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The world according to Putin

Why should the Russian presidents innovative attitude towards borders be restricted to
eastern Europe?

WHEN Vladimir Putin justified his annexation of Crimea on the ground that he
owed protection to Russian speakers everywhere, this newspaper took a dim view
of his line of argument, pointing out that since linguistic borders do not match those
of states, it would lead to chaos. We now recognise that this approach to
international relations betrayed a deplorable conservatism. Since we pride
ourselves on pushing the boundaries in search of a way to clamber out of the box
and reach the summit of blue-sky thinking, we reckoned we should grasp the nettle
of radical Putinism and run with it. We have, therefore, redrawn the worlds
boundaries according to Mr Putins principles. We think readers will agree that the
resulting map has considerable appeal.
Under Mr Putins dispensation, things look up for the old colonial powers. Portugal
gets to reclaim Brazil, Spain most of the rest of Central and South America and
France most of west Africa, which would probably be fine by the locals, since many
of their current governments are not much cop. A mighty Scandinavian kingdom
comes into beingincluding Finland, although Finnish is very different from the
Scandinavian tongues. Since Swedish is Finlands second language, the Vikings
would have strong grounds for bringing about the sort of peaceful merger based on
shared cultural values for which they are famous.
A unified Arabia would stretch from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. There might
be the odd squabble between Sunnis, Shias, Christians and adherents of archaic
notions of nation; but united by a common tongue, the Arabs would be sure to get
along fine, especially if they teamed up to smite the Persian-speakers on the other
side of the Gulf. The two Koreas would become one, which might be a good thing
or not, depending on which system prevailed.
Since Hindi and Urdu are both a mutually intelligible mixture of Sanskrit and
Persian, India could make a claim for Pakistanand vice versa. The existence of
nuclear weapons on either side would bring added spark to the debate over
linguistic precedence.
Best of all, Britain would regain its empire, includingsince it spoke English first
the United States. It would, obviously, give Barack Obama a prestigious position
Keeper of the Woolsack, sayand a nice uniform. Britain might, however, have to
surrender some of Londons oligarch-dominated streets, as well as Chelsea
Football Club, to Russia. A sizeable minority of The Economists staff also speaks
Russian and would like to claim Mr Putins protection in advance of the next pay
negotiations.
There is, however a hitch. Consolidation would be undermined by linguistic
independence movements. Dozens of segments would peel away from Mandarin-

speaking China. Mayaland would agitate for autonomy in Central America.


Swahililand would demand independence in Africa. The worlds 7 billion people
speak more than 7,000 languages; in Russia alone there are more than 100.
Perhaps, on second thoughts, Mr Putin should quit while he is ahead.