Loving the motherland: Everyday Patriotism in contemporary Russia

On 1 December, the Centre for Comparative History and Political Studies hosted a lecture by Professor Paul Goode titled “Loving the motherland: Everyday Patriotism in contemporary Russia”.

  • Paul Goode - Politics, Languages and International Studies (PoLIS), University of Bath, Great Britain

In his research Professor Goode focuses on contemporary patriotism using the constructivist approach in comparative perspective. This approach focuses less on elites and institutions as is common in constructivist approaches than on the quotidian practices by which ethnic and national identities are elaborated, confirmed, reproduced, or challenged. According to Prof. Goode, focusing on “everyday patriotism” reveals popular sources of regime legitimacy provides an opportunity to observe how citizens manipulate patriotic narratives in their daily lives.

At the seminar, Prof. Goode presented the findings of his current research project about patriotism in contemporary Russia. Observing that patriotism has become a staple of the Russian leadership’s public politics in recent years, he examined whether Russians share this official brand of patriotism and if patriotism affects the propensity for collective political action.

Prof. Goode conducted fieldwork in Russia, conducting 30 in-depth interviews over 3 weeks in Tyumen’ (summer 2014), as well as 35 in-depth interviews and four focus groups in Perm (November-December 2015). The core idea was to ask the respondents to clarify what it means to be a patriot in contemporary Russia. The interviews from Tyumen were transcribed and coded in Nvivo10, while interviews in Perm were in progress.

From this interview data, Prof. Goode created a model of top-down (the state’s patriotic practices) and bottom-up (demonstrating how Russians understand and practice patriotism) patriotic practices in contemporary Russia. The first category included four types of practices: activating the patriotism of others, opposing the enemies of the day, loving the motherland just as she is, and performing (or patriotism for show). The second category (bottom-up) had two types of practices: comparing and living each of which was divided into two subcategories. “Comparing” involved different cognitive strategies for demonstrating Russia’s normality. It includes the differentiation of patriotism from nationalism, politics, and profit; as well as nostalgizing for the Soviet past – often in terms of a Soviet-era childhood (even that which a respondent did not experience). “Living” was frequently was associated with keeping one’s country or city clean; the subcategories for this practice included “improving” which often meant doing one’s duties properly and “choosing” to undertake hard choices (such as not to leave the country).

Summing up, Prof. Goode compared everyday patriotic practices characterized by respondents as authentic or inauthentic and the political orientations associated with each category of practice. In his analysis, “authentic” patriotic practices (including “loving,” “comparing,” and “living”) are associated with ambivalence towards politics and regime. By contrast, regime support and political activity more frequently included “inauthentic” practices, such as “activating,” “performing,” and “opposing.”