Staunton, July 30 – As so often in the past, a Russian police crackdown against a group the authorities don’t like not only highlights the fears of the Putin regime about any independent thinking but also attracts far more attention to the group and its ideas than any of its leaders could have done on their own.
Last night, masked officers of the St. Petersburg police broke into the Ingria-Festival rock concert in a local club, checked documents and searched for drugs. The local interior ministry office said that “vigilant local residents” had complained about the gathering, noise and traffic. There were no arrests (newsru.com/russia/29jul2017/ingria.html).
According to Russian news agencies, police sources indicated that they had hoped to find among those in attendance “people well-known to the officers of law enforcement organs as disseminators of extremist views,” including in particular members of the Free Ingria movement whose website was briefly blocked earlier this month(fontanka.ru/2017/07/24/076/).
The police had good reason to think that supporters of Free Ingria would be in attendance given who organized the concert. One organizer was Nikolay Menshakov who has long been involved in the Ingrian cause, a movement that relatively few people had heard about until the authorities began to come down hard against its supporters.
As Newsru points out, “Ingria, a historical territory around St. Petersburg which doesn’t have strictly defined borders is now almost completely situated within the present-day Leningrad oblast. During the Civil War, for about 18 months (from July 1919 to December 1920), part of this territory had sovereignty under the self-designation Northern Ingria.”
“The date of the declaration of the independence of Ingria (July 1, 1019) is for the supporters of this idea a day of memory: ’98 years ago in Ingria was ignitd the flame of freedom which burns even now. We regionalists … believe that soon the freedom of our Motherland will become real,’” the Ingrian or Ingermanlanders say on their Internet pages.
Dmitry Vitushkin, a founder of one Ingrian site, pointed out that the Ingrian movement no has “no relationship to extremism or separatism.” The most it wants, he said, is “the unification of Petersburg and Leningrad oblast into a single federal subject with republic status and the return of its historical name” (meduza.io/feature/2016/06/02/chto-takoe-ingermanlandiya-i-chego-hotyat-ee-storonniki).
Although mainstream officials like Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko have also called for uniting the two subjects as well, the Russian authorities are not prepared for anyone to propose this independently. Hence the latest crackdown, in many ways a repetition of what the poice did in May 2016 (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2016/05/by-attacking-free-ingria-leader-moscow.html).