Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Fearing Separatism, Moscow Cutting Russia Off from Benefits of Glocalization, Shtepa Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 9 – Moscow continues to view globalization as did many of its initial advocates, as a trend leading to homogenization of the world and thus something it opposes when it has an impact on Russia but not when it can be used by Russia to impose its approach on its neighbors, Vadim Shtepa argues.

            But it also opposes glocalization -- the recognition by experts that globalization does not produce homogenization but rather promotes differentiation and thus does everything it can to block ties between its regions and the world lest that produce separatism (

            2015, the Russian regionalist writes in a commentary published today, marks the 20th anniversary of a book that marked a revolution in the understanding of globalization. In that year, a book entitled “Global Modernities,” appeared in London, one of whose authors, Roland Robertson, argued that earlier discussions of the impact of globalization were wrong.

            His argument “destroyed many stereotypes. Before it, globalization was typically described as a general universalization and homogenization economic, political and cultural. That was how Francis Fukuyama saw it in his ‘end of history’ writings.” But Robertson showed that globalization has the effect of leading to the growth in the importance of local differences.

Consequently, the British scholar argued, it was “more exact to define the contemporary world not by the one-dimensional term ‘globalizaation’ but by the two-part synthesis captured by ‘glocalizaiton.’” Subsequent developments in Europe and elsewhere have confirmed the truth of his words and become the basis of state policy.

But not in Russia, Shtepa says. “In a country where all politics, economics and culture are tied to the power vertical, glocalization appears like some kind of far-away exoticism. Thus, it is not an occasion for surprise that this term [although widely employed in the West] is almost not used by Russian economists and political scientists.”

The hyper-centralized Russian state does not allow for “’glocal’” interactions, he points out; and “even the super-state project of the Eurasian Economic Union does not anticipate any local component in the form of development of local self-administration as this happens in the European Union.”

The opportunities Russian regions have for direct contacts with other countries have always been limited and have required numerous “permissions” from Moscow, a sharp contrast with the situation in many countries, Shtepa says.  And now Moscow has restricted these contacts still further by requiring that Moscow approve everything in advance.

It is worth noting, the regionalist continues, that many projects Vladimir Putin approved in the 1990s for St. Petersburg would not be likely to pass through “this filter” successfully.

Many regions still have ministries or department for foreign ties, but “instead of realizing their own programs, they only fulfill federal ones on their territories; and it is entirely possible that they will lose even that ability if the draft program on regional policy is adopted. Everything then “will be done by bureaucrats in the capital.”

Fifteen years ago, when Moscow will still talking about “European integration,” it accepted the EU’s proposal to create a Euroregion in Karelia as a pilot project for the inclusion of Russia in this European approach. But within two years, the power vertical gutted the plans and disbanded Karelia’s ministry of foreign relations.

Shtepa points out that “the majority of Russian regions even now remain terra incognita for the world.” Most tourists go only to Moscow and St. Petersburg, and Russian urbanist Denis Vizgalov is quite correct to speak of Russia beyond  the ring road as “’an image desert’” but that is how Moscow wants to keep the situation (

Some regions have tried to come up with their own logos, but logos “are still far from being brands,” and Moscow doesn’t want the regions to have those. Dmitry Medvedev even one remarked that the adoption of regional brands “could lead to regional separatism” (

“Supporters of centralist policies possibly suppose that they will be able to unleash economic growth in Russia by orders from above, but these are unachievable hopes,” he says, a reflection of the fact that “in present-day Russia, globalization continues to be understood in an inadequate way,” as “a collective image of the enemy” rather than a set of new possibilities.

“If the world now goes along the path of combining global interests and local specifics, Russia remains a prisoner of imperial thinking,” Shtepa says, “and such an isolationist policy will return Russia to the era of Soviet deficits,” infuriating the population and benefitting no one including its authors.

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