I grew up in an era where our parents openly worried about what the Evil Empire, would do to our hard won freedoms. The Evil Empire manifested itself first as The Third Reich and then as the USSR. Our parents lived with the effects of World War II, both during and after. Imagine their anxiety during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Now we worry that the invasion of the Ukraine puts us and our children back in the same place and mindset.
As a grandfather this reality is very distressing. Is the Cold War back?
The Cold war left no doubt in anyone’s mind that the dominant Russians and member states of the USSR were the Evil Empire.
The USSR collapsed under the weight of its own evils. History suggests this is often the case. The people in charge became hated by the people they ruled. Those in command of the USSR lost ‘the hearts and minds’ of their citizens.
The USSR dissolved itself in 1991by a vote of the supreme Soviet.
The Evil Empire never left
Even though the USSR no longer exists, it appears that the evil empire never left. It was replaced firstly with a loose federation of fifteen republics grappling with capitalism and market-based economies as they vied for power under the banner of a Russian federation which has became the framework for Vladimir Putin’s vision for the return of the Russian empire.
In my opinion Putin’s vision of a new imperial Russia is a vision of evil.
The Evil Empire has always lurked in the background
I’m not a great historian but my lopsided understanding of Russian history starts with the Vikings, the Ottoman Empire and a Ukraine made up of eastern European Slavic tribes. The Ukraine was, in spite of its narrow minded view of religious freedoms was a great place to live. There was cycle of pogroms against the Jewish communities. It was a place of learning, scientific exploration, artistic accomplishment, trade and agriculture.
Ukraine and the Ottomans gave Russia credibility
Nearly 1600 years ago that powerful Ukraine encouraged and supported the tribe of Rus to create their own kingdom. Russia was born with help and support of the kievan tribes of Ukraine. A Norse Prince Oleg of Novgorod seized control of Kiev in 882 in an attempt to unite all the slavic tribes, including the Rus.
Russia was late to that party as Ukraine, Belarus and the other slavics regions found their impetus to rule. Those that became the Russian rulers and government were a heavy handed bunch trying to make up lost time. History tells us their missteps fostered a lot of mini peasant uprisings. When Tsar Nicolas II reluctantly took charge he had a group of advisors who were fools who appointed more fools. They opened the door to the Bolsheviks who ruled with an echo of the heavy handed approach of previous rulers.
What was Lenin thinking?
Ukraine and Belarus were part of the group of republics who signed on to help formalize the creation of the USSR in 1922. I don’t know what the rationale was at the time, although I suspect that Stalin’s brutality had something to do with it.
Putin now seems intent on re-writing history, recreating the myth of a Russian Empire and co-opting the good that is and was Ukraine. The world needs to remember the ‘track record’ of Russian rulers and realize that Putin is no better and often worse than most of his predecessors.
Which country will be next?
Is Turkey safe from Putin’s view of a Russian Empire?
Where are the new Evil Empires?
Coincidentally, from my reading of history every free country has a view of at least one neighbor as an Evil Empire.
The kingdoms of sand are jockeying for position as evil empires, as is China. A slightly more benign example is the ongoing battle between Pakistan and India. which is the evil pariah?
At various points in my youth a shared mythological view of the USA was as the Evil Empire to the south of us trying to undermine our sovereignty. Now I just laugh at the epidemic of stupidity that keeps the US government hog-tied. The USA is held up for scrutiny as an Evil Empire by central and some south American countries, and most of the sand kingdoms.
While I might say that at the root of all evil is ego, it looks to be as much about personal greed, religious domination, gender domination, and racial domination at the core of ideological and nationalistic disputes.
Today the evil empire that dominates my thinking is the Russian Federation under the control of the ‘little man ego’ of Vladimir Putin. He presents with the same personality traits and shortcomings as Napoleon, Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin, Stalin, Bashar al-Assad, Xi JinPing, Kim Jung-un.
Not a club I’d want to be associated with.
There will always be an Evil Empire dominated by someone with low self esteem.
And then, there are the dictators.