Imperial and ethnic nationalism: A dilemma of the Russian elite
New drivers of Russian nationalism appeared in the 1990s, making possible either – as a reaction to globalisation – a return to an imperial nationalism, or – in response to ethnic conflict – a rise in ethnic nationalism. This chapter analyses the changing balance of elite and mass preferences and their influence on the choices made by the Russian government. The attitudes of the elite shifted recently in favour of imperial projects beyond Russia’s borders, in a sharp reversal of a long-term post-Soviet trend. Another long-term trend has recently accelerated: that of valuing military might over economic power in international relations. Anti-Muslim sentiment simmering across the Russian Federation might inspire ethnic nationalism. However, the chapter shows that mass-level attitudes towards Muslims correlate negatively with attitudes towards the USA. Given the current level of anti-US sentiment, the ethnic scenario therefore seems unlikely, for the moment.