Staunton, February 8 – Fyodor Krasheninnikov, a Urals commentator who has attracted much attention for his book, After Russia, which considers how the country might come apart, says that genuine regionalism can emerge only in a Russia of whatever size that has become fundamentally democratic.
Until that happens, he tells After Empire’s Vadim Shtepa, it will be incomplete at best and misused at worse to promote the disintegration of the country because genuine regionalism requires genuine democracy, something the Russian Federation does not now have (afterempire.info/2018/02/08/fedor/).
And the disintegration of an empire from above as the events of 1991 shows can lead not to democracy but rather to the rise of petty dictatorships in regions that will oppress people “even worse than in the rickety empire of the last years of its existence.” There were and would be exceptions but they would be just that exceptions, not the rule.
According to Krasheninnikov, “there is no regionalism today in the Urals today; in any case, I haven’t heard anything about it. The Urals is just a region of the Russia of Putin like all the others. Our people re good and freedom loving, but the structure of administration is completely Muscovites down to the municipal levels. No one should have any illusions.”
“Russia today in general is not a place for free discussions.” Those who try to engage in them can quickly land themselves in hot water with the authorities. “Until Russia becomes a free country where one is not judged for one’s convictions, there cannot and will not be any serious discussion about the future of the entire country and its regions.”
He argues that “regionalism as a political platform is possible only under conditions of democracy and real federalism.” And that means that those who would like to promote regions need to be concerned first about democracy, about recovering “the right to choose one’s future and express any ideas.”
Once that happens, Krasheninnikov continues, “this theme will arise in the political agenda. But not before. Under conditions of dictatorship and terror, delicate flowers do not bloom.”
Nonetheless, even now, one can say a few things about the future of regionalism. On the one hand, “the contemporary borders of regions hardly can be considered a reliable foundation for normal federalism.” And on the other, the regions must focus on the formation of “new democratic elites.” If the same people as now remain in power, nothing good will come of it.
The borders will need to be changed, but they will have to be changed by free and democratic voting. They cannot be imposed from above as has been the case in the past. Otherwise, they will remain anything but the foundation for a democratic society and the flourishing of regions.
In that process, Krasheninnikov says, “the federal center has a very important role to play” because “the interests of the local bureaucracy can be directly opposed to good sense.” The latter wants to keep office not promote democracy and the well-being of the population. All this is going to require much explanation among the population.
“Even if the regime in the Kremlin is changed, one should not expect instant transformations which without preparation and the taking of reality into account will transform out country into a flourishing federation. Miracles won’t happen; nothing good will be created quickly.”
First of all, he says, Russia must get back “freedom, democracy, elections, regional politics, and regional parties to redistribute authority, conduct numerous referenda on the unification and division of regions and only then can one speak about a new agreement” between the center and the regions.
The main thing in the future, Krasheninnikov says, is to recognize now that the future belongs not to empires, nations or even regions. It belongs to the megalopolises, “which will swallow whole regions and will deal with each other directly.” That is already the case in China; it will spread across the world.
The majority of the world’s people already lives in cities. Soon, it will be that they live in big cities, the centers of creativity and imagination. Some may regret the passing of small towns and rural live, but, the Urals commentator says, this vision of the future attracts rather than repels him – and he urges others to feel the same way.