Staunton, February 17 – The Russian government and many Russian nationalists insist that ethnic Russians are a homogeneous unity, but in fact, Vadim Shtepa says, despite similar languages and cultures, those in one region are radically different from those in another because of their histories and geographical positions.
Thus, the editor of the After Empire portal points out, the residents of Vladivostok and those of Kaliningrad are just as different as Canadians and New Zealanders even though the first two are within the borders of a single country and the latter are not (ukrinform.ru/rubric-world/2404396-vadim-stepa-redaktor-sajta-after-empireposle-imperii.html).
At present, he tells Oleg Kudrin of Ukrinform, far from all Russians are conscious of these distinctions or prepared to act on them – doing so would land them in legal difficulties – but in Russia historically people have often changed almost overnight from supporters of one paradigm to another, be it in 1917 or 1991 or 2014.
“Already today,” he continues, “practically everywhere one can see the dissatisfaction of residents of various oblasts and republics with a situation in which they are deprives of all regional self-administration, their resources are taken away by Moscow, and the center appoints their heads. These protest attitudes will grow.”
Russia today is not a federation whatever it calls itself, Shtepa says; and it cannot become one by central fiat. It has to grow from the bottom up rather than the top down, and the regions need to decide what powers to delegate and what ones to retain. In a real federation of the future, Moscow might not be the capital.
Shtepa argues that the United States organized itself precisely as a federation “as an alternative to the British Empire.” The same thing ultimately needs to happen in Russia as well. Regional parties need to be permitted – they aren’t now – and so “today, regionalists and federalists in the RF exist as informal net movements,” often based abroad.