Staunton, September 24 – During a visit to Daghestan earlier this month, members of the influential Izborsky Club (which is headed by Aleksandr Prokhanov) said that only a Eurasian Empire can save the peoples of Russia from degeneration and outside attack, an argument that many Daghestani leaders clearly found unpalatable.
Six members of the Izborsky Club, including Prokhanov, Maksim Shevchenko, Valery Korovin, Shamil Sultanov, Vasily Prokhanov and Yekaterina Glushik visited Daghestan September 6-9. Their discussions with Daghestan head Ramazan Abdulatipov and other local officials and experts have now been reported (evrazia.org/article/2369).
Responding to Prokhanov’s argument about the need for the peoples of Russia to form a Eurasian Empire to defend their values and even existence, Abdulatipov said that while he “in essence agreed with an imperial format for Russia, the term itself was still a problem for people in the North Caucasus and Daghestan “in particular.”
Korovin said that it is important to distinguish between overseas empires and continental ones. The first include political entities divided between a metropole and colonies which the metropole exploits; the second by those with a center and a periphery which the center supports and develops. He pointed to Afghanistan under the Soviets as a successful model of the second.
Abdulatipov said that he had opposed the disintegration of the USSR but now that it has, “the formation of an Empire” in its place must occur at different speeds for its different component parts given how different they are. Indeed, instead of pursuing an ethnic Russian nation state, Russians need to preserve and develop the country’s “cultural and ethnic diversity.”
According to the Izborsky Club members, “the idea of an empire is a model of a traditional state which united peoples, ethnoses and cultures of Great Russia into a single strategic space. The very principle of the imperial format … is an alternative to the European nation state model which anticipates unification and the wiping out of distinctions.”
Korovin provided the most detailed discussion of the Izborsky Club’s imperial idea. Arguing that “without an ideology, the state loses its meaning,” Korovin says that in turn leads to a focus on corruption and personal enrichment which are fatal to the state. And he said that “at the present stage, the construction of a Eurasian Empire can be the ideology of Russia.”
A universal model, he continued, an empire “requires decentralization” but not to “national republics” which should not exist because they point to the notion of independent nation states but to localities and peoples who can thereby retain their distinctive characteristics with the help of the center.
Daghestan in fact, Korovin continued, is “a miniature model of an empire,” a place which supports ethnic diversity rather than enforces uniformity.
According to the Izborsky Club member, the Romanov Empire died because it was too much affected by European nation state ideas and tried to “forcibly russify” the non-Russians within it. That generated a backlash among the latter and ultimately led to the disintegration of the country. “Russification” is not bad, but it “must be voluntary,” Korovin said.
Moreover, the term “nationality” must be eliminated. It is “fatal for Russia” because it produces chaos. The country has ethnoses, peoples, and nations; it should drop any reference to nationalities, and the center should adopt “a differentiated approach” to all of them.
But according to Korovin, there is an even more compelling reason for creating a Eurasian Empire: national survival. “In the world of empires, there are no chances for nation states” because as “events in the Arab world” show, “no one state is in a position to secure its own sovereignty.”