“Behind the nationalist discourses, from Vladimir Poutine to Marine Le Pen, the traps of eternal identity”

Grandstand The invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army has brought to light the identity ideology of Vladimir Putin. His February 21 speech made Ukrainians a “brother people”, belonging to the same entity defined by « [son] history, [sa] culture and [son] spiritual space ». Putin never stops proclaiming this Russian identity, which according to him is radically opposed to Western logic that would endanger it.

Therefore, we are not very surprised to (re)discover the extent to which the French extreme right has made a point of reference for Putin. In fact, the idea of ​​an “eternal” Russia is not so far removed from that of an “identity of the French people”, historical and threatened. In both cases, national identity is constructed as a strict definition, inscribed in history, over time, unified by a religious relationship with the world, without nuance, immutable and, of course, under attack. However, what makes this definition strong is not what it brings together, but what it opposes. It is by joining the differences that the nationalist discourses draw, in hollow, the contours that they set out to defend.

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For an “eternal” Russia to exist, it is necessary to create a repulsive and traitorous West to the nation. To make a “French people” exist, it is necessary to build the figure of the Muslim as a “great replacement”, and that of the “Islamo-leftists” as enemies from within. Similarly, to make the Aryan race exist, “the Jew” had to be instituted as a principle of contamination. These identity discourses are built on a double narrative, a double myth: that of the origins, that of the sacred and that of the proper, on the one hand; that of radical otherness, of the profane, of the dirty, on the other hand.

Individual identity does not exist in itself.

Thus constructed, national identity is comfortable. It offers the possibility of defining oneself, both individually and collectively, once and for all and without uncertainty. The choice of identity gives attributes to think, words to say, by connecting with a group whose collective destiny goes beyond the individual, giving the latter in return a feeling of stability. The choice of identity thus provides the idea of ​​permanence and unity.

However, individual identity is rather subject to permanent redefinitions. It does not exist in itself, once and for all. It depends on the moment of life, the trip. Individual identity also depends on those to whom it is addressed, and who are able to confirm or deny it. It should be noted that the identity “for oneself”, the one we attribute to ourselves, is in tension with the identity “for others”, the one attributed to us by others. Now, these others are multiple and changeable.

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