Friday, August 9, 2019

Russian Politics Increasingly Shifting to Regions Because Kremlin has Blocked Opposition at Federal Level, Shtepa Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 7 – In Putin’s third term, “a regionalization of [Russian] politics is taking place,” Vadim Shtepa says, because the Kremlin has blocked the opposition from being able to compete at the federal level. But because that is so, the Kremlin has particular reason to fear the possibility of the emergence of an opposition bloc in the Moscow city council.

            That is because, the regionalist writer says in a commentary for Tallinn’s Postimees newspaper, such a group could become a kind of repetition of the Inter-Regional Deputies Group which arose in the USSR Congress of Peoples Deputies 30 years ago and played a key role in the demise of the Soviet Union ( reposted at

            “But it is possible to draw an even deeper parallel,” Shtepa continues. “In those years in the RSFSR arose an unprecedented division of politicians into two types, the Soviet and the Russian, and this division became the defining one” for political life in the final years of the USSR.

            As Shtepa puts it, “the Soviet figures mostly were representatives of the party nomenklatura while the Russians came to power via free elections. In this perhaps consists an irony of history but perhaps its next step [because] today Russian ‘federal’ figures themselves recall the Soviet nomenklatura” while today’s Muscovites are all about elections.

            Indeed, he says, those who are demanding their electoral rights in the streets of Moscow “resemble the defenders of Russian democracy in August 1991 while the Russian powers that be resemble the GKChP which tried to maintain itself by bringing forces into Moscow” but ultimately failed in the face of Russian opposition.

            The Moscow opposition now “potentially could play the role of democratic Russia of that time which destroyed the Soviet empire,” Shtepa says. “If anyone has forgotten, it is useful to recall that the former USSR became impossible after its ‘central’ republic, the RSFSR, adopted its Declaration on Sovereignty in 1990.”

            But there is something important that has to change if the Moscow opposition is to repeat this “historic” experience. “As long as it raises the Russian tricolor, which has become in recent years a symbol of aggression against neighboring countries … such an opposition will be associated not with freedom but with the very same Kremlin empire.”

            The Moscow opposition “will hardly find support in other regions of Russia from which Moscow takes all the resources and taxes. If the opposition intends to continue this centralist theft, only changing the figures in power, what difference does that make to the residents of Tatarstan and Siberia?”

            The Moscow opposition of today “should study and apply the experience of the early Yeltsin.” He broke with the past by establishing direct and equal relations with the union republics and even recognizing their independence as he did in January 1991 when he came to Tallinn in the wake of the Kremlin’s murderous attack in Vilnius.

            To make that change, Shtepa argues, “the Moscow opposition must learn to view its city not as an imperial center but only as one of many regions with equal rights.” If it does so, people elsewhere will view it in a new and more positive light.  When the Kremlin repressed the Moscow demonstrators, residents of many Russian cities came out in support of the latter.

            “But in Moscow there have only been very rate cases of actions of solidarity with other regions” even if it is clear as in the case of plans to build dumps in the North for Moscow’s trash or with regard to the massive fires in Siberia that Moscow has a direct interest in doing so. (See  

            According to Stepa, “the main enemy of the Moscow opposition is not only the dictatorial powers that be which are preventing free elections but also the imperial-centralist worldview in which this opposition alas up to now still is aligned with those authorities. If it frees itself from that, it will be able to change the course of history.”

No comments:

Post a Comment