Our Colombian correspondent Diego returns with some reflections on Multiculturalism and empires.
On Rome, Russia and Multiculturalism
I once engaged in an attempt to debate with some multiculturalists. Here in Colombia there are not many, at least not in the open, and I must admit that, until a dark day in 2011 I shared some of their views… However, I am derailing myself from why I am writing this.
During our debate they claimed that both Rome and Romanov Russia are bright examples of Multiculturalism working. I will do my best now to debunk this.
Rome: Multicultural or Adapting?
Rome, the great empire that ruled over the Mediterranean and absorbed so many elements of other cultures, at first glance seems to represent Multiculturalism gone right. But, please: look deeper.
Why do you think Spanish, Romanian, Portuguese and French share a Latin base? One clue: they were all part of the Roman Empire.
The Roman Empire is probably the most successful example of how to defeat the woes of the Multiculturalism that the EU preaches. Let’s take a look at it.
As a first step, Rome conquered a region. This region would then receive Roman colonists. Additionally, for those natives who adapted to the new ruling culture, juicy incentives would be offered, such as citizenship, which meant full political rights, the impossibility of being sold into slavery, and the possibility of holding public office.
We can say that a lot of their technology was copied, and that their philosophy was originated by Greeks living in Rome. Even in law, many innovations attributed to Rome are in fact Egyptian, Punic or Greek.
But the Punic language did not survive Rome. Egyptian became the second language in its own homeland, and Greek survived because it was already established as the tongue of trade, and because it was the language of philosophy and science. In everyday use, those three language were at least partly supplanted by Latin, even more so in Spain, or in Gallia, where most local Celtic languages died out on a few generations.
So Rome simply took a rather proactive stance that Europe should have taken. It did not seek to bring a Multicultural Paradise. Instead, in order to gain the benefits from other cultures, it decided to make good Romans out of the rest of the Mediterranean. And it worked really well.
So well, that by the early 3rd century, everyone in the Empire was, in the end, as Roman as the Old Romans, and the incentives were dropped because they were redundant.
Now, do you want to know what broke Rome’s unity?
In actuality, the Germanic tribes were not brutish barbarians seeking gold, blood and women; they were refugees from the onslaught of the Huns against the Goths. Eventually they were all forced to move west… and boy, did they.
The number of people crossing the border was simply too great for Rome to digest. There were too many Germans, in too close-knit communities to be absorbed.
Does this sound familiar? Well, it is exactly what is happening with modern immigrants in Europe — or at least that is how it appears from South America. If my view is wrong, please feel free to correct me.
Perhaps if Europe had taken some measures similar to the old Roman system (first you adapt to our culture, then you get full rights), the problem could have at least been managed, if not avoided. But, alas, it was not to be like that.
Romanov Russia, Rodina and Czar
Ah, Russia, the Great Bear! And, until 1917, the equally great Romanov dynasty, those autocrats who had to rule and managed to rule over a Multicultural Empire… well, no.
There is a huge difference between the Muslim population of the old Russian Empire, and the Muslims of modern Europe. To see it clearly, we need to take a look at Russian history.
Unlike most of Europe, Russia never had a real grudge against Islam, it was never really the target of a Jihad (the Russians were dhimmis to the Golden Horde, but they had been paying taxes to them long before the Horde turned Muslim). Their grudge was against the Mongolians, who invaded and sacked Russia in the 1240s. The fact that those Tatars turned Muslim did nothing really to increase the old grudge.
Russia’s Muslim population consisted of:
- Tatar leftovers who had no more allegiance than to their tribe
- Turkmens in the same situation
- People in the Caucasus who were simply outnumbered at the time by Christian Georgians and later Russians
- Azeris — they are a different stock and were, as far as I know, not problematic at all.
So, how is it that it did it not collapse under the Dar al-Islam already within?
Well, first, Imperial Russia was not a National State on the sense we use it. It was more like Hapsburg Spain, a Dynastic State. The true unifying factor was the Allegiance to the Czar, and the Orthodox Church.
Secondly, the Russian Empire was actively trying to “Russify” its minorities. This is often discussed in relation Poland and Finland, but that was because those peoples were, first, European, and second, they did not really feel allegiance to either the Crown or the Church. The Asian Muslims were either too remote to be actually affected, or at least some were loyal to the Crown, until the Great Game.
Ethnic unrest in Central Asia began because of the Great Game, as Russia and Britain competed. The British decided to turn the Turkmen against the Russians; a new ideology was created: Pan-Turkism, which preached that the steppe peoples were to bond together and form a Greater Turkestan. It failed miserably in Russia, but it took hold in the Ottoman Empire. The Turkmen of Central Asia could not care less about the Tatars or the Uighurs, but the Ottomans did; they needed the prestige and the population to counteract the Arabs.
Perhaps with Russia there was some truth? Well, no. The issue was that even Siberia was more developed (and the Siberians more thoroughly Russified) than Turkestan. Maybe if, instead of antagonizing the Poles and Finns, the Russians had devoted a bit more energy to Russifying their Muslim populations, Central Asia would be Orthodox today. But, in the end, Romanov Russia was nothing like a Multicultural Empire. It was an Empire of Russia, ruled by Russians, and made to allow Russians (and to a minor extent the Belorussians and Ukrainians) to thrive.
Regrettably, neither of those two empires can teach us what to do about the modern problem, but at least we may learn what not to do. Do not appease them, but at the same time we must be careful: the Romans attempted to be too aggressive in dealing with the Goths, and it ended with Rome being sacked. Then they were too lenient, and they lost their Empire.
Previously by Diego: The Islamization of South America.