Sunday, April 24, 2022

Even Putin’s Opponents aren’t Prepared to View Russia as an Empire that is Falling Apart, Etkind Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 14 – Russian patriotism is so constructed, Aleksandr Etkind says, that “even those who do not support the Kremlin regime are not ready to admit the imperial character of Russian statehood now” and that as an empire, it too like the Russian Empire and USSR before it will eventually disintegrate (

            “Even those who consider the current Russian powers unjust, incompetent or simply dangerous believe in the survival of the Russian Federation in its current borders,” the St. Petersburg historian says; and “even those who [like himself] want Ukraine to win and Russian leader to face the international court aren’t ready to recognize” that it could fall apart.

            “The disintegration has long been feared, predicted and promised to be prevented,” Etkind says. And it has certainly been possible to slow it down by using the economic advantages and coercive capacity of the existing imperial center. But such a slowing down is not the same thing as preventing it from happening eventually.

            Russia’s ruling party has even signaled with its name, United Russia, that it may not stand for anything else but does stand for maintaining the territorial integrity of the country. And many other countries, including those more powerful, don’t want Russia to fall apart either because of gratitude for the end of the Cold War or because of fears of what change may bring.

            But regardless of such attitudes, “the looming disintegration of the Federation will take place, not because someone abroad wants or plans it but inspire of these desires and plans. Most likely, it will occur in spite of the desires of the majority of the Russian population.” For such things are not decided by a vote.

            “For two long decades,” Etkind says, “nothing significant in this regard happened in Russia. “Its political life was frozen, but everything changed during the second Russian-Ukrainian war which should not have been started by those who worship before the idol of United Russia.”

            “But it has been started and is taking place, and the moment of truth has come as far as the question of the preservation of the Federation is concerned.” According to Etkind, “the time of empires passed long ago.” They fell apart into nation states or were restructured as genuine federations.

            Russia calls itself a federation but it conducts itself as an empire, and its actions are more important than its words, Etkind suggests. He continues: “I am not calling for the disintegration tnot invaded Ukraine, it might have avoided disintegration for some time, but it chose otherwise.

            And as a result, the historian says, “the collapse of this Federation, a complex, artificial, uneven and ever less productive community will be the fault of its Moscow rulers and for no other reasons.” Indeed, it is a mistake to blame anyone else.

            Exactly how and into what parts the current Federation will fall apart is very much an open question that will depend on many, many factors, Etkind says. But several things are certain: those parts which Moscow took from others will return to whence they came, the successor states will vary in their political forms, and new wars will break out among some.

In short, “history in any case will continue, and sooner or later, the international community [like the Russian people] will have to take note of this. Otherwise too much blood will be shed.” And just possibly “a new Eurasian Treaty will complete the task which Versailles did not” a century ago.

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