Head of the Department of Philosophy, Pacific National University
One of the key elements defining a great nation is the existence of a clear image of its own and common future. It is looking at this image, like in a mirror, that sets the nation’s movement forward. But so it happened that since the collapse of the Soviet Union Russia has tried to look at "others’ mirrors,” building itself through someone else’s matrix. The concept of Russia’s pivot to the East is not a replacement of the European mirror by the Chinese one, but an attempt to create its own, Russian mirror, the Russian image of a common future.
Today, the center of the world is objectively moving from the Atlantic to East Asia. It is East Asia that turns into a new "workshop of the world,” leaving the former leaders with the role of rentiers living on the wealth accumulated by previous generations. In Asia, new consumption centers are being formed before our eyes, turning "Asia for Europe” into "Asia for Asia.” The question is in what capacity Russia will be able to join this movement: as a raw materials supplier, alien to the region, or as one of the key players.
In order to follow the second path, Russia needs its own project in Asia, based on its Eurasian, and not only European, essence. Fitting into another "foreign project” (be it American, Chinese or Japanese) is simply impossible for Russia because of its size, history, international relations. Preservation of Russia’s subjectivity presupposes the definition of its role in the World Performance, where Russia is the director. At the same time, the Russian project may well correlate with all existing ones, taking them into account.
Today, the "Greater Eurasia” project is becoming more and more relevant, with its goal to institutionalize the transformation of the geographic concept that has been going on for more than one decade into an economic and political phenomenon. Due to the spatial location, the existence of the basis for the formation of the Eurasian transport infrastructure, the vast experience of polycultural life, Russia is able to act as an "assembly” space for Eurasia. With relatively small modernization efforts, it is Russia that can become the most convenient junction mechanism between the East and the South, the South and the West. Not only as a marketplace and the cheapest route of delivery of products to the consumers, but as the place of formation of a new polycultural entity. At the same time, we are not talking about hegemony, but about a special unbiased unity in the sphere of politics, economy, and culture.
Today the foundations of this project are being laid in the Far East of Russia. The "entry spaces” are being built with the countries of East Asia, the Trans-Siberian railway is being reconstructed, the geography itself is called to become the bearing structure of New Eurasia, the convenient conditions are created for the trade and investment. But, unfortunately, this is not enough. The "entry spaces” are needed not only in the direction "to the east,” but also "to the south.” The objective conditions for their formation are the most favorable. The cultural circumstances are unfavorable.
The project of Russia’s return to its Eurasian essence is perceived by both the population and a significant part of the elite as a regional project that deals exclusively with the Russian Far East. For Russia, Asia remains alien and dangerous. In this form, the project remains not particularly effective not only for Russia as a whole, but even for the Far Eastern region of the country.
The implementation of the All-Russian project requires not only efforts in the sphere of economy and transport development, but also enormous educational activities. It is necessary to learn and know not only the eastern neighbors, but also Russia’s own Asian history, its heroes.
Asia is a space where, unlike in Europe, interpersonal trust and social networks are much more important than formal arrangements. For Russia, "being in Asia” means that it must have powerful and constantly operating loyalty networks, consisting of people from Russia living in these countries, of foreign partners with whom a high level of interpersonal trust was achieved. It is only by relying on such loyalty networks that our country can become a space for the formation of a new global center of power – "Greater Eurasia.”