Staunton, April 16 -- The population of the Pomor lands in and around Arkhangelsk has been set in motion not only by Moscow policies that harm the residents of this region but also by the insults that officials have hurled against them, Anatoly Bednov says. They are not yet and may never be a proud Catalonia, but they aren’t any longer a submissive colony.
In a commentary for Region.Expert, the regionalist commentator says that the dam that the Russian authorities had erected to block the expression of popular anger has broken down, that this anger has poured through, and that the comments and actions of Russian officials have only increased the flow (region.expert/walls/).
Most outside observers have focused on only two things, local anger at Moscow’s plans to send trash from the capital to the ecologically sensitive north and the local governor’s counterproductive reference to those taking part in the protests as “riffraff,” a remark that he had to backpedal when he and his bosses saw it was only intensifying the process.
But in fact, Bednov says, the reasons for Pomor anger against Moscow are far more numerous and deep-seated than that; and official remarks and actions have been much more insulting. All this means that trash may have been the trigger, but it was not the underlying cause. And that in turn means that even if the trash issue is resolved, the protests will continue.
Among the factors at work, he says, are anger about the pension reform which has hit the majority of the population but not the numerically small peoples within it, new restrictions on harvesting of crabs and other bioresources from the sea, and Moscow’s decision to shift the Arctic Forum from Arkhangelsk to St. Petersburg, something local people are incensed about.
As these things have built up, Bednov says, there is a growing awareness of people in Arkhangelsk area that the problems they face are all interconnected and reflect the existing system of relations between the center and the regions of Russia as a whole. And that is leading them to continue and expand their protests.
“I think,” he says, “that the Pomor land will not be transformed into a bubbling Catalonia, but it will no longer be a submission rightless colony.” Its people will no longer tolerate the latter even if they are not ready, given their dependence for subventions from Moscow, to become the former.
And as such, they will demand that their rights and the rights of the regions be respected. If that happens, Bednov says, “the light of regionalism will come to the country from the North,” a direction no one had been looking at but that makes perfect sense give the arrangements in Russia today.