Staunton, April 8 – On this Easter, Ukrainians must pray for the survival of the Russian Federation because if it disintegrates, that will lead not only to massive refugee flows into Ukraine but technogenic disasters that will make Russia’s current aggressive actions against Ukraine look like a time of peace, according to Ukrainian commentator Vitaly Portnikov.
Some Ukrainians have placed their hopes in the demise of Russia as the basis for the restoration of Ukrainian control of Crimea and the Donbass, but Portnikov in a Facebook video says that it would be a disaster for Ukraine and for Russia’s other neighbors (facebook.com/portnikov/videos/2125473177479071/ and newsland.com/community/4109/content/ukraintsy-dolzhny-molitsia-za-sokhranenie-rossii/6289736).
But he says that Russia may come apart and that Moscow will be to blame for that outcome even as it struggles to prevent it. Nationality problems are the main threat to Russia, but “over the last 25 years, the Russians have done more to assimilate non-Russian peoples than the Bolsheviks did over 70 years.”
The kind of “aggressive chauvinism” one sees in Russia today was never in evidence during Soviet times or even those of the Russian Empire. And that policy, Portnikov argues, means there are “ever fewer chances” that Russia will come apart and “ever more” that that country will be “transformed into a unitary state of guberniyas.”
Whether that will be sufficient to keep Russia together is uncertain, but it likely means that if Russia comes apart, it will do so more violently like Yugoslavia rather than largely peacefully as did the USSR. On another Facebook post, Vadim Shtepa, editor of After Empire, explains why this is likely to be the case (facebook.com/vadim.shtepa/posts/1835878066463175).
The Russian regionalist says that he was recently asked by St. Petersburg journalists whether regionalism inevitably means separatism. He responded by pointing out what happened in Yugoslavia before and after Tito’s death. Under Tito, the Kosovars asked only to be a republic like Serbia or Slovenia rather than remain “’an autonomous kray.’”
“But the federalist Tito died in 1980, and in 1984, Yugoslavia hosted a remarkable winter Olympiad.” After that disaster struck the country. “In 1989, Milosevich committed a great crime: he replaced the idea of Yugoslavia as an international federation as it was under Tito with the idea of Serbian national imperialism.”
Imagine what would have happened had Gorbachev in the spring of 1991 done the same thing, proposing that all the republics within the USSR should accept diminished status within a new “Russian nation state.” They would have declared independence immediately and fought their way out in much the same way the republics of Milosevich’s national empire did.
Indeed, Shtepa continues, it was that vision of Yugoslavia which led the Kosovars to shift from federalist aspirations to demands for independence, a pattern that can be repeated whenever and wherever the central government tries to reduce the status of republics and regions in the name of transforming a federal system into a unitary nation state.