Monday, June 9, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Civilization-Empire, Not Nation State, Proper Form for Russia and the East, Bagdasaryan Says

Paul Goble
            Staunton, June 9 – Many analysts in both Moscow and the West have argued that globalization points to the demise of the nation state as the most important actor in the international system, but almost all of them have suggested that they will nonetheless survive by means of enhanced cooperation among them.

            Now, however, and under the impact of Vladimir Putin’s statements and actions, a Moscow analyst has suggested that the international system must and will give way to one based on civilizational divides and new empires reflecting that division, an arrangement that would in part restore the pre-Versailles world.

            In a 3,000-word essay Vardan Bagdasaryan, the deputy director of Moscow’s Sulakshin Center for Political Thought and Ideology, reviews theories of ethno-genesis and the critiques of those theories when they are used instrumentally or otherwise as the basis for the formation of states (

            “Today,” the Moscow analyst says, the failure of the ‘civic nation’ project is becoming ever more obvious,” and that in turn is highlighting the failure of the concept of “the nation state.”  “For Eastern communities,” he continues, “not national but clan ties are more important,” and the traditional state of statehood is built not around the nation but around civilizations.”

            “The traditional political form of the state-civilization is the empire,” Bagdasaryan argues.  “If the nation state is ethnically homogeneous, then the empire-state has a heterogeneous foundation.” It exists as “as a certain force center, around which are various buffer para-state formations.”

             “In principle, this situation is not distinguished from the one that exists today with numerous quasi-sovereign states. There is a certain civilization center and there is a civilizational periphery.” When the former is strong, it absorbs the latter; when it is weaker, “the illusions of sovereignty arise in the buffer formations.”

            The idea of the nation state, Bagdasryan insists, arose out of “the specific territorial-tribal divisions of early medieval Europe.” It was thus connected in an “immanent” way with” the Western civilization context.” This helped the European states to unify, but when applied outside of that civilizational framework, the nation state doctrine has been destructive.

            This “disintegrative” role is manifest in the promotion of the right of nation to self-determination, something that undermines the existence in the east of state civilizations and empires. That helps the West achieve dominance, but it is generating a backlash in Russia and elsewhere.

            But, he continues, “inspire of the integration logic of a new imperial construction, the former space of the USSR has turned out to be disintegrated in a civilizational sense.” That in turn is leading not to the demise of the state as such but rather to a shift from failed nation states to a revived “civilization state” in the form of Russia.

            Indeed, the Moscow analyst continues, “the majority of nominal states in the contemporary world lack subjecthood,” and consequently, they will group “around neo-imperial nucleus of the civilizational periphery.”
            Bagdasaryan concludes: “The discourse about the prospects of the collapse of the nation state” applies to Russia in another sense because it raises the questions as to whether its “people is prepared to repeat the experiment of the de-statification of the 1990s” and whether Russia will instead change the form of its state to a civilizational one.
            And he observes that French poet Paul Valery’s words seem to have been specially directed at Russia today. “If the state is powerful, it will squeeze us [but] if the state is weak, we will die.”

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