Putin: a would-be Tsar of all the Russians?

russians_ethnic_94Source: University of Texas Libraries.

Back when the Ukraine crisis first broke out, I speculated that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin’s ultimate goal was to reconstitute the old Soviet Union, first by luring the former Soviet Republics into an economic “Eurasian Union” common market, and then to transform the economic union into a political union.

I then began to think, as I still think, that Putin’s policy was more a response to an external threat posed by Ukraine joining NATO and the Russian naval base at Crimea becoming a NATO base.

But there is a third possibility, and that is that Putin is trying to bring all the ethnic Russians back into the Russian Empire.  This would include not only the Russians in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, but in northern Kazakhstan.

The great Russian novelist Alexandr Solzhenitsyn wrote a tract in 1990 in which he advocated a union of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, with northern Kazakhstan included in Russia, and independence for all the other Soviet republics and satellite states.

Maybe President Putin is thinking along these lines, and maybe he isn’t.  I have no power to read his mind.  But recent reports say that Kazakhstan’s leaders are worried about Russia’s ambitions and their Russian minorities.

Just as in Ukraine, there are reports of increasing Russian discontent and also increasing anti-Russian feeling.   It is easy to imagine Putin stepping in, as he did in Ukraine, to protect his fellow Russians.

The Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia, among others, have large Russian minorities, and, as members of NATO, they are entitled to call upon the United States to defend them if attacked.

Blame Stalin’s divide-and-rule policies, which are pretty much the same as the divide-and-rule policies of all modern imperialists.  None of the Soviet republics are ethnically homogeneous.  The boundaries of each are drawn so as to include significant minorities, Russian or otherwise, so that they would not become united and so that there always would be a part of the population that looked to Moscow for protection.

map of ethnic russiansSource: Euromaidan Press

The drawback to a foreign policy based on ethnic Russian nationalism is that Russia itself is not ethnically homogeneous.   Being a citizen of the Russian Federation doesn’t mean you’re of Russian ancestry any more than being a citizen of the United States means you’re of English ancestry.

A foreign policy based on ethnic Russian nationalism, and a Russian nationalism based on the Russian language, Russian Orthodox Church and Russian ancestry, could prove dangerously divisive.

I don’t see any of this as an American problem—unless Russia attacks a country the United States is obligated by treaty to defend.

ties to russiaSource: Business Insider


Annexation of Crimea has magnified divisions inside Kazakhstan by Shaun Walker for The Guardian.

In Kazakhstan, fears of becoming the next Ukraine by Michael Birnbaum for the Washington Post.

Ilya Ponomarev, a Lone Warrior Who Stands Up to Putin by Irena Chalupa for Newsweek.

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2 Responses to “Putin: a would-be Tsar of all the Russians?”

  1. Notes To Ponder Says:

    In my opinion Putin is likely one of the most corrupt and unstable individuals in modern history.


  2. Chalen Tretiakova Says:

    Putin himself is not necessarily “unstable” I don’t feel. I think he has a long-term plan that nobody but himself knows the details of. Corrupt? Most definitely! I fully agree with you there!



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