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Kuznetsova_The Near Abroad_Increasingly Far Away from Russia

Kuznetsova_The Near Abroad_Increasingly Far Away from...

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1 The Near Abroad: Increasingly Far Away from Russia 8 february 2005 Yekaterina Kuznetsova 1 © "Russia in Global Affairs". 1, January - March 2005 If the Russian authorities do not amend their policies, Moscow’s efforts to keep the former ‘sister republics’ under its influence may force those countries to turn to those who will offer them a more intelligible scenario for future development. NO MAN’S LAND The emergence of 15 independent states on the territory of the former Soviet Union divided the previously single country along borders that were drawn by “nation builders” in the first few decades of the Soviet empire. The breakup process, which was accompanied by chaotic democratization, went forward as the realization of each people’s right to self-determination. Meanwhile, most of the newly formed states were not ethnically homogeneous. On the other hand, peoples who enjoyed certain autonomy in the Soviet years, but did not enjoy the status of a republic, also tried to exercise the right to self-determination. The breakup of the Soviet Union (and, to some extent, another member of the former Eastern bloc, Yugoslavia) revealed differing points of views concerning the organization of the post- Soviet space between the Russian and Western politicians. The former grieved for their bygone country, and this nostalgia increased as separatist sentiments grew in Russia and its influence on the international arena decreased. The latter tended to support the centrifugal tendencies, interpreting them as manifestations of the democratization of post-socialist societies, which brought the West victory in the Cold War. But neither the Russian nor Western policymakers, unable to overcome their mental inertia, made any effort to turn the terra nullius (no man’s land) that had emerged between Russia and the West into a proving ground for testing new forms of allied relations. Russian leaders competed amongst themselves to devise new concepts of Russia’s “key role” in the post-Soviet space, while Western governments sought to outdo each other by recognizing the formal independence of the newly independent states, be it Estonia or Uzbekistan, Slovenia or Croatia. The similarity of interests between Russian statists and the representatives of those movements that sought independence from the newly independent states caused Russia – partly deliberately 1 Yekaterina Kuznetsova is a research fellow at the Center for Postindustrial Studies, and a postgraduate at the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
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2 and partly by coincidence – to give preference to a special rapprochement with “fragments” of the Soviet empire (former autonomies that had declared their disagreement with the principles concerning the division of the collapsed Soviet Union) rather than to the normalization of relations with its new neighbors. Some forces in Russia sought to preserve their levers of influence on the former Soviet republics by tacitly encouraging separatist policies within the
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