Staunton, April 17 – Russian culture is very much part of European culture, Igor Yakovenko says; but “Russia cannot become a European country while maintaining itself as an empire and having a horde-style system of rule.” However once the empire disintegrates, parts of it could enter Europe and even after doing so form a new federation among themselves.
Reporting on a panel about federalism and regionalism at the just-concluded Free Russian Forum in Vilnius, the Russian commentator argues that one cannot draw any line across Russia and say that one side is European and the other Asian. Yekaterinburg and Tomsk are more European, for example, than Grozny and Elista, despite being on opposite sides of the Urals.
“That a large part of Russian territory is located in Asia geographically does not make Russia Asian or even a Eurasian country. Europe is part of Eurasia and the borders between Europe and Asia have been marked in different places by different people overtime” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5AD5A2FD6E10C).
Yakovenko notes that “Homer in his hymn to Apollo of Pythias called Europe only Northern Greece. That was in the eighth century before our era. From the times of Polybius and Strabon, the border of Europe was drawn along the river Don. That was how the limits of Europe were defined by the famous Flemish cartographer Mercator n the 16th century.”
“The idea of drawing a Euro-Asian border to the east and having it pass along the Urals mountains belongs to [Russian statesman and ethnographer Vasily] Tatishchev in 1720,” thus creating “a geographic convention” which has lasted up to now but which says nothing about a cultural divide.
Many countries and places not located west of the Urals are nonetheless European such as Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Cyprus, Yakovenko says; and many to the West such as Turkey are not European but rather something else, the most obvious case being Turkey. But in addition, there are many parts of “European Russia” that aren’t European by culture either.
Thus “all these geographic borders between Europe and Asia are conditional and historically changeable,” he argues. “Russia is a European country which its authorities have made into not even an Asian country but an Aesopian one.” Parts of it have a chance to become part of Europe but not Russia in its current borders or with its current regime.