Əsas səhifə The Slavonic and East European Review What Is Asia to Us?: Russia's Asian Heartland Yesterday and Todayby Milan Hauner

What Is Asia to Us?: Russia's Asian Heartland Yesterday and Todayby Milan Hauner

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The Slavonic and East European Review
April, 1992
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What Is Asia to Us?: Russia's Asian Heartland Yesterday and Today by Milan Hauner
Review by: Alan Bodger
The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 70, No. 2 (Apr., 1992), pp. 391-393
Published by: the Modern Humanities Research Association and University College London, School of
Slavonic and East European Studies

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various economic reformplans as effortsto adapt relations of production to the
needs of accelerated economic growth. In other words, perestroika
is no more
than structural adjustment or 'a nationally specific manifestation of restructuring going on almost everywhere else in the world system' (p. I I5).
In examining Soviet relations with the Third World, Brun and Hersh
consider the issues that have turned into conflicts of interest. They maintain
that in the protracted Law of the Sea negotiations, over the demand for a New
International Economic Order, and in the patterns of exchange and terms of
trade between the USSR and the Third World in the I970S and I98os, the
Soviet Union has usually behaved more like a core capitalist country than li; ke
a socialist state intent on transformingthe international system. At first Third
World countries derived some benefits, even if only because their relations
with the Soviet Union gave them some leverage on the West. In the final
analysis, however, 'East-South intercourse has supplemented and paralleled
West-South relations in the same direction' (p. 262) and it has failed to offer
the Third World any realistic alternative to capitalist development.
This is an interesting, provocative book but its final conclusion - that the
Third World has become the area of opportunities for expansion of Soviet
interests now - seems doubtful. Soviet perestroikahas less to offer the Third
World than the command economy, and economic incompatibility will
continue to hinder Soviet-Third World trade. Moreover, the disintegration of
the Soviet bloc has diverted world attention from the predicament of the Third
World and the economic needs of the ex-socialist states will almost certainly
divert much needed aid from it as well.
of International
LondonSchoolof Economics

Hauner, Milan. Whatis Asia to Us?:Russia'sAsianHeartlandYesterday
Unwin Hyman, Boston, London, Sydney
xvi + 264 pp. Notes. Maps. Index. ?30.00.

and Wellington,


IN his foreword Paul Kennedy observes that this book's great merit is to
remind the reader of the physical, geographical and demographic problems
facing any regime seeking to govern this vast land. It would be unfortunate if
this well-meaning assessment were to put off potential readers by implying
that Dr Hauner is advocating any simplistic geographical determinism.
Although the greater part of the book is devoted to a re-examination of
Mackinder's 'heartland thesis' in the light of recent events in the 'Soviet
Eurasian Empire', and although the author concludes that the 'heartland
debate' will be relevant as long as the empire exists, he also believes that 'even
if geographic limits remain fixed, their function and significance[my italics] can
be changed

by human


.. .', by changes

in the political

and socio-

economic environment. This is not, of course, to be confused with the
disastrous Stalinist idea that nature itself can be changed, but suggests that a
radical change in Russia's political system and relations with the outside
world will change the way geopolitical 'realities' are perceived. Dr Hauner is

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sympathetic to Mackinder's vision, but he shows why the largely landlocked,
autarchic, autocratic, inward-looking Soviet Eurasian Empire, aloof from
world market forces, has so far signally failed to convert its control over the
'world heartland' into the kind of power envisaged by Mackinder. He stresses
the significance of the 'eastward shift in the centre of gravity of the Soviet
state', but also observes that the 'heartland' territories still remain relatively
backward and important, mainly as a defensive glacis shielding the vulnerable
communication system linking the Soviet Far East with European Russia. It
might be thought that this attests more to the prophetic qualities of Mackinder's critics such as Leopold Amery, and of those who argued the ease With
which Soviet global power might be contained. Of all the forces at present at
work in Asia - from the bordersof Turkey to the Pacific, within or without the
Soviet Union - one can hardly think of any that favour the Mackinder thesis.
Dr Hauner's caution, however, is timely - the future is indeed inscrutable.
We may not yet be standing on the threshold of a new era of democracy and
integration into the world market. The assumption that the bottled-up
potential of the heartland can only be released by forces that are ultimately
incompatible with the continued existence of the empire may prove to be

Dr Hauner's reflections on the Mackinder thesis are supported by chapters
reviewing the history of Russia's eastward expansion and the colourful
kaleidoscope of ideas and policies spawned by centuries of contact with a
variety of 'Easts'. Russian messianic thought and 'Eurasianism' are well
represented, but in tracing the continuity of such ideas down through the past
two centuries, the particular circumstances in which such ideas surfaced from
time to time are perhaps not always given sufficientweight, and perhaps more
emphasis could have been put on the traditionally secondary nature both of
messianic thought and of policy concerning 'Asia'. Once her natural frontiers
had been reached, Russia's interest in further advances in 'Asia' usually came
about as a compensatory reaction to crises in her relationship with the 'West',
no matter how much it was dressed up as organic. And, with notable
exceptions, pragmatism overruled adventurism in actual policy.
A minor point: the chapters, which were based on previously published
papers, could have been rather better integrated and it would have been more
user-friendly if the notes and bibliography had come at the end and not after
each chapter.
Departmentof History



and RussianEmpire.Macmillan,
Clemens, Walter C. Jr. Baltic Independence
Basingstoke and London, I 99I. xxii + 346 pp. Map. Notes. Index.

account of the movements to bring about the indepen-

dence of the Baltic states covers the period up to the summer of I990. Thc
subject is indisputably a timely one but most of the material is familiar and
weighted towards Estonia. The book gives the impression of having been

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hastily put together and the rapid pace of events since its completion makes
many of its projected scenarios obsolete. One would welcome a revised edition
taking into account recent developments.
Schoolof Slavonicand East EuropeanStudies



Huttenbach, Henry R. (ed.). SovietNationalityPolicies.RulingEthnicGroupsin the
USSR. Studies in Issues, no. 6. Mansell, London and New York, I990.
xvi + 302 pp. Notes. Tables. Index. ?35.00.
THIScollection is a product of the Columbia University Seminar on Soviet
Nationality Problems and is a welcome addition to the literature. The aim of
this volume is to provide an overview of Soviet nationality policy since 1917.
The first part discusses the ideology and purposes of Moscow's policies
towards the minorities. This covers familiar ground, showing how the federal
system, intended to undermine nationalism, became the basis for strengthening it. Oddly, both John Hazard (p. 57) and Michael Rywkin (p. 65)
mistake the occasion of Iurii Andropov's major speech in which he called for
the 'fusion' of nationalities; it was in fact made on the sixtieth anniversary of
the formation of the USSR, in December I982.
The second part deals with the attempt to create the new homosovieticus.
Karen Collias's useful study of 'internationalist' education reports some
success in creating a 'hyphenated' identity in which citizens feel loyal to both
the USSR and their own republic. Natal'ia Sadomskaia's important discussion of new rituals suggests that many ceremonies were created not primarily
as part of the struggle against religion, nor as part of a process of Russification,
but with the purpose of'total Sovietization' (p. iI6) in which Russian national
rituals have suffered as much as those of other nations. This compares with
other contributions to the volume which tend to assume the Russian nature of
the Communist yoke over the other Soviet nations. Lee Schwartz's study of the
autonomous republics and oblasticontains interesting population data and
explanations of demographic movements, but has no real discussion of policy
towards these levels of government.
Case studies dominate the third part. They include discussions of the
1932-33 famine, Baltic nationalism and language policy, Islam and nationality, and emigration policy in relation to Germans, Armenians andJews.James
Mace concentrates on the effect of the famine in the Ukraine, but allows that
the famine was created not merely to destroy Ukrainian nationalism, but also
to extract produce from the peasantry.
Not surprisingly, the studies in the volume taken together show a picture of
the failure of nationality policy to meet the aspirations of the constituent
nations. The authors of the volume can be excused for their reluctance to make
predictions, but more could have been done to provide an overall analysis
which might fit together the different policy areas. Cadres policy, economic
development and the special position of the Russian Federation all deserve
consideration. The question for the I990S is whether some kind of association
can survive the abandonment of the Communist system, possibly as some type

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