Russia Makes Progress When It Looks Outward and Suffers When It Turns in on Itself, Inozemtsev Says

Mercator Projection Satellite Image of Earth

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, April 5, 2019)

Yezhednevny zhurnal offers another chapter from Vladislav Inozemtsev’s new book, An Uncontemporary Country, a chapter that demonstrates that whenever Russia has turned outward and involved itself with the rest of the world, it has made progress but that when it has turned in on itself, it has not only failed to do so but regressed.

“Over the last three centuries of Russian history,” the Russian economist says, “two tendencies have constantly struggled against each other: on the one hand, a striving to openness and ‘internationalization’ and on the other a desire to shut itself off by its own distinctive nature” (

Despite all the differences one can observe in the first trend, Inozemtsev argues, efforts in that direction “put economic or ideological considerations above cultural and historian ones.” Further, when this trend was dominant, Russia achieved its greatest success be it in the 18th century or in the 20th.

And despite the commonalities of the second trend, it has had negative consequences of various kinds, sometimes shutting Russia off from the rest of the world and keeping it background and sometimes contributing to the disintegration of the state because of the multi-national population of the empire.are

There is currently an enormous community, perhaps as many as 37 million people, living abroad who might constitute “a Russian world,” depending on how it is defined. It consists essentially of two groups of people, who may be called “Russian professionals” who have pursued individual goals and “professional Russians” who are in the former Soviet republics.

These groups are so different that appealing to one may alienate the other and that while one may help Russia by offering a network of people inclined to be sympathetic to Russia and possibly even interested in returning with their skillss, the other will put it at increasing odds with the country’s neighbors and lead to its isolation and degradation, Inozemtsev continues.

“The idea of ‘the Russian world'” now on offer, he says, “is the most particularistic of all that Russia has advanced over the last 300 years. It is directed not to be n ‘aggressive’ but rather is a deeply ‘defensive’ political strategy,” one based on the idea that Russia has a zone of exclusive interests behind a line which the West must not cross.

“Russia’s behavior may appear aggressive,” the economist argues, “but this aggressiveness points not to some far-reaching strivings and the possibilities of the country but to an obvious exhaustion and inability to offer any really universal idea” to others or to its own population.

In reaching out to “the professional Russians” in the former Soviet republics, Russia has focused on territory. What it should be doing, Inozemtsev suggests, is reaching out to “Russian professionals” elsewhere who should be encouraged to view Russia positively and even consider returning. That would help Russia escape its current problems rather than add to them.

Such an approach, he says, would lead to “the enrichment of the country through the attraction to it of new citizens” with Russian roots “and not the expenditure of new resources involved in unifying territories” or attracting people from them who are not culturally similar to the Russians.

Unfortunately, Moscow today is pursuing exactly the opposite approach. “The present Russian authorities cannot formulate any ideas capable of resonating beyond the limits of the community which speaks Russian, remembers or recognizes all the insanity of Russian history and relates with understanding to the political ‘uniqueness’ of their own land.”

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