Staunton, Nov. 4 – To many it seems strange that the Kremlin has not sought to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the declaration of the Russian Empire, Vladislav Inozemtsev says. But ignoring this anniversary makes perfect sense because what Vladimir Putin has done is to restore a Muscovy isolated from the West rather than a Russian Empire which was part of it.
“Today, the Russian Federation territorially and mentally recalls more the Moscow tsardom at the time of the start of the rule of Aleksey Mikhailovich than the empire of 1721,” the Russian economist and commentator says; and any talk about the empire is likely to the occasion for regret about lost imperial glory (rosbalt.ru/posts/2021/11/04/1929562.html).
As Inozemtsev observes, “Russia began to call itself an empire after it achieved victories in several wars with Sweden and Turkey, secured its access to the seas, and was transformed in the eyes of Europeans from a distant Tatary into one of the most militarily and politically powerful states of the continent.”
“Today, at a time when the sovereign fund of Norway, a former Swedish province, exceeds Russia’s by 196 times per capita, and Turkish drones fire on the positions of pro-Moscow separatists in ‘Novorossiya,’ it is better not to recall the empire,” the commentator continues.
But the most important reason for the Kremlin to ignore this anniversary is that with the declaration of the Russian Empire, the country made “an obvious turn toward Europe,” something that involved “the acceptance of European practices [and] the involvement of European elites in the highest strata of the power hierarchy.”
At present, Putin’s Russia “positions itself as a Eurasian state, closed off from the West,” and relations between it and Europe are discussed in ways analogous to those between Muscovy and the West rather than between the Russian Empire and Europe, with gas replacing furs as the currency of exchange.
“Present-day Russia in which monuments to Ivan the terrible are going up and memorials to Aleksandr Nevsky are opening is a new reincarnation of the Muscovite tsardom, a power hostile to Europe” and whose borders are now about where they were before Petersburg launched its expansionist drive.
And if one looks around Russia today, “practically nothing recalls imperial times, and thus celebrating the transformation of Russia into an empire only worsens the feelings of lost greatness,” Inozemtsev says, “We have already restored the monarchy in the country, but Moscow will never reassemble the empire.”