Orlando Figes, a well-regarded British specialist in modern Russian history, published The Crimean War: A History in 2010. It contains information relevant to the current crisis which has been neglected. Having seen no reference to this information in the essays and columns by sages and prophets infinitely more qualified than myself, I feel an urge to pass this information on.
Four years ago Figes concluded that “The loss of the Crimea has been a severe blow to the Russians, already suffering a loss of national pride after the collapse of the Soviet Empire.” Here’s some background to this observation. For reasons unknown to me General Secretary Khrushchev transferred Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954. That was not particularly relevant as long as Ukrainian SSR was a Moscow puppet, but the disintegration of the USSR and Ukrainian independence meant that the region passed outside Russian control. To convey the significance of this Figes quotes a passage from a poem by a nationalist poet:
“On the ruins of our superpower
There is a major paradox of history
Sevastopol—the city of Russian glory—
Is...outside of Russian territory.”
The poet’s reference is to The City of Russian Glory: Sevastopol in 1854-55, by Evgeny Tarle, a leading historian of the Soviet era. The book was published to celebrate the centenary of the siege of Sevastopol by the French, British, Turks, and Sardinians. Tarle’s book “...glorified the patriotic courage and resilience of the Russian people led and inspired by the example of such heroic leaders as [admirals] Nakhimov and Kornilov, who laid down their lives for the defense of Russia against the ‘imperialist aggression’ of the Western Powers..”
Figes tells us that “Pride in the heroes of Sevastopol, the ‘city of Russian glory’ remains an important of national identity In August 2006 the remains of 14 Russian infantrymen from the Vladimir and Kazan regiments were discovered on the site of the Battle of Alma along with their knapsacks, canteens and crucifixes. The bones were reburied with military honors and there were plans to erect a chapel on the site.
“Memories of the Crimean War continue to stir profound feelings of Russian pride and resentment of the West. In 2006 a conference on the Crimean War was organized by the Centre of National Glory of Russia with the support of Vladmir Putin’s Presidential Administration and the ministries of Education and Defense. The conclusion of the conference, issued by its organizers in a press release, was that the war should not be seen as a defeat for Russia, but as a moral and religious victory, a national act of sacrifice in a just war; Russians should honour the authoritarian example of Nicholas I, a tsar unfairly derided by the liberal intelligentsia for standing up against the West in the defence of his country’s interests.”
In the nineteenth century Tsar Nicholas I (1825-1855) was the ultimate symbol of tsarist despotism among the liberals in Russia and the West. He was the “gendarme of Europe” ready to intervene with military force against any popular uprising anywhere. He was no “friend of the Jews.” He stood as a perfect symbol of the reactionary regime destroyed by the Bolshevik revolution. Nicholas I’s portrait now hangs in the antechamber of Putin’s office.
This is what Orlando Figes wrote in 2010: “Nationalists have actively campaigned for the Crimea to return to Russia, not least the nationalists in Sevastopol itself, which remains an ethnic Russian town.”
There’s plenty of grounds for guessing that Putin’s Crimean annexation is motivated primarily by domestic politics rather than foreign policy advantage. If this is correct, it’s reasonable to guess that the American and European responses have only enhanced his popularity among the nationalists.
Readers interested in National Glory of Russia center can find it at www.cnsr.ru/projects.php?id=10. One item that caught my eye is a photo from November 2003 captioned: "Members of the Board of the Center of National Glory of Russia await the arrival of Lyndon LaRouche, a distinguished U.S. economist. Left to right: A. Melnik, President of the Center; V. Yakunin, Chairman of the Board of Trustees; A. Volodin, Professor at the Moscow State University; O. Atkov, cosmonaut, Hero of the Soviet Union."
The site’s summary of the distinguished economist’s distinction: "Lyndon LaRouche, Jr. is an eminent US economist. Born on September, 8, 1922 in Rochester, NH. His father was a light industry technician and advisor on footwear production in a major corporation on footwear production. Mr. LaRouche graduated from public schools in Rochester and Linn, then from the Boston North-Eastern University, interrupted for military service, and afterwards got fixed up in a job at his father’s corporation. In 1994 he was elected member of the Moscow Universal Ecological Academy. Married twice. His present spouse (since 1977) Helga Zepp LaRouche was born in Germany and now lives in Virginia."
"In 1971 Mr. LaRouche founded an international news bureau known as “New Solidarity”. He is co-founder of several US influential economic associations. He participated in the US delegation at Gorbachev-Regan 1982-1983 negotiations over Strategic Defense Initiative. In 1988 he predicted the inevitable collapse of Soviet economic system. Today he predicts collapse of the world finance system, at least in the form in which it exists today. The potential for escaping the crisis he sees in Eurasia, and, above all in Russia. His estimation of President Putin’s foreign policy is strongly positive; Mr. LaRouche welcomes President’s wish cooperate with Asian countries."
"He actively criticizes George Bush Jr., calling the American financial system “a global nightmare."
"He was a Member of Congress from Virginia, where he has been living since 1983. Presently he is taking an active part in Presidential elections."