Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Russia’s Illusory “Third Road”
Russia’s Illusory “Third Road”

Russia’s Illusory “Third Road”

Vladislav Surkov with President Vladimir Putin (Source: WikiImages)

Time was not passing . . . it was turning in a circle.

                                                                                                      – Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

If one lives without sorrow and anger, one does not love
the motherland.

                                                                                         – Nikolay Alexeyevich Nekrasov, “Gazetnaya” (1865)

Executive Summary

In the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, writes Elena Chebankova, “Russia’s ‘natural’ mission was seen in embracing liberal democratic values and joining the ‘normal’ (western) league of states with its institutions serving as a benchmark of progressing development. The arrival of Putin has subverted this paradigm. . . . The nature of ‘Russian’ ideology, the specific character of Russian society . . . became the most commonplace points of public and academic scrutiny.”[1]

Vladislav Surkov is a longtime adviser to President Putin and his lead negotiator in the Minsk accord discussions—a post from which it is rumored he was just ousted. The anti-dezinformatsiya portal Informatsionnoye soprotivleniye calls him a “downed pilot” (sbitym letchikom)[2] using Alexandr Kabakov’s colorful term for Putin-era high flyers brought low.[3] The Russian government’s longtime public face in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, eastern Ukraine, and elsewhere, Mr. Surkov has apparently come to grief over his failed Minsk-2 negotiating strategy and escalating conflict with Alexander Bortnikov of Russia’s Federal’naya sluzhba bezopasnosti. All this seems to have rendered Mr. Surkov of little use to Mr. Putin at present.

So what do downed pilots do? Their role, writes Igor Yakovenko (who considers himself one) is “much more important than when we were ‘in the sky’ (v nebe) . . . our place now is on the ground, as instructors, trainers, mechanics.”[4] Mr. Surkov’s contribution is a brooding reflection on Russia’s place in the world, “The Solitude of the Half-Breed” (Odinochestvo polukrovki. Like most Russians, Mr. Surkov finds it inconceivable, as Richard Sakwa writes, “that a country of Russia’s size, civilization and history could simply join the ranks of the medium-sized powers such as the UK and France as a subordinate element in the existing world order.”[5]

It is a truism that interpretations of the recent past weigh heavily on current political thought.[6] Russia, Thomas Gomart argued a decade ago, “faces a strong paradox: its geopolitical omnipresence . . . goes hand in hand with a profound strategic solitude,” a condition “hard-wired in [the Kremlin’s] strategic mindset.”[7] That condition bears closely on “Russia’s historic conundrum . . . her almost inescapable lenience toward offering a metaphysical and ontological ‘alternative’ to Europe.”[8]

Mr. Putin handles that task with greater subtlety than Mr. Surkov. “Russia has always felt like a Euro-Asian country,”[9] said Mr. Putin in November 2000, a qualitatively different assertion than Mr. Surkov’s that Russia is a not-West and a not-East. While Mr. Putin’s Russia is as “an integral part of the West, yet special. Russia would travel the same road as the rest of Europe, along its eastern edge,” it does not mean, one commentator notes, “Russia is going in the same direction as the rest of Europe.”[10] Mr. Surkov argues Russia should travel neither west nor east, which leaves him, one supposes, pulled over to the side of Mr. Putin’s metaphorical road in search of some illusory third way. As to Mr. Surkov’s “half-breed” (polukrovki) metaphor, Gleb Kuznetsov scathingly dismisses it as “simply some kind of escapist revel, a geopolitical Tolkienism . Yes, my mom and dad gave birth to me, but I’m not really them, because the elf. Or the hobbit. So record me that way in your census.”[11]

*****

Vladislav Surkov—a November 2014 The Atlantic profile called him “the hidden author of Putinism” in somewhat overheated prose—published in April a notable if (in the West) under-studied essay in the Russian foreign policy journal, Rossiya v global’noy politike (“Russia in Global Politics”). Its provocative title is “The Solitude of the Half-Breed” (Odinochestvo polukrovki).[12]

An experienced and willing polemicist, Mr. Surkov delights in arguing Russia’s uniqueness in a world dominated by Western [read: American[13]] duplicity. Consider this from his November 2017 essay “Crisis of Hypocrisy: ‘I Hear America Singing’,” published on the Russian government-controlled media portal RT:

Hypocrisy in the rationalist paradigm of the Western civilization is inevitable for two reasons. Firstly, the structure of speech itself, or at least coherent, ‘sensible’ speech, is too linear, too formal to reflect so-called reality in its entirety. . . . What seems logical is always more or less false. Language is a two-dimensional space, and all its means of expression, all its ‘richness and diversity,’ in fact reduce to countless repetition, on a different scale and on different subjects, of the simplest semantic pair ‘yes/no’.[14]

What Mr. Surkov meant to convey is perhaps more clearly articulated in the now decade-old speech in which he introduced his notion of “sovereign democracy”[15] (suverennaya demokratiya):

[I]n our intellectual and cultural traditions, synthesis prevails over analysis, idealism over pragmatism, imagery over logic, intuition over reason, the general over the particular. This, of course, does not mean Russians lack analytical abilities, or that Western Europeans lack intuition. . . . So let’s just say that a Russian is more interested in time, and less so in how an alarm clock works. We’re culturally rooted in the perception of the whole, not the manipulation of any one particular feature; in aggregation, not division.[16]

He goes on to decry depictions of a Russian bogeyman:

[T]here is a temptation to emphasize the otherness of Russia for the sake of consolidating a European identity. We see it in today’s realpolitik. All these enlarged NATO missile defense systems that must be deployed, are, of course, largely for the purpose of consolidating Western and Central Europe around one—incidentally non-European—center. And for this, we need a myth about some unreliable entity poised on the outskirts, about barbarians who stroll along the border and waive their Asian fists.[17]

“Culture is destiny,” he declares in his November 2017 “I Hear America Singing” essay, inveighing that “hypocrisy” will be the West’s undoing:

The second reason for the domination of hypocrites is even deeper . . . A man vocally demands truthfulness and transparency from others but not himself—it’s a natural desire to disarm one’s opponent and to stay armed . . . But hypocrisy’s metaphors periodically become obsolete. From frequent repetition, camouflage phrases depreciate, discrepancies and inconsistencies start to balloon. [ . . . ] The social contract, written in a disintegrating political language, begins to lose force little by little.[18]

For Western “hypocrisy,” read “political correctness,” as that term was elaborated by Russian sociologist Leonid Ionin:

[T]he ideology of contemporary mass democracy, serving on the one hand to legitimize the domestic and foreign policy of Westerns states and their alliances and, on the other, to suppress alternative thinking and impose consensus on ideas and values.[19]

For Mr. Surkov, Russian earnestness is irreconcilable with Western hypocrisy, which in any event renders dialogue with the West pointless.[20] Whether he is out of his depth as a philosopher is left to readers to judge, but Mr. Surkov makes a textbook tu quoque argument. He charges “the West,” i.e., the United States, with inconsistency tantamount to hypocrisy, insofar as American actions contradict its explicit commitments to, in this instance, democracy. He claims that since America fails to honor democratic commitments in their entirety, Russia has no duty to do so either.

Leaving aside whether it is possible to achieve the full measure of democratic ideals in the real world—Mr. Surkin, the philosopher, would surely concede that conceivability does not establish genuine possibility, and moreover, he himself once wrote “democracy is not a fact, but a process”[21]—his claim that Russia is relieved of a duty to honor democratic ideals by virtue of American shortcomings is unsound. Mr. Surkin would not dispute—indeed, he revels in it—that his imagined “third way” (tret’yego puti) little resembles any recognizable Western democratic model.[22]

So, for four centuries Russia went toward the East, and four centuries toward the West. It is rooted in neither. It has taken both roads. Now, however, a creed describing a third pathway, a third type of civilization, a third world, a third Rome will be in demand . . .

And yet we are hardly a third civilization. Rather, we are dual and dualistic (sdvoyennaya i dvoystvennaya). Accommodating both East and West. European and Asian at one and the same time, neither fully Asian nor European.

Our cultural and geopolitical identity is reminiscent of the un-rooted identity of a man born of a mixed marriage. He is everywhere a kinsman, but nowhere a native. He is at home among strangers, but a stranger among his own people. He understands everyone, but nobody understands him. A half-blood, a mongrel, there is something peculiar about him.

Russia is a Western-Eastern, half-blooded country. With its intertwined, bicipital national identity, its half-breed’s mindset, its intercontinental landmass, its bipolar history, Russia is—as it should be—a seeming half-breed, one who is engaging, gifted, beautiful, and solitary.

As for solitary Russia’s friends, Mr. Surkov wrote, “Wonderful words, never uttered by Alexander III, ‘Russia has only two allies, the army and the navy,’ is perhaps the most easily understood metaphor of geopolitical isolation . . . [23]

He closes his essay (somewhat inexplicably) by quoting lyrics from Nevalyashka, written in 2012 by the Oxford-educated Russian rapper, Oxxxymiron:

Bitch, where do the stars shine?

As usual, through the hedgerows and thorny undergrowth of the
borderlands[24]

Mr. Surkov sunnily tells Russians, “It [the future] will be interesting. And the stars will appear.” (Budet interesno. I zvezdy budut.) While intending his essay (and Oxxxymiron’s lyrics) to be uplifting, it reads more as a lamentation for lost greatness. His dour tone is perhaps better captured by other Oxxxymiron lyrics toward the end of Nevalyashka:

Our creator either covered his ears or really didn’t care,

And we were born in the wrong era,

In a bleak country, the wrong half of the world,

We remember every word.[25]

Much of the commentary around Mr. Surkov’s essay speaks to its bleak tone, and whether Mr. Surkov is out of place in the deep end of the intellectual pool. Stanislav Varykhanov, a longtime Pravda contributor, uses Mr. Surkov’s Alexander III quote as a point of departure for his Moskovskiy Komsomolets commentary:

As the threat of a direct military confrontation between the nuclear powers grows, the words of Alexander III about the army and navy as Russia’s only allies intrude increasingly into the Russian public space. Vladislav Surkov did not avoid the monarchy aphorism in his seminal article, “Solitude of the Half-Breed.” One can agree, or argue, with the article, but regardless the question arises: Is Alexander III’s political legacy accurately understood by those who embrace the Tsar’s classic expression?[26]

Condemning Mr. Surkov’s essay as “a song of defeat” (eto pesn’ porazheniya), Ukrainian journalist Viktor Tregubov writes that while “there’s little in it that’s optimistic for Russia, there is optimism for others.” He dismisses Mr. Surkov’s thesis with biting satire:

Not “We fucked up in Crimea, fucked up in the Donbas, fucked up in Syria,” but instead, “We’re mystifyingly charismatic, witty, clever and solitary half-breeds.”

Not “We made incomprehensible, avoidable mistakes all around,” but “We’re preordained to play the tragic heroes, not to live grandiose lives—it’s a simple truth and where we start from.”

Not “We failed to find some global human rights model to ingrain here in Russia,” but “They don’t work here, and never had much reason to anyway.”[27]

While one might simply shrug off Mr. Surkov’s rhapsodic pro-Putin musings, Aleksandr Obolonskiy discerns an ominous undertone:

A thin red line separates patriotism from the degeneration into nationalism that is nearly inconspicuous at its onset . . . Historically, the symbiosis of traditional geopolitical goals and modern means of achieving them has prevailed in Russia . . . the ideology of the “special path” (osobogo puti) and its associated mythology is one of the main foundations of the political legitimization of the modern authoritarian regime. [28]

Mr. Obolonskiy deplores the instrumental (ab)use of ethnic consciousness (etnicheskogo samosoznaniya) by Mr. Surkov and others:

Meanwhile, we see the revival of neo-imperial chimeras, even their use as “justification” (obosnovyvayutsya). The basis of their new lease on life (vtoruyu zhizn’ literally, “second life”) is semi-scientific at best, often consisting merely of mythological, poetical ideas about an ethnic group’s “historical homeland,” which allegedly confers some preferential rights to “ancestral” (iskonnyye) lands. Then there is the quasi-legalization of the ethnic (etnicheskogo). Ancient state borders, long consigned to oblivion or altered entirely—or conversely, the absence of borders—transform some modern states into objects of emotionally charged fake news, ethnic hatred, and targets for ethnic cleansing. These phantoms then begin to grow flesh. Some new “fair” borders drawn on maps find their way into political declarations and speeches, which are internalized by the public as a sort of dream about a lost homeland. It is combustible material waiting for a political “spark” (iskry). And every so often, one eventually appears. So it was in Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, Kosovo in the late 1990s, and Ukraine in 2014. In modern Russia, the thirst to redraw borders coalesced with nostalgia for the “lost great nation” and, unfortunately, found fertile soil.[29]

He embraces Emil Pain’s[30] thesis, that “the concept of ‘a special civilization’ from which ideas of Russia’s ‘special path’ and the ‘special democracy’ derive . . . has a simple and prosaic purpose: to ‘consecrate’ historically the political regime that formed in the 2000s,” i.e., Mr. Putin’s.[31]

An interesting opposite (to Mr. Surkov’s) point of view comes from the ultranationalist political figure Vladimir Zhirinovsky, longtime leader of Russia’s LDPR[32] political party.

Why all these complaints that we’re half-blooded? The whole world is half-blooded today; everyone’s a mixture. America’s for the most part a melting pot, China an assimilation. Turks, Greeks, Bulgarians, Georgians, Armenians, Slavs—all are admixtures in today’s world. And it will be more so in the future: migrants go everywhere—to Europe, to America, to Russia. [. . .] Yes, it’s true, we’re not the West and not the East—that’s a fundamental truth of Russia’s existence. The East is an eternal despotism, something terrible, something connected with Genghis Khan or Mao Zedong, with the Basmachi movement or the Taliban. Europe has lost all its colonies and today is like a homeless person, no longer its own master. The real master sits overseas. Our people live freely in all countries of the world and enjoy great respect and influence there, especially the many of us living in Europe and the United States.[33]

Vladimir Zhirinovsky
(Credit: International Business Times)

Mr. Zhirinovsky suggests an alternate “third way”:

There is a third way—to the South. The places we’ve perennially gone—Turkey, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan. Together, we can create a confederation, one that will outweigh the EU in terms of population as well as economic and military resources. This plan is quite realistic, but we won’t rush things. There’s already been an effort to strengthen Moscow’s ties with Ankara and Tehran. And close behind, Kabul and Islamabad are made-up countries that, under Iranian influence, would gladly join our new association. Just like the Arabs—Syria, Iraq and other Arab countries that we’ve always helped. But this doesn’t mean we should only focus to the south. It behooves us to act just a little at a time. Today’s domestic and foreign policy, it’s a cocktail, it’s vinaigrette—take something from the East, something from the West, something from the South. No one today can afford to adhere to a rigid ideology, to quixotic beliefs likes communism, liberalism, or conservatism.[34]

He concludes by advising Mr. Surkov to cast aside his gloomy view of Russia’s position in the world:

You have in your soul, Vladislav Yurievich, an early cold spring or a cloudy late autumn. Forget about March and November—let’s live a hot July and let it last longer than the vastness of Russia . . . Don’t be discouraged, Vladislav Yurievich, no less wonderful times await us. Let’s say, in five to ten years, you’ll write a new article exclaiming, “We’re many, we’re happy, and it’s a festival.” Then you’ll surely recount my advice and point out that I helped you shake off the gloom and loneliness you felt . . . It’s a great pleasure to help you see what’s happening and to tell you: “Vladislav Yurievich, everything is much better than you think!”[35]

Mr. Zhirinovsky plays the Russian neo-con to Mr. Surkov’s neo-isolationist, if Western political labels can be adapted to modern Russian geopolitical discourse. The former is gleefully expansionist in a revanchist neo-Soviet mold, while the latter promotes a self-induced containment of a sort. They share this in common, however: each is essentially backward looking, one cheerfully so and the other anguished. It may be that Mr. Surkov’s dejected tone reflected what came soon after for him—his rumored resignation as an aide to President Putin[36]—something that may signal Russian intentions to prolong the current hiatus in talks about the status of Ukraine’s Donbas region. It is hard to escape, however, a sense among the core Russian leadership of a despairing nostalgia of the sort captured byIn the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, writes Elena Chebankova, “Russia’s ‘natural’ mission was seen in embracing liberal democratic values and joining the ‘normal’ (western) league of states with its institutions serving as a benchmark of progressing development. The arrival of Putin has subverted this paradigm. . . . The nature of ‘Russian’ ideology, the specific character of Russian society . . . became the most commonplace points of public and academic scrutiny.” [ Gabriel García Márquez in his classic novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude:

She felt so old, so worn out, so far away from the best moments of her life that she even yearned for those that she remembered as the worst . . . Her heart of compressed ash, which had resisted the most telling blows of daily reality without strain, fell apart with the first waves of -nostalgia.


The translation of all source material is by the author unless otherwise noted.

[1] Elena Chebankova (2018). Book Review of New Trends in Russian Political Mentality: Putin 3.0, Elena Shestopal, ed. Slavic Review 77:1 (Spring 2018) 289-291.

[2] “«Sbityy letchik», ili Chto budet pisat’ Surkov posle otstavki.” Informatsionnoye soprotivleniye [published online in Russian 14 May 2018]. https://sprotyv.info/ru/news/kiev/sbityy-letchik-ili-chto-budet-pisat-surkov-posle-otstavki. Last accessed 19 May 2018.

[3] Russian journalist Igor Yakovenko describes a “culture of ‘downed pilots’, driven out of a big media, big business, and big politics” (Eto kul’tura «sbitykh letchikov», vytesnennykh iz bol’shogo mediaprostranstva, bol’shoy ekonomiki i bol’shoy politiki). See: Yakovenko (2014). ” Kollazh YEZH.” Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal [published online in Russian 9 January 2014]. https://www.ej.ru/?a=note&id=24138&fb_action_ids=514466895319015&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_s. Last accessed 19 May 2018.

[4] Igor Yakovenko (2014). “Golograficheskaya strana.” Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal [published online in Russian 9 January 2014]. https://www.ej.ru/?a=note&id=24138&fb_action_ids=514466895319015&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_s. Last accessed 19 May 2018.

[5] See: https://russiandays.co.uk/book/russia-one-hundred-years-of-fortitude-and-solitude/. Last accessed 19 May 2018.

[6] Thomas Gomary (2008). “Russia Alone Forever? The Kremlin’s Strategic Solitude.” Politique étrangère. 2008/5: 23-33.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Chebankova (2018), op cit.

[9] ” Rossiya: novyye vostochnyye perspektivy.” Kremlin.ru [published online in Russian 11 November 2000]. https://kremlin.ru/events/president/transcripts/21132. Last accessed 20 May 2018.

[10] Katri Pynnöniemi (2008). Preface to “New Road, New Life, New Russia. International transport corridors at the conjunction of geography and politics in Russia.” https://tampub.uta.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/67855/978-951-44-7316-6.pdf;sequence=1. Last accessed 18 9 May 2018.

[11] “Predlagayemyy nam vybor «tret’yego puti» – lozhnyy.” Vzglyad [published online in Russian 12 April 2018]. https://vz.ru/opinions/2018/4/12/917281.html. Last accessed 19 May 2019.

[12] Vladimir Surkov (2018). “Odinochestvo polukrovki.” Rossiya v global’noy politike [published online in Russian 9 April 2018]. https://www.globalaffairs.ru/global-processes/Odinochestvo-polukrovki-14-19477. Last accessed 9 May 2018.

[13] The notion of the United States as “The West” (Zapad) is elaborated by Aleksandr Dugin as “the USA is the quintessence of the West, its geopolitical, ideological and religious avant-garde . . . So, all of Western history converges on the United States” (SSHA – summa Zapada, yego geopoliticheskiy, ideologicheskiy i religioznyy avangard . . . Itak, vsya zapadnaya istoriya skhoditsya na SSHA). See: Dugin (2015). “SSHA – kvintessentsiya Zapada.” In Dugin (2015). Russkaya voyna. (Moscow: Algoritm).

[14] Surkov (2017). “Krizis litsemeriya. ‘I hear America singing’.” RT [published online in Russian 9 November 2017]. https://russian.rt.com/world/article/446944-surkov-krizis-licemeriya. Last accessed 9 May 2018.

[15] Mr. Surkov first defined “sovereign democracy” in a 2006 essay “Nationalization of the Future” (Natsionalizatsiya budushchego) as “an image of a society’s political life in which governmental authorities, their bodies and actions are selected, formed and directed exclusively by the Russian nation, in all its diversity and unity, for the sake of achieving material prosperity, freedom and justice by all citizens, social groups and peoples, who are its creators.” He somewhat primly denies coining the term, writing that both “outdated (‘autocracy of the people’) and modern (‘the rule of free people’) Russian terms can serve as near-literal translations,” then elaborating that sovereign democracy “seeks to express the strength and dignity of the Russian people through the development of civil society, a reliable government, a competitive economy, and an effective means for influencing world events.” Mr. Surkov writes that to “the clamorous faction of ‘intellectuals’ for whom the sun rises in the west . . . suffice it to say that sovereign democracy is by no means a homegrown effort. On the contrary, it is a widely accepted concept recognized by” he claims, then United States Secretary of State Warren Christopher and European Commission President Romano Prodi. See: Surkov (2006). “Natsionalizatsiya budushchego” Politru.ru [published online in Russian 20 November 2006]. https://www.polit.ru/article/2006/11/20/nazional/. Last accessed 16 May 2018.

[16] Surkov (2007). “Russkaya politicheskaya kul’tura. Vzglyad iz utopii.” Russkiy Zhurnal [published online in Russian 15 June 2007]. https://www.russ.ru/pole/Russkaya-politicheskaya-kul-tura.-Vzglyad-iz-utopii. Last accessed 10 May 2018.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Viktor Surkov (2017), op cit.. “

[19] Leonid Ionin (2012). Politkorrektnost`: Divnyi Novyi Mir. (Moscow: Ad Marginem) 112. Dr. Ionin is a professor in the Department of Theoretical Economics of the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

[20] (2017). “How U.S.-Russia Diplomacy Went Heavy Metal.” Bloomberg [published online 9 November 2017]. https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-11-09/how-u-s-russia-diplomacy-went-heavy-metal. Last accessed 9 May 2018.

[21] Surkov (2006). “Natsionalizatsiya budushchego,” op cit.

[22] Vladislav Surkov (2007). “Russkaya politicheskaya kul’tura. Vzglyad iz utopii.” Russkiy Zhurnal [published online in Russian 15 June 2007]. https://www.russ.ru/pole/Russkaya-politicheskaya-kul-tura.-Vzglyad-iz-utopii. Last accessed 10 May 2018.

[23] Alexander III reigned 1881-1894 and was Russia’s next-to-last monarch.

[24] Oxxxymiron (2012). Nevalyashka. The Russian transliteration reads, “blyad’, kogda uzhe zvezdy?! Naprolom, kak obychno, cherez burelom i kolyuchki lesov pogranichnykh”. See: https://рэп-текст.рф/tekst-pesni-oxxxymiron-nevalyashka/. Last accessed 16 May 2018.

[25] The Russian transliteration reads:

Nash tvorets to li khlopal ushami, to li tolkom ne sharil,

I my rodilis’ ne v tot vek,

V kholodnoy derzhave, ne na tom polusharii.

Pomnim kazhdoye slovo.

[26] Stanislav Varykhanov (2016). “Novaya stat’ya Vladislava Surkova vydala probely v znanii istorii Tsar’, ne ponyatnyy v Kremle.” Moskovskiy Komsomolets [published online in Russian 12 April 2018]. https://www.mk.ru/politics/2018/04/12/novaya-statya-vladislava-surkova-vydala-probely-v-znanii-istorii.html. Last accessed 8 May 2018. “The fleet and the army make the backbone of Russian statesmanship.” This statement by Mikhail Nenashev. Chairman of The All-Russia Movement for the Support of the Fleet, exemplifies Mr. Varykhanov’s point about Alexander III’s oft-quoted aphorism.

[27] Victor Tregubov (2018). “Odinochestvo polukrovki?” Petrimazepa [published online in Russian 11 April 2018]. https://petrimazepa.com/odinocestvo_polukrovki. Last accessed 8 May 2018. Peter and Mazepa (Petr i Mazepa) is a Ukrainian news agency that was established in March 2014 and registered in April 2018 (under Ukrainian law, all news agencies and representative offices of news based or operating in the country must register with the national government). According its founder, Alexander Noynets, the name “Peter and Mazepa” reflects its “editorial position that Peter exemplifies the right approach to European integration―to build Europe at home―and Mazepa exemplifies the wrong approach―to sellout to Europe. See: Anna Golubeva & Yegor Petrov (2014). “My ne stavim pered soboy zadachi adekvatno otsenit’ real’nost’. Sozdatel’ sayta «Petr i Mazepa» Aleksandr Noynets ob”yasnyayet, pochemu chitat’ yego ne stoit.” Colta [published online in Russian 24 May 2014.]. https://www.colta.ru/articles/media/3331. Last accessed 7 May 2018. The “Peter” in the news agency’s name is Tsar Peter I also known as Peter the Great. The “Mazepa” is Ivan Stepanovych Mazepa, who served (1687–1708) as the Hetman of Zaporizhian Host (Hetman Voyska Zaporozhskoho) or Cossack state of state. Mazepa deserted the Tsarist army to join its opponent, King Charles XII of Sweden, in the Battle of Poltava (June 1709) when he learned Peter intended to relieve him as acting Hetman. Already anathematized and excommunicated by the Metropolitan of Kiev of the Russian Orthodox Church, Mazepa fled with Charles and a small remnant of his army to modern day Moldova, where he died a few months later, in November 1709.

[28] Aleksandr Obolonskiy (2018). “Khimera osobogo puti.” In Dmitry Travin, Gennadiy Aksyonov & Viktor Sheynis (2018). Osobyy put'” strany. Mify i real’nost’, Aleksandr Obolensky, ed. (Moskva: Mysl) 20. The Russian transliteration of the original text reads: Tonkaya krasnaya liniya otdelyayet patriotizm ot ponachalu pochti nezametnogo pererozhdeniya yego v natsionalizm.

[29] Obolonskiy (2018), 26.

[30] Emil’ Abramovich Pain (2009). Rasputitsa. Polemicheskiye razmyshleniya o predopredelennosti puti Rossii (Moscow: Rosspen Seriya).

[31] Obolonskiy (2018), 34.

[32] LDPR is the party’s official name and an acronym of its previous name, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (Liberal’no-Demokraticheskaya Partiya Rossii).

[33] “Vladimir Zhirinovskiy otvetil Vladislavu Surkovu. Lider LDPR osparivayet idei, izlozhennyye v stat’ye «Odinochestvo polukrovki».” Parlamentskaya gazeta [published online in Russian 23 April 2018]. https://www.pnp.ru/politics/vladimir-zhirinovskiy-otvetil-vladislavu-surkovu.html. Last accessed 16 May 2018.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] It should be noted that Acting Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment regarding rumors of Mr. Surkov’s departure following a post-election government reshuffle. See: https://tass.com/politics/1004111. Last accessed 16 May 2018. Mr. Surkov had been representing the Russian government in the current “Minsk-2” round of Minsk accord talks.

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