Friday, January 11, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Russians, ‘the Largest Divided People in the World,’ Must Reunite as They Have in the Past, CIS Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 11 – The disintegration of the USSR in 1991, “the greatest catastrophe in the history of the Russian nation,” left “almost 20 percent” of all ethnic Russians beyond the borders of the Russian Federation, a situation that must be remedied as it has been in the past to block threats to the country, according to a Russian specialist on the CIS.

            Igor Shishkin, the deputy director of the Moscow Institute of the CIS Countries, begins his 5100-word essay on what he called “the algorithm of the reunification of the Russian nation” by citing the words of Bismarck that it is useless to dismember Russia because it will always restore itself (

            Russians, as they have been in the past, are once again “a divided nation,” Shishkin says, and “in practically all the new independent states except Belarus and Transdnniestria, Russians are put in the position of being second-class people,” with the “ethnocratic regimes openly pushing for the expulsion of the Russian population, its discrimination and assimilation.”

            Predicting the future is always a problematic task, the Moscow writer says, and consequently, “instead of guessing about it, it is always better to turn to the past, especially since Russia not for the first time has lost territory and the Russian people not for the first time has been a divided one.”

             The most immediate example, he says, was “the restoration of the territorial integrity” of the country “after the collapse of the Russian Empire. However, it has to be admitted that in the 1990s, no forces were to be found in Russia capable through a bloody civil war and through confrontation with the entire world to impose their will on the post-Soviet space in the way that the Bolsheviks did on the post-imperial one.”

            But that is far from the only experience Russia has had in this regard, Shishkin continues, and he cites the examples of the partition of Poland and the inclusion of both Belarusian and Ukrainian lands in the Russian state, both in the eighteenth century and in the early years of the twentieth.

                According to the Moscow researcher, “the experience of the reunification of Belarus with Russia most fully corresponds with the realities of the present day” and the earlier efforts are “important for an understanding of the reunification of the Russian nation and also for an understanding of the fate of countries” that discriminate against Russians.

            “The process of the reunification of Belarus and Russia has been invariably “connected with the process of the division” of Poland and even the latter’s extinction as an independent state, an outcome for which Shishkin says the Poles have only themselves to blame because of their anti-Russian policies.

            Initially, he says, “the USSR was not able to reclaim Western Belarus and Western Ukraine militarily.” But in 1929, Hitler’s strategic needs and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact opened “a window of opportunity” in that regard, and “Stalin like Catherine II used it to the fullest.” And he notes that even the Western powers who opposed his actions ultimately accepted that Poland could exist only within its own ethnographic borders.

            According to Shishkin, all these historical examples are suggestive about what is happening now and what will happen in the future.  He suggests that “the development of events” regarding what he calls “the divided Russian nation” will proceed “according to one and the same algorithm:”

o   First, he writes,, “the Russian community will not adapt to the situation, will not emigrate, and will not assimilate. It will preserve its national self-consciousness and struggle for equality.”

o   Second, “the Russian state will inevitably be drawn into the struggle for the rights of compatriots abroad.”

o   Third, any “ethnocratic regime, operating with the support of the West will not move to establish equality of the Russians with the titular nationality.”

o   Fourth, “the risk of clashes with the West will not permit the Russian state to force the ethnocratic regime to observe the rights of compatriots.”

o   Fifth, “the need by one or several great powers, in support of interests that are vitally important to it, for the support of Russia will open ‘a window of opportunity’ for Russian policy in the area of the defense of the rights of compatriots.”

o   And sixth, “the result will be a radical resolution of the problem, the reunification of the Russian nation and the liquidation not only of the ethnocratic regime but also of the state heading it.”

            “Thus it was in the eighteenth and twentieth centuries,” Shishkin says, arguing that “there is every reason to support that it will be the same in the twenty-first.”

            “The Russian nation has survived the catastrophe of the 1990s,” he continues, and there has been “a slow but undeviating growth of its vital forces and of Russian national self-consciousness.” To be sure, “the Russian nation has many extremely dangerous problems.” But that was true in the past and it did not prevent unification then.

            In the Baltic countries, in Ukraine, and in Moldova, ethnic Russians are beginning to speak out in defense of their rights.  These are the first flowers and “while they don’t yet constitute a spring, they allow one to judge about the trend.”  And the same thing is true about Russian government support for them.

            Unfortunately, Shishkin says, one can cite numerous cases when the interests of compatriots have been sacrificed “by the Russian ruling class,” but again and “alas, there were not a few such cases in the eighteenth and twentieth centuries.” Indeed, he says, “if the fate of the Russian depended on the good or evil will of specific rulers or senior officials, there would not have been any Russians at all already a long time ago.”

            Unlike in the 1990s when Russian politicians denigrated everything Russian, Shishkin says, “now only marginal figures do that.” And “speaking about ethnic Russian interests has become a mark of political respectability.” In his view, the time is coming and coming soon when the government will be guided by that.

            At present, Shishkin argues, “the West in the name of weakening Russia as its geopolitical competitor completely supports the discrimination of Russians by the post-Soviet ethnocracies. But the geopolitical picture of the world is changing fast” and for Moscow, “a window of opportunity is opening again.”

            Obviously, the course of  events depends on whether the current president or his successor will seize these opportunities as Catherine the Great and Stalin did, Shishkin concludes, but he adds that “while Russians remain Russians, the response to disintegration wil always be the reunification of the Russian nation.”

            According to the Moscow writer, “there is no other way,” something he says that German Chancellor Bismarck “understood precisely.”

No comments:

Post a Comment