The fifth Brics Summit in Durban might well represent the emergence of an interesting new power bloc. Brics’s objective is to reshape the international economic order by challenging the historic dominance of the US, Germany, the UK and France, with a bloc composed largely of countries of the global south, comprising two international and three regional powers.

In previous centuries, Russia’s striving to become a world power was stifled by the backwardness of its political institutions. It required the social and political revolutions of 1917, followed by the industrial revolution Stalin brutally imposed on it, for Russia to survive the Second World War, making possible its emergence as a world power. Russia’s old ruling classes proved incapable of realising Peter the Great’s dream. After the Decembrist Uprising of 1825, modernist intellectuals dashed their heads against the iron-clad defences of the ancien regime in their attempts to overthrow Tsarism. It was the intellectuals who adopted the most revolutionary ideas of their age, the Bolsheviks, who proved equal to the task, raising Russia from a European backwater to the international power it became after 1945.

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