The differing, imperial-like natures of Russia and the European Union are going to make it hard for them to find an accommodation in their shared – and contested – neighborhood.
When Teodor Shanin, a prominent British historian, was once asked how soon the process of Russia’s “decolonization” would end so that it could emerge into a “normal” nation-state, the veteran student of Russia dismissed the question as deeply flawed.
“The truth is,” Shanin said, “that when empire ends, it might well be replaced by a new one.”
Russia’s annexation of Crimea, its role in the fomenting of war in Ukraine’s eastern provinces, and its military involvement in the Syrian conflict prompt one to reflect on the nature of Russia’s recent conduct, and on Russia itself. Where does Russia as both a state and a nation begin, and where does it end?
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Igor Torbakov is Senior Fellow at Uppsala University and at Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden.