In order to better understand Russia and predict its future life trajectory, Western scholars have long been trying to find historical analogies to Russian imperial expansion.

Not surprisingly, they are often tempted to turn to European history. Russia is often compared to European colonial empires. Sometimes - from the USA. I even heard analogies being made with the Habsburg Empire.

However, all these comparisons are at best very strained, if not completely misleading. Because at its core, Russia has never been European. In terms of its state structure, political traditions, and methods of warfare, it was the successor to the Golden Horde, the Mongolian state that arose in the west of Eurasia after the collapse of the empire of Genghis Khan. Most importantly, its founding myth was rather Asian in nature. Therefore, if we want to find historical analogies, they should be looked for in the history of the Middle East and Asia.

Russia's distinguishing factor was that it was an expansionist Asian state that penetrated deep into Europe and, in the course of its expansion, was influenced by its culture and technological advances, although, as we shall see, this influence remained superficial. There is only one more such example in history - the Ottoman Empire.

Similarities Between Russia and the Ottoman Empire

A closer look at the history of Russia, especially in the light of current events, reveals much in common with the Ottoman Empire. Russia (including its various incarnations) followed a similar trajectory, although with a delay of about 1-2 centuries, which, however, due to the acceleration of the development of history in the modern world, can be greatly reduced.

In order to understand the life cycle of the Russian state, the logic of its expansion and evolution, its relations with European powers and, more importantly, to predict its future trajectory with a high degree of probability, it is necessary to turn to Turkish history, more precisely, to the history of the Ottoman Empire, and not look for historical analogies in Europe.

Indeed, the similarities between the Muscovite-Russian and Ottoman states are striking even in some small details. Both of them began their journey as minor principalities on the periphery of other, previously existing states, both of which were fragmented and fell into decay after the Mongol invasions.

The Ottoman principality arose on the northwestern periphery of Asia Minor as one of the numerous Turkic specific principalities ("beyliks") after its predecessor, the Rum Sultanate, ceased to exist as a result of the Mongol invasion. Similarly, the Grand Duchy of Moscow - the forerunner of the future Russia - arose as a vassal of the Golden Horde on the northeastern periphery of Eastern Europe as one of many principalities, after their predecessor, Kievan Rus, was also destroyed by the Mongol invasion.

Both of them started out as weak and insignificant peripheral states. But through a combination of favorable geographic location, surrounded by weak neighbors, cunning diplomacy of their rulers, and, in fact, simple luck caused by certain historical circumstances, they gradually accumulated land and resources, which eventually allowed them to rise above their neighbors. And after a certain turning point, they turned into great powers, thus revealing their full potential accumulated over decades.

A very important feature that united these two medieval states was that their identity, which also served as the guiding principle of their expansion, was messianic in nature and therefore based on the spread of the creed - Islam in the case of the Ottoman Turks and Orthodox Christianity in the case of Russian Muscovites.

Both of them went through processes of Europeanization and, thanks to their conquests in Europe, included in their borders a significant number of Europeans, who, in turn, became the main civilizers of these states and whose efforts played a decisive role in their transformation into great powers.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Ottoman Empire acquired as its subjects a large number of Greeks and South Slavs, who played an important role in state administration and the army, and whose efforts played a decisive role in turning it into the greatest military power in Europe at that time. Also later, in the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire sought to modernize in order to be able to compete with the leading European powers. For this purpose, various specialists from Europe were invited to the country.

Muscovy, in turn, embarked on the path of Europeanization in the 17th century with the acquisition of the Ukraine, with its sophisticated religious thinkers, philosophers and artisans, who became the educators of Muscovite Russians and brought with them Western education and technical achievements. Later, beginning with the reign of Peter I, throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, a huge influx of German settlers arrived in Russia, who further deepened the process of Europeanization and established it as one of the leading European powers.

However, for both empires, these processes of Europeanization remained ultimately superficial and did not result in a fundamental change in the basic structures and values ​​of their respective societies. The main difference between them was the extent to which they were carried out. The process of Europeanization taking place in Russia was more extensive than that of the Ottoman Empire, but, in the end, it all remained on the surface here and there. Despite this, due to the broader nature of the Europeanization process that took place in Russia, Western people have the false impression that it is a European country and belongs to a European civilization.

The reason for the decline and, ultimately, the death of the Ottoman Empire was that, as its expansionist impulse and military power weakened, it had nothing more to offer in the cultural and civilizational sense. The ethos that drove it had no place in European modernity, and it could not keep pace with the cultural and technological progress of Europe. A similar fate awaits Russia.

The trajectory of Russia's disintegration

Since, as we see, in its emergence, expansion and interaction with the West, Russia followed a very similar pattern as the Ottoman Empire, it is reasonable to assume that its disintegration and disintegration will also follow a similar scenario.

When thinking about the possible disintegration and eventual disintegration of Russia, most people assume some kind of "big bang" scenario - that is, that at one particular moment Russia will instantly fall apart, and various independent states will immediately arise on its territory. Such a false premise ultimately leads to the denial of the very idea of ​​the collapse of Russia in general.

However, a more likely scenario is that this process could stretch over many decades and be a process rather than a one-time event. Russia will continue to lose territories, and gradually, one after another, various regions and national republics will gain their independence.

If we imagine it in this way, then the idea of ​​the collapse of Russia no longer seems so unlikely and fits into the general historical patterns. Again, in this respect it will be useful to refer to the history of the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman Empire did not collapse overnight. In fact, its retreat from Europe continued for more than two centuries, beginning with an unsuccessful attempt to capture Vienna in 1683 and the ensuing Great Turkish War (1683-1699), during which a coalition of European states drove the Ottomans out of Central Europe. This series of wars ended with the Treaty of Karlowitz (1699), in which the Ottoman Empire suffered major territorial losses for the first time and entered a long, centuries-old decline. In the course of this process, various peoples that were under its centuries-old yoke gradually gained their independence - Serbia in 1817, Greece in 1830, Bulgaria in 1878. Later, as a result of the Balkan Wars at the beginning of the 20th century, the Ottomans ceded another part of the territories to these countries. In the same time,

Along with this, it must be borne in mind that since 1917 the territory of Russia has also been gradually shrinking. After the First World War, she finally lost Finland and Poland.

After 1991, she lost all the current post-Soviet republics. Thus, there is no reason to believe that this process will somehow stop.

In this regard, it is tempting to draw historical parallels between the siege of Vienna in 1683 and Russia's unsuccessful attempt to capture Kyiv in February-March last year. The attempt to capture Vienna was, in fact, the last gasp of the Ottoman Empire. By that time, it had already lost its expansive fervor and entered a phase of decline. In this last, ultimately unsuccessful attempt, she expended all her remaining energy on conquest.

Likewise, even before its invasion of Ukraine, Russia had long lost the ability to wage any serious all-out war. Capturing the territories it managed to wrest in 2014 and 2022 from Ukraine, from a country that until last year was practically defenseless and in the process of painful reconstruction and state building, is the most that Russia is capable of at the present time. Therefore, its current full-scale war against Ukraine is likely to exhaust the last remnants of its barbaric expansionist energy.
Thus, the unsuccessful siege of Kyiv could become a kind of "siege of Vienna" for Russia. And the heroic Ukrainian defense, followed by a counter-offensive supported by Western coalition partners, can be compared to the Holy League war, which may well mark the next historical stage of retreat and major territorial losses for Russia. At the same time, the separation of national republics such as Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and Ichkeria (Chechnya), as well as peripheral regions with an ethnic "Russian" majority, such as Ingria, Novgorod, Pskov and Kaliningrad (Kenigsberg), for example, may become the next phase of "compression" territory of the Russian Empire after 1991.

Moreover, the current ideological convulsions of Russia, including all sorts of concepts aimed at substantiating its integrity, are also reminiscent of the late Ottoman Empire. In the second half of the 19th century, the concept of "Ottomanism" and Ottoman identity emerged, promoted by supporters of the preservation of the empire. It was supposed to attract and unite all the various ethnic and religious groups that were part of this crumbling state. Obviously, the Ottoman identity was a completely artificial and baseless fabrication, created in a desperate attempt to prevent the inevitable collapse of the empire. It is not surprising that she did not find recognition among her subjects.
And just the same, the current concept of the "Russian world", with which Russia substantiates its imperial essence and further expansion, strongly resembles that groundless concept called "Ottomanism". She, like the latter, appeals to various peoples who differ sharply from each other (both culturally and ethnically) and do not want to have anything in common with a unitary Russian state.

Just as the idea of ​​"Ottomanism" was artificial and appealed to a very heterogeneous population of Turks, Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians, Albanians, Armenians, Arabs and others, the "Russian" identity similarly seeks to hold together (and even forcibly unite , as we see in the example of Russia's attitude to Ukraine) peoples and communities are very different from each other, with different ethnic compositions, historical memory, regional culture and interests.

Moreover, not only the "Russian" identity is artificial, but even the ethnonym "Russian" in reality does not correspond to the meaning that is attributed to it in the standard scientific understanding of this term. The fact is that within Russia there are irreconcilable differences not only between the so-called. "ethnic Russians" and representatives of other nationalities who are currently citizens of the Russian Federation (for example, Tatars, Bashkirs, Chechens, Dagestanis, etc.), but also between those who are considered "ethnic Russians". For example, the "Russians" of St. Petersburg, Novgorod, Pskov or Smolensk are very different from the "Russians" of the Urals or Siberia. Although they speak the same language and identify themselves with the same ethnonym, by all indications they represent different ethnic groups/nations with different interests. This means that their further coexistence within the framework of a single state is an artificial situation, just as the coexistence of Turks, Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians, Armenians and others under the wing of the Ottoman Empire turned out to be impossible in the 19th century.

The West was not interested in the collapse of the Ottoman Empire

It is important to note that the whole process of decay and disintegration of the Ottoman state, for many decades, was accompanied by the unwillingness of the Western powers, such as Great Britain and France, to accelerate it and, in fact, their unwillingness to carry it out. On the contrary, during most of the 19th century they did everything to prevent such an outcome.

In the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire was considered the "sick man of Europe" and was maintained solely thanks to the policy of balance pursued by the major European powers. They believed that the continued existence of the Ottoman Empire was necessary to maintain the then existing balance of power in Europe. Her main role was to serve as a bulwark against Russia and to check her expansionist aspirations to the South Seas.

Therefore, although the Ottoman state was already on the verge of collapse in the 19th century, Great Britain and France for a long time sought to prevent such an outcome. For the sake of this, they did not even fail to directly enter the war on its side - the Crimean War of 1853-1856 against Russia.

Also, in the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878, only the threat of the direct participation of Great Britain on the side of the Ottoman Empire did not allow Russia to capture Constantinople, which, of course, would have led to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 19th century.

Of course, it must be admitted that they helped, for example, the Serbian and Greek revolutionaries in their struggle for independence, but only after the fact. After the Greeks and Serbs amazed all of Europe with their courage and dedication, and thus it became clear that in the end they would win. This brings to mind a similar reluctance on the part of the West to help Ukraine in the first weeks and months of a full-scale Russian invasion. Not to mention the fact that the West has left it at the mercy of the invaders since 2014, when Russia actually began its aggression. Like the Greeks and Serbs in the 19th century, the Ukrainians, with their valor, tenacity and fighting skills, simply left no choice for any decent person but to help them in their struggle.

The Western powers gave up on the Ottoman Empire only at the turn of the 20th century, when it became completely clear that this archaic formation was already in a hopeless state and when its continued existence ceased to meet their interests. What has changed is that a new and much more powerful adversary has appeared in Europe, namely Germany. In this new reality, Russia suddenly turned from an adversary into a useful ally that was supposed to contain Germany. In addition, the Ottoman Empire gradually began to move into the sphere of influence of Germany, as a result of which any benefit from it disappeared completely.

Shortly thereafter, as is known, an alliance was signed between Britain, France and Russia in 1907, which marked the beginning of the Entente. From that moment, throughout the 20th century until today, the Western powers were interested in the preservation of Russia, and not in its collapse.

Russia survived in the 20th century only thanks to the help of the West

Russia is following in the footsteps of the Ottoman Empire. Just as the latter was dubbed the "sick man of Europe" in the 19th century, so Russia is now the "sick man of Eurasia" - a civilizational backwater that continues its meaningless existence. And, like the Ottoman Empire of the 19th century, Russia is kept afloat solely thanks to the support of Western countries and their stubborn unwillingness to come to terms with its collapse.

In fact, Russia has been in this state of a "sick man" since 1917 and could have been finished already in the 20th century. But every time the Western powers came to her aid.

Contrary to the claims of Russian imperial chauvinists and their puppets in the West that "evil globalists" are supposedly plotting the collapse of Russia, in fact, throughout the 20th century, every time Russia was about to collapse, Western powers came to her to the rescue, thus keeping this Potemkin village the size of Eurasia afloat.

Russia was on the verge of collapse in 1917. Germany at that time could have easily delivered the final death blow to Russia if it had not been burdened by the war on the Western front, the subsequent defeat in the First World War and the cruel Treaty of Versailles imposed on it by the victors, which, among other things, provided for the complete destruction of the German army.

After the Bolsheviks seized power, Germany planned to send a military expedition to Russia to nip this nascent monster in the bud. But this was not destined to be. The Entente powers were more preoccupied with settling scores with Germany and humiliating her, which at that time they considered their main enemy and historical rival, than with anticipating the danger posed by the Russian-Soviet ugliness that was emerging in the East. As a result, the Bolshevik revolution was crowned with success.

Later, during and after the Russian Civil War (1918-1921), the United States and Western European powers provided Russia with significant material assistance, which gave the Bolsheviks much-needed breathing room to focus on rebuilding the Russian Empire by conquering the independent republics that emerged from it. disintegration (eg Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, etc.), and the pacification of national independence movements within Russia (eg Bashkirs, Tatars).

In addition to providing material assistance during and after the Civil War, the United States also played a critical role in the industrialization of the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s. It was mostly American companies that carried out the much vaunted industrialization during the Stalin era.

American engineers and businessmen built factories and developed the country's infrastructure. The emergence of almost all industries in the country was due to the efforts of the Americans.

Later, during World War II, the Soviet Union received significant aid from the United States through the lend-lease program. It included a huge amount of military equipment, vehicles and food. Without this help, the Soviet Union would have been easily defeated by a technologically more advanced and efficient Germany and would have been finally finished off. However, lend-lease played a decisive role in tipping the scales towards the Soviet Union.

At the turn of the 80s and 90s, when the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States, in fact, initially tried to prevent its collapse. Then-President George W. Bush traveled to Ukraine and urged the government not to declare independence. The West, at that time, was afraid of the unpredictable consequences that the collapse of the Soviet Union could lead to, in particular the proliferation of nuclear weapons. For this reason, the United States later pressured the young Ukrainian republic to give up its nuclear arsenal, the third largest in the world at the time, and transfer to Russia its nuclear weapons and standard nuclear-capable cruise missiles. The same cruise missiles that Russia is bombing Ukrainian cities with today!

Moreover, ordinary human psychology played a role here. The West preferred to maintain the status quo with a "Westernized" and "democratized" Soviet Union, which they thought would be easy to incorporate into the world order.

In addition, in the 1990s, the United States and European countries provided significant financial assistance to Russia, at a time when it again found itself on the verge of complete collapse. Like 70 years ago, the country again suffered from shortages of food and other basic necessities. The West again came to the rescue at the most critical moment. Among other things, this support included food aid from the United States - the famous "Bush legs". In addition to financial and material support, Western countries have provided Russia with technological assistance to help it rebuild and create a modern economy. Thus, Russia was again saved. And, as in the 1920s and 30s, the help and assistance provided by the West subsequently, as it turned out, allowed Russia to lay the foundation for its next stage of aggression.

It's time to end the "sick man of Eurasia"

As we can see, throughout the 20th century, major Western powers such as the United States and Great Britain were interested in maintaining the integrity of Russia and preventing its collapse. They needed a unitary and strong Russian state to use against Germany, which they began to regard as their main enemy from the beginning of the 20th century. This is analogous to how, in the 19th century, Great Britain was interested in the integrity of the Ottoman Empire and the continuation of its existence so that it could be used against Russia, which at that time was seen as the main enemy.

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, what happened was that Russia changed places with the Ottoman Empire in the geopolitical calculations of Western states. As the Ottoman Empire moved closer and closer to the sphere of influence of Germany, which subsequently led to their full-fledged military alliance, the need for it for the Western powers completely disappeared. Because the main enemy has changed for them.

We have been in a similar situation for more than a decade. In the West, Russia has long been viewed as the main bulwark against China, a new rising potential superpower that is increasingly seen as the West's main and most formidable adversary in the 21st century. In addition, a unitary and stable Russia was necessary for Western countries to provide a single reliable focal point for their investments and obtaining natural resources.

As a result, constant attempts were made in the hope of completely and irrevocably returning Russia to the fold of the Western world. For the sake of this, among other things, the West has constantly turned a blind eye to the repeated misdeeds and even egregious crimes on the part of Russia - for example, aggression against Moldova in 1992, two Chechen wars (in 1994-1996 and 1999), aggression against Georgia in 2008 and against Ukraine in 2014.

But, as subsequent events showed, it was all in vain. By now it should be clear to everyone that Russia in its current unitary imperial form will never become an ally of the West. It is saturated with hatred for the West and everything European. Therefore, in the event of a confrontation, it is more likely to take the side of China or any other anti-Western state. And, in fact, after the constant flirtations that preceded this, Russia is already irreversibly moving towards a full-fledged union with China.

Given this obvious reality, the collapse of Russia will be much more beneficial for the West than its preservation in its current unitary-imperial form. It will bring with it huge geopolitical and even deeper metahistorical benefits. Newly independent states in the post-Russian space, thanks to the acquisition of a new identity and ethos, are almost guaranteed to be friendly and grateful to the West. With this turn of events, Western civilization will gain new members to its family, or at least reliable allies. And it is they, and not a unitary imperial Russia, who will serve as a bulwark against Chinese expansionism and, most likely, will take the side of the West in the event of a direct confrontation with China.

In World War I, the Ottoman Empire itself joined the Central Powers. But the states that gained independence from it earlier, such as Serbia and Greece, for example, fought on the side of the Entente. And their contribution to the final victory of the Entente forces was very significant. Or take, for example, the national awakening among the Arabs that led to their rebellion against the Ottoman Empire in World War I, resulting in them fighting for Britain in the Middle East theater of war.

Accordingly, in the thinking of Western political circles in relation to Russia, the same change should occur that occurred at the turn of the 20th century in relation to the Ottoman Empire. The West must come to terms with the fact that a unitary imperial Russia will always be its eternal enemy and that its continued existence does not bode well for it. On the contrary, its disintegration will bring much more benefits compared to the possible time costs or shocks that could result from this process.

Therefore, the United States and Europe must finally abandon the idea of ​​a unitary Russia and instead focus their efforts on supporting the emerging national and regional independence movements within it. And they should hurry to establish closer ties with these forerunners of future independent post-Russian states in order to cement them as reliable allies against China.

Finally, the collapse of imperial Russia should not be viewed as the destruction of some natural functional unit, but rather as the assembly of its parts into a different, more natural and functional whole. The emergence of various independent states on the once Russian territory will turn out to be a huge gain for the West in all conceivable respects, not least because it will expand the area of ​​European civilization, firstly, by returning to its composition its natural members, who in different periods of history were forcibly torn away from it by Muscovy and its successor Russia, which was inherently hostile to Europe, and, secondly, by creating completely new states in Eurasia, which are very likely to become reliable allies of the West.

It's time to finally put an end to the "sick man of Eurasia". This anti-cultural, anti-civilizational monster that arose in the Middle Ages and since then has been forcibly drawing everyone around it into its gloomy realm, devoid of any meaningful positive identity, should finally be sent to the dustbin of history. Russia will never join the Western world as a whole. But this desired goal can finally be achieved by integrating the same Eurasian space into the Western world in separate parts.

Cemil Kerimoglu. Genetic neurobiologist, doctor of biological sciences. Blogger interested in Ukraine, Russia and Eastern Europe in general.
Twitter: /cemk_cemil