Sunday, August 12, 2018

Empires Always Involve Imperialism, Something Many Russians Forget, Ikhlov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 12 – Many Russians condemn imperialism as a policy involving “the seizure, enslavement and theft of resources of subordinated people because being ‘a proud thief is not fashionable” but nonetheless defend empire as “a political organization of a multi-national (or better poly-cultural) space unified by a common civilizational idea,” Yevgeny Ikhlov says.

            Those who condemn the first while defending or even praising the second, the Russian commentator says, forget that “no empire exists without imperialism, even if the empire invests a very great deal in the development of the provinces and seriously raises the level of their development” (

            Not only does the metropolitan center invariably profit from its conquests on the periphery, but an empire affects both the periphery and the center in negative ways. It “deforms local societies and local economies,” and it produces “megalomania” among those who create and maintain the empire for their own benefit.

            Ikhlov’s comments are important for Russians because over the last few years, ever more Russians following Vladimir Putin, have expressed a positive view of empire even while condemning imperialism as if the two were entirely separate things. In fact, as he points out, they are not separate but intimately intertwined.

            But they are also important for non-Russians and for the West. For non-Russians, they are a reminder of the ways in which the Russian state as it has developed and is now celebrated by Putin is not only imperial in its nature but imperialist in its operations toward them and toward Russia’s neighbors.

            And for the West, it is an even more important warning that a regime which celebrates empire as Putin’s does is a continuing threat to the international system which as a result of the three great settlements of the 20th century is based on the nation state rather than the empire and on citizenship rather than ethnicity.

            For a broader discussion of these settlements and the ways in which Putin  has been violating them, see this author’s “Crimea: A New 911 for the United States” at

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