Death of the empire. Part I.

1 Foreword

1.1 Post-imperial syndrome in Russia

Empire is a strong polyethnical state, where the power is concentrated in the metropolitan country, and the democratic institutes (if any) or, at least, the suffrage, are not available on the whole controlled territory.

The problem of the country ill with the post-imperial syndrome is that the feeling of the nostalgy to the lost empire is easy to incite, but the attempts to restore it are unrealistic.

Many Germans forgot how they hated the monarchy in the last years of the first World War, when it became clear that the chancellor and the highest officials lied to them. They didn't know that it was Ludendorf who demanded the new chancellor to sign the truce to avoid the catastrophe on the Western front.

That the leaders of the Weimar republic were not ready to disclose the proofs of the responsibility of the German rulers for the beginning of the World War was one of the most important causes of the fall of the republic.

I. Yakovenko: "Not a single political force in Russia dared to admit that from the viewpoint of preservation and restoration of the Russian people the dissolution of the USSR became the luckiest event of the last half of the century."

The importance of the agreements in Belovezhskaya Pushcha should not be overestimated. They were only a de jure recognition of the divorce that had already happened. They did not make the fall of the integrated empire any less painful, but helped to avoid the chances of bloody conflicts and the nuclear catastrophe. As a result of these agreements, by May 1992 the largest part of the most dangerous (due to the specific of usage) tactical nuclear weapons located in other republics, was concentrated in Russia.

The Soviet government was absolutely convinced that the state can use unlimited violence to suppress the discontent. Such states are fragile since they do not include flexible adaptive mechanisms which would allow for the adaptation to the changing world.

The following picture dominates the modern Russian public opinion:

  1. 20 years ago there was a stable, powerful, developing country, the USSR.
  2. Strange people (probably, agents of foreign intelligence) began political and economical reforms.
  3. The results of the reforms were catastrophic.
  4. In 1999-2000 the people who really care about the state came to the power.
  5. Since then, the life is getting better.

This myth is as far from the truth as the legend of the unconquered and betrayed Germany, popular in the German society of 20s-30s.

2 Greatness and fall of the empires.

2.1 Empires of the past

The European empires were formed in the age of the mercantilist politics. The states limited import and stimulated export. Possession of colonies increased the zone of controlled trade. Subjugated countries could not regulate the import of goods from the metropolitan state. Administrative coercion -- an element of the politics for the industrial development of the metropolitan state. In 1813 India could sell goods in Britain for prices 50-60% lower than the prices on the analogous Britain-made goods. The customs duties (70-80%) or direct bans made this impossible. The colonization was followed by the loss of job by hundreds of thousands of people. The population of Dakka decreased from 150,000 to 30-40,000 people. Between 1814 and 1835 export of British textile to India grew from 1 million to 51 million yards per year. In the same years, export from India to Britain decreased by four times. By 1844 it decreased by 5 times.

A typical feature of all empires is the lack of universal suffrage.

National sentiments are one of the strongest instruments of political mobilization in the societies lacking democratic traditions. K. Leontyev: "The notion of nationalities as it exists in the XIX century brings a lot of destructive consequences and nothing constructive."

2.2 Crisis of the overseas empires

Churchill, Nov 10 1942: "We plan to hold what is our property. I did not become the prime minister to preside during the liquidation of the British empire."

Having survived the fall of the empire, France retained democratic institutions in the metropolitan state due to a number of causes: high level of economy, which makes authoritarian regimes look archaic; plans of the European integration; prestige and will of de Gaulle who was able to dissolve the empire and retain the control over the army and police.

2.3 Problems of the dissolution of integrated empires

In agrarian countries ethnic differences usually are not important. The split into a privileged minority specialized in coercion and the peasants' majority was crucial.

Economic growth and education radically change the life and begin the erosion of traditional regimes.

An overseas empire may be abandoned. In the empires with integrated territory the problems linked with the habitats of various ethnic groups are more important than in the overseas empires.

The fall of an authoritarian regime is followed by a political vacuum. The old policeman has gone, the new one is not here yet. People with pretensions of power have no tradition behind them. Hence a situation typical for revolutions: weak government is unable to collect taxes and pay money, establish order, guarantee contract obligations. In such situations the exploitation of the simplest social instincts is a reliable way to political success.

Attempts of the elite of the metropolitan states to build the state on the basis of ethnic identity objectively cause radical anti-imperial sentiments among the national minorities. E.g.: "In the struggle of the Ukrainian separatism with a more moderate federalism the former had the same powerful assistant as other Russian separatisms -- the imperial centralism. Its hardcore unitarian position pushed the Ukrainians to equally hard demands." (A. Vishnevsky)

H. Besançon: Before the WWI Russia had a chance to solve social and economic problems, but not the national ones. The liberal democratic alternative, which was the key to the solution of the social problems, only increased the chances of the dissolution of the empire. The restoration of the empire in 1918-1922 was a unique case, which became possible due to the unprecendented violence and the messian ideology which provided for support in the non-Russian regions.

In the situation of the political competition in the multinational empire, Austrian socialists understood that the national question is a bomb in the foundation of the old power. Lenin's idea of the right of nations on self-determination was a logical development of the logic of Austrian socialists.

After the WWI the idea was accepted by the winner countries as an instrument of dismantl of the three empires -- Germany, Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman empire.

The notion of self-determination gives no answer whether the arbitrary borders of regions within empires should become the natural borders of new states, whether the will of the new national minorities should be taken into account.

2.4 The Yugoslav tragedy

S. Woodword: "The Yugoslav society was not based on the charisma of Tito or on the political dictatorship, but on the balance of international interests and on the system of rights of sovereign parts. The national identity was not suppressed. Moreover, it was institutionalized into federal systems which guaranteed the rights of the republics." Such system required a strict control over the dissidence.

The stability of Yugoslavia was the result of a balance between NATO and the Warsaw block. The fall of the Comecon (The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) caused an economic crisis, which required strict measures, but the minimal rights of the federal centre led to the political crisis. For Milośević, the only way to retain control over Serbia under the erosion of the communist ideology was to exploit nationalism. The answer to this rhetorics was the discrimination of Serbs in other republics. Then the troops were sent there to protect the Serbs. Then -- the war.

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