One of the semi-declared objectives of Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine is to restore a Greater Russia within the borders of the Russian Empire that existed before 1917 or of the Soviet Union simultaneously with the creation of an entity that is called “the Russian world” by the current administration of the Russian Federation. As a matter of fact, it goes to the intention to restore one of the former empires, with tens of thousands of lives being sacrificed and many of the towns being destroyed with disastrous effects for millions of people and for the economy of the whole world, for achieving this objective. The experts invited to IPN’s public debate “Why did all empires of the world disappear, why didn’t any of them revive?” discussed how justified this stake of the initiators of the war is and what are the relevant data and arguments of history.
Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, said that in the past the empire was a monarchic state managed by an emperor. The empires were also territories that included the dominant state, the big metropolis and its colonial possessions. “Geopolitical experts Karl Schmidt and Mackinder classified the empires into two types by their form of expansion, depending on the geopolitics they pursued: telocracy, which is continental empires, and thalassocracy, which is maritime empires that developed owing to maritime realms. Telocracies are continental empires that annexed neighboring land and incorporated them for security reasons and had to transform these territories into provinces, to guarantee the functioning of imperial laws on the territory of these empires,” said the expert.
He noted that the empires usually had military, administrative, economy, technological and cultural power and this contributed to relatively non-painful inclusion of the elites and societies into the empire. The continental empires had two periods of glory – Ancient Rome and the epoch of Napoleon that transformed the whole European continent and laid the basis of the Roman Empire of the German Nation.
According to Igor Boțan, among the sea powers were the British, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and Japanese empires. There is the hypothesis that the epoch of empires came to an end, but reverberations and pretentions of the former empires appear regularly. “I also refer to the current pretensions of Turkey, which argues that it is the successor of the Ottoman Empire, and to Iran, which has similar pretentions. We should not forget about Mussolini who, when he took over in Italy, invoked the mightiness of the Roman Empire,” stated the expert.
Doctor of History Andrei Kushko said the distinction between continental and maritime empires is rather controversial even among historians who deal with the imperial phenomenon as this distinction appeared mainly in the 19th century or the start of the 20th century. “There was enough polemic as, if we refer to maritime empires, they were regarded as liberal, commercial, colonial empires and the main criterion was the spatial distance between the metropolis and colonies, while the continental empires, as their name suggests, were much more complex entities and it was usually hard to distinguish between metropolis and colony,” stated Andrei Kushko.
The doctor of history noted that there are several imperial models that are relevant for our region. “The Roman model is fundamental for all the empires that appeared in the European space after this entity. The functioning of this empire was rather specific from a number of viewpoints. First of all, it goes to an empire that wasn’t necessarily assimilationist. The Roman Empire, besides the linguistic aspect, the Latin language and the aspect of elevated culture, didn’t tend to assimilate ethnic groups or races. There was tolerance of ethnic and racial difference. This phenomenon is unique as the modern empires had other criteria for managing multiculturalism.”
Doctor of History Virgiliu Pâslariuc, MP of the Party of Action and Solidarity, said the empires do not disappear. “If we look at the history of empires, they permanently try to restart somehow, to start from one another. Even if we go from the Christian view that influenced the Christian historical path, the whole history of humanity is nothing but the succession of four empires. This thought was imbedded somehow in the Western civilization too. Owing to this very categorical character of the biblical text that the end of the world will come when the fourth empire ends, there is the famous myth of the last emperor that is described by Daniel. When the Roman Empire fell, for example, panic that the end of the world was coming appeared in the Christian world, in the Roman world. And then Saint Augustine had to write his famous book about the fortress of God in which it is noted that things are no so easy even if the Bible says so, but Rome will disappear only when the Romans disappear,” said the expert.
According to Virgiliu Pîslariuc, there are three important components in any empire: military, as the empires are first of all based on the right of force, the right of the sword, which is the archetype principle – might makes right, the economic component that influences the administration of the empire, and the ideological component that is not less important.
The public debate entitled “Why did all empires of the world disappear, why didn’t any of them revive?” was the 248th installment of IPN’s project “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.