Sunday, February 20, 2022

If Only Russia had Become a Federation in 1910 …

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 29 – Counterfactual history is usually rejected out of hand not only because it describes a past that never was but typically fails to take into consideration many factors that the authors of such visions of the past cannot in the nature of things include in their discussions.

            But such imagined histories can highlight the effect of changes in one aspect of national life not only on an individual country and its future but on the entire world including countries far removed from those being discussed. And that in turn sends a message about what these other countries should be concerned about promoting elsewhere.

            Sergey Kornyev, a Russian regionalist and philosopher, provides one such instructive example of this form in an essay entitled “The Russian Federation – 1910” for the Tallinn-based Region.Expert portal ( Below is an informal translation summarizing his words.

            In 1910, Kornyev imagines, Nicholas II decides to abdicate as tsar and become instead president of a newly formed Russian Federation. He tells his prime minister Petr Stolypin that the latter’s “main task” is to form “a Siberian Republic.” “America had a Far West and we have a Far East,” Nicholas says, “an enormous and still unsettled territory.”

            The former tsar tells him that it won’t be necessary to resettle Russians there by force but rather by creating opportunities that will want to make them move from the European portions of the country to the lands east of the Urals and that Stolypin as head of Nicholas’ new government will simply have to organize that too.

            In the sake of these fateful decisions, Kornyev continues, “over the next five years, the Russian Federation becomes the most flourishing power on earth. And there is no ‘world war’ because the president of the Russian Federation says that he has friendly relations with the chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.

            Menawhile in Zurich, Russian exile Vladimir Lenin writes with both short-term bitterness and long-term optimism writes the following: “We the old men won’t live to see the revolution. But we must adopt a strategy so that inside this cursed Federation there will gradually mature imperial attitudes” because “Bolshevism is Imperialism.”

            That way, the Bolshevik leader says, we will eventually win out “if in the 2000 elections is chosen a man who declares that the Russian Federation is better than a federation and the people support him!”

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