Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Russians and the Nation-State

Of course, Russians have to be original in everything they do, so they go and subvert the nation-state model from a different direction than Americans.

While Americans want the state to provide for their comfort and welfare but are refusing to die in the stae’s wars (which, at least, is a rational and logical position to take), Russians are ready to fulfill their part of the nation-state bargain without asking the state to do its part. Since January, Putin’s approval ratings soared. All he has done to deserve this is send Russians to die in Ukraine.

Americans would be asking, “And what are we getting out of this situation? What is the state giving us in return?” Russians, in the meanwhile, don’t even consider the possibility that the state might do something for them in return for their sacrifice.


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22 thoughts on “Russians and the Nation-State

  1. What if the Russians are following the famous JFK saying – do not ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for the country


    • Nationalistic slogans are part of the game everywhere. But not everybody is so dead serious about them. JFK’s people razed half of the country to avoid going to Vietnam.


  2. Yes, the Americans are clearly the logical, rational and well informed citizens of this world.


    • Compared to Putinoids, they obviously are.


      • So correct me if I’m wrong, but this is your logic:
        Americans die in wars for their state, but they get ‘welfare and comfort’ in the form of the state taxing them and providing ‘services’ through their bureaucracy spending their money on funding the state’s imperial ventures. This is better than the ‘Putinoids’ who supposedly die without all of these goodies? How do Russian military casualties stack up to these clever Yanks with their evidently superior notions of statecraft?


        • Russia has been fighting endless imperial wars since 1991. The casualties are enormous, especially given that soldiers die in great numbers even when the army is inactive. They die of rape, hunger, beatings, etc. Russian army is a horribly corrupt institution.


      • You’re wrong. As said in the original post, Americans are *refusing* to die in wars for their state. 13 years of American imperial ventures in the Middle East cost 7000 American lives. 9 years of Soviet imperial ventures in a smaller area of the Middle East cost 14000 American lives. Also, the US doesn’t have a conscription-based army and any attempt to switch to that would end up with the politicians who tried it never doing politics in an electable position ever again, which should tell you a thing or two about how the average US citizen feels about dying for their country.


      • Gah, 14000 Soviet lives. Brainfart, sorry.


    • Refusing? This not the case. Those 7000 you quote are not ‘refusing’. Nor are they in the act of noble self sacrifice. They are mostly impoverished with no options. Their blood is not paying for EBT cards. This is a complete mischaractarisation of citizen-state relations.
      Putin’s Russia is not responsible for the activities of the FSU, and comparing its death tolls during the cold war to the U.S imperial excursions may be of historical interest but is irrelevant to the question of Novorussia and Ukraine.

      Whilst I’m usually sympathetic to anti-war sentiments, the irony of this post is glaring.
      The Soviet era borders of Ukraine are being re-drawn in a complex geopolitical struggle. Support for the inclusion of Novorussia is present both Ukraine and Russia, and is seen by many of her citizens (and Novorussians) as an act of uniting ethnic Russian brethren.

      If you are an American, your point of view would ‘hold more water’, so to speak, if you were to criticize U.S foreign policy in the Gulf where they truly have no place and are ‘wasting lives’.


      • There is no “Novorussia” and never has been. Are you sure you are prepared to discuss this topic? Russia has declared dozens of times that it is undertaking to carry the legacy of the USSR, including financially.

        The point of the post is that Russians have a very low standard of living. Male mortality rates are horrifying. Yet Putin’s approval ratings are soaring in the time period when the only thing that happened is an invasion of a neighboring country. Do you believe it’s healthy to delight so much in the murder of some faraway Ukrainians that you forget your own poverty, misery and hopelessness?


      • And I’m not an American. And the borders of Ukraine are not being withdrawn. And the expression “ethnic brethren” is kind of silly.


      • —The point of the post is that Russians have a very low standard of living. Male mortality rates are horrifying. Yet Putin’s approval ratings are soaring in the time period when the only thing that happened is an invasion of a neighboring country.

        Clarissa, but you used to understand how it works perfectly well, when applied to other countries. I remember there were extensive discussions on this blog about why so many Americans vote Republican even though it is against their economic interests, and you insisted that assigning so much importance to economic motivations is vulgar Marxism, and that in fact people are driven predominantly by ideology. Bush’s ratings were also very high at some point prior and immediately at the beginning of invasion in Iraq…
        I actually would say that Russians and Americans are very much alike – both have messianic zeal and overwhelming desire to impose their way of life on others. Finally, as far as I know, Russia is not sending conscripts to fight in Ukraine. Only volunteers. Whose motivation may be not very different from that of American soldiers – make some money while being brainwashed into believing they are doing something for the benefit of their country and the humankind.


        • Ok, forget the economy. The individual freedoms in Russia have all gone down the toilet as well. The state needs to offer something. If it’s something not material, that’s fine. But what is the state offering here?

          And if Bush’s approval ratings had soared after the recession hit, I’d say Americans are deranged, too. His ratings plummeted, though. As is only normal.


      • — But what is the state offering here?

        Sense of belonging to something great (hence elevating the Russians to the status of separate “civilization”) and righteous, being the saviors of deluded neighbors and all humankind from evil Americans/fascists/Jewish conspiracy/Islamic fundamentalists/add your favorite shit here.


        • Everybody likes the stupid sense of belonging (except the truly advanced beings like me). But Americans expect their ACs, fridges, cars and barbecues + their freedom of speech, worship, etc on top of just belonging. Take all that away and you’ll see a very angry mob. I want to see an angry mob if Russians marching on the Kremlin because for now, the poor fools are being had every way till eternity.

          My parents had some guests from Moscow recently who say, “We make $8,000-10,000 a months, so we love Putin and fuck Ukraine.” I detest their position but at least it’s fully rational.

          We are right now in the process if putting up the American flag on our new house. That’s a very small thing to do in return for everything we get. But like hell would I put it up if the state weren’t doing all it has to do for me. And I’m not even a citizen, so my obligations here are tiny.


      • Absolute level of wealth does not matter that much. What pisses people off is a significant reduction of the standard of living. Thanks to high hydrocarbon prices, Russia has positive trade balance and can avoid this reduction. And Moscow obviously will be the last place where the standards of living will go down.


      • I don’t dispute your facts about the sorry state of the Russian economy and the conditions faced by its military. However the facility with which you depict the Russian people as bloodthirsty and malevolent ‘delighting in murder’ and ‘forgetting their poverty, misery and hopelessness’, all because of some opinion polls, betray the personal and emotional nature of your views.

        Re: Novorossiya, you can read about some of its history here:

        Borders ‘redrawn’, as I wrote, not ‘withdrawn’. This is now a fact, as Crimea is now occupied by Russia.

        Whilst you may find the aesthetic or reality of the term ‘ethnic brethren’ not to your taste, it nonetheless is an important phenomenon both historically and when considering geopolitics. As you have written elsewhere in your blog, the nation state creates arbitrary physical borders. This often leads to people who share community, race and culture to be cut off from each other, as is common around the world.

        Re: ‘What is the state offering’, it appears you are projecting a feudal-style contract of Lord and Vassal onto how the the modern nation-state operates. Unlike in feudal times, there is no expectation that a nation’s people will spill blood as payment for their protection. A student of economics should understand that the modern state is unable to ‘provide’ anything that it hasn’t already extracted from its people. The concepts of democracy and a ‘government of the people’ have changed the nature of this relationship.


        • You do realize that Wikipedia is useless as a source of knowledge because anybody can write absolutely anything whatsoever in it, right? I’m a Russian speaker and I can assure you that the word “Novorussia” was coined a couple of months ago. The concept is completely empty because there is no history, geography, culture or anything standing behind it.

          As for “ethnic bretheren”, you do realize that the rise of nationalism in the XVIIIth century happened much later than the rise of Ukraine? And I’m sure you also realize that ethnicity is a completely empty concept, just like Novorussia, especially in the case of Russia. I’m also completely sure that you are aware that “Russian ethnicity” does not exist. I mean, if you were not aware of these things, why would you be taking part in discussions for which you are not prepared?


        • Man, have you tried reading a book or two? You might even enjoy it. In “feudal times” there could have been no nation. A nation is a much, much later fabrication.


      • It seems this has devolved into a disagreement over terminology. Wikipedia is only as good as its writers and sources, just like any other resource. It has both high quality and reliable parts and grade-school attempts in others, not unlike academia.

        As is the case in much of Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Caucus, Imperial Russia was responsible for wresting Ukraine from Ottoman control. You talk of ‘history, geography and culture’, yet deny the existence of ethnic identity, ‘especially in the case of Russia’. How convenient. This kind of abstraction may have currency in modern progressive academia, but in the real world ethnicity exists.

        You insist on validating your personal feelings that a ‘nation’ is a fabrication that appeared out of nowhere in the 18th century. States with defined borders, tax collection, municipal governments, common language and ancestry have operated for thousands of years. They have all had forms of ‘social contracts’ – this is what I refer to by a ‘nation’s people’.

        ‘Read a book or two, you might even enjoy it’.

        I prefer the words of Putin: ‘Don’t argue with women’


  3. Just to be sure, do you really think it’s a subversion or are you ironic?


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