Staunton, March 31 – The Russian presidential election did not change the occupant of the Kremlin, but there are indications that the campaign itself may have changed the arrangement of players on the political board, prompting some groups to combine with others and driving still a third from politics altogether.
One of the most intriguing developments in this regard is evidence from Bashkortostan that some Bashkir nationalists have found it possible to work with both Aleksey Navalny and the candidates of some of the systemic opposition parties and that this experience may carry over to this fall’s elections to the regional parliament.
While many Russian analysts are dismissive that such ties can prove lasting, Moscow almost certainly is concerned even by the possibility because the most powerful national movements at the end of the Soviet period were in those republics where the two groups cooperated.
Both then and in the years since, Moscow has done what it can to play these two groups against one another in order to weaken both and to ensure that the center will remain the arbiter of political outcomes so that the nationalists will not gain the support of liberals and communists and the latter will not gain the energy of the nationalists.
That Moscow is concerned about what has been happening in Bashkortostan is suggested by Regnum journalist Yekaterina Nekrasova who points out that the multi-national republic “is considered a unique ‘mirror’ reflecting the cultural and ethnic multiplicity of all Russia and also a region where there is occurring constructive dialogue among representatives of different ethnic groups” (regnum.ru/news/polit/2398374.html).
She suggests that most of the public nationalist groups in Bashkortostan are controlled by the authorities in Ufa or Moscow or both. And most of them, Nekrasova continues, exist only on paper and are unknown to the vast majority of the population. But their actions nevertheless can have an impact on political life.
And Nekrasova admits as much by entitling one of the sections of her article, “the fusion of Bashkir nationalists and the liberal opposition” in which she describes the cooperation of various Bashkir nationalist groups with Aleksey Navvalny and Kseniya Sobchak. In a following section, she says, these same nationalist groups also reached agreement with the KPRF.
The new Congress of the Bashskir People “quickly found common language with the liberal opposition of the republic. Both sides easily ‘sacrificed their principles,’ with the liberal forgetting that they were against nationalism and chauvinism and the Bashkir nationalists that they had proclaimed traditional family values.”
“What united such contradictory movements?” Nekrasova asks. “There is one answer: a rejection of the Russian World and of the Russian state and its structures. This was most clearly manifest in the presidential elections of 2018,” and it may become even more important in the upcoming elections, not necessarily affecting outcomes but in changing discussions and tone.