Separatism and Russia's Future

MOSCOW: “Self-determination” dominated international politics for two centuries. In the postwar era, Marxists were the strongest advocates of this theory, insisting on including it in the UN charter. That grant of legitimacy to the national aspirations of subordinated peoples helped eliminate colonialism. Should the principle of “self-determination”, however, continue to be embraced in today’s world?

Imagine the chaos that may ensue if separatist energies are allowed to continue in an unfettered way in a world where over two thousand ethnic groups live in over 150 distinct states. Nowadays, indeed, separatism is not a problem confined to individual states and societies; it is one for the entire global community.

Of course, if all parts of a nation accept separation, creation of a new national state need not be resisted by the world community. But when a party disagrees about dividing a nation, separatism becomes illegitimate. So the world community must resist unilateral efforts at separation because separatism today is much more dangerous than during the post-colonial era due to the twin evils of international terrorism and religious extremism.

When I suggest that religious extremism is a danger, I do not equate it with religious fundamentalism. Muslims in the old Soviet Union were attracted to fundamentalism because they were oppressed. They could not build mosques; they could not perform their faith in public. A fundamentalist adherence to Islam was a perfectly natural response to this.