By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia
Putin’s press spokesman Dmitry Peskov has reviewed an image of Russia widespread in 2008 but more recently in disuse, of Russia as “an island of stability” in an increasingly turbulent world, Mikhail Shevchuk says, thus sending a message to Russians that whatever their problems, those not fortunate to be on the island are in worse shape.
But this image of Russia as “an island of stability” which Peskov has now revived provides a window into how the Kremlin views Russia and the world and how it wants Russians to view what is happening and not happening in their country, the Russian commentator argues in an essay on the Republic portal (https://republic.ru/posts/95476).
Appearing on the First Channel’s “Great Game” program, the Kremlin spokesman said he was “certain” that “Russia remans a little island of stability in an ocean of turbulence,” a vision that he suggests reflects how the leadership views the world and a warning to anyone in Russia or abroad who thinks that change is needed.
“Leaders who cannot find a fundamental way out of global stagnation and instability and propose long-term strategies of development risks sending their countries into the abyss of social and political instability, Shevchuk says. That “metaphor,” he continues, “is deeply rooted in the consciousness of Russian leaders.”
It is thus worthy of attention for that reason alone, but it is “sufficiently interesting in and of itself because “’a little island’ is by definition something not large.” One might call Russia by virtue of its size “’a continent of stability,’” but clearly for the Kremlin, “the limits of stability” are narrower than that.
They may be restricted to Moscow “or even the Garden Ring” or to “a small dacha settlement” near the capital. “The remaining territory in this case is allegorically a strait, which separates the island for the bubbling turbulence.” After all, “an island by its nature needs such straits which if needed must be established on its borders artificially.;”
Also, by definition, an island is something that it is difficult to get onto and difficult to get off. It is both something that provides defense and needs it. And its residents are always special. (Even in big cities, there are islands of specialness – Manhattan in New York and Vasilyevsky Island in St. Petersburg.)
“In this sense,” Shevchuk continues, “the image of Russia as a civilizational island relative to the world undoubtedly lies at the basis of state ideology.” Indeed, “the idea of an island is in its exclusiveness,” something that breeds envy and that allows its residents to pick and choose from what others are doing.
Peskov’s words neglect to point out that much of the turbulence in the world has been caused by Moscow’s actions, but the changes the Kremlin has pushed for are designed to benefit it and “the island” regardless of what they do to anyone else. And that too is something Russians are expected to accept.
Nothing and no one needs to be changed on “the island of stability;” only “external changes are needed,” Shevchuk says this image suggests. But to accept this notion, Russians must forget what their leaders have promised and then not delivered on – and also that given slow growth, “the island of stability” increasingly looks like a nation in stagnation.
By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia