Monday, November 5, 2018

Not Yet a Parade of Sovereignties but Perhaps a Series of Republics Taking Control of Gas Prices?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 4 – Many observers of the Russian scene assume that everything is manageable on the nationality front unless there begins a new “parade of sovereignties,” a development that would highlight both the weakness of the central authorities and the growing interest of non-Russians in taking control of their own lives and pursuing independence.

            But such an approach misses much that is going on that may have even longer-term consequences as republic governments struggle to cope with the unfunded liabilities Moscow has imposed on them and the economic crisis which again has its roots in the policies not of the republics and regions but of the center.

            One development over the last few days suggests that republic governments are increasingly prepared to act to try to help their own residents not by adopting declarations of one kind or another but rather by taking actions on their own that address the plight of those residents that Moscow has imposed. 

            Because of radically rising gas prices, Yakutsk has decided that the Sakha Republic will divert some of its petroleum production to the distillation of gasoline so that supplies will increase and prices hopefully fall. The republic authorities have already given the orders for this to occur (

                Republic head Aysen Nikolayev also lashed out at Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak who had said that the quality of gasoline in Sakha left much to be desired, pointing out that those responsible for that situation are in Moscow not Yakutsk and that Yakutsk is trying to do the best it can given such constraints. 

            If Sakha can achieve its goals on gas prices, its population will be pleased but it may also seek to have Yakutsk take the initiative in other areas as well, something that would erode Moscow’s control of a republic that is larger than all the EU countries put together.  But there is another likely consequence that Moscow needs to reflect upon.

            Other republics and regions are certain to be watching what Sakha is doing. If what it is trying out works, they may try it out as well. And a future historian may conclude that the latest wave of imperial devolution in Russia began not in meetings with banners about sovereignty but at gas stations where even more people spend their time. 

No comments:

Post a Comment