Staunton, March 18 – Russia can’t be a superpower again if Russians remain prisoners of the twin misconceptions that the Russian Federation is Russia when in fact Russia embraces all the former Soviet space and that the Soviet Union came apart because of the actions of other republics when in fact it was the exit of the RSFSR that led to that tragedy, Mikhail Malash says.
Unfortunately, these misunderstandings have their roots in the way in which Soviet citizens were taught about the events of 1917. Too many Russians think the Bolsheviks overthrew the tsar when in fact that was the work of the liberals who destroyed the state and were then overthrown by Lenin and his party, the Eurasianist says (evrazia.org/article/2944).
The confusion in the minds of most Russians about that revolutionary year was introduced by the Bolsheviks themselves who recognized that they appeared a fear more serious force if they overthrew the powerful tsarist regime than if they simply pushed aside the pathetic liberal Provisional Government.
Historians know the difference between February 1917 and October 1917, Malash says; but ordinary Russians conflate the two, thus opening the way for “contemporary Russian liberals to pretend to be conservatives” because today, the country is ruled by the heirs of the Provisional Government rather than those of the superpowers, the Russian Empire and the USSR.
The failure of Russians to understand this distinction has allowed for another stereotype to arise: the view that their country is “the historic successor of the Russian Empire and the USSR,” even though “in Soviet times, they did not take seriously that they were residents of the RSFSR.”
“In contrast to the residents of other republics, [the Russians] did not have a republic level of identity. Uzbeks, Moldovans, and Estonians knew perfectly well that they had their own republics with capitals in Tashkent, Chisinau and Tallinn and that in addition there was a Union which was a unity of 15 republics with a capital in Moscow.”
Those who lived in the RSFSR “considered themselves citizens of the great Soviet Union on the borderlands of which were union republics. This happened because the Bolsheviks in order to hold power focused on the territory of the former Muscovite state of the pre-Petrine period leaving it surrounded with ethno-historical regimes.”
“This territory,” Malash says, “they called Soviet Russia and then the RSFSR.”
In large part because of this misconception, he continues, “most Russian residents think that the USSR fell apart because other republics separated from it as their elites wanted independence. In reality, however, the Russian Federation arose when the RSFSR declared itself a sovereign state independent of the union Center.”
That happened on June 12, 1990; and to this day, it is marked as Russian “independence day.” A more appropriate understanding, Malash says, is that “the moment when the largest system-forming republic declared itself a sovereign state, the USSR as a state in fact ceased to exist.” The Balts and Georgia moved first, but that is irrelevant.
After the Russian action, “the USSR in fact became an international organization.” And then in December at Beloveshchaya, even that ceased to exist, largely because of the actions of the leader of the RSFSR. Unfortunately, Russians are still living with the consequences of that on a daily basis.
Their media tells them that everything is good in the Russian Federation and that everything is bad in the former union republics. That leads to conflicts which are unnecessary and which would disappear if Russians would understand how things came to be and that the Russian Federation is only a small part of Russia.
Overcoming these two misconceptions – the notion that the liberals in power are in fact conservative patriots and that all the conflicts on the post-Soviet space are the fault of the non-Russians – must be the task of those who want to see the Russian imperial project restored and Russia become again a great power.
If those ideas are not dispelled, Malash says, that project will never be realized.