The Principles of Eurasian Integration in the Historical Perspective

_ Yuri Kofner, editor-in-chief, analytical media “Eurasian Studies”. Moscow, 22 July 2018.

Classical and pragmatic Eurasianism

Since the creation of the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia in 2010, which in 2015 became the Eurasian Economic Union, among the supporters of Eurasian integration, i.e. on the part of the expert community, pro-Eurasian NGOs, and political forces, the issue of the ideological aspect of this new unification in the post-Soviet space was raised a number of times.

In fact, we see the interplay of two different interpretations or versions of Eurasianism: the classical Eurasianism of the 1920s and 1930s and the “pragmatic Eurasianism” of the early 21st century.

Representatives of the so-called pragmatic Eurasianism headed by the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev and the staff of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC), consider the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) to be an exclusively economic project without any political, and, especially, military and political component. This position is certainly justified at the current stage of integration, because it allows the deepening and expanding integration in the Greater Eurasian space, where otherwise such an attempt would be made impossible.

The Classical Eurasianists, this fascinating group of White emigre thinkers of the interwar period, wanted to carry out the reorganization of the USSR by changing its ideology from Communism to Eurasianism. Recognizing the existence of ideologies as a natural and inevitable element of the interacting processes of globalization and regionalization, we who would like to walk in the footsteps of the classical Eurasianists, also believe that the new Eurasian integration process in the post-Soviet space is supposed to have a certain ideological and patriotic aspect.

Five testaments of Genghis Khan for the Eurasian Union

The pro-Eurasian think tank “Eurasian Studies” set itself the goal of overcoming the above-described divergence in views on the future of Eurasian integration. The rational synthesis between classical and pragmatic Eurasianism is seen as the only viable solution.

This became the main theme of the first “Eurasian School”, conducted by “Eurasian Studies” in September 2016 in the Crimea. During the course of lively discussions, young researchers from the three founding countries of the EAEU – Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia – succeeded in finding five principles of integration that could become the optimal ideological support for the Eurasian Union, which would suit both (neo-) classical and pragmatic Eurasianists.

It is noteworthy that these five integration principles were not invented out of thin air. The impetus for finding them was given by a lecture the historian and expert on oriental studies, PhD. Oleg Lushnikov on the “History of Greater Eurasia.” In the discussion that followed, we found out that the Mongol Empire simply could not have united the vast expanses of Greater Eurasia from the Adriatic to the Yellow Sea on mere terror and coercion alone. As has often been argued by Western historians. The unification of Greater Eurasian under the Mongols became possible only thanks to the existence of certain “principles of integration”, laid down in the policy of Temuchin (Genghis Khan) and his followers. Moreover, through further discussions we discovered that these same principles were later embodied in the Russian Empire, and partly in the Soviet Union, and explain their success in reuniting the vast territory that had previously been part of the Mongol Empire (called the “Mongolosphere”, according Eurasian historian George Vernadsky). Thus, these principles have not been made up by a research centre or policy institute, but are the result of historical continuity and are a necessary attribute of any supranational union that would want to unite Eurasia.

Some Eurasian pragmatists or Western experts might be scared off by the way we call these principles “the Testaments of Genghis Khan” and that they played a key role in the formation of the Russian and Soviet empires (in the second case, I emphasize, only up to a certain measure), because they might cause connotations of imperialism or coercion. However, the integration principles that we propose have nothing to do with any such negative aspects.

These five principles of Eurasian integration are:

  1. Cultural pluralism;
  2. Collective security;
  3. Common economic space;
  4. Rule of law;
  5. Supremacy of spiritual values.

Before I elaborate on each of them, I would like to note that we propose to implement these principles not right now and not before the sovereign member states of the EAEU are ready to climb the integration ladder from a purely economic community into a Eurasian economic, cultural and political union.

Cultural pluralism

The Mongols, as argues the Eurasian ethnographer and historian Lev Gumilev, are known for being very tolerant of the different faiths and cultures of its peoples that became part of their empire. Unlike the expansionism of the European and Chinese empires, which was accompanied by violent “Latinization”, “Europeanization,” “Hanification”, etc., of its conquered peoples (especially during the period of Western European colonialism, reaching the point of ethnocide), no such trait can be attributed to Mongol expansionism.

Political unity in the Mongol Empire did not contradict the provision of cultural and confessional freedom. Religious institutions were exempted from paying taxes and the various peoples could preserve and develop their own cultural traditions. Moreover, over time, the Mongolian leadership merged with the local elites, adopting their customs. The religious and statehood resurgence of the Russian peoples of the 13th – 15th centuries occurred in a dual sense due to the Tatar-Mongolian “yoke”. Such a resurgence was unthinkable in the western regions of the former Rus’ that had been conquered and Latinized by the Germans and Poles.

Cultural pluralism was the most important condition that allowed the Mongols, Tyurks, Russians and Soviets to again and again politically unite such a polyethnic and polyconfessional space as Eurasia. Cultural pluralism to this day is an indispensable foundation for ensuring the political unity of the Russian Federation, which is a common home for more than 180 ethnic groups.

As the first principle of Eurasian integration, cultural pluralism means not only the preservation and development of ethno-cultural and religious diversity based on traditional values ​​within the framework of the Eurasian Union, but also the strict observance of the supremacy of the national sovereignty of the EAEU member states. Unlike the European Union, where we notice a growing erosion of the nation state and national borders in favor of supranational cosmopolitism, the Eurasian Union must provide a “blossoming complexity”, as the Russian thinker Konstantin Leontiev said, of the peoples and republics that make it up. We can say that we envisage the creation of the “Eurasia of Nations” by analogy with Charles de Gaulle’s “Europe of Nations”.

Cultural pluralism has to be seen in opposition both to the ideology of multiculturalism based on cultural Marxism and postmodernism that dominate the West in general and to the Americanization of Europe in particular.  [11] Official adherence to the principle of cultural pluralism can set the Eurasian Union ideologically apart and will provide it with a high attractiveness in the eyes of billions of people around the world.

This is exactly what Vladimir Putin said in his speech in 2013 at the Valdai Club: “The future Eurasian Economic Union, which we have declared and which we have discussed extensively as of late, is not just a collection of mutually beneficial agreements. The Eurasian Union is a project for maintaining the identity of nations in the historical Eurasian space in a new century and in a new world”.

Collective security

The “Pax Mongolica” ensured security and relative peace in the vast expanse of Eurasia from the Balkans to Manchuria, from the Baltic to Vietnam. Conflicts within the common space of the Mongol Empire were reduced to a minimum. The Russian princedoms and Tyurkic-Mongol uluses [1] had to be defended only from external threats.

For example, the Tatar cavalry played a decisive role in the victory in the Battle of Grunwald (1410), which was one of the most significant events on the way to modern Belarusian statehood as part of the Eurasian world.

After the collapse of the Mongol Empire, the role of the main defender of Eurasia was assumed by Moscow. Residents of the uluses of the former Golden Horde saw the elevation of the Moscow princedom simply “the transfer of the Khan’s headquarters from Sarai [2] to Moscow” and swore allegiance to the “White Khan”, as the classical Eurasian thinker Nikolay Troubetskoy wrote. During the centuries that followed, many peoples of the Caucasus, Siberia and Central Asia voluntarily joined the Russian Empire, asking it to protect them from foreing aggressors. This not only saved them from the loss of their national identities, but also became a reliable guarantee of their prosperity as nations or nation-like entities in the future. Examples include Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Bashkortostan and Buryatia.

In our days Greater Eurasia should again become a space of security and of a “peaceful sky”, as the Russian saying goes, within which any terrorist threats, interstate conflicts, attempts of unconstitutional regime changes (color revolutions) should be absent or at least be minimized.

Thinking in terms of military blocs (e.g. NATO) does not meet the interests of counteracting threats in the 21st century, but, on the contrary, only contributes to the aggrandisement of conflict potential. The new security architecture in Greater Eurasia ought to be built on the principle of collective and indivisible security, expressed in the equal cooperation of regional power blocs and powers, such as the CSTO, the SCO, Iran, Turkey, India, the potential armed forces of the EU and other mega-region players.

Common Economic Space

The Mongol Empire, indeed, was the first free trade zone in wider Eurasia.

For example, the bright blue paint used by the Russian icon painter Dionysius was imported from the Hindu Kush. The medieval European aristocracy wore silk clothes woven in the south of China. All these goods, technologies and ideas moved along the Silk Road thanks to the “common economic space” created by the Mongols.

Unlike the Western naval nations, where the metropolis historically exploited the overseas colonies, the continental powers, on the contrary, invested in the development of their fringe provinces. The overall prosperity and stability of these continental empires depended on this. In the Russian Empire and in the USSR, first on the market basis, then on the planned economy basis, communication routes, plants and factories, scientific research institutes, universities, schools and hospitals were built in and for the periphery provinces and republics. On the basis of an intense industrial policy, but the Russian Empire and Soviet Union were among the world’s leading economies, and in some industries ranked first place.

Economic integration in Eurasia should first of all be a mutually beneficial project for all participants invobled, contributing to the welfare of citizens and the competitiveness of domestic business in the context of globalization. This principle is based on three pillars.

First, the creation of a common economic space and of single markets in various sectors, the removal and harmonization of all possible trade barriers, the free movement of the four factors of production (land, labor, capital and enterprise), witihn the Eurasian Economic Union, as well as the signing various trade agreements – from free trade areas to comprehensive economic partnerships – in the Greater Eurasian space “from Lisbon to Shanghai”.

Secondly, using the historical experience of the Russian Empire and of the USSR, as well as the best international practices, it would be logical if the EAEU were to become a mixed economy, combining the most effective mechanisms and methods of state regulation and planning, on the one hand, as well as market initiative and entrepreneurial freedom, on the other. Only along such a model we might be able to reconcile social security with international competitiveness.

Thirdly, in order to become an “independent center of attraction”, as set out in the EAEU’s “Development strategy by 2030”, it would be necessary to implement Union-wide transport infrastructure and industrial cluster projects, which should become the drivers of the social and economic development of the EAEU. The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, which in the 21st century and on a qualitatively new basis revives the medieval Silk Road idea, is currently in the spotlight of expert and media attention. However, no less important should be our own Eurasian projects, such as: the international “North-South” transport corridor, connecting the Baltic Sea and the Urals with the Persian Gulf; the Northern Sea Route; investment projects into the strategic development of Siberia, the Far East and the Russian Arctic.

Rule of Law

Unfortunately, Russian patriots and, among them, supporters of classical Eurasianism, are often accused of allegedly rejecting the idea of the rule of law. Russian pro-Western forces and the National Democrats assert without any justification that the Eurasianists allegedly demand unlimited powers for the head of state and allegedly advocate an unrestrained autocracy. Unfortunately, such a false image was created by certain radical and marginal forces, falsely calling themselves “Eurasianists”, but in fact discrediting real Eurasian ideas.

However, quite on the contrary, the real Eurasianists always advocated the rule of law. In order to prove this, it is enough to read the works of the classical Eurasian legists Nikolay Alekseev and Mycheslav Shakhmatov.

In the Mongol Empire the rule of law was enforced strictly.

For example, this is what the Flemish Franciscan monk Guillaume de Rubruk, who traveled from the Crimea to Karakoram, remarked in his field notes: “A young girl can traverse the whole Mongol Empire with a golden dish on her head. Doing this, she must not worry neither for her precious possession, nor for her maiden’s honor”.

The fact is that Genghis Khan introduced a rigid code of laws known to us as “The Yasa of Genghis Khan”. It is not that the punishment for most offenses was not extremely cruel (the death penalty). That it was. Cruelty, unfortunately, was an inhumane, but common trait for the entire Middle Ages in general, both Asian and European. What is important is that the law had to obeyed by all subjects of the empire without exception, no difference whether one was a slave or a high-ranking colonel. Everyone was equal before the law. Only in this way Genghis Khan was able to unite such a vast space. Justice is first and foremost the equality of all before the law. Contrary to Eurocentric beliefs, such a principle was not an invention exclusive to Western history.

Issues of the rule of law and the equality of all before the law are no less important in our own time. What attractiveness of the Eurasian idea can there be when the children of influential officials in Russia and other post-Soviet states can buy their right in the court, when the law is harsh for ordinary citizens but at the same time bendable for the oligarchs? Pro-Western forces claim that they are the only ones who allegedly fight against corruption and legal nihilism and that the Eurasianists ostensibly “turn a blind eye” on this scourge. This myth should be over with. Based on their own historical tradition, it is the Eurasianists who should fight against corruption and for the rule of law and the equality of all before the law. This is the only way to create a lasting and just Union that would be attractive for its citizens and the world. A lot depends on the implementation of this principle for the effective development of the EAEU.

The supremacy of spiritual values

The principle that I personally consider to be the most important, and, at the same time, the most controversial for implementation in reality, is the principle of the supremacy of absolute values ​​over material values.

In the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan appointed a commander or governor according to the principle of whether he believed in some kind of God.  It didn’t matter which one, whether one was a Tengarian or a Nestorian Christian or a Muslim. What was important is that this person believed in something higher than himself, that he was guided by absolute values.

What are absolute values? These are such spiritual values ​​as love, honor and patriotism. Unlike relative values, spiritual values ​​are not subject to the market exchange. Smartphones, for example, are relative values. They have a relative value compared to other goods. In principle, I would be willing to sell my smartphone if someone they offered me a high enough price for them. However, as an Orthodox Christian, I, for example, would never be ready to sell out my parents. Parents, as well as veneration and love for them – is an absolute, eternal value. This, as shown by the Eurasinist Pyotr Savitsky in his economic study, is what all the traditional religions of the world are saying. That is why Genghis Khan kept only believers in his entourage. A person who has absolute values ​​is not ready to sell, i.e. betray one’s loyalty for any material bribery. This quality Genghis Khan demanded not only from his own generals, but was also highly valued in his enemies who had this trait.

Observance of this principle, based on the spiritual and cultural features of Eurasian history, is extremely relevant in the postmodern era, when in the West, as Vladimir Putin stated in his speech at the Valdai Club in 2013: ” They are implementing policies that equate large families with same-sex partnerships, belief in God with the belief in Satan”. Postmodern moral relativism is incompatible with eternal traditional values.

In the construction of the Eurasian Union, in the future we would like to put spiritual values in the forefront. This certainly does not cancel out the need for economic feasibility and benefits of the integration project for the member states. It simply means that in the future we draw attention to the fact that our Eurasian community should not merely become a soulless province of the mercantile global market, but it should promote in the world a really simple and important truth: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”. [Matthew 4:4]

Conclusion

Cultural pluralism, collective security, a common economic space, rule of law, supremacy of spiritual values. These five principles we propose for the Eurasian Economic Union. As already said, they cannot be implemented immediately. And, of course, they have to be subject to repeated discussions by all stakeholders involved. Their implementation may occur gradually, in stages, when all member states of the Union will be ready for it. These principles have not been invented out of thin air. They have been worked out and tested by a thousand-year-long Eurasian history. And most importantly, they can attractive for the citizens of the Union and for our foreign partners. They do not infringe, but, on the contrary, strengthen the national sovereignty of the member states. The official introduction of these principles ​​can beneficially set our Union apart from other global players and will fill our integration project with a deeper meaning. I dare even say – with pan-Eurasian patriotism.

Notes:

[1] “Ulus” is the Mongolian term for “administrative district”. E.g. under the Golden Horde the conquered Rus’ princedoms were combined into the “Ulus Orus’” district.

[2] Sarai was the name of two cities located in Southern Russia (near the modern cities of Astrakhan and Volgograd, respectively) which were successively capital cities of the Golden Horde.

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