Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Domodedovo Republic Activist Views Russia as ‘Already Dying in 1917’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 6 – Yevgeny Arkhipov, a lawyer who is one of the leaders of the Domodedovo Republic movement, says that his region’s effort to become a Russian Democratic Republic is less “a project” than is Russia, “a state institution which was dying already in 1917” and which none of the “artificial” projects offered for its revival can be successful.

            The Domodedovo movement, which attracted media attention last month, began as a protest of a Moscow suburb against the construction of a toll road through its territory and the privatization of its natural resources by Moscow oligarchs, but Arkhipov’s comments to “Inache.net” suggest it is undergoing radicalization (www.inache.net/post/728).

            And while Arkhipov’s suggestion that his Moscow suburb will pursue independence if the Russian authorities do not respect the rights of its residents is more radical than most in Russia’s regions would support, his line of argument is worth noting because it likely parallels those of other activists within the nominally ethnic Russian community in the regions.

            Vadim Shtepa, who interviewed Arkhipov, observes that “may well assess the views of Arkhipov with irony.” But he suggests that “it is useful to remember another historical example – when the defenders of the British Empire and the American ‘separatists’ spoke a common language” even though their peoples already had become “completely different.”

            Various alternative proposals for saving the Russian Federation are now on offer, Arkhipov points out. But none of them will work. The construction of “an [ethnic] Russian national state based on Eurasianism and a unique nation” is indistinguishable from Putin’s projects and won’t work.

            That is because such a project could work, the activist says, “only I on the territory of Russia were to be formed a single nation. But few on the territory of Russia are ready to say they belong to the nation of ‘the Rossiyane’.”  Indeed, Arkhipov continues, “the majority is so negative” about that word that speaking about “any unity of the nation” is not appropriate.

            Another proposal now on offer, he continues is to declare the ethnic Russians a “state forming nation” and to specify that “Russia must become an exclusively [ethnic] Russian state. This idea is just as utopian as the idea about ‘Rossiyane.’”  Most Russians call themselves Russian only by habit and do not invest the word “’[ethnic] Russian with any civilized meaning.”

            According to Arkhipov, they are “ready to become Siberians, Uraltsy, Primors or dream of leaving and becoming Americans or Australians.”

             “Muscovite Russia makes claims to Russian history, culture and tradition,” the Domodedovo activist says, “but by what right is it doing this?  In essence, [people today] are encountering a theft of history and an attempt at the theft of culture and tradition.  The only result is a mutant, a Horde-Style two-headed eagle.”

            How can “the successor of the Horde” pretend to be the continuation of Kyiv, “the mother of Russian cities, to whose history and culture Moscow has no relationship?” And he goes on to say that there is an interesting fact from history that is now often forgotten: Until Catherine II ordered them to change, Muscovites themselves did not call themselves Russians.

             As the Mongol Horde weakened, “the power of its provinces including Moscow grew,” and Moscow used the cruelty it had learned to conquer and suppress neighboring territories, to destroy “the independence of the North” and to wipe out its “national identity.”  But that is far from the end of the story, Arkhipov insists.

            “The process of the rebirth of the identity of the nation has taken place frequently in the history of many peoples,” he notes, pointing to the example of the Jewish people “who did not have statehood in the course of 2000 years or the Kurds who are still undering this process, or for example, the [ethnic] Russians.”

            “Twenty years ago, for the first time after 800 years of occupation, Rus was report in it own independent state” – Ukraine. “Kyiv remans the capital of Rus,oriented for [ethnic Russians],, the source of culture and tradition and Byzantine Christianity,” as the true successor of Rus rather than a byproduct.

            As far as the territory of present day “Rossiya” is concerned, “then military Horde-style behavior and Eurasianism havehistorically “cleansed it so much there here remain only rare enclaves of Rus,” who exist “more as an exception” than as the rule.  And Arkhipov suggested that the Domodedovo republic is one of them.

            In short, the Domodedovo leader says, Moscow is not “the third Rome” it typically claims to be, but “’the third Karakorum,” because the current Russian state is the successor of the Golden Horde.

            Asked by Stepa whether “the public is prepared to share the national historical motivation of [Domodedovo’s] protest, as one by Ancient Rus’ against the Golden Horde,” and as a protest against occupation, Arkhipov argues that it is precisely these broader understandings that help power specific protests like the ones that have begun in his region.

            Arkhipov continues by observing that “Russian federalism little interests [the people of Domodedovo] since we are speaking about Rus, about [ethnic] Russian lands, culture and traditions.”  That is because “we do not consider ourselves Rossiyane but rather view ourselves as [ethnic] Russians.”

            “Even at the level of translation, we are ‘Russkii,’ but not ‘Russian.’”  We are completely different peoples, we have different paths of development. Great Russian, imperial ambitions are alien to use [ad] we see the Russian Democratic Republic as a European State, based on respect for human rights and the adoption of European values and standards.”

            Arkhipov said his movement plans to hold a referendum between May 15 and June 15, 2012, on the idea of a Russian Democratic Republic.  The local authorities have no legitimacy, he said, and the willingness of the people of Domodedovo to continue to be part of the Russian Federation will depend on whether Moscow observes their rights.

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