In our generation, we studied world history in Forms One and Two. But I recall it was still very Eurocentric. I do not recall anything about Australia or South America.
How many know when South American countries got their Uhuru from Spain? Who can recall who won in Opium wars?
We also studied evolution with Zinjanthropus, homopithecus and other jaw-breaking names exciting our young minds.
I am not sure if that world history is still being taught but I am sure prehistory is still being taught.
The work of late Richard Leakey on evolution was widely cited, never mind that last month, I found his missionary parents buried in a church cemetery in Limuru.
That left my head spinning. Why do we confront hapless Form Ones with prehistory when we know so little about modern man, Homosapien?
When everyone in Kenya is religious with every meeting starting with a prayer?
Back to world history. Russia featured in our history. We traced the evolution of the Russian empire from Ivan Vasilyevich (the Terrible) to Peter the Great, Catherine the Great to the last Tsar, Nicholas II.
We read how misrule created a fertile ground for the actualisation of the communist dream or was it a nightmare espoused by Engels and Marx in Russia.
Curiously, Friedrich Engels and Karl sapiens Marx wrote their seminal work, the Communist manifesto in London, of all places. They were influenced by the suffering of the common man because of the industrial revolution, not romanticism.
For 70 years, communism thrived in the Soviet Union, made of 15 republicans till it was unveiled under its own contradictions in 1991.
In its aftermath, we got new countries with names like Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Kazakhstan and other “ stans”. I recall reading a magazine called Moscow Echo in Form One in our library. Even at that tender age, I found it stale. How did it get there?
Soviet educated dons who taught me maths as an undergraduate student were different from western or locally educated ones.
The west, read the US was quick to teach Russia and other republics the ethos of democracy and market economy. It sent consultants and advisers in droves. Students from these republics got into the US to study the new political and economic systems, more like our airlift in 1959.
Americans can really play the long game. Some of my classmates in the Deep South were from these republics. I noticed in their interaction that communism and KANUism had uncanny similarities.
When the Soviet Union, a then superpower was dissolved, the memories and nostalgia of that grandeur remained. That nostalgia is easily exploited by politicians. And Ukraine problems result from that.
Russia sees itself as the inheritor of the former Soviet Union with its nuclear weapons.
How about some expansion? Remember annexing Crimea, part of Ukraine in 2014? Remember the dachas owned by Soviet leaders in Crimea and along the Black Sea?
But there is a bigger geopolitical issue. In the Cold War, with the US and USSR (the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or the Soviet Union) facing each other, alliances were formed.
The US and its allies had North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) formed in 1949 to stand up against the Soviet Union which in turn formed Warsaw Pact (formed in 1955) and dissolved in 1991.
With the end of the Soviet Union, some Warsaw Pact members joined Nato. This did not rattle Russia till Ukraine was about to join. Why?
Ukraine is more than a southern neighbour to Russia. She is the gateway to the Black Sea that never freezes and opens to the Mediterranean Sea. By joining Nato, Russia calculates she will be “stifled” to the south. Russia’s grandstanding is more than standing up against NATO. Some natural gas to Europe passes through Ukraine and by “controlling” Ukraine, Europe will listen to Russian demands. Noted how quiet Germany is in this standoff? She has two gas pipelines, Nordstream I and II from Russia passing through the Baltic Sea.
The Russian demand that NATO returns her troops and weapons to pre-1997 locations and Ukraine should not join NATO is a tough one.
If the West complies, Russia wins. If it fails to comply, Russia continues with her threats. Ukraine also holds a special place in the Russian psyche.
The Russian Orthodox Church has origins in Kyiv, Ukraine. It was founded by Saint Vladimir the Great in 988 AD. Letting Ukraine away into the western obit is like Israel letting Jerusalem go.
The other former Soviet republics did not rattle Moscow by joining NATO, they are small and hold less strategic significance. Russia could also be using this crisis to rise into a world power to rival China and America. What of us? Should we lose sleep over the Russia-Ukraine standoff?
Yes, if the gas supply to Europe is disrupted, another source has to be found. The competition could possibly lead to a rise in gas prices. Oil supply and prices too will be affected. It’s time we put our oil in the market.
We may not speak Russian and not trade much with her, but her actions will be felt here at home. Let’s not forget that Russia is becoming a key player in Africa, helping countries in Sahel fight insurgents.
She seems determined to revive ties to Africa that thrived when Old Soviet Union was around. She has to compete with the West and China.
Even if Russia does not invade Ukraine, it’s likely to reset geopolitics and economics. Russia has memories of her great past and is not afraid of flexing her muscles beyond the borders. How much do we trade with Russia and other former Soviet republics?
Is this not a market we have ignored, too much focused on China, the European Union and the US? Have you noted the similarity in the cross used by the African Independent Pentecostal Church and Russian Orthodox Church?