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Vladimir Putin, the Latest of the Failed Irredentists - Victor Davis Hanson


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American Greatness

In response to Putin’s irredentist schemes, the surreal Left has alternately appeased him and angrily denounced the critics of their appeasement. 

Irredentism—the romance of reclaiming “unredeemed” old lands—is a symptom of messianic presidents and premiers, and national paranoia and insecurity. Leaders demagogue about the recovery of ancient territories that previously had weakened the nation’s imperial grandeur and power. 

Supposedly long-scattered and oppressed peoples with common linguistic, religious, and cultural affinities are recombined—usually by violently overthrowing their contemporary governments and forcing them into a new ethnic super state. Yet irredentism is often a one-way street. Supposedly homeless expatriates—the Greeks of Constantinople, Italians in Malta, Germans in the Sudetenland, Serbs in Bosnia, and Russians in Ukraine—are said to be even more zealous nationalists than their kindred in the motherland. But just as often the territory to be reunited in a grand imperial scheme can be more reluctant than the would-be uniter. 

Early 20th-century Greek romantics fancied resurrecting the old Μεγάλη Ιδέα or “Great Idea.” That was the dreamy recreation of a panhellenic Eastern Mediterranean. The New Byzantium was to be ringed by Greek-speakers in the motherland, Asia Minor, the Aegean Islands, Cyprus, and northern Egypt.  


Yet, like most irredentists, the Greeks never had the manpower or material wherewithal to reestablish such a modern Byzantine Empire. The restored 15th century image rested entirely on the opportunistic implosion of the Ottoman Empire, the 1918 defeat of the Central Powers, especially in Asia Minor, the Middle East, and the Balkans, the international chaos following World War I—and the pledges of the victorious allies. :snip:


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