Monday, December 17, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Slavic Nations Don’t Want ‘Union’ with Central Asia, Moscow Researcher Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 17 – Belarusians and Ukrainians are prepared to be part of an economically-focused Eurasian Union but do not want a more political union with the Central Asian peoples in which the latter would be treated as their equals, according to a Moscow researcher.

             Instead, Oleg Nemensky, a special specialist at the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, says, the two Slavic peoples see themselves as deserving of a special relationship with the Russian Federation, one that sets all three apart from the other nations that formed part of the Soviet Union (

            “One of the problems of building a Eurasian Union,” he argues, is that in such a grouping of states, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan would have “equal status,” despite the fact that “Belarus has the right to aspire to a special status in its relations with Russia.” And he suggests most Russians feel the same given their support for introducing a visa regime with the Central Asian countries.

            “The Eurasian Union project is not integral in civilizational terms,” Nemensky continues; instead, “it is based on historical memory and a common language of inter-nationality communication.”  Thus whatever its value as a form of economic integration, the Eurasian Union is not “an attempt to ‘revive the USSR,’” or form any new political unit.

             The Eurasian Union is directed toward “the achievement of economic goals while the Union State presupposes interaction in a large number of other spheres.” Some in Belarus and Ukraine see their nation as very close to the Russian and even speak of the existence of “several Russian peoples.”

            Nemensky points out that polls show that “residents of Russia would like to unity together precisely with [the Belarusians and the Ukrainians] rather than with any of the other post-Soviet states. And he suggests that a major reason for this is to be found in a problem Russia itself is now suffering from.

            “[Ethnic] Russian identity in Russia itself to a significant degree has been lost and ‘just what Russians are besides those who know the Russian language is nowhere written in the Constitution or in other documents.” Uniting politically with the Belarusians and Ukrainians would help address that.

            In short, Nemensky argues, there is a major difference between any Union State which is “a European union,” and a Eurasian Union, which is “a Eurasian one.”  The former is popular with the Slavs but the latter is not because “a Union State is based on a real foundation: one people, one culture, and one language.”

            That is very different from any Eurasian Union which is based on “an archaic foundation” of the Soviet-era “’friendship of the peoples.’” Both can be pursued, Nemensky says, but they must not be confused or each project will suffer because of the assumptions underlying the other.

             And Nemensky gives as an example the following: “Each form of integration requires its own ideology, and if for the Eurasian Union this undoubtedly is Eurasianism, then for the Union State it is pan-Rusism.” In this regard, he says, “the unofficial status of [ethnic] Russian identity in Russia” can be useful because it provides the necessary flexibility for “east Slavic integration” and the formation of a new “Union State.”

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