Staunton, October 20 – Earlier this month, former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev said that there are “many Catalonias” within the Russian Federation, a declaration that caused some analysts to try to identify who they might be and how they do might pursue independence from Moscow (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/10/could-urals-republic-become-one-of.html).
But now that Madrid has decided to invoke the 155th article of the Spanish constitution to deprive the Catalans of their current autonomy and thus keep them within that country (profile.ru/politika/item/120682-avtonomiya-na-grani), the Catalonian case may have a larger impact on what happens next in Russia that Barcelona’s original drive appeared likely to have.
That is because such an action almost certainly would be used by Vladimir Putin as cover for what he is reportedly considering doing either in the run-up to the March 2018 elections or shortly thereafter: eliminating the non-Russian republics within the Russian Federation in the name of creating a single Russian nation.
(Among those suggesting that Putin is planning exactly that is Fauziya Bayramova, head of Tatarstan’s Ittifaq Independence Party (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/10/putins-goal-for-russia-is-one-people.html). See also kavkazr.com/a/uprazdnenie-respublik-s-oglyadkoi-na-chechnyu/28799980.html.)
Putin has already accused the West of double standards in its handling of demands for secession by ethnic minorities. He would undoubtedly step up such criticism if Madrid went so far as to eliminate Catalan autonomy. At the very least, that would keep some in the West from criticizing the Kremlin if it moved to suppress the non-Russian republics inside Russia.
Obviously, the two situations are so different that Putin’s invocation of this case would be dishonest, although no more so than many of the other arguments he has used on other occasions. But there is one way in which the two situations are very similar: suppressing autonomy in either case almost certainly will lead to the radicalization of views in both.
Moscow’s Vzglyad newspaper in its issue today warns of this danger in Catalonia (vz.ru/world/2017/10/20/138903.html). But its argument certainly applies to the non-Russian republics of Russia as well. Indeed, one might even read this article as a case of Aesopian language criticism of Putin’s policies, yet another revenant from the Soviet past.