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Russians have finally realised that the Europe they wanted to partner with after the Soviet collapse in 1991 no longer exists. It was predicted that Russia’s post-Soviet generation would embrace a shared identity with Europe. However, polls demonstrate that Russians are rapidly shedding the European identity of their country.
A recent poll by the Levada Centre, a research group branded a ‘foreign agent’ by Moscow, revealed that only 29 per cent of Russians consider Western Russia to be a European country: A drastic decline from 52 per cent in 2008.
Previous polls by Levada and Germany’s Friedrich Ebert Foundation also demonstrate that, despite not having grown up during the Cold War, young Russians distrust NATO more than any other international organisation.
When the Mongols invaded Russia settled by Europeans in the 13th century, Russia disappeared from the European map for 250 years. Then, under Peter the Great, Russia reasserted itself as a European power in the early 18th century. St. Petersburg was built as a new capital to function as a ’window to Europe’.
Tsarist Russia modernised and a cultural revolution was launched to make the alphabet, dress codes, culture and customs more European. However, Imperial Russia’s ambitions for returning to Europe never culminated in its political inclusion on the continent.
In the 19th century, the writer Fyodor Dostoevsky argued: ‘We have bowed ourselves like slaves before the Europeans and have only gained their hatred and contempt. It is time to turn away from ungrateful Europe. Our future is in Asia.’
These sentiments re-emerged in the 1990s when it became clear that Russia would not be included in the new American-sponsored European Union. Instead, overconfident Westerners expected Moscow to play second fiddle to institutions that did not offer membership to Russia. Russia was expected to follow Western rules, but without the promise of Western integration, a formula that clearly had no chance of working.
Just three years after the Soviet breakup, in 1994, Yeltsin’s pro-Western foreign minister, Andrey Kozyrev, lamented that Russia might be forced to chart its own path again.
NATO embraced its post-Cold War expansionist mission by attempting to integrate every country on the continent except Russia. The European Union began to monopolise Europe. Russia, despite its enormous potential and natural resources, upon which Europe depends, soon became more or less the only non-European country in Europe.
It was a foolish estrangement as 14% to 18% of Russians live and work in Europe-Russia. Despairingly, non-Europeans are sponsored to settle in Europe whereas Russian and Middle Europeans like Ukrainians are excluded.
Spurned Moscow now works untiringly to pivot its economy to the East instead of to the ungrateful Europeans. As a consequence, the economic clout of Europe is showing a steady decline. For the new Russian generation, the West has not offered much besides poor example, economic sanctions and moral posturing.
Furthermore, Russia is now less interested in modelling its society on Europe’s. The Europe that Russia sought to imitate no longer exists. The economical basket case migrant infested Europe is no longer a model attractive to Russia.
As the Russians see it, the European Union resembles the failed experiment of the ‘communist man’. Putin: ‘We see that many Euro-Atlantic states have taken the way where they deny or reject their own roots, including their Christian roots, which form the basis of Western civilization. In these countries, the moral basis and any traditional identity are being denied; national, religious, cultural, and even gender identities are being denied or relativized.’
Polls also reveal that unlike their European kin the Russians seek stability in traditional institutions such as the family and the Church. A poll by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation shows that Russians are increasingly embracing an identity linked to the Orthodox Church.
Arrogantly, Europe’s hapless political elite presumed modern Russia would continue to abide by their rules without representation. In Russia, the European identity has been a source of deep resentment, due to its enduring exclusion.
The shift away from a European identity represents a cordial divorce. Russia will no longer feel compelled to explain itself for not following European norms. The floundering European Union becomes divided on a score of life-changing issues. Simultaneously, Russia partners China, India, and the nations of the Far East, Latin America and even Africa. Our loss is their gain.
‘A trend of not acknowledging Russians as one of them exists in Western Europe for centuries, despite the fact that for at least the past 300 years we have been an inseparable part of European culture and politics. The periods of Russia’s most active participation in European affairs were marked by stability and peace on the continent,’ ~ Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Source
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