Russians today are more proud of annexing Crimea than they are of space exploration or of Russian literature.
Think about that for a minute.
According to a new poll by the Levada Center, more Russians are proud of being the first country in Europe since Nazi Germany to forcefully annex another country's territory than they are of putting the first man in space.
Krym Nash trumps Yury Gagarin.
The illegal seizure of a neighbor's territory is a greater source of pride than Anna Karenina or The Brothers Karamazov.
The little green men are way cooler than Lev Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Aleksandr Pushkin.
This is partially attributable to the nonstop barrage of propaganda on Russian state television in the three years since the Crimea annexation.
But that doesn't tell the whole story.
It is also the result of the deeply embedded yearning for empire that exists in much of Russian society.
Vladimir Putin has famously said that Ukraine isn't a real country.
And State Duma deputy Pavel Shperov recently referred to Russia's neighbors as "so-called countries."
As outrageous as these statements seem, they are only reflections of a deep-seated societal consensus that Russia has an inalienable right to imperial dominance over its neighbors.
And until that consensus somehow changes, Russia's neighbors will not be safe -- regardless of who sits in the Kremlin.