Will Russia Remain A Superpower?


Another facet of Russia's ontological security is its imperial expansion's capacity to project authority and meet physical security demands. 

The quest of a Russian empire is inextricably linked to its geographical territory and history, just as it is with the powerful state symbolized by a great leader. 

Putin said in 2003 that a nation like Russia "was constantly faced with the possibility of disintegration...during all of its periods of weakness." He also said that "if Russia remains a major power, it can live and expand within current boundaries" (Putin 2003). 

As a consequence, an imperial physical area and Russian self-perception as a great power are linked, with territorial vastness serving as proof of moral size and might (Leichtova 2014). 

When the Russian philosopher Konstantin Leontiev (quoted in Trenin 2002, 29) said that Russia was "doomed to develop, even against itself," he was referring to the almost fatalistic perspective of Russia's expansionism. 

In Russia's imperial conquest, the economic and geopolitical justifications for its expansionist ambitions have combined. 

When it came to dealing with economic threats, the overlap between imperial expansion and peasant colonization was virtually indistinguishable, as the "land hungry peasantry moved into new territories that sometimes predated and sometimes followed the ever-new frontiers of the state, blurred the boundary between colonization and imperialism" (Raeff 1971, 22–43). 

As a result, the country's expansionism was a method of ensuring that Russia's peasants had access to better land and that the Russian populace had the resources it needed to survive. 

Imperial expansion occurred in reaction to Russia's physical threats, much as the consolidation of power in a powerful state outlined earlier. 

Russia's geographical expansion was prompted by threats to its security and physical existence (Trenin 2002, 33). 

The Russian state's choice to become an empire was a response to its near-constant state of war, since Russia "was attacked more often and with more power than any other early modern empire" (Tsygankov 2012, 23). 

As a result, the logic of competition, motivated by the will to live, pushed Russia to fight war and extend its territory. 

Russians had to choose between dying or confronting their enemies with force and then developing the conquered areas to their advantage. 

As a result, the strengthening of boundaries provided fertile ground for colonization. 

Furthermore, Russian security was predisposed to expand outside in order to avoid foreign threats. 

Vernadsky (1963) ascribed imperial Russia's development to interactions with Eastern tribes, particularly the Mongols. 

Kliuchevskii (1937) viewed the colonization of the Eurasian plain and the creation of the Principality of Moscovy to be the most significant events in Russian imperial history, alongside Vernadsky. 

Russia managed to grow at a pace of around 50 miles per day for hundreds of years, ultimately spanning one-sixth of the earth's territory, beginning with the formation of the state of Moscovy under Ivan Grozny (Kotkin 2016, 2). 

The essential feature of Russian imperial growth was not just its size, but also its scope. 

Pipes (1996) claims that the Russian Empire is ontologically distinct from other empires that have existed in the past. 

While imperial growth proceeded chronologically following the creation of the national state in other Western empires, such as the Roman, British, and Spanish, it happened simultaneously and not in order in Russia (Pipes 1996). 

As a result, the ontological awareness of an empire and the notion of a country coexisted in Russia. 

The early imperial expansion to the east began in the 16th century, when Ivan the Terrible took the Tatar city of Kazan in 1552 and Astrakhan a few years later in 1556, and included the enormous number of people who did not share the Russians' faith or language. 

This conquest occurred barely a few decades after Russia had completed its own consolidation as a state by collecting Russian territory. 

This was a deliberate attempt by Moscovy to acquire adjacent areas. 

Within 200 years, Moscow's monarchy expanded its geographic realm by annexing or seizing the territory of fragmented Slavic kingdoms by military force or other means. 

Pskov and Ryazan were absorbed in 1510 and 1521, respectively, to complete the process. 

Moskovy was therefore still undergoing internal consolidation when, a few decades later, it received the imperial dominion of two khanates. 

As a result, its imperial conquest coincided with the establishment of the Russian state and the creation of its ontological understanding. 

As a consequence, unlike other states, Russia's imperial sphere is inextricably linked to its own existence as a state and its ontological understanding. 

In one of his review pieces, Hosking expresses this idea succinctly: "Britain had an empire, but Russia was an empire, and maybe still is" (Hosking 1995, 27). 

Russia's advance into Siberia started with the conquest of Kazan and Astrakhan, annexing a substantial Muslim population and transforming Russia into a multi-ethnic and multi-religious state. 

That a result, Russia developed an imperial identity at the same time as it developed a national identity. 

The ongoing process of defining and establishing an empire, as well as Russia's urge to acquire new territory and peoples, left the foundation of Russia as a state and a country in a state of flux, ultimately leading to a feeling of incompleteness. 

As a consequence of Russia's expansionist goals, a plethora of ethnic groups with separate languages, cultural traditions, and religious beliefs were annexed to the country, further complicating the notion of Russian nationality. 

Russia's high sensitivity to any difficulties connected to its geographic impact may be explained by the significance of imperial identity for the country's ontological security, since these issues seem to assault the country's fundamental heart as a state. 

Russian rulers such as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great further integrated and structured imperial ideologies into purposeful rhetorical creations. 

Peter saw imperial rhetoric as largely directed towards Russia's external neighbors, notably the West. 

He made an effort to reaffirm Russia's position in the area. 

Catherine the Great, on the other hand, stressed Russia's size as a formidable empire and a weapon for ensuring the safety and well-being of its residents as well as international stability (Leichtova 2014). 

These critical episodes of Russian territorial expansion and consolidation, motivated by physical security concerns, had a significant influence on Russia's ontological security. 

The country's outward imperial expansion was matched by an internal consolidation of power that became a defining feature of the Russian state, as Vujai describes it: "a twofold triumph...over his own people and ethnically and religiously alien people - the leitmotif of imperial Russian history" (2015, 100). 

As a result, the evolution of Russia into an empire was inextricably linked from the start to the patrimonial ruler's subjection of all socioeconomic strata. 

Despite their subjection, the Russian people have a thorough understanding of imperial ontological consciousness. 

In his book The End of Eurasia, Trenin (2002) believes that Russians' ontological understanding of the nation as a major power is crucial. 

When Putin was elected president in 1999, a survey of Moscow high school students found that more than half of those polled supported the restoration of the Russian Empire within its Soviet-era or pre-revolutionary boundaries. 

The yearning among Russian young for territorial revanchism is frightening and readily explained. 

For many Russians, the old Soviet Union was more than simply an empire; it was a state with a large geographic footprint that "was feared and hence admired," highlighting the clear ontological link between territory and power in Russian identity (Trenin 2002, 27). 

Ontological perceptions of Russian identity, on the other hand, are not static. 

They are always changing and reiterating. 

Physical space has also played a factor in Russians' perceptions of their country's superpower status. 

When asked, "What makes a nation a superpower?" the size of the country was nearly as important to Russians as respect and authority in the world, and it had tripled in significance since 1999, surpassing civil rights as a primary aim (Levada Center 2014).

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

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