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Samizdata quote of the day

Russia has always been a colonial power in denial. While conquering and ruling multitudes, it insisted that—in contrast with violent Western conquests—the indigenous peoples themselves sought Russian protection and that Russian rule was benign. This gap between rhetoric and reality is evident in the country’s current designation as a “Russian Federation”.

Michael Khodarkovsky.

21 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paul Marks

    I disagree. I believe that many of the non-ethically Slav people in the Russian Federation are loyal to Russia – I stress loyal to Russia, not to Mr Putin.

    It is a mistake to confuse race and nationality – there are black people who consider themselves American or British, and there are people Asian or semi-Asian looks (“slanted eyes and all”) who very much consider themselves Russian.

    The West had certainly better hope that race does not determine nationality, as many Western cities (including in Britain) are a lot less ethnically Western than Russian cities (including as far away as the Pacific coast) are ethnically Russian.

    As I have said a lot since the invasion of Ukraine – we must not allow our opposition to Mr Putin to spill over into hatred of Russians, or into some sort of demented plot to destroy Russia.

    Russia is not going away – indeed it is less likely to collapse than the United Kingdom and the United States are.

    I say again – race does NOT determine nationality, so please (please) stop this. The various people of Russia are mostly loyal to Russia (to Russia – not to Mr Putin) and breaking up Russia (even if such an insane scheme could succeed) would just lead to CHINA controlling the land and resources – NOT lots of independent states as Western “Neocons” fondly imagine.

    Do not make the lies of Mr Putin the truth. He claims that there is a Western plot to destroy Russia – we must not give him evidence to present his lies as the truth.

  • Jacob

    “Russia is not going away – indeed it is less likely to collapse than the United Kingdom and the United States are.”
    Or the Ukraine.
    Mr Khodarkovsky mentions the 300 thousands Russians that have fled Russia since the war started but not the 8 million Ukrainians that have fled the Ukraine…

  • Paul Marks

    Indeed, it is Mr Putin himself who is the threat to Russia – his increasingly reliance on the People’s Republic of China is a threat to the independence of Russia. It is a threat to the independence of the Russian people – whether they have “slitty eyes” or not. I repeat – race does NOT determine nationality.

    This is a terribly dangerous game for Westerners (or for pet Russians) to play – as Western cities are far more “diverse” than Russian cities.

    If we are going to play the game that race determines nationality – then most large cities in the United States have only a minority American population, and it is getting that way in Britian as well.

    So, both Westerners and pet Russians should please (please) stop playing this very dangerous game.

    Holding that race determines nationality is very unlikely to destroy Russia – that great nation that stretches from the Baltic to the Pacific, from the Artic Ocean to the Caspian and the Black Sea.

    But holding that race determines nationality will destroy the United States and United Kingdom.

    Saying “you are not Russian because you are a Tartar” is the same as saying “you are not British because you are BLACK”.

    Please, please, stop this.

  • Paul Marks

    The article appeared in the Wall Street Journal – which is based in New York, these days basically several million people who depend (directly or indirectly) on the spigot of funny money from the New York Federal Reserve (which sustains “Wall Street”) – but leave-that-aside. Would the staff of the Wall Street Journal feel safe going shopping in many areas of the city? Is the population of the city of the same ethnicity as them? Do they, the staff of the WSJ, have much in common culturally with most of the people who now inhabit New York City? As Spanish is growing in the United States do the writers of the WSJ even speak the same language as the people in many big American cities? What common history and common national loyalties do they have?

    As for fleeing – yes lots of people have fled New York City, and they (the people who have fled) tend to be of the same ethnic group that most of the writers of the WSJ belong to.

    So, they should really stop this game concerning Russia – and they should stop it now.

    Our opposition is to Mr Putin and his unjust and vicious war against Ukraine – we are not opposed to the Russian people and are not plotting to destroy Russia.

    Race does NOT determine nationality – I am sure that Mayor Adams of New York City feels as American as anyone else. Is the Wall Street Journal suggesting that Mayor Adams is NOT American because he is BLACK?

    Should the different ethnicities of the United States, Anglo, black, Hispanic…. have their own countries? How about the “Asians” in the United Kingdom – as they are becoming the majority in some English cities, should these areas split off and become independent countries? After all, according to this line of attack on Russia, people of South Asian origin in Britian are “not British”.

    I hope the answer they give is NO – because race does NOT determine nationality.

    Confine the attacks to Mr Putin – stop the racist attacks on Russians and Russia, including those written by pet Russians.

    By the way – the article is behind a paywall anyway. So, we cannot read it.

  • Paul Marks

    Is London a British city?

    How about Birmingham or Leicester? Or Bradford? Or many others?

    If your answer is “yes of course they are British cities” – then stop the effort to try and break up Russia with ethnic stuff.

    The enemy is Mr Putin – not the Russian people, the Russian nation.

  • JohnK


    Increasingly many of the British cities you mention are turning into Pakistani enclaves. They do not consider themselves British, they see themselves as Pakistani, albeit they are happy to receive the benefits of the British welfare state.

    What does the future hold? Nothing good.

  • Mr Khodarkovsky mentions the 300 thousands Russians that have fled Russia since the war started but not the 8 million Ukrainians that have fled the Ukraine…

    Almost all those Ukrainians are woman & children. Almost all the Russians are military age men.

  • Poniatowski

    I believe that many of the non-ethically Slav people in the Russian Federation are loyal to Russia – I stress loyal to Russia, not to Mr Putin.

    Holy stolen toilets, batman! Tell me you’ve never been to Russia without telling me you’ve never been to Russia 😀
    Russians are second most racist people I’ve ever dealt with (Chinese are absolutely number one though). If you read Russian (which I’m sure you don’t) look into the murder fetish rave that’s Russian social media. Russians in Moscow & St.P see disproportionate mass casualties in Ukraine taken by Buryats, Karelians, Chechens as one of the war’s bonus features rather than a problem because they’re outbreeding the “white people”. Damn, even now you haven’t figured out how toxic society is in Russian Federation. Russians talk about defending the motherland until the shit hits the fan, at which point they’re loyal to extended family (if anything). Every level of society in Russia is stealing anything that isn’t nailed down & crowbarring out anything that is. Ukrainian graft can be rough too, but that’s always been much more at the top than in the middle or bottom, which make it way easier to do business there, particularly over last few years. It’s not an opinion, it’s a fact anyone whose done business in this part of the world will tell you.

  • Like Poniatowski above, I think the reality of the Russian Empire has always been fairly evidently Russians (‘Big Russians’) ruling Ukrainians (‘Little Russians’) and others, and its conquests have been typical of a land power – fuelled by plentiful soldiers. Pan-slavism was the ideology of its imperialists under the Tsars and, with the fall of communism, something that looks very like it has come back (insofar as it was ever truly gone, which it never was that much). But it’s not just that such as the Ukrainians were never fooled. I don’t think the pan-Slavists ever so fooled themselves as to give practical reality to it; my impression (FWIW) is that it always remained a crude propaganda front draped over a very casually, openly practised reality of Big Russians ruling Little Russians.

    By contrast, the British Empire tended to see itself as acquired “in a fit of absence of mind”, and one of the things that helped that idea was that it always starved itself of soldiers.

    “The British Empire is demilitarised to a degree that continental observers find incredible.” (George Orwell, ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’, quoted from memory)

    Compelling the British Empire to subsist on what other empires of the time would regard as very short commons, for both military and administrative force, had various good effects. (I need not explain them on a blog that preaches the virtue of small government.)

    The idea that “the indigenous peoples themselves sought [imperial] protection and that [imperial] rule was benign” was not at all confined to the Russian empire. Although many a Britain read, in ‘1066 and all that’ and suchlike, that, when the self-proclaimedly “good but unamused” Queen Victoria was told the Fiji islands were annexed to her empire “by the desire of the inhabitants”, then

    At this point, according to some (seditious) historians, her majesty’s lip was observed to tremble

    I think that says more about British tolerance of pluralism, and much more still about British willingness to laugh up-top about things they value deep-down, than about any absence of a strong opinion in many British people that the British Empire was good for everyone, not just them.

    So I end by saying that pan-Slavism was the key difference. The British never pretended to justify ruling India by saying Indians were Anglo-Saxons or Celts. The pan-Slavs were not pan-Slavic about who got to rule, and in this way they were indeed ‘in denial’ as the OP says.

  • Steven R

    I do wonder how much of the locals in a place like Fiji, India, various places in Africa, or any place else that hadn’t already been grabbed up by an empire deciding which was the least evil they could attach themselves to, knowing full well that sooner or later the British, French, Spanish, Russians, Japanese or Americans would be showing up and there wasn’t much they could do in the face of an empire suddenly deciding some place now was blessed enough to fly their flag. Not to mention the locals, being human beings, being smart enough to decide which empire would bring the most improvements into their lives. Why pay for a modern infrastructure when some guy from London, Paris, etc., would do it for you and all you had to do was to pretend to act servile?

  • Kirk

    The one thing that you can rely on from the left and Communists is that whatever they accuse you of…? That’s precisely what they are doing.

    Thus, whenever you hear Soviet/Russian whinging about “imperialism this” and “imperialism that”, you can rely on the fact that, yes, that’s precisely what they’re doing.

    Ask the Finns. The Estonians. The Latvians. The Lithuanians. The Crimean Tatars. The Georgians. Or, quelle horror, the Ukrainians.

    You go down the litany of historical grievances of the Russian periphery, and all you’ll find is deportation, genocide, and colonization. Everywhere you look. All by “Russians”.

    You want to set one of them off, ask them what the hell a Russian is doing in Estonia, in the first damn place. Or, Latvia, Lithuania… You get the idea. And, instead of bringing development and trade, plus improved lives, they pretty much ruin everywhere they insert themselves. You want a metaphor for Russians in your neighborhood, the current set of videos going around where the Ukrainians are filming in that pig farm that was taken over by Russian soldiers as barracks says it all. They’re going to have to clean that up, to keep hogs there again…

    I grew up on stories of the debaucheries committed by Red Army troops in Eastern Europe. I see that little has changed, down the years. And, we wonder why the Poles and everyone else are signing arms contracts with everyone else, and building up a bigger military than most of the rest of NATO combined. They know; they’ve had the Russian boot on their necks before, and they don’t want it again. Ever.

    Same with the Finns. A wise person might call that a “leading indicator”.

  • Steven R

    Not that it ever had a chance to succeed, but it would have been nice if the Russians tried to make Communism work at home before they decided to take their show on the road. But Nicky II and his kid’s bodies weren’t even cold when Lenin and friends thought exporting their ideas to the rest of Europe and the Americas was a good idea.

    They did do a fine job of destroying the West with words and ideas. You have to give them credit for that. It took a century, but Communists are nothing if not patient.

  • Stephen R, communism made it worse, but it was the Russian way earlier. Peter the Great was an interesting character whose attempt to drag his country westwards culturally by means of unwestwardly-dragged tyranny had more going for it than the later communists’ did. However he was also dragging Russia’s borders westwards (and southwards and eastward). One can understand why people in the baltic areas were more apt to preserve historical memories of how invading Russian troops had behaved than of Peter’s westernising intentions, which did not extend to his political arrangements.

  • Steven R

    I get that. I’m just saying it would have been a lot nicer if Lenin would have said “we’re going to make a Communist paradise and then the rest of the world will want to follow suit on their own because of how amazing Russia will be” instead of “I know we just shot the Tsar and I ran Kerensky out of town and we can’t feed our own people yet, so let’s spread Communism to Europe and America now.”

    Communism still would have failed, but at least we wouldn’t have had Moscow sowing the seeds of our destruction for the next 75 years; seeds that grew into a garden of rot.

  • Kirk

    Ah, Steven, Steven, Steven… The sheer naivete of your statement is touching.

    Communism was never anything other than “Throw those bastards out; put ours in charge…” It was a con game from start to finish, quite of a piece with earlier Russian nihilism and self-destructive anarchy.

    All performed and conducted, not by the proletariat, but by the spoiled rich brats of the bored and ennervated middle classes who wanted what the aristos had, but weren’t honest enough to try for it openly.

    If you look back at the long, sordid history of Russia? What do you find, but a continuous thread of insanity from the anarchists who went after Alexander II, arguably the only real reformer that the Russian Tsars ever managed to throw up. They pushed him into reactive conservatism with assassination attempts, and drove the shift into a secret police state. Which they then used as a reason to foment revolution! Absent the anarchists that eventually killed Alexander in 1881, Russia would have gone down a far different historical track.

    The Communists were merely the most recent expression of that loony Russian thread of essential drive for the perfect, seeking to immanentize the eschaton rather than work within what is possible and humane, in the here and now.

    The extremists are the ones you have to blame, along with all the little sheepsies in the middle that believe in them and buy into the fraud long enough for it to really take hold with the secret police.

    Absent the anarchists, the secret police wouldn’t have been so strong, there to be used as an excuse for the revolution, or to be co-opted in the aftermath. Very much an “own goal”, in a long-term sense.

    The really weird thing about it is that there’s a very strong thread of authoritarianism in Russian culture; one that exists alongside this drive for perfection and utterly anarchic actual approaches to life in general. Russia and Russians are the authors of their own problems, but incessantly blame everyone else. Nobody likes us? Couldn’t be because we’re true imperialists, willy-nilly conquering our neighbors, killing them, deporting them, and planting outright colonies of Russians among them… It must be a conspiracy!!! They’re out to get us!!!! They are, I tell you, they are….!!!!!

  • Chester Draws

    quite of a piece with earlier Russian nihilism and self-destructive anarchy

    Not just earlier, the Anarchist strand of the Russian Revolution was massive. Because they didn’t organise well, natch, the anarchists lost out to the Bolsheviks, but they probably had more support across the country.

    Several very large military Anarchist groups were formed, of which Makhno and the Kronstadt sailors are the most famous. And they were every bit as violent as the Reds — their profession to anarchism being largely a cover for looting anyone with more than themselves.

    Makhno’s favourite target were the “German” colonies. In good Slav fashion they were plundered merely for being prosperous. But that was better than Stalin’s tender mercies.

  • Jacob

    Russia is what it is. Good luck with trying to change that. You can spend as many pixels as you wish lamenting Russia’s “true nature”.
    The question still stands: was it wise to push or egg-on the Ukrainians into a war with Russia? Arm and finance them?

  • Jacob:

    Would it have been wise to tell the Ukrainians to just let Russia subjugate them?

  • Mr Ed

    was it wise to push or egg-on the Ukrainians into a war with Russia? Arm and finance them?

    Broken Record Infantile Rothbardism alert.

    Russian forces invaded the Ukraine, that is an act of war. What principle of international law are you relying on to justify the invasion?

  • Would it have been wise to tell the Ukrainians to just let Russia subjugate them?

    That is exactly Jacob’s position, that it would be in Ukraine’s interests to cease to exist as a nation and as an identifiable people. He thinks Ukraine should accept being at the mercy of people like this (broadcast on state TV).

  • Snorri Godhi

    Jacob should keep in mind that all countries that became communist after ww2, except Czechoslovakia, were ruled by dictators right before ww2 — and yet, they were better off under their own dictators than under Soviet rule. (Eastern Germany might be an exception.)