Facebook Live: Crises in the Post-Soviet Region
Over the past six months, a series of crises has convulsed Russia’s near abroad. There has been a popular uprising in Belarus, violence and leadership changes in Kyrgyzstan, and a now-settled hot war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh. Each of these cases has presented a unique set of challenges to Russia’s pursuits in its neighborhood. What has Russia’s response to these crises been and how has its standing in the post-Soviet region been affected? If there are more crises to come, how might Russia respond to them?
This was part of an occasional Kennan Institute series featuring discussions with leading experts on Russia and Eurasia.
"When we talk about Russia, it's very often about status and identity. Status is similar to prestige. People in states want to feel good about themselves and they see status, which may be described as recognized identity, and Russia's identity is as a great power, a successor of the former Soviet Union. But if you just repeat it a thousand times a day, nobody will believe you unless you act as a great power and confirm this identity and it is recognized as your status."
"Russia, unlike other successor states of the Soviet Union, feels more of a connection to the Soviet Union. The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic as a constituent part of the Soviet Union was not actually separated from the All Union center; it doesn't have a separate capital, Moscow played the role as both Russian capital and Soviet capital, it didn't have major institutions: the Communist party of the Russian republic was created shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union. So the Soviet Union merged with Russia and when the Soviet Union collapsed, there was a deep identity crisis and most Russians had a very difficult time accepting other successor states as true states, as independent states."
"There is a saying in Russia that Russia is not a nation, it's a state of mind, so there are different perspectives on what are the true or correct or real Russian borders. Mental maps are different. You mentioned Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the founding father of ethnic nationalism in Russia, from my perspective we can call him that, and he argued that it was a good thing that the Soviet Union collapsed, the bad thing was that it had collapsed along the wrong borders, drawn by the Bolsheviks and the quote-unquote correct border for him would be borders reflecting the ethnic composition of the population and he argued that the Russian border should include Belarus, most of Ukraine, northern Kazakhstan, which he called southern Siberia, the northeastern part of Estonia, but most of Chechnya, at least the mountain region [would not be] a part of a true Russia."
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