The Last European Empire

With the sailing nations of Europe, Portugal and Holland, the colonisation of the world from Europe began in the 15th and 16th centuries. These nations, along with Italy and Spain began to explore the world and carve out empires for themselves. The world was new. Suddenly there were continents to conquer. Native people with bows and arrows were no match for the guns and horses the Europeans brought with them. But while these explorations of the world via the seas was carrying on the rivalry of the northern and western nations of Europe, Russia was exploring the only frontiers it had, the frontiers of the land.

In the 16th and 17th centuries Russian explorers entered Siberia and, taking advantage of the family based structures of the local people, undermined the political balance of Siberia. Taking 540 Cossacks Timofeyevich invaded the land of the Voguls. By 1639 the Russians had reached the Pacific in the far east of the country. The indigenous people were devastated by the diseases the western invaders carried with them. More than 50 % of the population of Kamchatka was destroyed in the first half century of the Russian conquest of their land.

But while the other European nations have gracefully, or less gracefully, bowed out of their former empires and returned the lands to their own populations, even when these are largely governed by European descendants, Russia alone is clinging on to the lands it conquered in its heyday of adventuring.

The Great Game was named for the tussle between Britain and Russia to gain control of Afghanistan. But Afghanistan is a mishmash of nations with small pockets and the reign of the Taliban is bound for disaster simply because there is no united culture in that nation.

With the rise of national cultural identity it is not possible to hold empires together any longer. It is certain that the native people of Siberia, and other provinces of Moscow, would not destroy the land and its wealth in the reckless manner that the centralised authority does.

The Stalinist land grab following World War Two was an attempt to extend Russian power and maintain its imperial dream. Nations not formerly aligned with Russia, from Hungary and Czechoslovakia were engulfed and half of Germany, Poland to the Baltic States. Large swathes of Finland, Karelia, were stolen, and in the case of Karelia the population displaced. The notion of a pan-Slavic movement was always promoted by Russia, but much less enthusiastically embraced, and even rejected, by other Slavic nations.

Now Putin attempts to re-establish the soviet empire while the movement throughout the world is towards independence, democracy and rejection of the former governing nations, whether it was France or Britain or any of the others.

It is evident from the merciless bombardment of Mariupol that the intention is to displace or destroy the population and rapidly to move Russians in to change the population of the region. Throughout the Baltic states fear remains of Russian occupation, kept alive by the wealth and exploitation that is still in the hands of Russians living there who have no claim to be Lithuanian or Estonian in their own right.

I do believe that the result of this war will be the break up of the Russian empire and the restoration of Siberia and the many other provinces to their own political and cultural estates. China too struggles to suppress the cultures within its boundaries. A struggle it cannot win.

How easy for men whose principle trade has been the rape and subjugation of women and boys for the sex trade industry to enter, in the guise of Russian soldiers, terrorise and destroy the society of simple people living ordinary daily lives. How does one recover from such a trauma?

What does that matter to a tyrant whose only concern is his own public image?

Author: Keith Armstrong

Dance teacher, writer, film-maker, educationalist, enthusiast.