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Policy of Russia on Imitation - Dictionary of Arguments

Krastev I 78
Imitation/Policy of Russia/Krastev: The politics of imitation in post-communist Russia has unfolded in three distinct phases. >Imitation/Krastev.
1) Already in the 1990s, the electoral accountability of politicians to citizens was stage-managed and illusory. If the Yeltsin regime had been accountable, it would not have shelled the Supreme Soviet in 1993, stolen the 1996 election, carefully avoided putting the Gaidar economic reform programme to a popular vote, or allowed Russia's national wealth to be 'looted by a narrow group of future oligarchs with the complete consent of Boris Yeltsin and his team of "reformers.(1)
Nevertheless, simulating democracy proved useful as a way for the Kremlin to reduce pressure from Western governments and NGOs (...).
Vladislav Surkov: The multilayered political institutions which Russia had adopted from the West are sometimes seen as partly ritualistic and established for the sake of looking 'like everyone else,' so that the peculiarities of our political culture wouldn't draw too much attention from our neighbors, didn't irritate or frighten them. They are like a Sunday suit, put on when visiting others, while at home we dress as we do at home.(2)
Krastev I 79
2) The second phase, which segued smoothly from the first, began around the turn of
the millennium, when Putin acceded to the presidency. He continued to organize elections, but did so primarily to persuade Russian citizens that there were no viable alternatives to the current wielders of state power.
3) The third phase, which represents a more radical break, can be traced to 2011—12. At around that time, for reasons to be discussed, the Kremlin shifted to a strategy of selective mirroring or violent parody of Western foreign policy behaviour meant to expose the West's relative weakness in the face of Kremlin aggression and to erode the normative foundations of the American-led liberal world order. We are still in the third phase today.
Krastev I 88
(...) while overly optimistic Westerners were right that Russia, after 1991, was predestined to imitate the West, they were wrong to assume that the mimic's desire to become like the model is the sole reason for imitation. Russia was undoubtedly weak, but its elites, except for a handful of socially isolated and unrepresentative liberals, were not prepared to accept the kind of moral subordination required from willing imitators of an acknowledged superior.(3) Many members of Russia's political elite, in fact, were dreaming secretly of revenge without regard to strategic gains. As German cultural historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch wrote in his elegant and insightful book The Culture of Defeat: 'Losers imitate winners almost by reflex.' But such imitation is not necessarily deferential: 'The borrower is not interested in the soul, the spirit, or the cultural identity of the creditor nation,' he argued.(4)
Krastev I 89
Krastev: On the contrary, imitative politics can be essentially competitive and conflictual.
Krastev I 124
Imitation/Policy of Russia/Krastev: Because hypocrisy helps us avoid conflict by hiding beliefs that are insulting and hurtful, attacks on hypocrisy often signal a desire to fight. This is what makes
Russia's switch from simulation to mockery - from counterfeiting democratic accountability domestically to holding up a mirror to US misbehaviour internationally - so dangerous. The change was possible, presumably, only because the aspiration to become like the West was never genuinely internalized by powerful forces inside Russia. A good example of aggressive imitation is Putin's March 2014 speech announcing Russia's annexation of Crimea.
This offcial address lifted whole passages from speeches by Western leaders justifying the dismantling of Serbian territory in Kosovo and applied them to the Crimean case.(5) Thus, what most Western observers took to be the first step in Putin's attempt to restore Moscow's empire was explicitly justified by the rhetoric of US President Woodrow Wilson extolling the fundamental right of popular self-determination.
Krastev: By clothing its own violent actions in an idealistic rhetoric borrowed verbatim from the US, Moscow aims to unmask the Age of Imitation as an Age of Western Hypocrisy. Vaunted Western values, such as the self-determination of peoples, are simply Western interests in disguise. The implication is that the entire post-Second World War international system will collapse if other nations start imitating the real West.


1. Alexey Pushkov, ‘Russian Roulette’, National Interest (3 March 2008).
2. Vladislav Surkov, 'Putin's Lasting State', Russia Insider (13 February 2019); https://russia-insider.com/en/vladislav-surkovs-hugely-important-new- article-about-what-putinism-full-translation/ri26259 (13.08.2020)
3. According to the Russian-born historian of nationalism Leah Greenfeld every society importing foreign ideas and institutions has 'inevitably focused on the source of importation - an object of imitation by definition -and reacted to it. Because the model was superior to the imitator in the latter's own perception (its being a model implied that), and the contact more often than not
served to emphasize the latter's inferiority, the reaction commonly assumed the form of ressentiment.' Liah Greenfield, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (Harvard University Press, 1992), p. 15.
4. Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Culture of Defeat: On National Trauma, Mourning,
and Recovery (Metropolitan Books, 2013), pp. 33—4.
5. Bojana Barlovac, 'Putin Says Kosovo Precedent Justifies Crimea Secession', Balkan Insight (18 March 2014).


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Policy of Russia
Krastev I
Ivan Krastev
Stephen Holmes
The Light that Failed: A Reckoning London 2019


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-08-03
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