Fate once again calls on Russia to face the West, or perhaps the Russians themselves have convinced themselves of this?
America is not the only country that positions itself as an exceptional "power of good", without which the world can not do without. Russia is doing something similar. This is due to the struggle against the invaders, who have been attacking Russia for centuries. History also determines the strategy of Moscow's behavior in its increasingly tense relations with NATO and the West.
Origin of Russian Exclusivity
Russia's national identity is built on its victory over fascist Germany in World War II. However, Russia believed in its destination as a savior of the world from the villains long before the Second World War.
In 1812, Napoleon, the tyrant who raved about the idea of world domination, invaded Russia, and as a result lost his army. It was a grand victory for Russian weapons, and the country led a coalition of allies to free Europe from the invaders. The campaign ended in 1814, the forces of the coalition took Paris. Napoleon suffered a final position in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo, and Russia insists that it was she who caused the mortal wound.
After the Napoleonic Wars, a wave of patriotism arose in Russian society. The reason for this was the view that Russia saved Europe. Moreover, no other country was able to repel Napoleon's invasion or crush his army, which was once considered invincible. In Western Europe, Russians were considered savages or barbarians, and Russia was able to improve its reputation and found a reason for pride.
In this regard, many writers and intellectuals of the XIX century turned to history to find more evidence of exclusivity.
List of invaders
The search resulted in the 13th century, in which the Mongols invaded Europe. The "scourge of God" did not advance further than Eastern Europe, and many centuries later it allowed Russia to assert that the Russians shed blood, saving Europe from a serious threat.
Intellectuals used subsequent invasions to reinforce the idea of exclusivity. In the 16th century the Crimean Tatars went north and left only ashes from Moscow. Poles did the same in the XVII century, overthrew the tsar and killed the head of the Russian church. Peter I defeated the Swedes in the XVIII century.
After the invasion of Napoleon in the XIX century, the view on the exceptional importance of Russia was strengthened. Everything, from the conservative Dostoevsky to the revolutionaries Chernyshevsky and Lenin, agreed that Russia historically serves as a shield protecting the civilization.
The military accepted this idea for dogma, which is not surprising.
Hitler's attack - the most dangerous threat that Russia faced - strengthened the belief in exclusivity. No country has been able to do as much to protect others from aggressors as Russia, and no country has so often become the target of this aggression.
The modern meaning of war
The military experience of Russia to a great extent influenced her worldview and self-image. This country uses legacy for many purposes.
To the past, Russia turns, when they want to make an aggressor out of it. This is the presumption of innocence, which works regardless of the actions taken. Defensive shade is acquired even by the aggressive campaigns of Russia, thanks to which by the end of the XIX century the country turned into a huge empire occupying one sixth of the land.
To "defensive expansionism" can be attributed the annexation of the Crimea, which occurred twice. The first was in the 18th century, and its purpose was to prevent a threat from the Crimean Tatars who had attacked Russia for centuries. The second occurred in 2014, and Moscow claimed that it was protecting the Russians from the hostile government of Ukraine.
The legacy also justifies the suspicion with which Russia treats other countries. It is appropriate to recall again the Mongol invasion: at that time, the Western neighbors did not think of anything better than to attack Russia for the company.
Moreover, often coalitions were attacked on the country, and suspicions arose that the West was plotting against Moscow. Among others in the army of Napoleon, Poles, Italians and Germans served, and on the side of Hitler Hungarians, Romanians and other nations fought. That's why Russia is experiencing deja vu in connection with the emergence of NATO troops at its borders - it looks like another conspiracy. Not for nothing in Russia is the popular saying of Alexander III about Russia's allies, of which there are only two: the army and the navy.
Turning to the past also helps the Kremlin centralize power. Against the backdrop of patriotic sentiments, the opposition can be accused of state treason, and foreigners on Russian soil - spies.
The memory of the two great victories of the Russian people is the best way to strengthen the authority of the authorities.
The feeling of patriotism unites people under the omnipotent power, and turning to the difficult and bloody thousand-year history allows us to position Russia as a victim of foreign aggression. This high-octane fuel for the machine of Russian nationalism today runs through the veins of culture and society. The roots of the phenomenon go deep into the ages, and it gets support.
It was the war that convinced Russia that in the abyss of world events the Russians always stand on the side of good and win. Nothing else strengthens ideology in the same way as the desire to restore Russia's former power after the collapse of the USSR.
"We are creating history," said the popular historian Vladimir Medinsky shortly before he became Minister of Culture. In the case of Russia, this is exactly what happens.
author Gregory Carlton, American historian, professor at Tufts University