Staunton, Jan. 3 – Because the extent of Russia’s territory and its national self-consciousness are so closely interconnected, Boris Yakemenko says, “the geographic factor” has often been the foundation for “broader political, social and cultural processes taking place in Russia.”
Territorial expansion which often has taken the form of colonization has been “a most important condition for maintaining the population’s standard of living and wide territories have presented themselves as a necessary condition for the support of public stability, the historian at the Russian Friendship of the Peoples University says.
The process of expanding Russia’s borders in all directions “in combination with the nature of space and its climate has to a large degree formed the population’s national mentality,” Yakemenko continues (realtribune.ru/territoriya-i-nacionalnoe-samosoznanie-v-rossii-tesno-vzaimosvyazany).
According to the Moscow historian, “the Church played an enormous role in this process, thanks to which was established a unique ‘technology’ of peaceful colonization of enormous territories.” By promoting ethnic and religious self-identifications, the Church made the regions absorbed more ‘Russian’ both ethnically and politically.”
One of the parts of this technology that has played a particularly important role is the Church’s promotion of pilgrimages. To an enormous extent, Russians have gotten to know much of their country by going on pilgrimages sponsored by the church, something the Russian state highly values.
This link between expanding borders and national identity is not something that has been left in the distant past, Yakemenko says. “Precisely today, in the period of the defense of [Russian] sovereignty, it requires the most careful study.”