The new Russian imperialism

Robert Horvath ©

To deny that Russian imperialism is shaping the events unfolding in the Caucasus is to ignore the public pronouncements of Russian leaders and the climate of nationalist hysteria that permeates the Russian media. Within hours of his arrival in Vladikavkaz last week, Vladimir Putin boasted that Russia “for centuries” played a “positive, stabilising role (as) a guarantor of the security, progress and co-operation” in the Caucasus and “would remain so in the future”.

That confident affirmation of Russia’s imperial destiny is a tribute to the achievements of a decade of nationalist propaganda in the state-controlled media. No longer is public opinion agitated by the memory of Russia’s 19th-century conquest of the Caucasus, Stalin’s genocidal deportations, and the two brutal Chechen wars…

For too long, we in the West have ignored the xenophobic fulminations and the neo-imperial fantasies disseminated by the Russian state media. For too long, we pretended that the Kremlin’s sabre-rattling was nothing more than a benign concession to the resentments of the downtrodden. It is time to confront the reality that we can no longer attribute the behaviour of the Russian state to the effects of Western power. Russian imperialism has become a fact of life.


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