Russification: Russian-language education and main state language • Lukashenko strives for a neo-Soviet identity that isolates Belarus both from democratic West 2. Intelligentsia and young generation: Smith’s National identity • Belarus as their homeland/historic territory • shared common myths (times of independence) • common mass public culture: weekly ‘Pahonya’ (until 2002) and Nasha Niva (°1991, orig. 1906) - underground network • common legal rights and duties for all members: human rights aspect (HR org Charta 97) • common economy : independent Belarusian economy: strongly opposed to merging economy with Russia: neo colonialism

    19. To end , look into influence of national identity on state building and state capacity. • in recent years: shift to authoritarianism. In Belarus, with the advent of Lukashenka (1994-1997 shift). In Russia, with the advent of Putin (1999). In Ukraine, in the second term of Kuchma (1999)  led to regime closure. • The academic Lucan A. Way is a scholar who has done research on authoritarian regimes. He sees these shifts to authoritarianism mainly as an ‘increase in incumbent capacity’ (means that person in power becomes stronger and stronger). Moreover, he claims that in some cases, national identity can influence or even affect incumbent capacity. To sum up this course, we will see how this can be applied to the three countries under study. • According to Lucan Way, incumbent capacity (= authority of someone in power) can be measured by 4 following criteria: • Level of proincumbent manipulation of election process (level to which incumbent can manipulate votes, ban opposition candidates, rig elections,etc …) • Incumbent monopolization of the media (does population have access to independent media or not?) • Opposition weakness (access of opposition to financial & organisational resources) • De facto executive control over parliament

    20. Can these 4 criteria be detected in R-U-B?  signifying high incumbent capacity and a shift to authoritarianism First in Bel • elections manipulated • independent media continually harassed • very weak opposition (failure of BPF) • since 1996; de facto control over parliament after 2nd referendum)  highly closed regime Russia • Regime closure increased from 1999 onwards. • attacks on independent media & oligarchs who owned them intensified • Strong centralisation (one of components of autocracy): power vertical • De facto control of parliament (Unified Russia: biggest faction in parl is pro-presidential) Ukraine • Late 90s: harrassment of opposition (Gongadze case, Yush dioxin) • Word of electoral manipulation (2004) • Tried to manipulate media & control parliament - but not completely successful • Not such a clear shift as in Russia or Belarus. Regime change in 2004  does national identity play a role here?

    21. Anti-incumbent national identity • Lucan Way: anti-incumbent national identity can affect regimes and lead to regime failure. Ukraine • For example in Ukraine in 2004 • In contrast to Rus/Bel, anti-incumbent nat identity in Ukr strong > in significant part of its territory that was part of Habsburg Empire 18/19thC, population gained strong non-Russian/Soviet nat id prior to incorporation in USSR  result: active anti-Soviet mobilization in 80s (Rukh) and anti-incumbent mobilization during elections 2004 • When Kuchma-Yanuk camp tried to manipulate elections, pro-Western, pro-Yushchenko camp staged never before seen protests on Maidan Square. • So: strong regional support for presidential candidates and strong anti-incumbent nat id can influence regime failure Belarus • Very different story  few periods of independence, failed popular mobilisation (BPF). • Moreover, Lukashenka replaced already weak anti-incumbent identity with alternative, neo-Soviet identity. • Weak national identity greatly helped regime closure  shift to authoritarianism

    22. Russia • Also here: weak anti-incumbent national identity • National identity in Russia still follows the line of ‘official nationalism’ (refer to Ria ‘neo-imperialism, next week) •  in the sense that national consciousness is identified with success & strength of the Russian state • Russia right after 1991; not very strong state, economic crisis 1998, national consciousness not prevalent • Advent of Putin: clear goals of Russia as strong economic, regional & international player  greatly enhanced feeling of greatRussian national identity  identified with state, not with opposition. • Hardly any anti-incumbent national identity; facilitated regime closure.

    23. Conclusion • strong anti-incumbent national identity can effect regime failure • weak anti-incumbent national identity can effect regime closure and lead to a shift to authoritarianism Discussion • discuss situation for upcoming elections in Ukraine and compare it to elections next week in Belarus. • Do you think national identity will play a role? • Do you think the absence of anti-incumbent national identity in Belarus implies that nothing will change? • Do you think the presence of a ‘split’ national identity (pro-W and pro-R) means bad news for Yush in the Ukr parl elections?