Back to Holy Russia Growing isolationism: Communists or not, politicians attack Western influence and fads.

June 29, 1996

REGARDLESS OF WHO wins Russia's July 3 presidential run-off, one thing appears to be certain: The next Kremlin administration will be more isolationist and wary of Western influences.

This shift is likely to slow the pace of key reforms, such as $H privatization, and cause friction with foreign corporations and organizations active in Russia. The flood of Western mass culture -- from movies to music records -- will be curtailed and obtaining residents' visas will become more difficult for foreigners.

This anti-Western, isolationist trend is clear in the recent pronouncements by retired Gen. Alexander Lebed, President Boris N. Yeltsin's new second in command, as well as by communist leader Gennady Zyuganov. It finds much resonance among ordinary Russians, who have been taught to be suspicious of foreigners and alien ideas.

In a recent speech, General Lebed said Western cultural "expansion is one of the central issues of Russia's national security." Describing Orthodoxy, Islam and Buddhism as the only officially recognized religions in Russia -- and leaving out Judaism -- he called for a government ban on mostly Western proselytizers, particularly the Mormons.

Mr. Zyuganov, while calling an end to "nationalism, separatism, anti-Semitism and chauvinism," often uses shorthand phrases that have anti-Jewish connotation and take advantage of many Russians' age-old prejudice toward that minority. Significantly, the communist leader believes that "the Jewish diaspora which traditionally controlled the financial life of the [European] continent has become more and more the owner of the 'controlling packet' of shares in the whole economic system of Western civilization."

Much of Russian history, from czarism to communism, is a continuing power struggle among Westernizers and those who see Russia "as the cleverest and the richest nation in the world" as well as the "most spiritual country," as General Lebed put it. Thus, Peter the Great's reforms were soon assailed by forces which saw them as alien and anti-Russian. Similarly, the early internationalism of the Bolshevik movement was soon crushed by leaders such as Stalin, an ethnic Georgian who glorified things Russian and vilified cosmopolitan ideas.

Pub Date: 6/29/96

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