Staunton, October 12 – Because the Soviet Union fell apart on ethnic lines, most Russian commentators speculating about the future have suggested that the West is pursuing a similar strategy in order to break up the Russian Federation. But two this week have suggested that the West is focusing on regional rather than ethnic issues to achieve that end.
This is intriguing not because it is true but because it suggests that at least some in Moscow are more worried about regionalism and regionalist movements than they are about ethno-national ones and may be about to repress any expressions of regionalist ideas among ethnic Russians.
Vladimir Solovyev, a Moscow radio and television commentator, is explicit on this point. He told the audience of his Vesti FM show, “Full Contact” that “separatist attitudes are strong in the Urals” and that “these must be suppressed” before they can damage the integrity of the country (ura.ru/news/1052264225).
His words provoked this response from a listener who texted that “Urals separatism is based on social injustice: 12,000 works at the factory there live like trash while those running the company from Moscow receive the profit, giving high salaries to 300 employees and paying taxes in Moscow but not in the Urals. And there’s no money to build roads in the Urals.”
The Urals news agency, URA.ru, asked Solovyev for comments about that reaction to his words. The commentator said that “Urals patriotism is constantly being pushed in many speeches of Russian opposition figures and actively promoted as well by internet accounts … backed by countries that are counting on the possibility of exploding Russia from the inside.:
Such people focus on the Urals because in the 1990s there was a Urals Republic, and consequently, Solovyev said, such people think there is a basis for what they are doing. He added that “strikes will be directed at the Urals, the Far East, and Kaliningrad,” because “these are the hottest spots.”
The people who live in the Urals are not to blame for this, the Moscow commentator continued. “This is the typical political technology of people who receive much financing, including from the West in order to do everything possible for the breaking apart of Russia into parts.”
A second story, one that reflects this same notion, is offered by Aleksandr Artishchenko on the Moscow portal, “Nasha Versiya.” He says that the Ukrainian government is seeking to break Russia apart by “financing separatists of ‘Cossackia’ and ‘the Siberian State Union’” (versia.ru/ukraina-finansiruet-separatistov-kazakii-i-sibirskogo-derzhavnogo-soyuza).
According to Artishchenko, last weekend the Presidential Administration of Ukraine convened a conference of separatists from the Urals, Siberia and Krasnodar kray that was attended on the Ukrainian side by radical Oleg Lyashko, through whose party Kyiv wants to finance “’Cossackia’” and “’the Siberian State Union.
Journalists weren’t invited, the Russian commentator says; but he said he was able to learn that Ukrainian officials proposed that the regionalists from Russia introduce their own currency and thus be in a better position to insist that not all the wealth of their regions ends up in Moscow’s hands.
One of the ideas floated at the meeting, Artishchenko continues, was “the creation of ‘a Union of Russian Lands’ without Moscow.” Real Russians would thus have their own country that would instantly become wealthier, and Moscow would have its own state, albeit much smaller and much poorer.
Suggestions that Kyiv is now focusing on regional rather than ethnic issues in the Russian Federation are especially intriguing given that Ukrainians historically and especially since perestroika times have focused primarily on the areas inside Russia’s borders that are populated by ethnic Ukrainians, the so called “wedges.”
For background on how these Ukrainian regions in Russia came to be, how Russian officials have treated them, and how Moscow commentators are worried about them, see