Russia in the long term

This is about how the dearth of strong regional civilisations near to Russia gives it a free hand, in for example, the Ukraine – Crimea crisis.
A couple of weeks back, I posted Were you paying attention to history in class? Floradog (one of the site’s denizens) said she didn’t get the purpose of my post. I gave some answers, which in retrospect could be expanded. In any case, I think it’s the right place and time to take this out and dust it off.

As far as Crimea is concerned, this isn’t something to go to war over and Putin knows it. So the ‘Russian Railroad’ will continue, name checking democratic functions as necessary, to give its actions a veneer of legitimacy.
There is a long term issue here. Russia exists in a kind of geo-political desert which protects them from other big centres of civilisation (China, India, Iran – Europe is fragmented and doesn’t count). From a future perspective, for reasons of geography, the imbalance in power in that part of the world will accentuate. Why? Because there’s pretty much no other big entity looking over its shoulder. Geography and logistics. The places between it and other major civilisations such as China, the India and Iran, is pretty much a wasteland. That wasn’t always the case.

It’s a geo-political wasteland but is it a cultural desert? No.
Start with the polities of the Tajiks and the Kazakhs. Tajiks (literally ‘city-dwellers’) are what’s left of the ancient empire of Khwarezm. The region is full of their ruined cities. Their destruction cleared the way for the fledgling Kievan Rus’ and their northern Novgorod neighbors to expand east. And the Kazakhs? Descendants of the peoples the Mongols moved in to repopulate the place. Khwarezm made Europe seem like a backwater and that culture is slowly being rediscovered. They’ve got history in spades: Balkh, Bukhara, Samarkand, Old Ürgenç…
The thing is, this place (for those weak in geography), is right up against the soft underbelly of Russian Siberia.

The historical and cultural record suggests an option that, if correctly approached, would provide a springboard to better deal with long term issues, futuristically. In order to be exploited however, it requires a gamble. Why a gamble? Anything that involves hopes, fears and politics is a gamble. More on that later.

Identity is built from culture. What would it take for those people to reconnect to what was lost? The Khwarezm that was, didn’t hide in mummery and fake religion; it was a trading empire based on the Silk Road. It engaged. A long term action to re-balance those politics would be to encourage the rebuilding of Khwarezmian culture, for the present day; in order to place a dynamic player in the region.

Could the US (who get dynamic competitor) work in conjunction with Iran (who get culture)? They’d need to as neither could do it alone – that’s a gamble. The work would be to to nurture the cultural identity of the Tajiks. Ultimately this should shift the centre of gravity of Islam to the East and North. That’s another gamble. It’s also something that Russia (and the Saudis) would work against.
A big project. Risky. I doubt the Americans are up to it.
And anyway, most politics is done in and for the here and now.
Yet people live for dreams.
…which is what politicians exploit.

No talk of culture and history is complete without a map:

Classical civilisation just before the coming of the Mongols

The Bright Realms – Classical civilisation just before the coming of the Mongols

Map-oholics will notice that Khwarezm occupies much of present day Iran.

Of course I don’t mention the prophecy… why would I?

About Terence Park

Board games, US Comic books, SF Paperbacks, Vinyl records; I've plenty of them all. I write SF (the serious sort). I also do spreadsheets.
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