Staunton, August 4 – Vladimir Kompaneyshnikov, the deputy governor of Omsk oblast who oversees the media there, has been accused of promoting Siberian separatism because he has appeared at a press conference with a t-shirt showing the flag of the United States of Siberia and “Che Burashka,” a supposed Siberian freedom fighter in the spirit of Che Guevara.
His supporters say that Kompaneyshnikov, who began his career in the security organs, is simply trying to show the common touch and reach out to residents of that Siberian region, but his opponents suggest that he should be the object of interest for the security organs and the FSB in particular.
Given Moscow’s extreme sensitivity about separatism among those it views as members of a single and united ethnic Russian nation, however, his case has now attracted the attention of journalists in the capital and is now the subject of an article by Daniil Dunayev in “Nezavisimaya gazeta” (ng.ru/regions/2016-08-03/1_omsk.html).
In advance of a concert marking the opening of celebrations of the 300th anniversary of the founding of the city of Omsk, the quondam capital of Siberia, Kompaneyshnikov appeared at a press conference which attracted little attention for what he said, Dunayev observes, but a great deal for the t-shirt he chose to wear.
Some of those in attendance said that it may be that the new vice governor “simply hadn’t mastered the details of internal politics and wore the t-shirt by accident.” But if that is the case, they said, people should be asking questions about his “competence” to fill the position he now occupies.
Others said that if Kompaneyshnikov knew what he was doing by wearing what they called “’a separatist t-shirt,’” then the local office of the FSB should be looking into the case, Dunayev reports.
The flag of the United States of Siberia has been circulating in that region and in Moscow for the last three years at least. Many view a flag showing snowflakes instead of stars as reflecting in a positive way the absence of ethnic problems and conflicts in Siberia as opposed to other regions of Russia.
But others view it as a threat, especially when it is combined with the pictures of Che Burashka, who in the minds of some represents a call to fight for Siberian independence of Moscow. That a government official should be encouraging that by wearing such a t-shirt is thus cause for alarm.
According to Mikhail Andreyev, an Omsk political analyst, Kompaneyshnikov probably put on the shirt to try to indicate that he is interested in finding a common language with journalists there, given that he has recently been put in charge of the media and is viewed by most in the media as an interloper. But that doesn’t give him the right to play with fire.
Another Russian political analyst, Aleksey Kabanov, downplayed the whole thing. He argues that “Siberians do not consider themselves a separate nationality. [Instead,] they think of themselves as part of a boundless Russia and not otherwise.” Moreover, by displaying this flag, they are “mocking” the US, not threatening secession. The case should be closed.
Meanwhile, in Tatarstan, separatism of a more accustomed kind appears to have surfaced among the candidates of the liberal PARNAS party. Gleb Postnov of “Nezavisimaya gazeta” says that “a battler against ‘Russian occupiers’ has now entered the electoral list of the liberals” (ng.ru/politics/2016-08-04/2_parnas.html).
He reports that Farit Zakiyev, the head of the All-Tatar Social Chamber (VTOTs), has been nominated by PARNAS as a candidate for the Duma. Party leaders say, he continues, that “they haven’t heard any scandalous comments from Zakiyev;” but they should have given his support for the independence of Tatarstan from Russia.
Not only has VTOTs been one of the chief organizers of all protests in Tatarstan against Russian rule, but Zakiyev personally has defended what are, Postnov assures his readers, “the most odious figures of the nationalist movement,” like Aydar Khalim who has called Russians genetically inferior and Rafis Kashapov who has been sentenced to prison for extremism.
Kashapov in particular is notorious in the eyes of any sober Russian, Postnov suggests, given that he met with Shamil Basayev before the Chechen militant was “liquidated in 2006.” Zakiyev for his part has called Kashapov “’a patriot of his motherland’ and ‘a worthy son of the Tatar people.’”
PARNAS leaders, however, “do not see anything” in this that “might contradict liberal values and democratic ideas.” Instead, they say, that nationalists are properly part of their alliance to bring about “the democratic development of Russia,” Postnov says.
Marsel Shamsutdinov, the head of the Tatarstan branch of PARNAS, adds that “we are for the national autonomy of Tatarstan and of other peoples of our country.” The nationalists “can be out allies in the 2016 campaign.” Besides, he observed, Zakiyev is in fifth position in the party list and so is unlikely to gain election.