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Putin’s Post-Soviet World Remains A Work In Progress, But Africa Already Looms

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Putin’s Post-Soviet World Remains A Work In Progress, But Africa Already Looms

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Written by James M. Dorsey

Russian civilisationalism is proving handy as President Vladimir Putin seeks to expand the imaginary boundaries of his Russian World, whose frontiers are defined by Russian speakers and adherents to Russian culture rather than international law and/or ethnicity.

Mr. Putin’s disruptive and expansive nationalist ideology has underpinned his aggressive approach to Ukraine since 2014 with the annexation of Crimea and the stoking of insurgencies in the east of the country. It also underwrites this month’s brief intervention in Kazakhstan, even if it was in contrast to Ukraine at the invitation of the Kazakh government.

Mr. Putin’s nationalist push in territories that were once part of the Soviet Union may be par for the course even if it threatens to rupture relations between Russia and the West and potentially spark a war. It helps Russia compensate for the strategic depth it lost with the demise of communism in Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

However, equally alarmingly, Mr. Putin appears to be putting building blocks in place that would justify expanding his Russian World in one form or another beyond the boundaries of the erstwhile Soviet Union.

In doing so, he demonstrates the utility of employing plausibly deniable mercenaries not only for military and geopolitical but also ideological purposes.

Standing first in line is the Central African Republic. A resource-rich but failed state that has seen its share of genocidal violence and is situated far from even the most expansive historical borders of the Russian empire, the republic could eventually qualify to be part of the Russian world, according to Mr. Putin’s linguistic and cultural criteria.

Small units of the Wagner Group, a private military company owned by one of Mr. Putin’s close associates, entered the Centra African Republic once departing French troops handed over to a United Nations peacekeeping force in 2016. Five years later, Wagner has rights to mine the country’s gold and diamond deposits.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Russian mercenary presence persuaded President Faustin-Archange Touadera that the African republic should embrace Russian culture.

As a result, university students have been obliged to follow Russian-language classes starting as undergraduates in their first year until their second year of post-graduate studies. The mandate followed the introduction of Russian in the republic’s secondary school curriculum in 2019.

Mr. Touadera is expected to ask Mr. Putin for Russian-language instructors during a forthcoming visit to Moscow to assist in the rollout.

Neighbouring Mali could be next in line to follow in Mr. Touadera’s footsteps.

Last month, units of the Wagner Group moved into the Sahel nation at the request of a government led by army generals who have engineered two coups in nine months. The generals face African and Western sanctions that could make incorporating what bits of the country they control into the Russian world an attractive proposition.

While it is unlikely that Mr. Putin would want to formally welcome sub-Saharan and Sahel states into his Russian world, it illustrates the pitfalls of a redefinition of internationally recognised borders as civilisational and fluid rather than national, fixed, and legally enshrined.

For now, African states do not fit Mr. Putin’s bill of one nation as applied to Ukraine or Belarus. However, using linguistics as a monkey wrench, he could, overtime or whenever convenient, claim them as part of the Russian world based on an acquired language and cultural affinity.

Mr. Putin’s definition of a Russian world further opens the door to a world in which the principle of might is right runs even more rampant with the removal of whatever flimsy guard rails existed.

To accommodate the notion of a Russian world, Russian leaders, going back more than a decade, have redefined Russian civilisation as multi-ethnic rather than ethically Russia.

The Central African Republic’s stress on Russian-language education constitutes the first indication in more than a decade that Mr. Putin and some of his foreign allies may expand the Russian world’s civilisational aspects beyond the erstwhile Soviet Union.

Some critics of Mr. Putin’s concept of a Russian world note that Western wars allegedly waged out of self-defense and concern for human rights were also about power and geopolitical advantage.

For example, pundit Peter Beinart notes that NATO-led wars in Serbia, Afghanistan, and Libya “also extended American power and smashed Russian allies at the point of a gun.”

The criticism doesn’t weaken the legitimacy of the US and Western rejection of Russian civilisationalism. However, it does undermine the United States’ ability to claim the moral high ground.

It further constrains Western efforts to prevent the emergence of a world in which violation rather than the inviolability of national borders become the accepted norm.

If Russian interventionism aims to change borders, US interventionism often sought to change regimes. That is one driver of vastly different perceptions of the US role in the world, including Russian distrust of the post-Soviet NATO drive into Eastern Europe and independent former Soviet states such as Ukraine.

“People with more experience of the dark side of American power—people whose families hail from Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Haiti, or Mexico, where US guns have sabotaged democracy rather than defended it—might find it easier to understand Russian suspicions. But those Americans tend not to shape US policy towards places like Ukraine,” Mr. Beinart said.

A podcast version of this story is available on  Soundcloud, Itunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spreaker, Pocket Casts, Tumblr, Podbean, Audecibel, Patreon, and Castbox.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and scholar and a Senior Fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute.


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Alexandre Moumbaris

Dont you think Southfront that this article resembles Western imperialist media? This article does not corfrespond to the image your readers have of you!!!

CNN Comedy News Network

Absolutely. RT recently started publishing bs articles, some of them blatantly anti-russian, and now SF publish this crap? Meanwhile, Western MSM industry of lies keep producing endless propaganda stories about russian invasion, russian hackers, russian mercs, russian assassins…

Last edited 10 months ago by CNN Comedy News Network


Soviet, Chinese and Warsaw Pact activities with western much backing transformed the former Rhodesia and South Africa transformed from former 1st world countries with world-class school systems into 3rd world shitholes with low quality school systems.


Race is an immutable part of life, which no quixotic fantasy can hope to change.

Scientifically verifiable racial differences: https://worldtruthvideos.website/search?keyword=Age+of+Treason

Last edited 10 months ago by OnTheFritzzz
Chris Gr

If blacks are supposedly lower then why are there transplants from every race? A white man can have an organ transplant of a black person.


Pure jealousy. Western propaganda with no truth in it. The west have been exploiting Africa with no mutually beneficial relationship. Now Africa is awake and the timing of today’s world is helping Africa. Now there are 2 additional super powers, Russia and China. There are other regional powers such as India and Turkey who also believe in win-win economic cooperation with Africa. Another great thing about this era is that, the West doesn’t have a technological monopoly as it was 50 years ago. The only thing the west has and Russia and China doesn’t have is the wide body civilian aircrafts. Russia and China are working together to solve this deficiency. It will be solved in 8 years time when CR-929 comes out in 2029.


Lower living standards, social statistics comparable to 3rd world countries = “jealousy”?


3rd world social statistics = “Jealousy”

Faithful reader

By far the worst article that has appeared on SouthFront, ever. Devoid of any useful information, it subjects the reader to a deluge of russophobic hatred of such diarrhetic character that any imperialistic media outlet would be proud of it. How could this article of make it to SouthFront? Please, SouthFront, do not go down this route.


Stick to the middle east Jim, jumping on the ‘Russia expansionist’ threat bandwagon isn’t going to work. 80% of american ‘troops’ in foreign lands are Xe mercenaries .. oops, sorry, ‘private contracters’ it is the way of the world and as America becomes weaker and weaker, naturally the wolves will move in to pick the carcass for their share. the US unipolar moment, if there ever really was one, is over and the end of history starts again. Perhaps Russian and China will become transcendent, who knows, for sure the west will not let go easily, even now as they sense the end is near they cling even harder. western military cannot fight a peer war so they will morph into cheats, murderers and proxy war funders, their true risk is at home though, those who have had enough, maybe they will strike the final blow.

Chris Gr

The Cold War has ended decades ago. Now there are allies and axis again.


This is wrong, nobody has right to criticize Putin or Russia,

CNN Comedy News Network

Wtf is this cr4p??? CNN, BBC, Deutsche Welle?

While all western media keep spamming insane narrative about “Russian invasion”, this supposedly ‘Russian propaganda site’ basically repeating the very same bs! Are you blind, or you can’t read English so you have no idea wtf this propagandist babbling about? Stop publishing this James M(onkey) Donkey, Dorsey, whatever all his articles are GARBAGE.

Last edited 10 months ago by CNN Comedy News Network
Ilya G Poimandres

What tripe – the the region’s around Russia who ‘identify with Russian culture’ to vote whether they would join Russia, in a plebiscite according to the UN Charter, and see what you get.

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