Staunton, Aug. 4 – One of the questionable pleasures of being a Western student of Russia over the long haul is that eventually you will be denounced by Moscow writers if you say or do anything that they don’t like – and the denunciations typically won’t be limited by facts or even probability.
This has happened to the author of these lines many times, but most recently today, when Lyudmila Lavrova, a commentator for the Russian nationalist Zavtranewspaper suggested that I am “the real ‘father’” of the July 22-24 meeting in Prague of the Forum of Free Peoples of Russia (zavtra.ru/blogs/transkrokodili_prodolzhayut_mechtat_o_smalandii).
Writing that I am “a Sovietologist with half a century of experience” and “a specialist on ethnic and political problems in Eurasia, the Zavtra writer listed some of my positions before retirement and then offered the following words to summarize my career and my views:
“When the Soviet Union collapsed,” she writes, “Paul Goble proved to be one of those best equipped to make recommendations and build strategies for the post-Soviet space. His favorite phrase says a lot about him: ‘Russia won’t pose a threat to its neighbors only when all the borders of Russia can be seen from the highest tower of the Kremlin.”
I report these words so as to have the chance to correct the record. On the one hand, while it is flattering to hear how well-equipped I supposedly was to come up with plans for the post-Soviet space, the record will show that I hardly was the only one offering such advice and was certainly not among those most listened.
And on the other hand, Lavrova misquotes me. What I have said on occasion is that if someone standing on the wall of the Kremlin can’t see the borders of Russia, then it is still too big. Lavrov’s version may be even more to the point, but alas it isn’t what I have in fact written or said at any point in the past.
I do support the goals of the Forum of Free Peoples of Russia both because I remain committed to the right of nations to self-determination and because I believe that while 1991 reduced the size of the empire centered on Moscow, it did not change the imperial nature of the state. Instead, it set the stage of repression and revanchism.
And I further believe that the Forum represents an important step forward in that it calls for the de-colonization not only of the non-Russian republics and nations within the current borders of the Russian federation but also for predominantly Russian regions as well who are also subject to repression from Moscow.
But while supporting these goals, I can hardly take credit for being “the real ‘father’” of the Prague meeting — although I have written approvingly of what it and those who did take part have said. Thus I feel I must give up the laurels Lavrova wants to place on my head.
Window on Eurasia — New Series