What is England without London? France without Paris? Argentina without Buenos Aires? Mexico without Mexico City? Russia without Moscow? Would these countries cease to exist without their capital cities? Quite possibly — at least they would cease to exist in many ways that they currently exist.
Russian emergency services on Monday warned Muscovites to stay indoors and seal off access to fresh air amid reports of toxic chemical fumes permeating the city. _Moscow Engulfed
Russia’s identity is overwhelmingly concentrated within one city — Moscow. The national seat of power, the focus of the national mystique, Moscow is crucial to the survival of Russia as a nation. And Moscow is a very dirty place. It is also quite corrupt, decadent, violent, and oppressive.
When a nation’s importance is excessively concentrated within one or two large cities, it is in many ways an inflated city-state. The greater the degree of central control, and the larger the land area, the more unstable the inflated city-state becomes. What becomes of Rome, when Rome falls? What becomes of Russia, when Moscow falls?
The history of empires parallels the history of city-states. When the central city-state fell, so fell the empire. Some empires had enough human capital and other resources so that when one focal point of empire fell, others rose to take its place. But other empires developed too closely around one central focal point. When that city fell, the empire fell.
China may be more resilient than Russia, due to its more distributed nature. China can survive — even thrive — without Beijing. Or China may break up into warring fiefdoms without Beijing. Nothing is certain about such empires which historically break up, then reform, in cyclic fashion.
Other than the UK, most Anglospheric nations are more distributed than the great nations of Europe. Without Canberra, Australia is still Australia. Without Ottawa, Canada survives — and even improves. The same is true of the US without Washington DC. New Zealand without Wellington might likewise be a better country.
Nations need the vitality, innovation, capital formation, and organisational skills of thriving cities. And it is very easy — even natural — for most of a nation’s mental, cultural, and capital resources to concentrate in one central location. But if a nation’s centres of control and innovation become too centralised, the nation is vulnerable to a decapitation attack — the removal or disconnection of the central city-state from the nation.
In the modern age, more and more means of decapitating or lobotomising excessively centralised nations are being developed. Moscow is already in decay, but there are so many different ways in which a city’s critical functions can fail, that once the mind starts conjuring up mechanisms of municipal dissolution, it may be difficult to shut the conjuring process down. Images of “Bhopal on the Moscow” may serve as an opening to a mind-flood of ideas of national decapitation, although in this case, it is Moscow that is gassing itself.
Here is a short list of critical infrastructure from Wikipedia:
- electricity generation, transmission and distribution;
- gas production, transport and distribution;
- oil and oil products production, transport and distribution;
- water supply (drinking water, waste water/sewage, stemming of surface water (e.g. dikes and sluices));
- agriculture, food production and distribution;
- heating (e.g. natural gas, fuel oil, district heating);
- public health (hospitals, ambulances);
- transportation systems (fuel supply, railway network, airports, harbours, inland shipping);
- financial services (banking, clearing);
- security services (police, military).
Several of Russia’s critical infrastructures are already in serious decay or under extreme pressure from inside and outside the country. This decay will increase exponentially as Russia comes to lean more and more heavily on China to supply the growing number of critical items and services that Russia can no longer provide for itself.
Empires come and go, rise and fall, grow and decay. That is the natural state of change. The more vulnerable the empire makes itself to decapitation or lobotomisation, the more tenuous its ability to occupy the world stage.