Nationalism and Armed Conflict

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – September 02 Scenes

MoeMaKa,September 03 2022

91-year-old Mikhail Gorbachev, the first and last elected president of the Soviet Union, died two days ago in Moscow, Russia. Gorbachev was one of the most influential people because of the domestic and international policies, Glasnost and the Perestroika of the Soviet Union, which affected many people who believed in left-wing politics in the world, including Russia, the disintegrated Soviet Union, East-Germany and countries of Eastern Europe. He turned a turning point in history. The so-called Eastern Group and the Western Group, the capitalist countries and some of the anti-communist military dictatorship countries, on the one hand, and the communist socialist countries, on the other hand, fought for 4 decades with nuclear arms preparation in intermediary countries. In these intermediary countries, as a result of the Cold War, the proxy wars took place and he is the one who ended them and who inspired some countries with left-wing authoritarianism to move towards liberal democracy.

He has worked for the Soviet Union’s political openness, freedom of expression and to transform it from being a surveillance country where every citizen is being monitored into a country with democratic rights that respects human rights. A few years later, forces that did not like his political course attempted to remove him from power. Some of the Russian public blamed him, from a nationalistic point of view, as the cause of economic difficulties and the collapse of the Soviet empire. And so, Gorbachev removed himself from power without any bloodshed or force.

After that, Boris Yeltsin, who became famous as a popular leader of Russia, in place of Gorbachev, ruled as president for more than 8 years, and handed over to Vladimir Putin.

Beginning around 1989 and continuing through the 1991s, Gorbachev was recognized and praised by the Western world for the unification of East Germany and West Germany and for allowing the nations and regions of the former Soviet Union to become states, but some Russians see him as a destroyer of the Soviet Union.

Starting around 1922, there were 14 autonomous republics that were integrated into the Soviet Union, and after 1991, these countries emerged as separate countries. Nationalism has strengthened and some of these countries have now turned into liberal democracies. For those countries, nationalism is the emergence of an independent country with its own race and language. 

However, in the nationalistic view of some politicians in Russia, which was to maintain as one main united nation, the Soviet Union has been seen as being disintegrated. Although their nationalism is the same, their interests are different. The nationalism of Soviet Russia longing for the influence of the Soviet Union and wanting to shape themselves as a great empire and a powerful country, and the concept of an empire which wanted to forcefully include small countries, small countries with different ethnicities and different languages or small autonomous republics into a union, were considered as a colony under leftism.

Here, it makes me compare it with the history of Myanmar in which the current affair between the ethnic peoples, who are trying to establish the country with a federal system of self-governance and self-determination, and the military and some foreign politicians, who want to control the central power because they are worried about the collapse of the Union of Myanmar.

Some Myanmar politicians and the military organized and took control people by force by using the word ‘Union’, shaping Myanmar as a Union which was once conquered by military force in the feudal era, and the ethnic groups as subordinate states which they are regarded under so-called Myanmar nationalism. Independence from the British was achieved together with some of the loyal feudal ethnic states and mountainous regions with the promise that they had the right to separate if they didn’t want after 10 years of living together, which was given in trying to gain independence from the British. However, soon after independence, ethnic armed rebellions emerged, and after 1962, armed forces emerged from almost all ethnic groups, and they have been fighting against the Myanmar coup military for more than 70 years now.

Although the word ‘Union’ is used, there was no essence of federalism, no passing down of the national characteristics of the ethnic groups and there were limitations on ethnic language teaching for decades. Even now, ethnic armed groups are still an important part of Myanmar politics. So, in finding the solution to the issues of the country’s civil war and federal democracy, the nationalism of Bamar, which is said to be the non-disintegration of the Union, is in direct conflict with the nationalism and interests of the ethnic groups.

The state military, which has dominated Myanmar politics for decades, has defended its participation in politics for decades by holding on to the fact that the union should not be disintegrated.

This hardcore belief  on non-disintegration of the union does not have the same historical background as the hardcore people of anti-disintegration of the Soviet Union Empire above, but there are also similarities.

Russia’s nationalism, which cannot accept the disintegration of the Soviet Union, is one of the reasons causing the Ukraine-Russia war.

In Myanmar, among the reasons for the civil wars that have still raging on for more than 7 decades, armed movement leading to the self-determination, self-governance and the formation of an independent state, would be the main cause of the civil war. Therefore, if these causes are not resolved, it is certain that Myanmar’s political problems will not be settled quickly in the future.