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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russia Approaching Something Like Situation in 1905-1906, El Murid Says


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Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 16 – Russia today faces challenges from Ukraine and the temptation to engage in a good little war to compensate for growing social unhappiness at home, Anatoly Nesmiyan who blogs under the screen name El Murid says, a situation that resembles the one Imperial Russia found itself in 1905-1906.

            Those years typically described as the first Russian revolution in which Russia received a constitution and various freedoms were followed by a radical turn to reaction that ended with the chaos of World War I and the collapse of the Russian Empire and the Bolshevik revolution in 1917.

            In an interview with Kazan’s Business Gazeta, Nesmiyan says that just as Japan more than a century ago challenged Russia into declaring war against it so too Ukraine is challenging Russia now and both events occurred at a time when public unhappiness and anti-regime protests were on the rise (business-gazeta.ru/article/506148).

            At the beginning of the 20th century, he continues, Russia faced a variety of challenges abroad and at home and assumed that it could overcome them to its advantage by engaging in a short victorious war against Japan. Initially, everything went its way; but then came the defeats at Tsushima Straits and in the war itself. And after that came a revolution that shook the throne.

            Putin may believe he could easily defeat Ukraine and it is possible the larger and better equipped Russian military could win out initially. But given the risks arising from any conflict, the fact that Moscow has little to gain and much to lose from starting one, and the history of 1905, Nesmiyan says, it is “a big question” as to whether Putin will take the risk.

            Given how historically saturated Russian elite thinking is, it is quite possible that the 1905 analogy the blogger El Murid suggests is very much on the minds of the men in the Kremlin however aggressively bombastic they may be and that such worries more than anything else may yet restrain Putin from engaging in a new round of aggression at least for the present.

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