‘Traditional Russian spiritual-moral and cultural-historical values are under active attack from the USA and its allies, as well as from transnational corporations and foreign NGOs,’ according to the Kremlin’s new National Security Strategy, published this month. It defines ‘Russian values’ as ‘life, dignity, rights, freedoms’ as well as ‘high ethical ideals, a strong family, prioritising the spiritual over the material, humanism, kindness, justice, collectivism and patriotism’.
Ideology is stressed more insistently than in previous years. But what exactly it all means can be hard to pin down. There’s a wink and a nod to 19th-century Slavophiles, with their idea that Russia is defined through sobornost, collective spirituality and communality, rather than individual freedom. There’s even a mention of the need to resist foreign ‘absolutisation of personal freedoms’. But there are also paeans to ‘rights’ and ‘freedoms’ as somehow fundamental to Russian traditions. Still, whatever Russian values may be, the National Security Strategy is clear they have to be defended with a ‘state information policy’.
This is the place to start making sense of the document. The policy logic does not stem from a coherent set of ideological precepts that require censorship and control to protect them, but the other way round: you want to impose control and censorship, so you invent a sort of ideology in order to justify it. The language of ‘traditional’ values is more useful for this, as it’s easier to justify ‘defending’ something local from outside attacks than something universal.