Nationalism crosses the minds of many observers when they think about the most prominent forces affecting contemporary Russia -- an unhealthy, chest-thumping, aggrieved sentiment whipped up by overzealous politicians. That is not Laruelle's take. She sees nationalism as a natural, albeit conflicted, mix of symbols and notions that society uses to stake out a workable identity and that politicians use to connect with society. She makes her case by surveying the nationalist urgings in Russia in three political clusters: parties at either extreme of the spectrum that eschew participation in the conventional political process; opposition parties that do take part in the system but favor populist appeals, such as the Communist Party and the Liberal Democratic Party; and the dominant party, United Russia, the bearer of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's vision. She also fits in the Russian Orthodox Church and the military. In her careful reconstruction, important differences exist between these contending nationalisms, but they ultimately all yield to xenophobia and patriotism -- for now, the common denominator.
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