Staunton, July 28 – Vladimir Putin has frequently referred to Lenin’s commitment to the principle of “the right of nations to self-determination” as a delayed action mine that has already gone off under the USSR and that could eventually do the same with the Russian Federation, Dmitry Skvortsov says.
To prevent that from happening, the Moscow commentator says, Russia must abolish the existing non-Russian republics, a step that will have two additional virtues. It will ensure better protection of ethnic Russian rights, and it will set the stage for the restoration of the Russian empire (alternatio.org/articles/articles/item/93431-o-territorialnoy-tselostnosti-rossii-i-prave-natsiy-na-samoopredelenie).
That is because, on the one hand, there won’t be places where the majority Russians will find themselves local minorities as far as the state is concerned, and because on the other, the only way to achieve this positive outcome is to declare the Russia of today the legal successor not of the USSR but of the Russian Empire.
Instead of precluding the recovery for the former union republics, Skvotsov says, that will open the way to their re-absorption because then Moscow can act not on the basis of the Soviet system which enshrined self-determination within it as the Russian Federation still does but rather on that of the Russian Empire which didn’t recognize any such right.
That does not mean that the non-Russians must not have rights equal to those of the ethnic Russians. Rather, it means that the Russians must not have fewer rights than anyone else as was true in Soviet times and is still true in many parts of the Russian Federation. Thus, the proper model for the future is the Russian Empire, not the Soviet Union.
Skovrtsov’s argument is important for three reasons. First, it links together two issues that are usually treated separately, the fate of the non-Russian republics within the Russian Federation and the possibility of the future expansion of Russia to include places that once were within the USSR and the Russian Empire.
Second, it suggests that any part of those countries reabsorbed by Moscow will not be included as some non-Russian republic modeled on Tatarstan or Chechnya but as “non-ethnic” oblasts and krays like Tver or Murmansk lest the expansion lead to a diminution of the rights of ethnic Russians.
And third, it gives Putin an additional reason to go after the non-Russian republics by providing an argument that only with their suppression can Moscow hope to restore the Russian empire the Kremlin leader clearly hopes for. Keeping them is not an option if Moscow wants to do that, Skvortsov says.
At the same time, such a project is a clear warning to both non-Russians within the current borders of the Russian Federation and non-Russians who live beyond it of what is at stake. Putin’s project, if he accepts Skvortsov’s argument, is directed against not only against their state structures but at their survival as nations.
That is certain to increase concerns and generate resistance among them, confirming the argument of many, like the late I.A. Kurganov, that the pursuit of such a Russian first state will be the end of that entity because the non-Russians within it will see Moscow’s policies as representing an apocalypse for them.