Staunton, January 1 – In his New Year’s essay on the Snob portal, Russian economist and commentator Vladislav Inozemtsev says that all too often Russians on the liberal side of the spectrum agree with each other because they do not push their thinking beyond the kind of thing all of them are likely to agree with.
The commentator says that it is important to go beyond such shallow agreement to a deeper understanding the problems Russia faces and the various means that might be adopted to cure them. To get things started, he offers his own lapidary answers to each of the five (snob.ru/entry/201979/).
All are valuable but his response to the central question – “Why is Russia so special that it has come to the situation it now finds itself in and what distinguishes it the most from the rest of the world?” is especially so because it summarizes in brief compass the arguments of his two most recent books, An Uncontemporary Country (2018) and An Empire without End (2020):
“Russia is a very special country which took shape as an empire before the rise of a nation state in it. It was always a frontier society, coming into contact as a borderland with Byzantine, Mongol and West European civilizations, a pattern that generated a serious complex about being on the periphery.
“Moscow as a center for the first consolidation established a typical colonial empire which extended to the Pacific Ocean. Russia extended the empire through conquest to the west and south. This ‘matryoshka empire’ demolished the borders of the metropolitan center and the colonies and thus gave birth to a moral fear of any spatial contraction.
“As an empire per se, Russia does not see a worthy place for itself in the post-imperial world. It more than anything else wants to return to the past, to its comfortable world of ‘a concert of powers,’ territorial conquests and the notion that might makes right. And together with this, it wants to go back to the dominance of a religious view on the world, to the time of domostroy, silent women, the absence of ‘sexual deviancy,’ and all other ‘human rights.’
“Russia is not ‘non-European’ but rather a country that does fit in with the present world. It isn’t developing ‘alongside’ the Western world but is moving backward against the common trend in an era of accelerating progress.”