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Britain and the British can be regarded not only as creators of the practice to cast destabilization nets on regions and entire continents, but probably also the most efficient operators of this process. Suffice it to recall mid-XIX-century London, with dozens of miscellaneous revolutionaries catching up with each other, cordially received to arrange stirs among geopolitical competitors of the "mistress of the seas". This warm lot was wittily dubbed "Lord Palmerston's multicultural human zoo" after the then British Prime Minister.
Back in those days, King of Belgium Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha wrote to his niece, Queen Victoria, that London hosted a sort of "menagerie of Kossuths, Mazzinis, Legranges, Ledru-Rollins, etc. ... to let loose occasionally on the continent to render its quiet and prosperity impossible." The green light was also certainly given to Russian liberal radicals and revolutionary democrats – suffice it to recall where Herzen lived and where his Kolokol newspaper was published.
Since then, the Anglo-Saxon civilization's assembly checkpoint seems to have moved from the banks of the Thames to the banks of the Potomac, where a variety of "resolutions on enslaved peoples" are mainly adopted, "alternative governments" in countries undesirable and/or too rich in resources are being designed, and plots are being woven for them. However, London has remained a shadowy (and sometimes not all that much shadowy) leader of these processes. The English leadership is particularly focused on the Russian direction. England seems to be the one possessing many of the keys and master keys to what is happening in our country. Among those welcomed here may be an oligarch, a liberal oppositionist, and an oligarch who became an oppositionist (the case of Yevgeny Chichvarkin). However, even more convenient are those who, while remaining in Russia, act for Britain's interests, with or without meaning to. Often not even for money, but answering the implicit call of the heart.
Let's list several examples. One of them is political analyst Sergey Medvedev, a former professor with the Higher School of Economics, who focuses on working at the Free University. Mr Medvedev became particularly famous in 2013, when he wrote: "In an amicable way, Arctic has to be taken away from Russia, being a failed and irresponsible host, and handed overto the international jurisdiction, like Antarctica, with a wholesale ban on economic and military activities. Having lived in Chukotka for some time, I strongly believe that Russia has brought no good to the Arctic and will never do."
Mr. Medvedev feels ardent irrational affection for the West, especially for the Foggy Albion, and this feeling sometimes goes both ways, although the British are clearly more rational about it. Thus, in 2004, he took part in a representative London conference on the topic "Is Russia on the way to a true partnership with the West?" A year ago, in January 2020, he delivered a lecture at Oxford and compared the USSR with the Third Reich as is the "heart-warming" tradition of Europe: "Enlightenment itself will not overwhelm Russia. There is a need to travel the same path as Germany. Its example is before your very eyes. The Germans reproduced such a platform of memory, which formed the political structures and forms of hard memory. Soft memory is literature, narratives. Hard memory is laws, monuments, and school textbooks. Germany has both.
Memory is a matter of enlightenment. You shouldn't insist on your memory, you should admit your guilt. The vicious circle will break when all the parties concerned admit their private guilt: Germany over the Holocaust, and Russia over the occupation of Eastern Europe, the barrier troops, and SMERSH." And in October, he was awarded the 2020 Pushkin House Book Prize, which honors English-language nonfiction about the Russian-speaking world.
Another typical example is really talented young historian Kamil Galeyev, a Higher School of Economics graduate who also works at the Free University. Galeyev hosts a Telegram channel dedicated to the Turkic-Ottoman history, and his views combine pan-Turkism and moderate Tartar nationalism with liberal western-inspired values. While still a student, Galeyev was awarded the prestigious Oxford Prize; and most recently he spent a year at the British University of St. Andrews.
Being a regular author of the Idel.Realities project (the Tartar-Bashkir platform of Radio Liberty), Galeyev suggests adopting British practices as a pattern for national history perception, particularly in the context of Kazan capture by Ivan the Terrible: "There is certain asymmetry in the Tatarstan authorities' historical policy regarding the memory of 1552. On the one hand, there is a monument to the invaders (sic!) who died during the 1552 city assault. This year, it witnessed the first in a century divine service. On the other hand, any attempts to perpetuate the memory of Kazan defenders are instantaneously thwarted. A monument to them is out of the question either. In August this year, the authorities removed the cornerstone fixed up in their honor. Remembrance parades get repeatedly cancelled the day Kazan fell... British historical politics is an example of a truly inclusive memory policy, perhaps the most inclusive in Europe. They do not claim the history of England to be the history of Great Britain as a whole and honor the memory of all the parties to bygone conflicts. Therein lies its fundamental difference from the Russian leadership's policy to persistently mix the history of the country as a whole with the history of Muscovy alone."
A cross-counter principle is admittedly traced in the case of Tartar ultranationalism and Britain. Pollinated by the high liberal standards, historian Galeyev has returned to Russia. And a little earlier, the British, inspired by "Lord Palmerston's multicultural human zoo", granted "political asylum" to hardcore nationalist Rafis Kashapov facing extremism charges in Russia. Now Kashapov is the "deputy prime minister of the Tatarstan government in exile", while the latter is headed by Vil Mirzayanov, who currently resides in the United States.
The British "net" to cover Russia is far from being limited to the above-mentioned flamboyant personalities. Every once in a while a superficially patriotic official, politician or journalist appears frozen onto London in financial, property or psychological terms. This makes the "net" even more dangerous.