Staunton, February 11 – Twice since World War I put an end to the imperial paradigm in Europe, Russia has suffered an identity crisis that has blocked its move toward a modern nation state, the first time as a result of the Bolshevik revolution which held the empire together under a new ideology and the second from the 1991 collapse that Moscow is seeking to reverse.
According to Pavel Mezerin, the editor of the Free Ingria regionalist site who has been forced into exile in Lithuania, “the new democratic Russia just as in 1917 could not find meaning in its existence and role in the world” and because of this “identity crisis” is “again trying to become an empire” (afterempire.info/2017/02/10/reset2/).
This means “only one thing,” he continues: “If this process is not stopped, then new armed conflicts around the perimeter of its external borders will continue and intensify.” And that makes “a reset” of the Russian system a vital issue not only for its own people but “also for all the countries of the post-Soviet space without exception.”
How and how soon Putin’s “neo-imperial policy” will collapse depends “not only and not so much on Washington, London and Berlin,” Mezerin says. “To a much greater degree it depends on the neighboring states who for along time were within the orbit of Russia’s influence and better than any others understand its essence and nature.”
To a great extent, it depends on Ukraine and on the willingness and ability of Ukrainians to play a major role in the internal processes of Russia itself. “As long as an authoritarian and centralized Muscovite state exists, it will not allow the return to Europe of Ukraine or any of the remaining countries which were once republics of the USSR. That is axiomatic.”
These countries have support within Russia. At least 20 million Russians oppose Putin’s policies in Ukraine, if current polls are to be believed. And Ukraine should make use of that base to change Russia and thus change Russian policy toward Kyiv. It might even consider forming an alliance with others to promote in Russia “a real federation of free gubernias and republics.”
According to Mesherin, “the idea of independence from Moscow is actively being discussed in the present-day Russian Federation not only in the national republics but also in regions, the larger part of whose population consists of ethnic Russians.” So far these discussions are being conducted quietly but that doesn’t mean they aren’t happening.
Social networks in Pomor kray, Karelia, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad oblast, the Kuban and Siberia “already united thousands of supporters of greater political autonomy for these regions.” Their chief “thesis is everywhere the same: Russia has a chance to be preserved as a single political subject only if it is radically democratized and decentralized.”
“Let us hope that when the historical moment comes, the regional transformation of the Russian Federation will be carried out by a peaceful and non-violent way.” If that happens, Putin and his entourage may discover that the real “Russian world” is not the one they imagine, struggling for the past; but a new one struggling for the future of an expanded Europe.