Staunton, Nov. 8 – Peter the Great proclaimed Russia an empire because he wanted to show that Russia wasn’t anyone’s colony, Aleksandr Myasnikov says. Now, Vladimir Putin wants to demonstrate the same thing and many of his policies resemble imperial ones and prompt suggestions that he is seeking to restore the Russian empire.
Russia was formally an empire between 1721 and September 1, 1917, when Aleksandr Kerensky rechristened the country the Russian Republic, the Russian historian points out. And henotes that it was “in the Russian Republic that the October Revolution took place, not the Russian Empire” (kp.ru/daily/28353.5/4500253/).
Moreover, Myasnikov says, it was the Russian Republic that became part of the USSR. Some in the West call the USSR “the Red Empire,” but, he argues, “here, everything was not so simple. The USSR was more a quasi-empire … It can be compared with an empire in size;” but “its essence was completely different.” The same thing is true of the Russian Federation today.
“In any state, everything is run from the capitals,” he continues. “In this, there is absolutely nothing imperial. The imperial is something else. For example, in an empire there cannot be any Tatarstans or Bashkortostans … National republics are simply impossible” by definition.
Instead, “an empire is something that is divided by administrative units independent of their ethno-national population.” (Myasnikov does not address at least in this comment the fact that Putin’s amalgamation and agglomeration plans are directed at doing away with the non-Russian republics.)
And because of this ethnic dimension, “all anti-Russian propaganda if one examines it surgically, is based on the theme of nationality. This is the most painful point” for the Moscow-centered state because many outside of the capital have believed since the times of Ivan Kalita that the center takes from them more than it gives – and Russia’s enemies play on that.
As far as the possible restoration of an empire around Moscow is concerned, Myasnikov says he is no supporter of such “a return to the past.” Instead, he believes that “Russia must become a normal strong state,” and for that to happen, no ingathering of the former Soviet republics is necessary.
Russians need to learn more about their own country and to recognize that others will join them only if the Russian nation makes that an attractive option.