So Vladimir Putin has called for a law defining the Russian nation.
And this, of course, has caused a lot of head scratching about what the Kremlin leader actually has in mind.
Is this aimed at establishing a tolerant form of civic patriotism?
That's pretty charitable and somehow I doubt that will be how it turns out in practice.
Does it mean that Russia's ethnic minorities will face renewed pressure to assimilate and be subsumed into a larger Russian whole?
There are certainly fears among Tatars and others that this will indeed be the case.
Or is this Putin's attempt to create an updated version of the "new Soviet man" -- a multiethnic, albeit Russian-dominated, national identity?
I think this is probably the closest to the truth.
I think what we are seeing is an attempt to establish, for lack of a better phrase, the Putin nation -- a revived empire that will be led into the bright, shining future by its manly, bare-chested national leader.
Putin's fixation on defining the Russian nation most reflects his regime's accelerated move in an ideological direction.
For most of Putin's rule, Russia was primarily a kleptocracy, a crime syndicate masquerading as a state, with a dash of ideological window dressing.
But that's all changed in recent years and ideology is now trumping kleptocracy. Which makes this a dangerous moment.
Because while kleptocrats are unpleasant to deal with, ideologues can be downright dangerous.
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