Russia hasn’t Formed a Modern Civic Nation but Rather an Imperial Russian One, Portnikov Says
October 8 – There are three reasons why the Russian Federation is unlikely to
fall apart in the near future, Ukrainian political analyst Vitaly Portnikov
says. First among them is that while Russia hasn’t been able to establish a
contemporary political nation, it has created “a certain imperial Russian
nation which is the basis of the Kremlin’s ‘Russian world.’”
he tells After Empire’s Slava Lindell, “unlike the situation in 1990-1991,”
none of the regions of Russia feel themselves to be genuinely political subjects,
a sharp contrast to the way people in the union and autonomous republics felt
at the end of Soviet times (afterempire.info/2018/10/08/portnikov/).
third, while the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the USSR did not contradict
the Yalta world as confirmed in Helsinki in 1975 because these states “split
apart into the states which constituted them, although at that time, they were
only formally so.”But now something has
changed – and not in Russia’s favor in many respects, Portnikov says.
likes to accuse the West of “’revising the results of World War II,’” but in
fact, it has been Russia that began to destroy” those results, by creating the
statelet of Transdniestria in the 1990s, using force to create the
pseudo-independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and annexing Crimea.
Portnikov continues, “’the Yalta world’ has been destroyed, and now we do not
know how Russia will be regionalized and disintegrated. In short,” he says,
“Russia in fact itself created a world in which there are no more unresolved
legal problems about its own dismantling.”
box has been thrown open – “and now all kinds of self-proclaimed republics on
[Russia’s] own territory are completely possible,” making it almost impossible
to predict what is going to happen there, another sharp contrast with the end
of Soviet times when the dividing up of the USSR was obvious.
essence,” Portnikov argues, “Russia has again entered into a period of serious
political turbulence or more precisely, in the Putin years, it could only exist
in such a state. And any such turbulence which by its nature does not guarantee
development will end in collapse.”
he says, might suffer more than many imagine for “a sudden collapse of the
Russian Federation;” but in any case, it is now “concentrating on European
reforms and ideally it must proceed along that path in a synchronous way that
sets itself up against this Russian turbulence.
Ukrainians are asking how long the West will support Ukraine in this effort,
Portnikov says, but that is not the issue. Instead, it is how long and how much
Ukrainians will support it because it is still the case that there are two
views in the country, one looking West to Europe and the other East to Moscow.
the first wins out, Ukraine will be a modern European country; if the second,
it will remain “a borderland of the empire.” According to Portnikov, “the
paradox of Putin’s policy” is that “by his aggression he has forced Ukrainians
to believe in their own independence” and not to see themselves as part of the
larger Russian nation and empire.
cannot predict,” the Ukrainian analyst says, “how many years it will take for
the founding of a Ukrainian political nation; but in 2014, it successfully
began.” In the past, such a transformation might have taken several decades; but
as the situation in Eastern Europe has shown, it now can occur far more
shift in Ukraine’s orientation is part of a far larger geopolitical movement,
one that is leading to a Europe that ends at the Russian-Ukrainian border. Beyond
that, he says, is Asia, a region that is coming to be dominated not by Russia
but by China.
recalls a conversation he had with Boris Yeltsin in 1991. The Russian leader
told him that ‘if Ukraine leaves the post-Soviet space, then Russia will become
an Asiatic country.’ I absolutely agree with this assessment.” Of course,
Russia could become part of Europe if it accepted European values; but there is
little sign of that happening.
in the not too distant future, “Europe will end in Kharkiv; and there is
nothing horrible about that.”