by Duns Scotus
"...trousers wide as the Black Sea..." - Nikolai GogolRussia is an imperialist entity. By its very nature it is forced to be. By the way, an empire, in case anyone has forgotten, is a state that does not recognize boundaries. All the great empires have had this in common, an obliviousness of boundaries, especially when their "vital interests" are concerned. They will continue to grow until they became overstretched or face opposing forces, whereupon some attempt to establish "defensible boundaries" will be made.
The Roman Empire, for example, after being taught a lesson in manners by the fierce German tribes, fixed on the two greatest rivers of Europe as its boundaries. But behind those two front lines, which endured for hundreds of years, lay hundreds of other boundaries that had been trampled underfoot and forgotten. Yes, there are boundaries and boundaries, and, as with anything else, not all of them are created equal.
But back to Russia, a country that has never been able to sit quietly within a given skin. Where does this constant cracking and stretching of its husk come from? The most obvious cause is its geography. It has few if any natural boundaries. Its mountains are in the wrong positions and almost all its rivers flow in the inappropriate direction, being better suited for facilitating transport – and therefore invasion or expansion – than serving as useful limits between states.
Looked at in the biggest sense, what strikes one most about Russia is its sheer shapelessness. It sprawls outwards in every direction, in an amorphous Eurasian mass that cries out to conquer or be conquered.
The Carpathian Mountains, as they did 100 years ago, provide some sort of barrier vis-a-vis Europe, as does the occasional Polish river – but only if backed up by a powerful Germanic force. The Caucasus Mountains, too, were designed by nature or God to serve as a Southern limit on whatever mega-entity, Mongol or Soviet, that welled up in that vast geopolitical arena. Further East the barren wastes of Central Asia and the masses of fertile East Asia have set awkward limits.
Even refracted through a realpolitik calculus and buried beneath diplomatic and economic considerations tied to the international order, this essence, this soul and personality of the Russian entity keeps making itself known.
This is the reason why Russia keeps gathering territorial anomalies, the same way Baba Yaga gathers warts. Right now these include: Kaliningrad (a left over piece of occupied Germany), Abkhazia and South Ossetia (two parts of Georgia declared "independent" by Russia), Transnistria (a gerrymandered corridor separating ex-Soviet bases in Moldova), the Crimea (still not recognized by the international community), the Kuril Islands, and last but not least the shadow war zone of the Donbass.
These are examples of the borderlessness of the Russian state entity that already exist, causing geopolitical tensions and frictions, undermining security, and providing flashpoints for ongoing and future wars. And there is every possibility that new ones will emerge in places like Estonia and Kazakhstan, where there are restive Russian populations ready to be unleashed by Putin in exactly the same way that Hitler used the Sudeten Germans to undermine Czechoslovakia.
To refer back to Baba Yaga, Russia is like a giant chicken-legged hut, not content to stay on its foundations, but inclined to roam through the forest. Likewise, it is no coincidence that this is the state that created the monstrous Zubr-class LCAC, a weapon designed to be "a ship on land" and "a tank on the sea," and thus to eradicate the division between two essential elements.
Another border ignored.
But behind this element of geopolitical borderlessness, coded by Putinists and Duginists as "creation of Russian World" or "Eurasianism," there is also the greater borderlessness of the Russian imperialist spirit, which melds together ideologies, races, religions, and even disparate eras to create a great imperialist continuum that projects Russia as the "Third Rome" (one that embraces the other two) and uses phrases like "From Lisbon to Vladivostok" and "Berlin-Moscow-Beijing Axis." Yes, for the Neo-Russian Imperialist spirit, Putin, Stalin, Tsar Nicholas, and even Julius Caesar all stand shoulder-to-shoulder, the ideological borders between them swept away as surely as the forgotten boundary markers between Muscovy and the Golden Horde or Kievan Russ and the Kipchaks have been swept away.
Such temporal, spatial, and ideological borderlessness is seen as a font of spiritual strength. For the contemporary Russian imperialist, all ideology – whether that of Heidegger, Marx, or even the original "mad monk" Philotheus of Pskov, with his "prophecy" of the all-conquering Third Rome – are mere grist for the mill of a transcendent megalomaniac vision. Ideological contradictions are for the small minds of Western logicians, not for the great "free" tyrants of the Eurasian steppes!
|Igor Strelkov: tsars in his eyes.|
But while the borders of ideology and historical interpretation can be freely interfered with, the borders of human tribes are somewhat more stubborn, even – or possibly because – the tribes in question are so closely related. By contrast, the Chechens, who are quite disntinct from the Russians, and even hated by them, are on board with the Putinist project!
It is ironic that the main struggle faced by the borderless march of Neo-Russian Imperialism is the one with the Ukraine, a country whose very name means "borderlands" or "march," a name which comes from the time when Russia needed a buffer zone to protect itself from the depredations of the Crimean Tartars, once a powerful entity.
Not only does the Slavic similarity of the Ukrainians irk the Russian Neo-Imperialist, but the very name –"Ukraine" – is a provocation and an affront. "How can something as limitless, great, and divine as mighty Russia ever be 'ukrained,' bordered, or contained?" Time to post another map of the upstart state with its southern half emblazoned out with the long cross of St. Andrew!
|Dude, where's my country?|
History, idology, race, and religion – it's all "grist for mill" (Yes, the elimination of definite articles makes anything sound Russian).
We see the same pattern in the Donbass war, where the rebel forces are an eclectic racial mixture of Russians, Chechens, Buriats, and other disparate groups, alongside the locals. I’m just surprised that elements of Hezbollah haven’t shown up – oh, they have...
|Ramzan Kadyrov: Putin's "nigga!"|
“There are no separate Russia or Ukraine, but one Holy Rus” – Elder Iona of OdessaOf course, like many distinct nationalities today, Russians and Ukrainians have shared roots. They also existed for a long time within the same, vast multicultural state, and a lot of them even use a mixture of Russian and Ukrainian language in their daily lives, but ethnicity is also about identity and there is evidence that most Ukrainians do not think of themselves as Russian, even if a large number do. Obsessed with their monomania and paranoia, however, Neo Russian Imperialists will simply dismiss any evidence contrary to their thesis as evidence of IMF meddling and mass hypnotism by Western NGOs – capitalist chemtrails, y'know.
But, the idea that Ukraine's borders become invalid just because pockets of Russian-identifying Ukrainians exist, is also a moral and logical argument for the dissolution of Russia, where large parts of the country are not ethnically Russian. But such quibbles about Ukrainian identity are not about the morality of ethnic self-determination and national integrity. They are mere pretexts for the expression of the Russian imperialist transcendent impulse.
But any force that does not recognize spatial, temporal, ideological, or ethnic borders will eventually build up opposing forces. We have seen the geopolitical manifestation of this, with the US and the the EU coming together to support the Poroshenko regime, while also drawing cautious economic lines around Russia.
This'll work out well.
But what of Russia’s "transcendence" of ideology and history and its casual and reckless mixing of atheist Bolshevism, Stalinist fascism, Tsarist Orthodoxy, and Chechen Islamism in the same bucket...with a stick? Will there also be a backlash there? Will the ideological and historical contradictions built into the Putinist project result in some kind of implosion? I strongly suspect they will, but exactly how is a highly speculative topic for another essay.
The Failure of Putin
The Great Hate of Kiev
The Ukrainian Conflict: A Ukrainian Nationalist View
The Crimea Annexation: Putin Profits from Stalin’s Crimes
Beyond Left and Right, Beyond Red and White: Framing the Liberation War in Donbas