This is a part of Standpoints (Marko Pinteric) site.
World public was simply overtaken by the news from until now put-aside country of Ukraine. Due to extensive fraud, the opposition leader Yushchenko did not recognise the results of the elections, according to which his opponent Yanukovich from the ranks of ruling regime won. This led to the largest (in terms of population as well as time) protest in history of eastern Europe and the crash of authority of existing semi-democratic Ukrainian regime itself. It is interesting to note that journalist in their reports acknowledged the importance of Russian influence in the election mess, but most simply failed to recognise its immense portion in the events.
Since the fall of the iron curtain we have witnessed the immense changes in the east. It is characteristic for this period that all nations, which were once firmly under Soviet control, are hectically running away from Russia. Baltic states and most of middle European states have already joined or eagerly want to join European Union, which is on the other hand evidently closed for Russian membership. Russia is no longer communist, but (at least in words of their new-risen elite) democratic and prosperous nation, so why is this happening? To find the answer to this question it is simply enough to listen to Russian president Putin's own words and look into basic facts behind turbulent history of the eastern Europe.
Putin in one of his weighted but still revealing statements criticised the western influence on the Ukrainian elections. It is true that Western governmental and non-governmental organisations provided money and intellectual support to the non-governmental movements, which - when measured in hard currency - is estimated to few dozen US dollar millions. However, Putin himself visited Ukraine twice to support Yanukovich, while his financial support of the favourite candidate cannot even be estimated because in Russia there is no effective control over governmental institutions. Nevertheless, only politically naive person would expect that this sum is smaller than the western one. Therefore the Putin's statement is nothing more but farce of wolf suddenly protecting sheep.
So what is it on the stake for Russia in the Ukraine? Usually, from both pro-Russian Ukrainians and Russians themselves you can hear arguments of Slavic brotherhood and of disgrace of selling one's pride to the corrupted West. Indeed, there is grain of the truth behind the former argument. On one hand, Russia wants to become a respected superstate, and on the other hand it has several potentials to succeed in this aim. It is far the largest and most important Slavic nation, and Slavic nations combined would represent one of the most powerful groups in the World.
However centuries-long Slavic brotherhood issue was always only facade for far darker intention of creating a Russian empire in the eastern Europe. Slavic brotherhood in Russian eyes does not represent (as the word brotherhood would suggest) the relations between Slavic nations on the base of equality and mutual respect, but rather the creation of greater Russia, with the role of particular Slavic nations reduced to tribal diversity. For last few centuries Slavic brother-nations under Russian control, like Byelorussians, Ukrainians and Poles, were rather shamelessly Russified than let to develop and retain their identity.
The best example of good Russian intentions can be detected in Byelorussian and Ukrainian history. In the western parts of Byelorussia and Ukraine, which were under control by either other Slavic (Polish) or even non-Slavic (Austria-Hungary and Lithuanian) nations, the level of national identity and self-awareness is today much higher than in eastern parts of these countries, which were looked after, but in fact heavily Russified, by its brother-nation Russia. This can be easily verified by the fact that Byelorussian and Ukrainian language, the base for national identity, are well rooted in the western parts of these countries, while almost extinct in the eastern parts.
How much respect do Russians have to their Slavic neighbours can be also seen by their altitude to their languages. Russians living in countries created after the break-up of Soviet empire are simply offended by the fact they have to use non-Russian language in official matters. They are not only offended by the fact they have to learn non-Slavic Latvian in Latvia or Estonian in Estonia, they are equally offended by the fact they might have to learn their brother Slavic languages Ukrainian in Ukraine and Byelorussian in Belarus. On the other hand, the idea that any non-Russian language would have official use within Russia itself is for them beyond any reason. The reason for hectic run towards European Union is in the fact that the practice there is starkly different: Slavic language Slovenian with only two million speakers has within predominantly non-Slavic European Union the equal official status as German language with over 100 million speakers.
Instead of becoming regional leader, working together with other Slavic nations on common interests, the blindness of the Russian elite destroys this very opportunity by chasing away all neighbouring nations with the fear of greater Russia. Unfortunatelly, remaining Slavic nations failed to use this lost Russian opportunity. There are already six Slavic nations (Poles, Slovaks, Bohemians, Slovenians, Croatians and Bulgarians) part of European Union as full or joined members, representing almost half of all Slavic nations. Four more Slavic nations applied for membership. If they would join their forces together, forming some kind of all-Slavic alliance, they might help two remaining Slavic nations (Byelorussian and Ukrainian) to escape Russian clutches. Unlike OSCE (Organisation of security and cooperation in Europe), which is in eyes of many eastern Europeans seen as the organisation of German- or French- dominated Europe, such an organisation would have much higher respect and could represent serious competition to CIS (Confederation of Independent States, union of Russia, Byelarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan) in area of former Soviet empire.
In another significant statement Putin claimed that Europe should not judge Ukrainian democracy. This statement is outrageous, if you take into account that it came from the mouth of a man, which obviously does not think highly of democracy and rule with iron fist in conditions, which could hardly be described democratic. But here, too, exist a grain of truth.
When we think of term democracy, we usually think about western-type of democracy, which standards were postulated by west-European countries. Therefore if a judgement on western-type democracy should be made, the European Union is a rightful address. However in order to implement a western-type democracy in a particular country several conditions have to be fulfilled. Many conditions can be achieved rather easily by financial and political support, but few prove to be more elusive - in particular, within country there has to exist a will and mentality to implement it.
European Union has invested a lot of money and political influence in the project of Russian democratisation, sometimes even making rather unacceptable concessions to its own principles. The good example is an aim to create special relations between European Union and Russia, which partly coincided with Ukrainian crisis. However, do Russian themselves have will and mentality to accept western-type democracy? In my opinion European politicians in their noble democratic crusade are turning blind eye to Russian reality. Unfortunatelly, two outrageous Putin's statements above are the ones that show true Russian mentality, deeply rooted in the heart of Russian nation. This mentality was created by centuries of harsh tzarist rule, which was the darkest rule of the European history, further hardened by 70 years of communism and Soviet imperialism. It is an obvious fact that Russian mentality does not allow neither in this moment nor in the near future acceptance of most of democratic standards in relations within the nation as well as with other nations and introduction the western-type democracy.
So if Russians want tzarist-type democracy we should let them have it. However, Russians themselves should let other nations, which refuse tzarist-type democracy, like Ukrainians, Byelorussians or Georgians, to have western-type democracy. European naive policy to comply to yet another Russian blackmail and sacrifice Ukrainian or Byelorussian cause in order to induce democracy in Russia will simply not succeed. Instead of loosing energy on already lost Russian mission, European Union should concentrate to nations, which unlike Russia can and want to accept democratic norms, even if they are not geographically part of Europe. Turkey, for example, is such a nation.
Many columnist speculated that after the rise of president Putin one can see old Russia again, the country on the track of centuries-long strategy of Eurasia imperialism. Such comments suggest that Russian imperialism is rather a consequence of limited or even personal aspirations. This reasoning is however wrong and even dangerous for the future of the whole Eurasia. Namely, the idea of Russian imperialism is so well rooted in the minds of Russian politicians as well as Russian nation, it will take much longer to cede to the state it will no longer pose a threat to Russian neighbourhood. Those who are incident to politics of eastern Europe know that Russia actually never gave up old czarist aspirations in eastern Europe, not even in times of more liberal president Jeltzin.
In order to show that it is enough to listen to recent statement from Russian former secretary of state Lavrov. In Hague tribunal Lavrov recently backed notorious Serbian former president Milosevic, despite the fact that the latter is today renounced even by most of Serbs. This reminds us that Milosevic was supported even in libreal Jeltzin era as a strategic Russian ally in the eastern European region. And what exactly did Lavrov said in the court? One of his brilliant statements claimed that it is the western media and not Milosevic responsible for massacre in former Yugoslavia. Does this statement needs any comment? I think it is enough to say: Yet another statement from a Russian official.
Created by Marko Pinteric: feedback form
Web page has been read by visitors since December 2004.