Radynski: on Russia’s protracted collapse

16 05 2023

Oleksiy Radynski’s new article in E-Flux Notes (“The Case Against the Russian Federation: One Year Later“) almost reads like a response to the thoughts I posted yesterday. (No doubt because of the parallels in our thinking.)

Radynski writes:

In fact, since its emergence as a sovereign state in 1991, the Russian Federation had been mired in brutal internal strife, a series of civil and ethnic conflicts that have taken various forms over time (from open civil war in the streets of Moscow in October 1993, to the brutal suppression of Ichkeria during the “Chechen wars,” to the abolition of self-governance in the Federation’s “republics” since the early 2000s). But to prevent this internal strife from consuming the colonized territories still subjugated by the Russian Federation, the Russian government has continuously exported this suppressed violence beyond its own borders: to the territories of its former colonies, first Georgia and then Ukraine.

The protracted collapse of the Russian Federation is actually the reality we’ve been living in for decades now, and the invasion of Ukraine is just one of the symptoms of this ongoing cataclysm. In a botched Oedipal logic, the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine because it assumed that this was the last chance to preempt its own demise. Instead, it’s been caught in the quagmire of a self-fulfilling prophecy. [paragraphing added]

Far from merely blaming Russia, however, Radynski astutely links the fate of the post-1991 Russian state with the “market fundamentalism” encouraged by western elites (some would say “imposed” — whether it was “encouraged” or “imposed” is worth a book-length study in itself). This, he writes, “swiftly led to monopolistic capitalism coupled with right-wing authoritarianism, then to outright militarized fascism.”

Historians would want to parse that “swiftly led” bit into the various twists and turns, “forks in the road” and “roads not taken,” that would help account for why things turned out as horrifically as they have. But Radynski’s overall argument — that the trajectory of Russian history leads to something like this, and that it requires a reckoning that neither Russians themselves nor the western experts who’ve studied it all these years have given it — is an important one.

The article ends hopefully:

“The demise of the Russian Federation will prefigure the demise of other extractivist empires, and the liberation of their subalterns.”



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