Staunton, Feb. 5 – Russia became great because it expanded into the lands east of the Urals and it must make that entire enormous region the center of its national life once again in order to ensure its future greatness, according to Moscow security commentator Sergey Karaganov.
In an essay for Rossisskaya Gazeta, he offers his version of the role Siberia broadly understood as everything east of the Urals has played in Russia’s rise to greatness and his vision of the ways in which “Siberianization” of Russia now and in the future can ensure that that rise will continue to even greater heights (rg.ru/2024/02/05/reg-sibfo/sibirizaciia.html).
Almost two decades ago, Karaganov says, he was among the scholars in Moscow and Siberia who developed the ideas known as “Turn to the East -1,” a program that did not fully succeed given that the Russian Far East was “artificially separated from Eastern and Western Siberia.”
Now, he says, “the new geostrategic situation urgently requires a return to the original idea, an eastern turn of all of Russia through the development of all of Siberia,” a project he and his colleagues are even now working on and have christened “Turn to the East-2, a program that will transform not only Siberia but all of Russia.
“For the past three centuries,” he continues, “we have half-forgotten about the Eastern roots of our state and people. The Mongols plundered but also promoted development … and we received many elements of their statehood which made it possible to build a powerful centralized state.”
Indeed, Karaganov argues, “Great Russia would not have happened and most likely would not have survived on the Russian plain … if from the 16th century on, the Russians had not moved en masse beyond the Urals, ‘to meet the sun.’” This development of Siberia “made Great Russia out of ancient Rus’” not only economically but in terms of Russian character.
Moscow’s current conflict with the West “must not distract us from our most important creative tasks, including the new development and rise of the entire east of the country.” And he adds: “If Peter had lived today, he certainly would have founded a new capital in Siberia and powerfully opened a window on Asia.”
This is not only because of Siberia’s economic importance and the rise of Asian countries but also because of climate change which is going to expand the size of the lands in which people can live comfortably. According to Karaganov, “nature herself invites us to a new Siberian Eastern shift of Russia.”