De-Imperialization Of Russia Cannot Occur If It Is Based On Hostility To Russians As An Ethnic Group – OpEd


Many non-Russian nations within the borders of the Russian Federation are animated by a hatred of Russians as such, but “real de-imperialization and de-colonization of Russia is impossible if it is based on hostility towards Russians as an ethnic group,” Vadim Shtepa says. 

The editor of the Tallinn-based regionalist portal Region.Expert told the Eighth Free Nations of Russia Forum in London that “only the joint efforts of Russian regions and non-Russian republics can destroy the empire” not only because Russians are dnumerically dominant but because Russian regions are also angry at Moscow (

People in many of them, Shtepa continues, are “very unhappy that Moscow is actually robbing them, turning them into raw material colonies.” They are thus natural allies of the non-Russians who feel the same way; and so “just as many English-speaking countries appeared after the demise of the British Empire, so after Russia, many Russian-speaking countries may appear.” 

There is no question, he argues, that “the liquidation of the Kremlin empire would represent a chief victory of world democracy in the 21st century.” But in seeking its destruction, everyone must remember that it has been destroyed twice and then revived with the arrival of yet another totalitarian leader. 

There is a danger that could happen again, with victories in the near future replaced by defeats just afterwards, Shtepa says. And if that happens, then the threat that a dissolving Russia would pose for the world would be far greater than even the horror of the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

But to avoid such an outcome, everyone involved needs to focus on the future rather than the past, he argues. “The Kremlin’s ideology is focused on the restoration of the past, but unfortunately this orientation is shared by many national movements in the republics within the Russian Federation,” a focus that could trigger conflicts within Russia and beyond.

“Real liberation from the empire,” Shtepa concludes, “will be possible only if democratic values, including freedom of speech and genuine elections, become the core values of national and regional movements.” If they are, then the new post-Russian countries, regardless of ethnicity, will be able to form an analogue to the British Commonwealth or the European Union.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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