Putin’s Notions of Russian Spiritual and Moral Values Explained: An Interview with Nicolai Petro

Center on National Security, 5/13/21

Vital Interests: Nicolai, thanks for joining us today on the Vital Interests forum. We have had several conversations on this forum dealing with Russia but it would be good to delve into this topic some more. You’re a perfect person to talk to having just come back from Europe where you spent time in Ukraine and Italy and can provide us with fresh insights. 

Recently President Putin gave his annual state of the nation address to the Russian Federal Assembly. He talked about the spiritual and moral values which sustain Russia and distinguish it from other nations which were forgetting about these essential values. This struck me as an interesting statement by Putin and worth exploring. From your informed perspective what are the spiritual and moral values that Putin is referring to that define Russian society today?

Nicolai Petro: Since 2013 Putin has focused particular attention on Russia’s heritage as a multicultural nation. In his September 19, 2013 speech at the Valdai Conference he emphasized multiculturalism at a time when his counterparts in the West were disavowing it. He later made a distinction between multiculturalism and pluriculturalism, defining Russia as a pluricultural society. 

The distinction as I understand it is that multiculturalism encourages individual cultural self identification, whereas pluriculturalism emphasizes the need for cultural collectives to retain their cultural identities within the larger community. To make the distinction clear to your readers, the United States would be an example of a multicultural society. The European Union, by contrast would be an example of the pluricultural society because it says, “Look you Catalonians, you Corsicans, you Welsh – you have an identity that should be encouraged and recognized as a positive social value even though you don’t have statehood.” The distinction is apparent even in their respective mottos: “Out of Many, One” for the United States, and “United in Diversity” for the European Union…

Read full interview here.

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