Famous Russian Americanist, professor Valery Garbuzov was recently dismissed from post and subject to media lynching in Moscow after he published a polemic article entitled “Lost Illusions of a Bygone Era” in Russian media. He is a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, an already dismissed director of the US and Canada Studies Institute in the name of academician G.A. Arbatov, who laid the basis of Soviet and Russian Americanism.
All those who read the aforementioned article should admit that the ideas presented in this publication are not categorically new. They are contained in a multitude of scientific works that were earlier published by historians, political scientists and sociologists, including Russian ones. The author simply arranged the historical facts and events in a logical chain, identifying the causal relationships that inevitably led to particular conclusions in the article. Namely these logical conclusions scared the representatives of power in Moscow, as it seems.
Uninterrupted continuity of expansionism policies
The Russian Americanist begins by observing that often the ruling elites of authoritarian and totalitarian political regimes have deliberately formed utopian ideas and myths and intentionally spread them among the masses. Such massive manipulation of the consciousness of society immediately gives rise to a utopian picture of the perception of the world among millions of people, making it possible to unite disparate political and social groups around a national leader in the name of a specific goal. However, it is also a powerful tool for long-term retention of personal power. “And Russian history is by no means an exception,” the author concluded in this connection.
Referring to the history of early feudal Old Russian state of Kievan Russia, he says that it’s no secret that the charge of foreign policy expansionism has never left Russia, pursuing it throughout its entire historical development. It was that which became one of the engines of the formation of the Russian state, imprinting a model of development with a pronounced particularity of domination of the extensive methods in the long run. In the last instance, this model of development influenced and formed the character and public conduct of the Russian nation, which is predisposed to ignore the efforts aimed at obtaining benefits by intensifying changes to the better inside the own society, in favor of expansion outside.
Expansionism borrowed and extended by Bolsheviks
Even the Bolsheviks, being ardent challengers of the tsarist policies, who came to power in October 1917, enthusiastically took up the banner of Russian continental expansionism. True, they gave it a communist color and a global scale through the idea of organizing a world revolution. The Soviet-Communist expansionism led to the formation in 1919 of the Comintern, which formed its own sections - national communist parties - and turned into a foreign policy instrument of the rapidly growing Soviet empire. However, it soon became clear that this idea was just an empty myth, an unrealizable utopia. In 1943, under pressure from the allies in the Anti-Hitler coalition, the Comintern announced its own dissolution.
But the fall of the Communist International didn’t influence at all the expansionist instincts of the Kremlin. The state propaganda of the USSR in the postwar period was built around several points that formed the Soviet foreign policy mythology. One of them was the thesis of American imperialism taking over the entire globe and preventing the rest of the world from advancing towards a bright communist future. In his article, professor Garbuzov noted the fact that the foreign policy of the USSR during the Cold War years was its mirror image, today, few people doubt. The two superpowers held each other back, practically using the same tools to create their own spheres of global geopolitical influence. The Cold War world was divided into geopolitical spheres of influence between two great empires: the U.S. and the USSR.
Communism “decayed” without seeing “decay” of capitalism
However, the destiny of these two empires of contemporaneity turned out to be completely different. The USSR abided by the postulate of the Communist ideology about the inevitable death of capitalism and, hence, the as inevitable collapse of the American system and the victory of world communism But the communist prophesy about the “general crisis of capitalism” didn’t come true and never led to the victory of world communism. On the contrary, the Soviet Union disintegrated under the weight of internal deep contradictions, and along with its collapse, the system of socialism, which had reached a dead end, collapsed. The world communist movement found itself in a deep crisis, never reaching its goal.
Unlike the socialist world, the situation was different in the West. Overcoming crises, Western capitalism did not die, but evolved predominantly in socialist and neoliberal directions. Following the rule “if you want to survive, change,” it became more and more regulated by the state, more and more humane and attractive to its own citizens. The social responsibility of the state and business has become the norm of the Western world.
Repression for eye opening
This ability of capitalism, under the influence of crises, to quickly adapt, getting rid of its own vices, to constantly develop and improve, turned out to be beyond the vision of the “visionary” Soviet thinkers, who became popular again in post-Soviet Russian society. Against such a logical background, professor Garbuzov reached a conclusion that definitely exasperated the Kremlin and caused political repression against the author. “Today, in the wake of anti-Western sentiments in an atmosphere of pseudo-patriotic frenzy that has gripped the population of Russia, which regularly listens to “Old Songs About Main Things” and who with amazing ease, naively and thoughtlessly perceives the theses of total state propaganda, new myths are being created, and with them a modern utopian consciousness is being formed. These myths are being spread day and night by a new generation of well-paid professional political manipulators and panelists on numerous television talk shows,” the author wrote in his article.
The famous Russian Americanist goes on by wondering: “In the context of the creeping restoration of Stalinism, through their efforts, new dogmas are being introduced - about the crisis of globalization and the entire “Anglo-Saxon” world (what would this mean in the 21st century?), about a new anti-colonial revolution (there are only 17 colonies left in the world!), about the loss of the American domination (and this is after the collapse of the USSR?), about the great world anti-American revolution, in general about the decline of the West (the second coming of the “general crisis of capitalism”?!).
“Elephant and Pug” (by Ivan Krylov)
Such questions that are publicly disseminated in the information space of Russian society are perceived by the authorities and state propaganda as crimes against the regime and attract the harshest punitive reactions to the authors. The logic of these repressive reactions is clear as, by such questions, it is highlighted the humiliating state of the desperate efforts of Putin’s Russia, with 2% of the global GDP, in its attempt to confront from equal positions the United States, which today produces 25% of the world’s industrial GDP, continuing to be the economic giant of the modern world. The United States is a nuclear superpower that maintains global leadership in such areas as the global economy, finance, military, innovation, direct investment and culture. They still retain their attractiveness, as evidenced by the inexhaustible massive flows of immigrants from all continents. About 1 million people arrive in the United States each year, unlike Russia that the citizens flee for feat of political repression.
The anti-American foreign policy of the USSR, aimed at counteracting the United States and the entire West, helped in its time to create an alternative socialist empire that lasted only a few decades and collapsed due to its own unviability. Its global collapse should have been a good lesson to all mankind, first of all to those from the Kremlin. But instead of learning the lesson of history, Putin’s Russia seemed to be frozen in the past, still relying on the tsar-priest or another firm hand of the supreme power, while trying unsuccessfully to regain its former greatness, lost possessions and world influence.
And again post-imperial syndrome, this time as tragedy for Russia
Russia, which today is going through an extremely painful post-imperial syndrome, is also trying to form its own global geopolitical program. But it is still too shaky, unstable and eclectic. Judge for yourself: the program (rather a set of guidelines) is based on a mixture of ideas of Eurasianism, the “Russian world”, aggressive anti-Americanism, confrontation with the unipolar world and the “decaying” West as a whole. It also contains the ideas of “sovereign democracy”, “deep people”, longing for traditional values and the Orthodox faith. This entire mixture is held together by a conservative glue that connects its dissimilar components. But this mishmash is reminiscent of the anti-Western ideological inventions of almost 200 years ago - the “theory of official nationality” of Count Sergei Uvarov. His triad “Orthodoxy. Autocracy. Nationality" was the ideological embodiment of Russian monarchism. In the ideological sphere, Putin’s Russia also remains hostage to the unhealthy imperial complex.
The fact that Russia today has a pronounced post-imperial syndrome is more a tragic pattern than a historical anomaly. Its peculiarity is that it started to develop in Russian society with Putin coming to power. The delayed syndrome, the possible occurrence of which was previously not given much importance, has acquired a threatening character not only for Russia, but also for international peace, giving birth to the current political regime at the Kremlin, which swiftly heads toward dictatorial authoritarianism armed with a nuclear weapon.
Myths do not produce GDP, technologies and development, only victims
Modern Russia, which feels nostalgic for its past greatness and lost influence, today experiencing a delayed post-imperial syndrome, despite its small share in the world economy, still has a strong expansionist charge and an as yet unrevealed ambition for global geopolitical influence. Realizing the objective limits of current Russia’s influence, the purposes of the regime of Putin are quite obvious - plunging one’s own society into a world of illusions and accompanied by great-power and patriotic rhetoric, the undisguised and deliberate indefinite retention of power at any cost, the preservation of property and the political regime by the current ruling elite and the oligarchy integrated with it.
For the most lucid minds of Russian society, it is evident that Russia today, with a precarious economy, even if it claims to be the leader of “the global majority”, has not yet managed to compete with the United States and China and become an independent geopolitical anti-Western locomotive. And with the help of the newly created state mythology, it is unlikely to be able to do so. Instead of seeking help from the prominent intellectuals of the nation in finding an existential solution for the country, the regime from the Kremlin resorts to cleaning inside the intellectual community, stripping Russian society of a viable view for development. It is bad news for the Russian state and society and also for the whole international community that has to coexist with a country dominated by an irrational political regime and is armed with a nuclear weapon.
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.