Thursday, December 21, 2023

West Must Stop Looking at Everything in the Former Soviet Space from Perspective of Moscow, Sumlenny Warns

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 18 – Speaking to the Berling meeting of the Post-Russia Free States Forum, Sergey Sumlenny, a political scientist who earlier headed the office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Kyiv, said that the West must stop looking at everything that goes on in the former Soviet space through “Moscow-centric optics.”

            For decades, he said, that approach has prevented Western governments from appreciating what is really going on in the components of the region and adopting policies that conform to that reality. Such an approach, he argued, continues “to play into the hands of Moscow” (

            “Even those” in Germany who are now pro-Ukrainian researchers, Sumlenny pointed out, “for the most part came into this after starting out as Russian scholars. In fact, what are called Slavic studies in Germany are Russian studies. That situation must be resisted and overcome” by the creation of faculties of Ukrainian studies or departments studying the languages of nations living in the Russian Federation.”

            He continues: “I doubt there is even one person in the German foreign ministry who speaks Tatar or Bashkir,” and that means “when an independent Tatarstan is crated, foreign ministry officials who have experience working in Moscow or Minsk will be sent there” – and they will continue to view the situation from a Moscow perspective.

            It is not just the foreign ministry that is guilty of this, Sumlenny said. The German academy and the German media, along with academic specialists and journalists from other countries, are guilty of exactly the same thing – and with anything, even more profound consequences as to how the West reacts to the post-Soviet states and movements within Russia.

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