Monday, February 11, 2019

Moscow’s ‘Openly Colonial’ Approach and Country’s Need for Federalism Destroying Putin’s Power Vertical in Far East and Northwest, Moskalenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 11 – “The process of the destruction of ‘the power vertical’ in Russia is beginning in the Far East and the North-West” because of the clash between Moscow’s “openly colonial” approach to the federal subjects especially in those regions and the country’s need for federalism if it is to prosper or even survive, Russian economist Yury Moskalenko says.

            This clash is most clearly in evidence in two geographically separate but politically and economically similar regions, the Far East and the North West, Moskalenko argues, where protest activity and protest voting is on the rise (

                “Those who consider that the voting [in the Far East] for KPRF and LDPR candidates reflects some sort of paternalist attitudes of people [in that region] are deeply mistaken,” the economist says. “Geography and especially the central government have long forced the local residents to count only on themselves.”

            “The Far Easterners voted against the so-called Federal Center and its representatives in the localities; they voted against the United Russia Party which embodies the power vertical; they voted for the systemic pseudo-opposition” because the real opposition had been kept by Moscow from taking part in the elections.

            Like the Far East, St. Petersburg is a leader in protest activity; and for many of the same reasons: These are places “which are more integrated into the structure of the world economy because of their geographic location. Petersburg and Vladivostok are major ports. These are regions which are next to European countries in the West and Pacific rim ones in the East.”

            Because of that, both find the Kremlin’s policy “directed at the economic isolation of the country and military confrontation with nearby and further afield neighbors completely unacceptable,” Moskalenko says.  That is true of small and mid-sized business and millions of people living in both places.

            Further, he continues, people in both places can compare what has happened to them with what has happened in Europe and the Pacific rim states over the last two decades: Russia has stagnated while the others have raced ahead.  They properly blame the center for this and so naturally “anti-Moscow attitudes in these regions are growing.”

            If there were relatively honest and free elections in these regions, the voters of both would support those candidates advocating “maximum independence from the Federal Center, which has been conducting a colonial and anti-social domestic policy and an adventurist foreign policy,” the economist says.

            The Kremlin has even had to take this reality into account, allowing its candidate for governor in Primorsky kray, Oleg Kozhemako, to play on anti-Moscow attitudes “with the approval of the Federal Center,” Moskalenko continues. But the center hasn’t succeeded as much as it hoped.  

            “Despite all the cleverness of the Kremlin political technologists, the elections in Primorsky kray had to be conducted as ‘a special operation.’ And as a result, the residents of the region got not an elected but in fact an appointed governor which will inevitably lead to an intensification of social tension and the growth of protest activity in the region.”

            St. Petersburg may be even more likely to move in that direction. “An extremely significant part of its residents are opposed to the anti-Western foreign policy and reactionary domestic policy of the Kremlin” because it is “the most European city of Russia” and still has large numbers of creative workers who oppose the obscurantism of the Kremlin.

            If Moscow is forced to adopt the same strategy it employed in future elections in St. Petersburg, Moskalenko says, “this would inevitably lead to a sharp intensification of protests” in the northern capital.  These two regions are the most advanced in this respect; others will be following them.

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