“History” is a problematic concept because it is very much tied to a specific culture. History departments derive from the medieval university culture of Europe and we have to accept that most people, at most of the time, have lived without any notion of it.
Perception is a key to understanding this phenomena: in the history of warfare, violent confrontations have in large part been endemic. Two parties confront each other and display a show of brutal force and often the conflict is resolved symbolically by a single dual or one side is hidden behind a fortification, while tribute is discussed.
A perfect example of endemic warfare would be the 18th and 19th century Irish culture of “Shillelagh Law” where various “factions” or gangs would assemble to finish an argument with the most primitive of weapons: a wooden cudgel made of oak or blackthorn.
This phenomena was best described in the works of William Carleton, and can be seen portrayed in the Hollywood film “Gangs of New York.”
Two sides proclaim their beef, off fly the hats and bloodshed commences until at least one of the ring leaders falls, and then the crowds disperse.
The shared perception of both sides is that there was an argument, the argument should be settled with satisfaction. Satisfaction can be satiated often with little to no bloodshed.
Even in duals, we can read that very often men came to an arrangement before lead was discharged. President Andrew Jackson often feuded on behalf of his slandered wife, whereas Lincoln’s dual ended before lead was to fly.
At a single time and a single place, a culture of science arose. Symbolic, shared rituals had become meaningless, and exactness was the only sign of certitude.
This culmination was in Western Europe. Carl von Clausewitz wrote the tome on scientific warfare. In this warfare, the enemy was to be pressed until absolute triumph was achieved. The commanders were to rationally calculate their chances as would an accountant, tallying up the score after every battle.
The 21st century has witnessed a resurgence in endemic warfare. We now fight, not for a brutal display of pride, but utilize a different method: an invocation of the goddess of “fairness” and “tolerance.”
One of the proclaimed reasons for the last few wars America has fought was for “women’s rights,” and the right to cast a ballot. On the other hand, the metric of capital accumulation is also ever present: we don’t go to war if it hurts business. Many European countries do not want to damage their business deals with Russia at this time.
Russian history is difficult to understand because it lacks a cohesive understanding of itself without violent displays of aggression.
In Russia, nothing is original or organic.
The Slavic Messianic idea that Russia believes in is an import from 18th century Polish Messianism.
Slavophilia is difficult to believe in for an outside observer because Kievan Rus was founded by Norsemen, and the tribes that settled under it were mostly Finns, and a few Slavs.
Many of the leaders of Russia’s past came from Tatar stock, and there are many “mongolisms” in Russian culture, such as oriental bureaucratic despotism and the belief in a divine, strong leader.
What Russia has maintained is a firm belief in the nation-state, while Western nations only see an endemic worldview of transfers of money. The man with the pot of gold is the “big chief” and others are supposed to bow to their wisdom.
This is an ancient invocation of a superstitious notion, and our belief in endemic (economic) warfare will not suffice to bring down a nation-state which believes it has a destiny to expand unto infinity.
It is true that Russia and Ukraine are ruled by money and by oligarchy, but Russian people believe in the nation-state.
This self-perception in and of itself is the Bear’s main power at this point in time.
Even if the oligarchs compare each others powers by the size of their yacht fleet, as long as Putin achieves deference for aggressive tactics from his people, we will be facing trouble.