Neither Empires nor Imperial Restoration Movements are Eternal, Shelin Says
August 7 – More than a generation has passed since the USSR disintegrated, and
Moscow has little to show for its efforts to restore the empire besides
increasing hostility among the former union republics, isolation from the
international community, and anger among Russians about the enormous costs of
its imperial policies, Sergey Shelin says.
what is striking but often overlooked is how little Moscow has achieved in any
effort to restore the past, especially when compared with the Bolsheviks who
rebuilt the empire during the Russian Civil War and with Stalin who added to it
during World War II, the Rosbalt commentator says (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2018/08/07/1722984.html).
Kremlin can point only to several “unrecognized states” like Abkhazia and South
Ossetia which it took from Georgia in 2008 and the Donbass which it continues
to fight for in Ukraine. Its only “success” in fact was the absorption of
Crimea, an illegal and increasingly expensive move that few in Russia think it
would be a good idea to try to repeat elsewhere.
consequently argues that there are three compelling reasons to believe that
just as empires re not eternal, so too imperial restoration projects aren’t
either, and that with time, they will become ever less attractive for Russia
just as they have become ever less attractive for peoples in other former
empires as well.
of all, “in the present-day world, imperial projects encounter much more
opposition than in the era of the world wars. And this is not only about
attitudes in the West.For example,”
Shelin says, “the attempt of Iran” to build an empire in the eastern
Mediterranean has mobilized people against it.
“the statist feelings of the Russians even at their peak” in the wake of the
Crimean Anschluss “were not accompanied by a mass willingness to sacrifice
their lives” for such a project.Crimea
was popular because it was cheap; the Donbass because it isn’t is increasingly
third, “those on top because they are informed and the masses on an intuitive
basis know that an empire is a very expensive thing.” The country that builds
one has to spend money on the populations it acquires, often far more per
capita than it does on its own people, as the case of Chechnya shows.
can’t exclude the possibility that the Kremlin will try to “solve” its domestic
problems by once again playing up imperial “passions” and seeking to expand its
borders, Shelin observes.But each such
effort becomes less and less attractive to the population and thus less and
less effective for the rulers.
Any effort to “return to the
exaltation of 2008 and 2014 will be difficult even if those in power very much
want it,” the commentator concludes. “There are no eternal empires, and there
is no eternal imperial restorationism either.”