Economist Moscow correspondent Arkady Ostrovsky has an interesting article on the future of Russia in the wake of the economic crisis. Like me, Ostrovsky worries that the crisis will strengthen communist and radical nationalist political forces that may be even worse than Vladimir Putin's authoritarian regime. As he points out, the Kremlin is trying to avoid blame for Russia's current economic troubles by claiming that it's all the fault of the US and the West. More generally, they have been using the government's control of the media to promote Russian nationalism and anti-Americanism and minimize the crimes of communism for several years now. Obviously, this has the effect of making the Russian public more receptive to the ultrananationalist message.
The problem is not unique to Russia. Nationalists everywhere love to whitewash their own country's history while blaming foreigners and ethnic minorities for all their problems. That, however, will not be much comfort if radical anti-Western nationalists manage to take over one of the world's largest oil producers and second biggest arsenal of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, the harmful legacy of Putin's propaganda campaigns and repression of the liberal democratic opposition might well outlast Putin himself.