Decolonizing Russia: A Closer Look (Part 1)

Decolonizing Russia: A Closer Look (Part 1)

Adel Bashqawi

July 03, 2024

A distinguished friend sent me a BBC media “documentary podcast,” addressing “Europe’s colonialism” and specifically “Decolonising Russia.” In an introductory presentation, various sarcastic, denouncing, and metaphorical questions are put forward, leading to a longing for the freedom of peoples and nations. The prevailing truth indicates that they are waiting for the appropriate and decisive moment.

Due to the length of the article, it’s been decided to post it in two parts.

1.Part 1: Historical Context and Russian Empire’s Expansion


•The Russian Empire Until 1917

•The Circassian Genocide and Deportation

•Experiences with Russian Writers and Novelists


Certainly, the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, and post-Soviet Russia have all been characterized by implementing a colonial policy with expansionist ambitions. The dominant image hints that the situation will not remain as it is. History has proven beyond doubt that all peoples and nations will regain their freedom and the right to self-determination, no matter how long or short the time may be. Specific points will be highlighted.

The podcast outlines the reality of Russia’s appetite for invasion, occupation, and colonization of Ukraine and other neighbors, challenging the desire of occupied peoples and nations for the necessity of decolonization. The documentary podcast wonders whether Russia is:

•Europe’s last empire?

•Its invasion of Ukraine a “colonial war”?

•Decolonizing the country is the only way of ensuring it stops being a threat to its neighbors and world peace? 1

The broadcast elaborated on a situation of impeccable clarity that has imposed itself since the reigns of Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible, revealing Russia’s imperialism and colonialism that aspire to illegitimately expand at the expense of all neighboring countries and beyond. “There are lots of places and people in it,” but it’s not about a journey, it’s about an idea, about really the nature, the identity of Russia, and how maybe that should change. 2

Highlights of Historical Events and Figures

The Russian Empire Until 1917

Russia’s Expansionist and Colonial Wars Included Dozens of Peoples and Nations:

•“The majority of Russia’s coastline was frozen for a significant portion of the year, limiting its access to warm-water ports necessary for maritime trade. This fueled Russia’s ambition to gain control of territories with access to the Black Sea, Baltic Sea, and Pacific Ocean.” 3

•“Kazakhstan and other Central Asian territories, today’s Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, were conquered by the czarist empire in the 19th century in the name of progress.” 4

•Russian relations with its European neighbors were not good. Knowing that Russian society was not developed or civilized in the intended sense of growth, development, and participation, cooperation, and urbanization of citizens who were supposed to participate in administration, reform, politics, and the economy. Rather, slavery and the cult of personality remained, with the head of power dominating administration and politics.

The Circassian Genocide and Deportation Need to be Recognized:

•The aggressor forces of the Russian Empire advanced from the Muscovy region and occupied areas in Belarus, Poland, the Baltic Republics, Siberia, the Ural, Ukraine, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and part of Finland. Eventually, The Russian Empire extended from Europe in the west to northeastern Asia in Vladivostok, the Bering Sea, and the Sea of Okhotsk.

Experiences with Russian writers and novelists have proven their flexibility to change concepts and cling to cruelty, hatred, and racism:

•“Oleg Tabakov, one of Russia’s most celebrated actors, read a much-loved story, The Tale of the Dead Princess and Seven Knights, by the country’s greatest poet, Alexander Pushkin. As in Snow White, there’s an evil stepmother, a magic mirror, a cosy cottage, where the princess takes refuge. But it belongs not to seven dwarfs, but to seven knights.” 5

The Brutality of the Russian Empire:

•“Alexander Pushkin jokingly writes that these Russian knights, for the sake of morning exercise, go out to shoot representatives of other nations. These lines were written at the time of the genocide of Circassians in the 19th century. When Russian generals described Circassians as subhuman filth.” 6

•“Circassians were scattered across the Middle East, with remnants in Russia, living in several of its national republics. Unlike the 14 non-Russian union republics of the Soviet Union, such as Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Georgia, the autonomous republics within Russia, for originally conquered peoples, didn’t break free in 1991.” 7

Mikhail Lermontov’s Legacy:

•“Mikhail Lermontov published his views on internal and external Russian affairs through drawings, paintings, and poems. He is considered the second most important Russian poet of the nineteenth century, after Alexander Pushkin.” [8](The Circassian Miracle, LERMONTOV’S EXPERIENCE, Bashqawi)

•“The Russian junior captain has only one general definition for all the greater and lesser peoples of the conquered Caucasus: ‘these Asiatics are terrible rascals’ … The same Maksim Maksimych, despite acknowledging the military prowess of the Kabardians, pronounces a judgment under which he, in general, subsumes all mountain peoples: ‘Well, you see, it is a known fact these Circassians are a bunch of thieves.’” [9](The Circassian Miracle, LERMONTOV’S EXPERIENCE, Bashqawi)


1.The Documentary Podcast

2.The Documentary Podcast

3.19th Century US

4.The Documentary Podcast

5.The Documentary Podcast

6.The Documentary Podcast

7.The Documentary Podcast

8.Bashqawi, A. The Circassian Miracle: LERMONTOV’S EXPERIENCE

9.Bashqawi, A. The Circassian Miracle: LERMONTOV’S EXPERIENCE

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