On some prior posting, long ago, I ran into a link that lead to a site that was written by a Russian. It advocated the point of view that the Eastern Orthodox Church was the cultural tie to bind Russia and all the Russian Related areas together. That the destiny of Russia was, in some way or other, to construct (or re-construct) an empire based on that range of Orthodox Christianity.
In general, I just figured it was Yet Another Crazy Idea. However, it does have a germ of cultural truth in it. The literary and religious histories of the areas are intertwined and share many common threads. They are, to greater or lesser extent, “kin”.
So I was looking for a map of this kinship, and found an interesting map on the wiki:
You can click on this for a bigger size.
We care about the blue bits in this context. The darker the blue, the higher the percentage. The scale is as follows:
Main religion (more than 75%)
Main religion (50% – 75%)
Important minority religion (20% – 50%)
Important minority religion (5% – 20%)
Minority religion (1% – 5%)
So mostly we care about the 2 or 3 darkest regions.
I think this map (and a language map of Slavic languages) makes it much more clear where the Russian Affinity Group lies (at least as Russia might see it).
A discussion of the recent Russian ‘activist’ behaviours relative to Iran, Syria, and the area near that end of the Mediterranean and Black Sea had broken out, down in the comments area on the China Property Bubble thread:
Inspection of the above map tends to focus the understanding as to ‘why’.
Each end of Turkey is a strong endpoint of the Eastern Orthodoxy range. The places where Russia expresses the most concern about U.S. bases and missiles are those European nations with the most linguistic and religious affinities.
Add to that a map of the distribution of modern Slavic languages and you get a pretty good idea of the “Russian Kinship” extent:
Though I have to emphasize that this map leaves out Eastern Russia and much of the Russian incursion southward in those areas…
In particular, notice the small stripe of Orthodoxy that is in Syria (though a mix of blue and redish, Eastern and Oriental).
I suspect that this historical perspective gives some insight into ‘why’ a Russian government and people would feel some particular “involvement” in areas like Syria, Ukraine, and The Balkans. They will have been raised with the histories of Orthodox range and scope, the maps of related language areas, and the awareness that ‘these are related’ in some way. Much like a Canadian, Australian, and US American are all ‘similar but different’ (many even of different language and racial histories, yet with a ‘kinship’ of culture and history). Or perhaps a better analogy in some cases, for the much more distant groups, would be like the relationship of England and the USA to Germany. The Angles and Saxons were from there, long ago, and the languages are ‘related but different’. We seem to like having wars with each other from time to time, but don’t like it if others attack one of us…
In summary, I think it important to have these maps and this view in mind when listening to various Russian Pronouncements about where they are unwilling to accept American Intrusions and where they feel at liberty to plant their own defenses. In short, I think “History, Religion, Language and Culture” all matter. Borders matter too, but the others tend to define where the borders will be. Russia feels, for various of these places, some affinity based on the history, religion, language, or cultural similarities (or some mix of them) and it would be a very good idea to recognize that. A particularly hard thing for Americans to do as we are indoctrinated into the idea that there is no common culture, we are ‘multicultural’, and we ought to expect everyone else to just be happy in their differences and take no notice of to whom they are similar. This is a cultural blindness that can only hurt us.
It will be interesting to watch this collision of the Historically Aware Russian culture with the ‘multicultural idiots’ of the West who know nothing of culture and ties that bind.