Kyiv Security Forum

A Thing or Two on "Ruscism" (29.08.2022)

Volodymyr Ohryzko, Foreign Affairs Minister of Ukraine, 2007-2009, Head, Center for Russian Studies

Recently, the concept of “Ruscism” became more widespread. Several dozens of articles appeared lately. The concept is being discussed by political analysts and journalists. Some even talk about “Ruscism-studies”

Therefore, it is of utmost importance to define terminology right from the onset. And then it will be easier to use this concept without any substitution for another, or vice versa. Against this background, I would like to refer to the positive role played by many international legal documents clearly defining characteristics of certain notions and concepts and, thus, allowing the effective use of the latter when assessing various facts and processes.

The most vivid illustration of the above-said, in my view, is represented by the UN General Assembly Resolution № 3314 (XXIX) “Definition of Aggression” of 14 December 1974. Art.3 of theResolution enumerates specific examples of acts that qualify as or constitute acts of aggression.Comparing, for example, characteristics of aggression set out in this Resolution to acts of Russia against Ukraine starting from 2014 it is easy to conclude that it is about aggression. The above has an important practical dimension, since the clearly worded definitions in the Resolution make it possible for the state – victim of aggression to sue the aggressor-state in international courts of justice.

And what are the characteristics of “Ruscism”? Is “Ruscism” an ideology only, or is it general practice? Is it solely the reflection of domestic political processes in Russia? Or is it liaised with its foreign policy? What sort of response should the world around us give to this phenomenon? One single article can hardly answer all of these and many other related questions. Nevertheless, giving it a thought is a must.

The first question worth answering is whether “Ruscism” is an ideology. Any practical acts or actions implemented by a state to some defined purpose ought to be based on a certain ideological foundation. I believe, “Ruscism” is not an exception.

The concept of “the Russian world” has become the center piece of this ideology. Its major highlights include:

  • singularity of “Russian civilization” versus the rest of the world: “we, Russians, are special people, and foreigners cannot comprehend us”;
  • superiority of “Russian civilization” over the rest of the world: “we, Russians, are more of a spiritual realm than others, we are alien to primitive pecuniary culture”;
  • “Russian world” is omnipresent: one single “Russian soul” means “Russian world”, and “Russia has no borders”;
  • “there is one grand and indivisible Russian nation”: there are no Ukrainians and Belorusians, they are just notions invented by foreigners. Thus, the very right to exist is denied for Ukrainians and Belorusians. This is little different from the Nazi denial of the Jewish people right to exist;
  • “Russia is the country of victors”: May 9 “bandwagon” has become an important spiritual “lynchpin”. Alongside with the above, national thinking militarization is well underway, startingwith children (a new “Hitlerjugend”);
  • Russia is encircled by enemies, so the country needs a “strongman” to keep order and counteracthostile “insidious actions”;  
  • Russia can attain its foreign policy goals by various means including the military ones.

The above list is hardly exhaustive, though it provides a certain understanding of how modernRussia views the world and itself.

The next issue worth examining is the way ideology of “Ruscism” is put into practice. There are two dimensions to it – the domestic one, and the one in the domain of foreign policy.   

The major characteristics of “practical Ruscism” in Russian domestic policy include, I think, the following:

  • suppression of all democratic rights and freedoms of citizens, and democratic process simulation. This manifests typical double-speak, and in fact one can talk about the obvious formality ofRussian democratic institutes;
  • “leader-mania” and “leader worship” practices, creation of “the leader exceptionalism” atmosphere,leader’s decisions are “the only true”, personification by the leader of the whole country: “if there is Putin – there is Russia, if there is no Putin – there is no Russia”;  
  • formation of state administration characterized by corporatism, appointing “cronies” to leadingpositions in state apparatus and big business;
  • negligence of economic and social interests of the vast social majority in the name of “Russia’sgreatness”;  
  • reliance on uniformed agencies and their use to persecute opposition and “dissidents”, creation ofsocial climate filled with suspicion and fear;
  • implementation of state propaganda and censorship system so that people hold the vision ofdomestic situation and the “world landscape” as desired by the ruling regime.

In line with practical experience, characteristics of “Ruscism” in foreign policy include, in particular:

  • indiscriminate violation, abuse, and manipulation of international legal  norms;
  • committing armed aggression acts, terrorism, genocide, and other crimes against humanity;
  • direct interference into home affairs of other states via disinformation campaigns, aggressivepropaganda through public mass media, bribing politicians, public figures, and journalists to thepurpose of creating pro-Russian opposition;
  • utilization of novelty warfare methods, in particular, cyber-attacks;  
  • protection of autocratic regimes worldwide;
  • nuclear terrorism, etc.

The next question is what were the names of regimes having the same or very similar features? If we recollect 14 common features of fascism outlined by Umberto Eco, Italian philosopher, and Nazipractices, we have to admit: it is about fascism.  

Among Western analysts it is worth mentioningfirst and foremostTimothy Snyder and hischaracteristics of Russian fascism as “schyzofascism. At the same time, he admits that Ukrainians call it more elegantly “Ruscism”.

It is also important to emphasize that “Ruscism” ideology is deemed acceptable by the overwhelming majority of Russian people: 80% supported military aggression against Ukraine and the crimes committed by Russian military in temporarily occupied territoriesThereforethe premise ofsome Western “liberals” that we deal here with “Putins war against Ukraine is completely falseIndeed no, this is the war of Russians to annihilate Ukrainians and Ukraine.  

This is a typical genocidal war.  

Thusbased on such a somewhat sketchy analysisone can offer the following definition ofRuscism”: this is the embodiment of racistxenophobicchauvinisticpopulist ideologysupporteddespite its evident anti-democratismby the majority of Russian population andeffectuated through aggressive and criminal foreign policy of Russia.  

Ruscism is on par with such notions as fascismNazismcommunismand ought to becondemned as misanthropic ideology and practice. The notion of “Ruscism” must be registered ininternational legal documents as a modern and specific Russian equivalent of fascism. The world community has to organize an anti-Ruscist front represented by the wide anti-Putin coalition.  

Ruscist” ideology founding fathers and those who implement it in practice must be brought to a Special International Tribunal and punished for all crimes committed.

The unprovoked ruthless aggression of Russia against Ukraine has demonstrated to the wholedemocratic world that its existential antagonist is impersonated by “Ruscism”. Russia confirmed, once again, that it is not solely the Empire of Evil, but the embodiment of the World Evil. Regimes change in Russia fail to alter the barbaric, militant and profoundly undemocratic essence of the Russian society. It is impregnated with ideas of chauvinism and imperia complex. Democratic Russia is akin to hot snow or dry water. It just cannot be. The West enjoys no right to commit, once again, the sin oftoying with the idea of “good Russians” existence. According to the survey of the All-Russian Center for Public Opinion Studies conducted this August, some 60% of Russians fail to see any good in Western civilization and democracy. 26% of them label Western values “destructive”. Andthey(Western values) are supported by – attention – as many as 2 (two!!!) percent. So, is it possible to “bring to democracy” this population and honestly believe that it is solely Putin who is guilty of Russian crimes?

Since Russia is a colonial empire and mercilessly exploited, over centuries, its colonies andobliterated enslaved peoples, the civilized world must assist their return to freedom and independentexistence.  

Imperial Russia has no right to the future in its current shape and bordersControlled disintegration of this country and formation of a number of peaceful nuclear-free states on its territory is the sole chance to avoid nuclear apocalypse. The civilized world ought to finally understand this and start shaping its safe future.


*Opinion articles express the views of the authors, but not necessarily of the team of the Kyiv Security Forum.

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