Many scientific works have been written about the role of the individual in history. Another interesting but less studied phenomenon is the role of historical narrative in shaping the foreign policy of states.
At one time, Hitler succeeded in convincing the Germans of the fallacy of the Peace of Versailles, Hungary was troubled by Trianon, Putin by World War II, and China by a century of humiliation. In Mongolia, Genghis Khan, who ruined the hemisphere and destroyed cultures he could not even comprehend, is a national hero. The same goes for other conquerors and invaders around the world. Strictly speaking, it is difficult to find a country that does not have its own vision of certain historical events and figures that have arisen against their background and are contradictory in terms of perception of others. If assessments of historical events that change over time, and therefore can never be considered definitive, remain in the realm of scientific inquiry, such a context would simply be one of the many aspects of international interaction that can be studied and discussed among professionals. The trouble is that the historical narrative has been and is an instrument of both domestic and foreign policy, and it is used to justify nationalism and aggression.
It is enough to look at the unjustified current aggression against monuments in the United States. Crowds of uneducated and very aggressive people, who call themselves the descendants of slaves, threw monuments to those who fought against slavery and even gave their lives for it. The tradition of erecting monuments in general can be debated at length, but the fact that their demolition has become part of politics is a sign of degradation, not progress. Nowadays, when the development of technology accelerates time and the standard of living itself is a sign of success and influence, the speculative use of historical discourse, which is often very indirectly relevant to modernity, can be extremely dangerous.
First of all, of course, we are talking about Russia. Historians and political analysts have already analyzed Putin’s recent article in great detail, in which he distorted the facts and allowed himself a very free interpretation of the events of the last century that preceded World War II. In fact, this is how the Kremlin master «justified» Russia’s aggressive policy today. After the Munich speech in 2007, which was not particularly noticed at the time, the world began to read carefully and find between the lines what Putin wanted to say. This time he did not even hide that he considered Russia to be deceived and offended: both by the West and the republics of the former USSR, and therefore he considered his own claims to imperial greatness to be quite natural. Why be powerful and not be great?
China is also raising this issue today. Sinologists note with concern the changes that are taking place right now in China’s foreign policy, which are associated with the rejection of Deng Xiaoping’s well-known recommendation to hide his power instead of pursuing the goal of perseverance and consistency. For the first time since 1962, Beijing has escalated on the high-altitude border with India, protesting Japan only to rename the small islands, over which Tokyo considers its sovereignty, significantly increasing pressure on Hong Kong and Taiwan, and entering into de facto confrontation with the United States in the South China Sea. . Celestial is slowly returning to the policy of «revenge» for two «centuries of humiliation», even if it officially proclaims the principles of mutually beneficial cooperation. The country cultivates a nationalist vision of the world, and the way China positions itself is best understood from the action film «Wolves-Warriors-2», whose slogan is: «Anyone who offends China, no matter how far away it is, should be destroyed. ».
The principles of systems analysis require answers to three questions: what, how and why happens in a given situation. In the case of Russia, it is quite clear what is happening and how, so the only question remains: why? Why is Putin now returning to the events of 80 years ago, when in fact there are no more living people who can testify about them, trials and punishments have long taken place, reparations have been paid and when the countries of the Nazi camp have admitted their guilt and settled relations on new principles of international law ?
There are several answers to this question. First, for Putin’s Russia, the war is not over yet: no peace treaty has been concluded with Japan. The world’s largest country does not want to give away four small islands of the Kuril ridge, and without this agreement does not make sense for Japan. The economic and political benefits of such a move, which would significantly strengthen the atmosphere of peace in the region and would undoubtedly have the effect of Russia’s economic benefits from cooperating with the world’s third economy, do not affect Russia’s intransigent policy. Second, in the article, Putin seems to have defined his vision for the next few years in power: to be proud of other people’s victories, to blame everyone but himself, and to raise generations of imperialist nationalists who are called patriots in Russia. The Tatar-Mongol yoke hurts, as does the defeat in the First World War, so they must be overshadowed by victories, endlessly rewriting history. All the rulers of the Russian Empire, starting with Peter, did this. Putin is no exception. He still has a plaque around his neck with the name of the khan, which gave the Muscovites the right to power, whether he realizes it or not. History is known to teach that it teaches nothing. And at least we have to remember that.
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