Staunton, Jan. 16 – Fifty years ago, the author of these lines attended a brilliant lecture by Alexandre Bennigsen on the origins of the national movements in the Middle Volga region of the Russian empire at the end of the 19th century in which he described the plethora of organizations involved.
The other University of Chicago students dutifully wrote down all the names of these groups and the programs they came up with; but then someone discovered that none of these groups had more than a dozen members, sparking the question as to why we were listening to a detailed discussion of them decades after the fact.
That objection seemed damning in the extreme to many at the time, but Professor Bennigsen was correct to talk about them because it was out of these discussion groups that the future was being prepared. Something similar appears to be happening in groups based on the Internet today.
It is so easy to form such a group that they are springing up across the territory now occupied by the Russian Federation and precisely because there are so many and the numbers of people paying attention to them is often so small, it is easy to dismiss them as an irrelevance. But in fact, once again, it may be in these small groups that the future is being born.