Staunton, Jan. 28 – Vladimir Putin likes to insist that Lenin “invented” Ukraine and the other non-Russian nations and that by doing so he put the Muscovite state on track to disintegration. But in doing so, Mikhail Iampolsky says, Putin gets things exactly backwards and fails to recognize that Lenin’s deference to the non-Russians saved the Russian Empire.
The Russian scholar at New York University says that one of the most interesting if neglected aspects of Soviet history is that in the early 1920s, “the Bolsheviks talked all the time about nations” rather than classes, as one might have expected committed Marxists to do (svoboda.org/a/mihail-yampoljskiy-haos-zahvatyvaet-vsyu-rossiyu-/32243119.html).
The reason this happened, Iampolsky says, is that the Bolsheviks began to understand in the course of the civil war that Marxist ideas had hardly won over the population of Russia and that they needed to rope in all the national liberation movements by making concessions to nations and nationalism.
In fact, he argues, the primary reason the Bolsheviks defeated the White Russians was that they were successful in attracting the country’s ethnic minorities to their side. The latter saw the Bolsheviks as giving them a far better opportunity to realize their old dreams of autonomy cultural and linguistic and “in a sense, political as well.”
As a result, the Russian-American scholar says, “the Russian Empire did not disintegrate in 1917 as had the Habsburg one.” But Putin doesn’t understand that what Lenin did gave the Russian Empire another 70 years, far longer than it would have had if he had not played the role that he did.
Putin’s failure in this regard also means that he wants to return to the era of Alexander III when the state made almost no concessions to nationality; and because that is his goal, he see Eurasianism as a kind of vision of the peoples of the region who are supposed to give up their national agendas in the name of a common Eurasianness.
The current Kremlin ruler has yet to understand that Eurasianism is a deception and trying to rely on it will only hasten the day that the Russian empire comes to its end, Iampolsky suggests.