One of the elements of Russia’s propaganda and policy towards the West always was pretending that it is what it never has been, and the use of Western terminology is the key element to its masking strategy. Let us take one example: Russia is a federation, but what does that mean?
Since the times of enlightenment and Montesquieu, federalism weakened the hearts of Western liberals and the left. It was treated as a counterweight to aggressive nationalism and centralization of the state. Because the United States and Switzerland in Europe were the shining examples of freedom that federal republics give to people with different ethnicities, Russia, starting from Lenin, could successfully soothe its imperialism seen by the West, using the federal staffage.
No one in the West tried to really understand the Russian federalism which led to a belief that Russia is a natural part of Europe’s political world. In fact, however, this federal costume was always covering the same authoritarian way of imposing Moscow’s rule over vast territories with varied nationalities, treated as conquered colonial tribes with a considerable amount of racist contempt.
Timothy Snyder recently brought this aspect to attention in The New Yorker, writing that Putin is waging a typical colonial war in Ukraine. He infuriated many American and German historians and political scientists, to whom colonialism and racism are terms reserved only for uncovering the faults of the Western white man, therefore using them against Russia is “inappropriate.”
In my opinion, it is very much appropriate, as it allows us to understand the entire hoax of “Russian federalism.”
The way Moscow is treating Ukrainians, but also, how it ethnically chooses young people from the republics of the Russian federation, who it then takes into the army and sends to the front like cannon fodder, shows the true reasoning for Putin’s politics. On the surface, there is a great imperial Russia and Russkiy Mir (Russian Peace), while underneath lies a racism and primitive colonialism.
Let us hope that the war started by Moscow will become its great self-exposure to the West. It could also have one consequence of showing people living in Russia that the federation is a myth that was created to hide the fact that they are living in a great prison.
Will they be willing to break free from it?