During the past ten years, the word "empire" has been used everywhere
Anatoly Chubais, the chief executive officer of Russia's RAO UES, the energy monopoly, has voiced his personal view of the Russian national idea. His view could be understood as the official ideology of the Union of Right-Wing Forces. Anatoly Chubais believes that Russia must become a "liberal empire". He said: "We should not allow the breaking of constitutional integrity which would be violation of the international law. The government must seriously work to protect Russian culture and the Russian people (those people who consider themselves Russians through their culture and language) outside Russia. The government must maintain an active stance concerning the expansion of Russian businesses outside the country. This concerns not only commerce, but also asset purchases, opening of new businesses and development. The Russian government should actively support freedom and democracy outside Russia. This is what I call liberal imperialism."
During the past ten years, the word "empire" has been used everywhere. Different people attach different meanings to the word. Earlier, the Soviet Union had been often called an empire; today Russia is mentioned as an empire too.
If we look up the word "empire" in a political science encyclopedia, we will see the following definition: "an empire is a political system where under the strict centralized authority over heterogeneous ethnic national and administrative territorial formations united on the basis of the metropolitan colony relations." (The Political Science Encyclopedia, Moscow, 1993)
Following the definition of the empire, Russia, like "a liberal empire" must also have "liberal colonies". What are these liberal colonies then? Judging by yesterday's appearance of Anatoly Chubais on TV, in the Osnovnoy Instinct (Basic Instinct) talk show, he believes the liberal empire concept must be realized in the former Soviet republics. It is unlikely that the CIS countries would like to become colonies, even if called liberal ones. The problem is that public opinion found in these countries is based upon the unprejudiced treatment of Russia as an empire. This is the reason why former Soviet citizens are very cautious about cooperation with Russia. It makes no difference if an empire is called liberal or totalitarian; most people do not want to experience anything called an "empire".
The rights of people living in metropolies and colonies seriously differ. Thus, citizens from colonies do not take part in elections of imperial bodies of authority and are rarely appreciated control for an imperial capital. It is unlikely that a Hindu or an Australian may become the prime minister or government official in Great Britain. But in the Soviet era, Georgian Joseph Stalin, a representative of the people who was called oppressed, was at head of the Soviet Union for 30 years; Chechen Dzokar Dudayev was a Soviet army general and Azerbaijani Geidar Aliyev was a high political figure. Neither Hindu nor Australians had any opportunity to take important government positions in the British Empire.
As far as the Soviet Union is concerned, there was no factual or legal subdivision into a metropoly and colonies. People of all nationalities had approximately equal rights in the Soviet Union. People of different nationalities were members of the Soviet government. The same can be said about today's Russia. Can you imagine Iraqis participating in presidential elections in the US or Chechens taking part in the presidential elections in Russia? Which of the two territories - Iraq or Chechnya - suits the definition of a colony?
The above mentioned facts allow one to arrive at the following conclusion: the Soviet Union was not an empire, as well as Russia cannot be called an empire today. The availability of vast territories is not a reason to negatively label the Russian Federation; the country must be referred to federative states.
Nevertheless, the myth about the imperial essence of today's Russia is stable enough. This myth is one of the reasons why the integration processes are being hampered on the post-Soviet territory. If Russia wants to develop good neighborly relations between the CIS countries, we should avoid employing the imperial image of Russia.
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