Posted 9 сентября 2021, 07:49
Published 9 сентября 2021, 07:49
Modified 25 декабря 2022, 20:57
Updated 25 декабря 2022, 20:57
Vladislav Inozemtsev, economist, social scientist
Dmitry Shusharin's column on Russian myths excites thought and contains many interesting and correct observations - and above all that “Russia must solve problems that were relevant for other nations centuries ago”, since "The Russians did not create a modern nation". In the article, which, among other things, considers the problems of empire “as a form of supranational organization”, the author touched upon a lot of questions - but, as it seemed to me, he did not try to consistently explain why a modern state has not yet emerged in Russia.
I would like to briefly outline my version of this side of Russian history.
Historically modern nations - and by such we should understand only those that arose either in European countries, or in their former colonies or states that, to one degree or another, adopted the European model of development - began their history not at all with "the recognition of the principle of popular sovereignty." They formed as absolute monarchies in the 16th-17th centuries, bringing together people of similar cultures and languages and gradually grinding them into a relatively unified whole. At the same time, the empires, about which Dmitry Shusharin casually speaks, played the role of “their other” in the process of nation-building: mastering the colonies, the metropolises only emphasized their difference from them even more, strengthening the national principle. It is worth noting the remarkable fact that not a single European state before the completion of the nation-building began colonial expansion: Spain sent galleons to the New World after the reconquest, England launched its expansion after the union with Scotland, but Piedmont or Prussia did not even think about colonies until they became Italy and Germany. Empires did not dissolve national states in themselves, but only emphasized their unique role and special identity - while the important point is the fact that empires collapsed and re-established, and the metropolises remained metropolises (Britain lost colonies in North America, but then conquered India and part of Africa, and France did the same, and [to a lesser extent] Spain and Portugal). Empires in the European case, as it were, repeated the heartbeat of the metropolis - they developed through phases of expansion and contraction, which were more normal than unnatural. The final destruction of empires (and the emergence of the EU as a "confederation of metropolises") created the modern face of Europe, the most perfect polity available.
If we compare what happened in Russia with this, we will see a fundamentally different picture. Russian civilization historically consisted of several centers (which is quite common in Western Europe as well), but imperial construction was associated with only one of them - and, most importantly, it began before the formation of a centralized nation state. Muscovites conquered Kazan and Astrakhan and annexed the Trans-Baikal and Yakut lands to their possessions before they concluded a union with one of their parts of Ukraine, and even more so they conquered Polotsk or Galich. Russia in 1648 was an empire centered in Moscow - I call it the Moscow Empire - but it was not a nation state. The annexation of the left-bank Ukraine also did not make it so. In fact, Russia - and it began to be called in the titles of tsars in this way from the middle of the 17th century - is nothing more than the Moscow Empire (for more details see: Alexander Abalov and Vladislav Inozemtsev. Infinite Empire: Russia in Search of Itself, Moscow: Alpina Publishers, 2021). Thus, the first difference from Europe became the building of an empire by the Russians before the formation of a national identity. But that's not all - and not even the most important thing, in my opinion.
The next problem was that the Moscow Empire (Russia) was successfully consolidated within its new borders, while all other empires experienced serious territorial losses. When Peter I proclaimed the Russian Empire in 1721, this name turned out to be prophetic: it was an empire created by Russia due to the annexation of not alternative, but additional territories - and that is how it continued its development. Taurida and Bessarabia, Livonia and Poland, Finland and Transcaucasia, the North Caucasus and Central Asia did not join instead of the Urals and Siberia, but in addition to them - and this domination of constant expansion over flexible inflation and contraction is the second, most important, difference of the Russian national identity from European.
The constant expansion of the empire and the construction of the next imperial structure around one empire, in fact, thereby turned into a metropolis, is, in my opinion, the circumstance that once and for all deprived the country of the chance to turn into a modern nation. The empire became a form of people's existence "throughout the entire depth of history", and no archetypal puzzle could find anything truly national in this population. What is also very important, having created another one around one empire, the Russians have deprived themselves of the understanding of the borders of the metropolis - that core, which is the systemic center of the nation and which under no circumstances can be sacrificed. Even the apparent periphery of the first empire turned into the backbone territories of the second, creating and consolidating in the national character an insane fear of retreat and abandonment of territories - which, of course, still exists today.
Two circumstances are quite natural consequences of this historical path.
On the one hand, up to the beginning of the 20th century (in episodic elements) and even the beginning of the 21st (on a more serious scale), Russia did not experience any loss of territories through their acquisition of subjectivity (for more details see: Vladislav Inozemtsev. “Colonies and Dependent Territories: Invitation to Discussion” in: POLIS. Political research , 2013, no. 4, pp. 6-19) . If the state shrank spatially, it was only because its parts were conquered by other powers. Meanwhile, the political boundaries of European states over the past five hundred years have changed mainly outside the European continent, and not as a result of their wars with each other (I would call the Battle of Pondicherry one of the last examples of this kind). That is why Russia has a manic anger at the breakaway parts of the empire (while the Europeans have been interacting with their former colonies for centuries, and on very partnership terms) and an equal sign is formed between the reduction of its own territory and the actions of hostile powers that caused this (than the Europeans, even losing their colony, they did not get carried away at all) (for more details see: Vladislav Inozemtsev. "Lost Landmarks" v: SNOB, 2014, No. 11 [November], pp. 104-109). All this makes Moscow at the beginning of the 21st century a very outdated capital, unable to talk on equal terms with its neighbors, both close and distant.
On the other hand, the fear of leaving territories reproduces imperial (and, therefore, non-national) logic in domestic politics as well. Unlike European countries, which first lost their colonies and then militarily controlled territories, during the collapse of the late 20th century, Russia retained not only the former (in the form of Siberia and the Far East), but also some of the latter (in the form of the sultanates of the North Caucasus ). The building of a civil nation could begin, probably, even in a country consisting of a metropolis and a colony, but in a state that includes tribal communities, it is basically impossible to do this (and it is extremely symbolic that the emerging Russian federalism ended precisely with the wars in Chechnya, which not only restored the integrity of Russia, but also reaffirmed its imperial nature). From that moment on, democracy, like a civil nation, were doomed in Russia.
The above, in my opinion, also explains most of the other phenomena that are so noticeable in modern Russia - from its obsession with patriotism and the cult of war (both are typical features of all empires), to the desire to constantly rewrite history (which in any empire is the most important tool for reconstructing not the past, but the present) (for more details see: Vladislav Inozemtsev; "About the "Capitalization" of the history: to understanding the problem" in: Inviolable Reserve , 2020, No. 5, pp. 243-252).
Summing up, I would once again agree with Dmitry Shusharin that the Russian (Russian) civil nation does not exist, but with deep regret I would add that there is no point in hoping for its appearance in the future...