Moscow’s ‘In-gathering of Russian Lands’ Involves Repression of Russians at Home, Says Noskov

April 21, 2014
"Marfa the Mayoress" by Dmitry Ivanov (1782-1810)

Staunton, April 19 – Throughout history, Russians have been often been enthusiastic about government programs proclaiming “the in-gathering of Russian lands,” only to discover that such efforts inevitably involve increasing repression against themselves and are in fact “a holy war” by the government against them in the name of strengthening itself, Oleg Noskov says.

In an essay posted online yesterday, the Russian commentator describes the actions of the Muscovite tsars against Novgorod and other independent principalities in order to show the way in which the Russian state has always presented these events and the way in which the Russian people have accepted that version.

And his depiction of how the rulers defined the process of the in-gathering of the Russian lands half a millennium ago, of what they were really about, and of how the Russian people still perceive them goes a long way to explain Moscow’s current campaign, its ultimately anti-Russian basis, and the willingness of Russians to accept the Kremlin’s version of events.

Supporters of Russian autocracy have justified any action, no matter how many victims foreign or domestic it might entail, Noskov says, as something required to defend the state from “numerous foreign enemies” and as the recovery of what was rightfully Russia’s rather than its expansion into areas that were not.

Such arguments, he continues, not only inform the views of ordinary Russians because they represent the core of the teaching of Russian history textbooks but also have continued to operate by inertia if nothing else as the basis of the modus operandi of the Russian state in its multifarious forms.

At the end of the 15th century, he argues, Muscovy moved against Novgorod not because the latter was interested in launching a military campaign against it but rather on the basis of an argument that the Novgorodians were involved in “’betrayal’” of Russia because they supposedly were trying to place themselves under the protection of “alien Catholic rule.”

Thus, according to the official Russian accounts, Muscovy was doing no more than defending itself by recovering that which was in fact its own from the expansion of foreign influence, an argument, Noskov implies, which has lost none of its power in the intervening centuries and informs the Kremlin’s approach to Ukraine now.

But behind such words, he says, what the Muscovite rulers were about was the extension of their own power and property, not the welfare of the Russian people, as some like to claim. The Russian state was not created “in the interests of the Russian people but exclusively in those of the AUTOCRATS THEMSELVES AND THOSE CLOSE TO THEM,” he emphasized.