Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Moscow ‘Elder Brother’ to Non-Russians, Razubayev Says -- and Maybe to Russians Outside the Capital as Well

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 29 – One of the aspects of Soviet ideology that was most humiliating to the non-Russian peoples of the USSR was Moscow’s insistence that Russia was “the elder brother” to all the other peoples of that country. Now that term is making a comeback, and one commentator says this is entirely appropriate.

            Writing on the Rhythm of Eurasia portal, Nikolay Razubayev says that without Moscow, the situation in many places in the former Soviet republics would be much worse than it is and that many conflicts would grow out of control even to the point of threatening the survival of these countries (

            And thus, the commentator continues, “as a result of its international-political, economic, and military potential, Moscow [stress supplied] remains ‘the elder brother,’ not out of some ‘mania for imperial greatness’ but for entirely objective reasons.”  And he asks rhetorically “who is worse off as a result?”

            There are at least two answers to that, although Razumbayev naturally doesn’t mention either. On the one hand, many non-Russians will object to being treated once again in ways that they consider demeaning especially given that they are now independent countries and have cultures as old or older than the Russians.

            And on the other – and this may be even more interesting for the future – many Russians are likely to object to the notion that it isn’t their nation and republic which are “the elder brothers” to other nations in the region but rather Moscow alone, a more hyper-centric definition of these ideological tropes than even the Soviets employed.

            Indeed, at least some Russians beyond the ring road may conclude that from Moscow’s point of view, they too are “younger brothers” who some in the capital think need to be controlled just as Moscow seems to think the former Soviet republics do, a perspective that may lead some Russians to think about following the earlier course of the non-Russians.

            For all of their failures, Soviet ideologists were far more careful than their Muscovite successors in avoiding taking positions undercutting the close relationship between Russians and Moscow.  But by reviving Soviet terms with this kind of modification, Moscow is setting the stage for a very different arrangement, something it may come to regret. 

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