Empire: A Forbidden Word
The past year has brought us to the inevitable moment when we must stop using politically correct terms for analyzing our standing in domestic discourse.
You could also put it differently.
The point at issue is not to make our alleged opponents or partners believe us. This would be not just hopeless but also useless. They don't delude themselves; they know and understand everything that is going on around them. They are aware of their role in their relations with Russia; they know about our weaknesses with regard to them and about our desire to play into their hands, which was particularly obvious during the rule of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. Our strategy of appeasing the West has failed epically, which the West celebrated as a victory in the Cold War, even though both sides had agreed to a draw (which was silly).
The point at issue is not to defeat a group of alleged adversaries, who are actually loyal to Russia, on the TV shows that many networks broadcast.
We must above all stop the totalitarian neoliberal censorship of our historical conscience, without which all our deliberations about the Russian world, the Russian civilization and other literary rather than organizational or political blah-blah are nothing but talking to the birds.
We have become aware of the necessity and, on a pragmatic plane, the value of the state of whose inevitable demise our bitter enemies — neoliberals and the advocates of managed democracy, rather than Marxist-Leninist scholars — have been trying to convince us.
Without the state we won't have any acceptable living conditions and will be plunged into prehistoric chaos. It would take several generations to clean up the rubble of a collapsed state.
What we don't know yet is what type of state we need and hence what type of state we must build. This is where a new trap has been laid for our historical self-determination.
So, shall we destroy this world down to the foundations, and then what? Then we'll build our new world based on correct and systemic (read: anti-historical) blueprints. We'll act as if we have the scientifically substantiated laws of social processes that are applicable to any time and place, like the laws of physics. Sounds good, don't you think? And this plan doesn't imply, and even prohibits the reproduction of any of the past ideas and rules out any continuity, tradition or connection to history. By the way, this plan doesn't need any culture as a concept either.
This is how they propose that we build the liberal-democratic Russia that we never had. But the most interesting thing is that we've done this before. The application for creating the Soviet Union, or a new Russia, was filled out under these rules. But it turned out very soon — with the start of the Stalinist era as the practice of state development — that a socially, industrially, politically and culturally modernized Russia cannot but be the descendant of Russia as a historical state.
We have reproduced many more elements of the past than we have created new ones. The Great Patriotic War saw the revival of pre-revolutionary traditions in the army and the church, and it doesn't matter that many attempts were later made to return the country to the track of building a Communist future. Had we known that the number of viable historical innovations is limited, we would have probably preserved many of them.
It's no use speaking about a "new" Russia that was proclaimed as a state in 1991 under a "new" tricolor state flag, which was actually adopted by Peter the Great as a merchant flag in the late 17th century, with a double-headed eagle that dates back to the reign of Ivan the Terrible. The notion of the historical nature of the Russian state is spreading through society and has reached a practical plane, although belatedly. The elements we should reproduce today are rooted not only in the pre-revolutionary Russian Empire but also in the Soviet period of our history.
The second trap on the way to an adequate (that is, competitive and consistent with international practice) form of survival and self-determination of large nations was placed in the period when we recognized the historical roots of government practices. Here is the essence of the new (that is, yet another) irresistible offer.
Let's define our historical state as a "national" state. And why not? Isn't Russia the state of Russians? Isn't this that determines its historical essence? And even if this was not always true in the past, must not this become true in the future? Just look at the European states, all of which are national states, while those that abandoned this principle have come across the problems of multiculturalism and migrants.
Benedict Anderson writes in his book, titled "Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism," that all so-called national communities and their nationalist ideologies (which demand that a nation must have a state) have no natural or historical roots whatsoever but are socially young.
In other words, it is not just Latvians and Ukrainians who don't know that they were invented relatively recently for a specific technical purpose, but also the French and Germans. To illustrate my point, I'll remind you that when the French state was created through centralization in the 17th century under the influence of Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin, it comprised many widely different nations none of which held (or could hold) state power. The same is true of the German nations, which only formed a centralized German state in the 19th century, amid the rivalry of Prussia and Austria.
Nationalism became the state ideology in Germany under Hitler. Everyone knows the outcome. I'd like to say that the encouragement of nationalism as a national ideology, which is the only goal of the idea of the national state, ultimately leads to external management, the loss of sovereignty, and the splitting and ultimate destruction of historical states. Moreover, Russian political culture rested on political internationalism both before and after the 1917 revolution, and it couldn't have been otherwise, for this is the essence of the historical Russian state. Russians are not Slavs. All nations living in Russia are politically Russians. Ukrainians' refusal to be Russian has a purely political basis and essence, and there is nothing natural, historical, cultural or ethnic in this refusal.
The basic national communities that claim the right to sovereignty and survival in today's world are based on the culture of political internationalism. They are the United States and China. The latter is comprised of many nations who speak different languages, but their official language is Chinese. Facing the challenge of competition with these states, Russia must not roll back to the status of a small "national state" in which there is nothing national or state-like.
Another form of political internationalism is the new Europeism, which is funding the political EU project. However, they should know that an international community based on this ideology will ultimately unite with American internationalism. French or German sovereignty would have been possible had they not deteriorated into nationalist states but found the courage to become internationalist states with a dominant political culture. But the rejection of a dominant political culture in favor of tolerance and multiculturalism have plunged these states into reactionary nationalism.
Attempting to become a national state, a "Russia for Russians," for the first time in its history would be suicidal for Russia. This "self-determination" would only split Russia into dozens of national states, something our enemies would like to see. This is why they are exporting democracy to Russia and have been making use of the Islamic influence.
Russia can only reproduce itself and compete (fight) for its survival as a historical state of political internationalism within the framework of a dominant historical Russian culture.
Anyone can be Russian, or Chinese or American for that matter, if he or she accepts the established rules of self-determination. Will we see the appearance of Europeans as a nation? Time will tell. But this is what Ukrainians want. They don't want to be Ukrainians; they want to be Europeans, contrary to what Ukrainian nationalists say. In other words, if we don't want to remain Russians in the traditional, historical and political meaning of this word, how can we expect Ukrainians to want to be Russian?
A normal state that is based on the culture of political internationalism, including Russian political internationalism, is an imperial state. Russia, the United States and China are imperial states. The only difference between them is the form of their empire, but they should first admit that they are empires and that it is a normal historical form for a state, and start settling in it.
The oldest type of empire is a land empire, which doesn't attempt to rule other countries across the ocean, let alone the world as a whole. All territories and nations in these empires eventually become equal members of the imperial ambition. Rome and Byzantium were such empires. Russia and China are such empires. And Europe could be such an empire (without the US). But the British Empire and the United States are different, because they have been trying to assume control of the entire world and to draw financial benefits from this.
A normal historical empire is anti-global. Even Ancient Rome did not aim to conquer the world. An empire is an international state (and the dominant political culture) that has spread to its natural borders. An empire has the territory and resources for the self-sufficient existence of its nations. Only such a state can be truly sovereign and can draw balanced, (strategic) lasting and sustainable benefits from any form of interaction (from trade to war) with the rest of the world. You can describe the empire as a superpower, but this would only reflect its military component. An empire is a form of human development that is competitive with the other forms (empires).
Speaking seriously about a multipolar world, we will have to admit that it is a world with several empires (not all nations will be united in them), which must try to avoid a world war against one another. As I said, a "Russian world" or "Russian civilization" will not resolve this problem, for they will not exist without a Russian empire. So let's talk plainly and call bread bread, and wine wine.