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    The end of the Tsarist empire. Tomasz Sakiewicz analyses the decline of imperial Russia.

    Since the 1960s, the Russian empire has been regularly shrinking in size. Lasting 400 years process of building a great Moscow state enters its downward trend. It is connected to the fall of more and more ideological mirages: the unification of Russian and Slavic lands and finally the inter-nationalistic import of revolution. All these ideas have been compromised and replaced with an ideological dummy, an alibi to keep the empire going – Brezhnev’s Doctrine, meaning a neocolonial defence of the zone of influence. However, it is not enough to keep an economically weak empire together.

    During my life, the Russian empire went from being the largest territory in history, covering most of Asia, half of Europe and with a serious zone of influence in South America and Africa, to the level not much bigger than the 17th century Russia, at least in Europe. Along with the decline of its influence, it went back to tighter and tighter ideology, beginning with great, inter-nationalistic fatherland, but with an official addition of Russian nationalism: the headquarters in Moscow and obligatory Russian language in the subordinate states. In terms of countries joined directly to Russia, the inter-nationalism meant brutal Russification. The empire ruled from the Kremlin in recent years also retreated from the ideology of Pan-Slavism feeding the idea of conquering the nations of Central Europe until the narrow idea of the 17th century to unite the Russian lands. After Ukraine broke off and Kiev fought Moscow over these lands, the Kremlin was only left with the dummy: Brezhnev’s Doctrine, meaning intervention in countries recognised as part of the zone of influence. This doctrine is not very different from the 19th century idea of colonialism, compromised in the 20th century, not giving the conquered nations any incentives, no will to live in an empire.

     

    Ideology, Moscow’s main weapon

    The changes in the ideological message of Moscow are perpendicular to the scale of influence it had on other countries. The larger the conquered territory, the deeper the ideology. This; however, bears the question whether the ideology is changing because Russia is getting smaller, as it once changed as it was getting larger, or is Russia getting smaller, because its ideas are being compromised and are not providing the strength needed for further conquests? What is definitely worth observing are the changes to the Russian propaganda, as they reflect the current goals and state of Russia. The ideological aggression has always preceded the Russian army, which usually entered territories weakened by Moscow’s hybrid actions. Hybrid war, after all, is not a new invention, but Moscow’s permanent element of operating. Its creator, Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu, wrote the book “Art of War”, which is used by every officer of Russian special services. Moscow, generally not having huge military advantage in its history, mastered to perfection the art of breaking the enemy from the inside. First and foremost, it used its ideology, which moved the loyalties of elites in the attacked countries, and even of parts of the societies’ loyalties, to Moscow. The belief that the Russian aggressor was really “one of ours” took the weapons out of hands and made many countries defenceless against the terrifying, inhuman totalitarianism.

     

    From driving Poles away, to the attempt of conquering China

    The beginning of the Russian empire is carefully written down in the current historiography of the Kremlin. It is no accident that the anniversary of the October revolution was replaced by the holiday of driving Poles away from Moscow. The year 1612 was the end of Moscow’s biggest weakness, when it fought for its independent existence. Starting from there, the Moscowers began marching West and East. The march obviously began with the attempt to take over the lands of today’s Ukraine. This advance would not be possible if not for the attractive incentive which was the ideology of a great Ruthenia. The fall of Kiev following the Kozak uprisings made it possible to move the centre of Orthodoxy to Moscow. Moscow declared itself the protector of all Ruthenians, which could have been explained with the similar language and religion. Although the Ruthenians feared the Tsar’s whip, the massacres between Poles and Kozaks soothed this feeling. Poles failed to give – or else: too late and too weakly gave their main export product – the profits of republican traditions, religious tolerance etc. In the atmosphere of a civil war, the Republic lost with the clear and distinct vision of Orthodox, great Ruthenia. This fuel was enough until the first partition of Poland. Then, a new idea was needed in order to argument new conquers. Russia, expanding its territories and zone of influence, reached for the ethnic Polish lands, at the same time fighting for dominance in the Balkans. It could not use Ruthenia as its argument any longer. Nations connected to both Catholicism and Orthodoxy came under its rule. Hence came another idea for explaining its conquers: to announce itself the unifier of Slavic lands. The ideology of great Slavism which was to defend the population of our part of the continent against “the corruption of the West”, since the 18th century efficiently poisoned the minds of some national elites, often pushing them towards treason, i.e. members of the Targowice Confederation.

    The ideology of great Slavism was enough to keep the empire together until the First World War. When Russia tried to move outside of Slavic territories, it suffered a gigantic defeat. It caused the creation of a new imperial idea – Moscow’s communism. Such idea had to come to life, since without conquest the totalitarian Russia could not survive. Just as locust cannot survive without new fields. Someone might describe this argument as an oversimplification, since the revolution broke out because people wanted bread and peace and the Bolsheviks were supported by the German intelligence. However, bread and peace were often lacking in Russia and probably many different secret services operated there. The revolution found easy ground, since the formula of imperial Tsar Russia turned out to be unsuccessful. First, they got beaten by the Japanese (first revolution from 1905), then by the Austrians and Germans during the First World War, and there we have two revolutions in 1917. Only communism turned out to be a formula good enough for more conquests.

    Russia, trying to put under its zone of influence territories settled not only by Slavs, but also other ethnic groups and followers of other religions than Christianity, such as: Buddhists, Muslims, Animists, followers of Confucius, organically incapable of religious tolerance, proposed an ideology hostile to religions and all kinds of national identity. However, it has not got rid of its own identity. Despite the repressions, in its own way, it also preferred Orthodoxy, which members of the Greek-Catholic church, perceived as an opposition to Orthodoxy, quickly learned the hard way.

     

    The locust stopped, so it is dying

    The new ideology joined with the rising military strength of Moscow would be able to swallow the entire world, if not for the fact it clashed with two, equally great powers – Pan-American and Chinese. In the West, the republican tradition of the federation of the First Republic of Poland was taken over by the United States, which later infected Europe with it. The Russian tanks went as far as the American ones allowed them to. They stopped at the Elbe river in 1945 and could not go any further. In turn, the conquest of China turned out to be a complete fiasco, as the most populated country in the world declared itself the leader of communism. The rivalry over leadership in the communist world compromised the idea it came from in the first place, even among the most radical inter-nationalists, and Russia slowly began to die without new lands to conquer. The economically insufficient system worked at least on some level as the economy of war. In the time of peace, its flaws quickly came to light. And Russia could not afford going to war neither with the United States nor China. Since the 1960s, when China freed itself from Moscow’s attempts at dominating it, the Russian empire began to shrink. For many citizens of Central Europe squeezed by the red regime, it might have seemed surreal at the time, but already on the brink of the 1960s and 1970s, it was clear that the empire must fall. Workers’ protests in Poland were the beginning of the end. The myth of the ideology seemingly created by the workers’ have fallen, so the main binding force of the red empire was gone. The Russian vassals in Polish uniforms crashed the Solidarity movement with brutal force, but they failed to notice that by doing so they completely compromised the ideology which barely kept Moscow’s influence in place. Russia, falling economically and ideologically, lost the entire Central Europe between 1980 and 1990. The Russian zone of influence in Asia, Africa and South America slowly transitioned to the western world, China or fighting Islam. The attempt at reviving the Pan-Slavic ideology ended with the construction of national-anti-western parties, incapable of taking power.

    Russia went back to the level of ideology from the times of Ruthenian rulers. This lasted until the first revolution in Ukraine. Already in 2004, it was clear that the Pan-Russian ideology loses against the attractive republican message. Russia treated it all as the West’s aggression, not understanding that it were Moscow’s crude ideas which turned away the population of conquered territories. Following the second revolution in Ukraine, the centre of Orthodoxy for the first time since the second half of the 17th century returned to Kiev. This destroyed the last binding force of Moscow’s empire. Its ideology of uniting Ruthenian lands, Russia could only keep enforcing in Belarus. But now it is coming to an end. It does not really matter if the Belarusian revolution succeeds today or not. Of course, it does not matter to us, it matters to the Belarusian people. The republican ideology has already won in Belarus, and it is rightly associated with Poland. The difference is, we have not brought it with bayonets. Anyone could simply compare the life in Belarus under the influence of Moscow’s imperialism to the life in Poland, which has once again been a republic for the past thirty years. The attractiveness of this idea turned out to be stronger than tanks. Russian is still trying to save what is left of its influence with Brezhnev’s Doctrine. Nonetheless, it will not last for long. The question is, whether after compromising all of its imperial doctrines Russia finally chooses the republican tradition? If we wish well to ourselves, the nations of Central Europe and to Russia, than we need to wish it just that.

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