We all have this image of the US map in our heads, it’s symbolism being on par with the flag itself. Michigan, Maine, Florida, and the gulf of Mexico define its eastern borders and a long convex coast its western, with a sock puppet way up in the northwestern corner, i.e. the state of Washington. A flat line on top that separates us and the Canucks and southern Texas hanging there like an udder.
As I see it there were X grand events that have made this continental landmass that stretches from sea to shining sea a single unified nation that we recognise so well. The first was the colonisation of its eastern seaboard by the English beginning in 1607. The second was massive European immigration, but only after English culture was firmly rooted. Third was the relative weakness of the native population and their subsequent elimination, displacement, or absorption by the Europeans. Fourth was the import of Africans as slaves. Fifth was the casting off of the English monarchy and its replacement by a republic. Sixth was the coming to New England of the Industrial Revolution. Seventh was the decisive and traumatic victory of the North over the South between 1861 and 1877. Lastly there were the victories of the Allied powers over the Central and Axis Powers in WWI and WWII respectively.
Russia is similar in that it is geographically enormous and spans an entire continent. Its history is similar to ours in that its great expansion eastward occurred more or less over the same centuries as our expansion westward. Like us, they encountered, conquered, and absorbed native peoples. Like us, they stopped when they got to the Pacific. Well, they settled Alaska for a bit but decided to sell it to us cheap before we could just take it.
Unlike us though the Russians are indigenous to the vast petri dish that is their western heartland. Culturally they are a mix of Eastern Europe and Asia, and like the rest of the world, they had to reconcile themselves to the West and eventually the Industrial Revolution that it brought. Both reconciliations were agonising, ultimately resulting in the apocalypse of the 20th century i.e. WW1, the communist revolution, the civil war, communist economic reforms, the purges, WWII, the Cold War and finally the collapse of the Soviet Union and its aftermath, all of which has brought us today’s Russia.
Russia is likely to remain united because pre-historic people ages ago filled its vast geographic heartland that offered little by way of physical barriers and thus they eventually became a single people, more or less, and this same geography will forever encourage whoever lives in that space to assimilate to some degree.
But long term will these United States remain unified? Personally I do not think so and I imagine that if the Rocky Mountains could speak they would agree and be seconded by the Mediterranean Sea, the Sahara, and the Himalayas. But more apparent and pressing now than geography is the religious or ideological gap that since the 18th Century and especially since WWII has turned into a chasm. After 2020 it must be apparent to all that there are two Americas that share very little in common. How one form of government can umbrella such radically different worldviews over such a vast landscape for the next 100 years, much less 1,000, is anyone’s guess.
But one thing is certain, time and geography have a way of dissolving even the strongest of links.
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