Skip to comments.Russia -- The Empire of Tyranny
Posted on 05/19/2005 2:38:11 PM PDT by lizol
Russia -- The Empire of Tyranny
By Askar Askarov FrontPageMagazine.com | May 19, 2005
President George W. Bushs recent attendance in the festivities in Moscow marking the 60th anniversary of Nazi Germanys defeat took place against the background of rising tensions between Washington and the Kremlin. The American leaders decision to make historic first time visits to the former Soviet republics of Latvia and Georgia drew an odd response from the Russian foreign minister, who went as far as sending a letter of protest. However inappropriate, the protest did not transpire without reason. Mr. Sergey Lavrov understood well the symbolic importance of an American presidents visit to democratic Latvia and Georgia, the countries Russia still considers to be subjects of its so-called sphere of influence. The Americans message to Moscow, in essence, was that these territories were no longer the backyard Russia could abuse at will. Perhaps predictably, during his stay in Latvia, President Bush took the opportunity to remind his Russian counterpart that it is in his country's interests that there be democracies on his borders. Unstated yet clearly implied in this comment was the inference that Putin must attend to his democratic responsibilities, instead of nurturing still more autocratic aspirations for Russia's future.
There was a time when skeptics of Russias democratic potential liked to cite frequently the well-known dictum: Scratch a Russian and you will find a Mongol. The logic went that their Asiatic origins prevented Russians from embracing Western liberalism. Given the changes that have taken place in the Asian landscape in the past half-century, it is long due to correct this gross historical injustice against the Asians, and in particular, the Mongols. According to the latest annual report by the prestigious Freedom House, Mongolia is a free country, whereas Russia is still listed in the category of not free nations alongside Syria, North Korea and Cuba. So, left without this easy rationale which for centuries helped many Westerners to excuse Russias tyrannical penchant, how is one to explain what currently transpires in Russia?
Make no mistake, the Russia of Vladimir Putin is headed anywhere except toward a democratic future. If the latest actions and statements by the Russian president are any indication, his country will not join the ranks of democratic nations anytime soon. Ever since coming to power, Vladimir Putin has consistently tried and often succeeded in wiping out what seemed to be sprouting elements of democracy. Having crushed the independent media and insubordinate business class, Putin first consolidated political power by stuffing key government posts with his pals from the KGB. Then, in a startling move, the Russian president decreed the liquidation of the system that had allowed citizens to choose their own governors. In order to increase the efficiency of the system, Putin claimed, from that point on, he was to appoint all the governors throughout the eight time zones of Russia. His appetite for power was not limited to the confines of Russia alone. In the Fall of 2004, Putin actively involved himself in the Ukrainian presidential elections trying to ensure that power remained in the hands of the authoritarian clique in Kiev. But something marvelous happened. This time, Putin failed.
Fortunately for the rest of the world, Putins foreign policy adventures have been nowhere near as successful as those in the domestic front. However, that has not stopped him from expressing his frustration at the fact that Russia can no longer dominate its neighbors and shape them in its own autocratic image. In a recent remark, the Russian leader observed that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geo-political catastrophe of the 20th Century. Forget the World War I, multiple Soviet famines that killed millions, the Gulag, Holocaust, or Pol Pots massacres in Cambodia. The mostly peaceful dissolution of the Soviet empire, in Putins mind, was the worst of them all. Adding to the insult, in response to the demands to acknowledge the Soviet occupation of the Baltic republics, the Russian ambassador to the European Union, Sergey Yastrzhembski, argued with a straight face that the occupation of these countries took place in accordance with the wishes of the native peoples who, of course, were later to be shot, imprisoned and deported in large numbers to the death camps of Siberia.
The unwillingness to face up to its imperial past as well as its menacing behavior toward new democracies in its neighborhood has much to do with Russias imperial present. Unlike every other European colonial power that has apologized for the wrongdoings of the past, Russia to this day has not renounced imperialism. Russia, to be sure, remains an empire. Besides its genocidal oppression against Chechens, Russia has imposed a direct presidential rule over the Tatars, Bashkurts, and tens of other nationalities against their wishes. A handful of individuals within the walls of the Kremlin continue to decide the fate of millions of non-Russians who have very little say in their own governance.
From ferocious Romans in the late Antiquity period to benign Habsburgs in 19th Century, history demonstrates that empires and democracy have never blended well together. Empire, by nature, is the antithesis of republic. Democracy ordinarily takes root in a republic that is based on an identifiable constituency which sees itself at the center of the polity. Russia has never been a polity as such, or in any other way. As the renowned historian of Russia Richard Pipes has argued, throughout its long history, Russia was not so much a society as an conglomeration of tens of thousands of separate rural settlements kept together by awesome, allpowerful despots seated at the Kremlin. While all empires entail a great degree of oppression in regard to those colonized, its extreme centralization and unwillingness to relegate any sort of power to the localities made Russia exceptional even among traditional empires.
Through this method of rule, not only did the Russian state oppress the colonized but also the vast majority of its ethnic core the Russians. The extreme atomization of the society is most evident in the fact that until 1861, nearly 80 percent of the Russians were serfs. Precisely, as a result of this deep lack of social cohesiveness among ethnic Russians, the modern Russian identity came to be formed almost solely around imperial notions of the self.
What is most disturbing about todays Russia is not Vladimir Putin per se, but the fact that Putin represents the mindset of a great many Russians. It helps to know that unlike Peter the Great, Lenin or Stalin, Vladimir Putin has actually been elected to presidency by the majority of the Russian people. His career in KGB notwithstanding, Putins background contains features that are common with most ordinary Russians. In most of his actions, including the crude interference in the elections in Ukraine or strong friendship with the President of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenka, dubbed as the last dictator of Europe, Putin echoes the sentiments of large numbers of Russians who feel the need to maintain some type of barrier against the West. One could indeed argue that at the heart of this attitude stands the age-old enmity with the Teutonic folks. Still, this self-defeating course is more about Russias own identity that that of the West.
Russia cannot imagine itself as a democracy because, in the minds of many Russians, this would mean an end to Great Russia. They may even be right. In fact, every time Russia loosened up in the past, it did lose territories. During the revolutionary upheaval of 1917, Russia lost much of its empire, only to regain it later through the Bolshevik arms. Seventy years later, the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev cost Russia almost all of Eastern Europe and the parts of what was then the Soviet Union. Even in places like Chechnya, when given a slight chance, non-Russians have revolted against the Kremlins rule.
The question least asked however is what this Great Russia gave to the Russians in the first place? Having never achieved material prosperity in its history, Russias current economic output is less than that of Los Angeles county alone. Most Russians are living at a subsistence level. With such great economic and scientific potential, the nation has living standards below those of 96 countries. All of this reminds me of the old German war veteran who was recently asked about his thoughts on losing the World War II. He said: We fought with all our might to prevent that outcome. At the time that was completely unacceptable to us. But looking back, I realize that it was a good thing that we lost. If the Russians eventually embark on this uneasy path to democracy, perhaps some day they might look back and realize that it was good for them to lose their empire. Otherwise, they will forever remain captives of the Great Russia that brought such misery to so many.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Askar Askarov is a PhD candidate in Russian/Soviet History at the University of Maryland.
Yeah:). Someone Askar Askarov is "expert" on Russia since he is himself one of asiatic origins looking on his name:).
Lizol don't you get tired to read those "experts" who knows of what guuter they came from? Or they glad your anti-russian feelings.
I beleive that guy speaks russian language maybe good and it is all of his expertise.
In his search for the explanations he should have gone much deeper in the past, to Bysantine traditions of statism.
OK--what's the authors offers instead of "Great Russia" ? Russia disintegrating along ethnic lines into pieces ? What are geopolitical consequences of that ? I.e. what happens if North Caucasus falls into hands of the likes of Shamil Basayev--will it be democracy or Islamist State bent on spreading "jihad" ? What happens with underpopulated Far East--Will Overpopulated China look calm at disintegration of Russia and won't try to grab Far East and Siberia ? What exactly author suggests should happen to Russia, so it can become successful democracy ?
There are plenty of multiethnic countries around the world that are successfull democracies. As for his criticism of Empires, Empires existed as long as civilization existed and some of the empires brought a lot of good to this world. British Empire tried to instill (with mixed results) culture of parlamentarism and democracy on its former territories. Roman Empire was a beacon of civilization in Europe and North Africa incomprarably better than what succeeded it--Dark Ages of Barbarism in Europe for about 6 centuries and Islamic Conquest of North Africa.
The problem was not that Russia was (and arguably somewhat still is) an empire of different people. The problem was what kind of Empire Russia Was--oppressive, brutally authocratic heavily centralized, etc. It's true that Putin is just unable due to his KGB mentality to find any better model for Russia. However, what Russia needs is a decentralization (not disintegration) with Central Authorities having minimal powers like foreign policy and defense, while localities should have majority of powers. Putin done quite a few awful things to Russian development. However, the alternatives to Putin and overall centuries old authocratic model of Russia should be something better than disintegration.
" - - - Central Authorities having minimal powers like foreign policy and defense, while localities should have majority of powers."
Sounds similar to the original formula for the USA.
Isn't Ivan the father of the Russian nation and called by its own people, "the Terrible". There just may be something in that.
I don't think it's the same.==
For you it is same if you find this article interesting..
As I said this article invoke vibes of your mind or soul.
For example this passage: "..What is most disturbing about todays Russia is not Vladimir Putin per se, but the fact that Putin represents the mindset of a great many Russians. It helps to know that unlike Peter the Great, Lenin or Stalin, Vladimir Putin has actually been elected to presidency by the majority of the Russian people. .."
"..Unlike every other European colonial power that has apologized for the wrongdoings of the past, Russia to this day has not renounced imperialism. Russia, to be sure, remains an empire. Besides its genocidal oppression against Chechens, Russia has imposed a direct presidential rule over the Tatars, Bashkurts, and tens of other nationalities against their wishes. .."
You say that you anti-Putin but mostly you critisize Russia an donly Russia. Don't disgise yourself.
This article is full of stamps and stereotypes of pure russophobia and hence beneath comtempt. Probably author ancestry of being non-russian "oppressed" in his Kyrgizia (his name tells that) invokes on him "genetic memory" of his "flogged" ass:)).
Otherwise, back into the pile, using the words of Alexander Zinoviev ("Ziyayushchie Vysoty" = "Yawning Heights"):==
Zinoviev wrote this about soviet life and communism. You know that? He hated communist but you - Russia.
This is typical tripe. They hate Russia and don't think past that. These are the same people who wanted to get rid of the Tsar and destroy the Russian Empire for years. They gave Trotsky lots of money. Well congrads. Thanks to the exact same idjits, we had Communism International, Nazis, WW2, the Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam, Afghanistan, the various trajedies of Africa, etc and a resurgent Islam. But why admit that the original plan screwed up to kill 300 million people, we'll just continue with the same brain dead stupidity.
Gslob says he came from the Soviet Union, I wonder what nationality. He dispised Russians with no end to his hatred and has never passed up an opportunity to dig out the racism. His heart is black, leave him be, it's not worth getting your hands dirty. God sees the evil in his heart.
Gee, your usual racism is boiling up really well on this site. For a blacker heart you'd have to mix it up with the Klan or the Aryan Nation types.
That's why according to the CIA World Fact Book, in PPP terms its $1.28 trillion. So since the dollar has fallen 20% everyone in the world became richer by 20%? Your statement and direct GDP conversion upholds that theory.
Fact is, in Russia you can feed a family of 3 well for a month on $60. In the US that wouldn't cover 1 week. A dollar is a dollar is a dollar not. Even within America there are huge differences. Do a cost of living comparison between LA and Houston.
Ivan Grozny (the Feared) is not the father of the nation. Demitry Donetsk threw off the yoke of the Mongols. Ivan the Great built up a large state. Ivan Grozny was an insane ruler. His son Feador was the last of the Rurik line of princes who first ruled Kieven Russ, the true foundation of the state. Moscow was a small town when Kieven Russ fell to the Mongols. The capital was supposed to move further east then Moscow to Vladimer, the second largest city (Novograd the original capital was the 3rd largest, Kiev became the capital after Novograd). When the Metropolitan See moved from Kiev (which was annexed by the Catholic Lithuanians) it refused Vladimer and moved to Moscow.
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