World News /15 Jun 2014

Of Strelkov and Stolypin: Tsarist Russia’s Last Chance

Strelkov, the military commander of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic,’ imperial adventurer and historian-with-a-gun, and Stolypin, the reforming reactionary prime minister who, I would suggest, represented tsarist Russia’s last chance for survival: two imperial(ist) figures of the moment, both of whom see the revival of something past or passing in reshaping the future, by violent means if need be. (There’s a reason why the ‘Stolypin necktie’ became a slang term for the hangman’s noose.) I mention them not just because Russian imperialism seems very much in vogue, but because of purely self-interested promotion.

I have a piece over at Russia! magazine that throws out some thoughts about Strelkov and what role he plays: ‘“War nerd,” “military romantic,” “god of war,” “monster and killer”: no one seems entirely sure what to make of Igor Girkin, aka Strelkov, the “defense minister” of the equally-unrecognized “Donetsk People’s Republic.” And so they project what they expect to see.’

And my fledgling new column for Business New Europe now has a title. The Economist has Charlemagne; BNE now has Stolypin! I hope to bring the same brand of ruthlessly clear-eyed pragmatism to bear on Stolypin, as I explore Russia’s domestic and foreign affairs each month. Even if I cannot hope to match his impressive facial hair. My most recent column, on Ukraine of course, is here.

This article was originally posted in In Moscow’s Shadows.

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