V.Portnykov. Features of civilization break in Europe: is there a chance for reconciliation?

Vitaly Portnikov Articles

On the eve of the panel we have just discussed, together with Ambassador Vaitiekunas, what the reasons are and what the consequences of the crisis that we see today should be. This discussion directly relates to the topic we discussed with you during this plenary session. When did the crisis emerge that led to this attack by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, to the annexation of the Crimea, before the so-called hybrid war in Donbas? Can we find the day of the beginning of this crisis?

I told Ambassador Vaitiekunas that I know that day. This was the day when the new Lithuanian SSR Supreme Council declared the restoration of the state independence of the Republic of Lithuania. But you can find even an earlier day, when the residents of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the Azerbaijan SSR appealed to the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR and Communist Party Central Committee with a request to transfer the Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region to the Armenian SSR.

On the same day the union centre and then Russian political leaders took no appropriate steps to solve the crisis of statehood that began in the former Soviet Union, and if some correct steps were taken -- we can list among them the recognition of the independence of the Baltic countries, the creation of the CIS, the recognition of the independence of former Soviet republics with confirmation of their territorial integrity within the borders they occupied at the time of their declaration of independence, the federal agreement of the Russian centre with the former Russian republics, an agreement on the delimitation of powers of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Tatarstan, the agreement on delimitation of powers of the Russian Federation and the Ichkeria Chechen Republic -- all these steps were considered in Moscow as temporary and whose effects were to be cancelled. And from the first day when these steps have been taken, those who made them, emphasized that they would be revised. It is no accident that the first gesture of official Moscow after Ukraine's declaration of independence on August 24, 1991 was a statement by Mr. Voshchanov, the press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation, questioning the territorial belonging of Crimea to Ukraine. We have heard this statement less than 120 minutes after the declaration of independence of Ukraine.

From the point of view of international law, in terms of normal neighbourly relations in the post-soviet territory, in terms of maintaining this peace, implementing reforms, finding ways of good neighbourliness, finding a balance between the interests of the peoples inhabiting the Russian Federation, all of this sounds like complete idiocy.

But you can stick to the other logic and understand the Russian position, if we say that this represents finding ways to restore the empire. If we understand that Russian political leaders, both when the empire was headed by the first and last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, and when its head was the first Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, and when its head was the second and fourth Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and when its head was the third Russian president, Dmitriy Medvedev, adhered to the exclusive logic of empire restoring, then we understand that everything that happened in terms of all these steps is absolutely logical.

Now the question arises what this empire should be, what its character may be and why this empire needs Ukraine? And in due time, in 1991, I got the answer from President Boris Yeltsin, when during our brief dialogue on the need for a declaration of independence of the Russian Federation (he was an ardent supporter of this idea, I was an opponent hereof), President Yeltsin emphasized that the RSFSR is not interested in creating a renewed Union the members of which would be Russia and the Central Asian republics that were ready for such a configuration at that time. President Yeltsin believed that without Ukraine such a union would be impossible and unnecessary, and it was important to take any steps that would keep Ukraine as part of the integration of a new entity that will be the basis for a new union state.

The creation of the CIS with Ukraine instead of a renewed Soviet Union without Ukraine was an absolutely logical step. Now the question arises, why does Russia need Ukraine in this situation? There is also a very simple answer that we can get if we look into history. Ultimately it is not about the black earth, sugar, or resources – Russia has enough resources to live well, even without Ukraine. The fact is that without Ukraine the Russian Federation cannot have the feeling of being a European country, just as Muscovy could not do so. Remember what Moscow was before acquiring the lands of modern Ukraine. And it was an absolutely harmonious part of post-horde political space where everything starting from princely power, church to society was saturated with not some special Muscovite culture, but with political, domestic, moral, and other traditions and actions of the Golden Horde. It was so deep, that even after annexing the Ukrainian lands Tsar Peter I had to carry out a thorough operation to replace these traditions with at least some resemblance to the European standard. But in order to get such resemblance it was necessary to acquire lands that had direct borders with the European civilization and were traditionally European.

Russia had to pay a high price for this in terms of the war with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and in terms of the complex process of integration of Ukrainian lands to Muscovy, which was not as simple and peaceful as it was described by Soviet and Russian historians, and finally, in terms of an absolutely stunning reform of Russian Orthodoxy on the model of Kyiv’s metropolitan, because it had to be done to establish ties with the metropolitan of Kyiv. And this has created a perpetual conflict with Old Believers and a new tradition that actually distanced the Russian nation from religion. This is the difference between Russian lands and Ukraine.

If you want to look at the civilization border that still exists, you can see where parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church were restored after Stalin allowed to do so, what percentage of parishes was restored in Ukraine, and what percentage of parishes was restored in Russia, and you will see a clear border, not only geographical but, if you wish, a recent border of voting, generally speaking, for Yanukovych and Tymoshenko.

I can give another simple example: settlement level. The Jewish population that lived in all European countries, including Ukraine, and later the annexed territories of Poland, was not permitted to live within the modern borders of the Russian Federation, with the exception of the Smolensk region that was a part of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Jews were one of the important European nations that created the basis of the continent’s civilization, but they definitely were not the people of the Golden Horde, and this also differed from other lands.

And the question that arose before Russia, even in 1991, was the following: change its view of the future and be a good neighbour to Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic countries, and go to Europe with them, or do everything possible to eliminate the consequences of the collapse of the USSR, bind all the territories to a new integration formation and use them only as a buffer zone with Europe. This means the return to what was happening in fact during the existence of the Russian Empire, when these areas were actually the same buffer, both for Europe and for the Russians who could have fun in Warsaw or Helsinki, and not only fun, but also have economic interests there, constitutional rights other than the rights and opportunities on the territory of the empire. Russia opted for the opposite variant to the European choice, and as we can see, it opted for attaching these areas, and this concerns not only Ukraine.

The only serious mistake that was made was the decision to accelerate the integration of Ukraine by military means. Previously, it was different. There were corrupted elites, information warfare, involving the local people to its information space. I think you will not deny that all of this resulted in what we saw during the parliamentary and presidential elections; we saw how large the number of people willing to support openly the pro-Russian party was. The Party of Regions was a pro-Russian party and has never concealed that, and President Yanukovych was a pro-Russian president. President Kuchma, when he was elected for the first time in 1994, was a president with a pro-Russian program. And no one was surprised.

The only thing that the citizens of Ukraine probably could not imagine, is this war with Russia, the annexation of their territory. They could not imagine that most Russians consider them different.

This is a real return to 1654. Russian statehood cannot spread to European territory, it is a true civilizational break, and we can see the change in what Russians say: “turn to the East”, “we have common values with China”, “huge role of the Peoples Republic of China in World War II.”

This is rather logical; finally everybody in Moscow saw that the Russian Federation and the territories of China are the empire of Chingizids. Not Yaroslav, nor Volodymyr, regardless of the number of monuments erected in his honour in Moscow, nor Kyiv which is not the mother of Russian cities. All these myths end, and the understanding of truth comes. Chingizids and Horde Ruriks and Romanovs as heirs to this great dynasty. Russian-Chinese space, Chinese lease of Russian lands, understanding that they really need some new population that will develop the territory that the ethnic Russians failed to develop.

Indeed, in the Far East there are fewer people than in Moscow, but if you combine these civilization efforts, it will result in the normal territory of the former Horde civilization starting from the settlement of Mikhailovskiy to Shanghai. I believe that we should welcome this because it is a normal and civilized development of our neighbours, and we finally have to put an end to the myths about our common history, unity, and values.

If we can have good relationship with China, why cannot we have good relations with Chinese Russia? It is only necessary to draw the real civilizational border, i.e. the values border, economic interest border, and border of understanding of how our partners act.

We must understand that the Russia which did not choose Europe, but Asia, is doomed to become what it was before adjoining the Ukrainian land, i.e. a province of the empire of the Chinhizids. I think that China has many opportunities to develop the territory that the Europeans failed to. Peter’s civilizational experiment is terminated by Vladimir Putin, and Ukrainian lands in this situation return to their true civilization related to the traditions of Kievan Rus’, Galician Rus’, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Poland.

The pause of 1654-2014 also ran to its logical end. We can just reorient the monument to Bohdan Khmelnytsky from east to west.

26.01.2016 19:55:00