Towards A Good Samaritan World

Sunday, August 07, 2005

An interesting analysis of post-imperial Russia. As the husband of a Russian, I've seen Russians' peculiar attitudes towards their former empire up close. It seems to me they refuse to think through their situation properly. What do they want with their "near abroad" really? Why were they against Yushchenko and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine? In some ways, the collapse of the Soviet Union is a tragedy: it led to war in the Caucasus, to demographic and economic collapse, and to the dissolution of a political union which had some merits and might have been better maintained and adapted rather than destroyed. The "nations" that appeared, left high and dry by the Soviet collapse, were confused, uncertain, arbitrary. But if Russia doesn't plan to reconquer them-- presumably not-- I don't see how they can expect to have continuing influence there. And their refusal to make a total break with the legacy of Stalin is bizarre, perverse, and self-defeating. Of course any nation that lets itself be tainted with the shadow of a mass-murderer will be feared, reviled, and contained. What do they expect? What do they not understand?


  • Could it be that Russians see themselves as encircled victims of both East and West? As the 'third Rome' Russia has seen itself threatened from the barbarian East and standing as a bulwark of 'civilization' against marauders from Turkish or Mongol lands. On the West Russia sees its unique civilization threatened by European disdain for its culture, lack of appreciation for Russia's heroic struggles against the East, and attempts to weaken Russian civilization through emasculating liberalism. Slavs are seen as having been on the fringes of European civilization, and as the third Rome and largest Slavic nation, Russia has seen itself as having a mission to be the big brother to other Slavic nations by protecting them from threats of all kinds from Turks to Western iberals. When the chips were down and Stalin needed to rally Russians to accept the sacrifice millions of lives in the struggle against Hitler, he relied not on appeals to Communist brother hood, but rather, as shown in Eisenstein's movies, "Alexander Nevsky" and "Ivan The Terrible", by appealing to this Russian sense of encirclement and mission. Why is this so? Perhaps it is because Russia has no real natural boundaries except the Arctic Ocean and the Caucasus with its myriad enclaves of warring nations. Perhaps 2 generations of living under Communism has generated an uncritical assumption that the Czarist empire was the good old days? Obviously, Russia has to get over this or it will never be at peace with either its neighbors or itself. FYI, I'm of Irish descent and have no personal or family interest at stake here except to say that the best thing that has happened to Ireland is getting over the sense of being victims of British Imperialism, thanks in part to Bill Clinton.

    By Anonymous Jim Linnane, at 2:06 AM  

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