Monday, September 9, 2019

Stop Calling Pacific Coast Area ‘the Russian Far East,’ Region.Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 5 – The names people give to regions and especially those which indicate a direction from somewhere else often reinforce attitudes and relationships that limit the possibilities of those who live in them by their implicit suggestion that they exist not in and of themselves but only in relation to somewhere else. 

            Nowhere in the Russian Federation is this more clearly the case than in the regions and republics along the Pacific coast that both residents and those elsewhere routinely refer to as “the Russian Far East,” a term that continues to have the most unfortunate consequences and that should be changed, the Region.Expert portal says (

            Yesterday, Vladimir Putin referred to those who consider the Far East “ballast” for Russia as “morons,” a response by the Kremlin leader t a recent statement by Sakha Republic head Aysen Nikolayev who had observed that he has heard senior officials speak about his republic and adjoining regions in this way. 

            “In this case,” the portal says, “the master of the Kremlin is completely correct: the Far East is not ‘ballast’ but on the contrary a gigantic source of natural resources for the empire. However, local residents do not feel the effect of this because practically all of these resources are taken by Moscow.”

            But “the main problem,” Region.Expert says, “isn’t in resources but in mentality.”  The very name “Far East,” it suggests, includes within itself the idea of colonial dependence on Russia” and the notion that the region exists to support the empire rather than to benefit the life of its population.

            A way out of this unfortunate situation, the portal suggests, is to accept the suggestion of historian Yaroslav Butakov who has called for changing the name of this enormous and enormously rich region from the Russian Far East to the Republic of the Pacific Coast (

            Of course, it continues, “today’s governors (in fact, Kremlin representatives) don’t concern themselves with such ‘philosophical’ questions. They as a matter of principle are incapable of recognizing that it is the imperial ‘vertical’ which is the unbearable ‘ballast’ for the development of their regions.”

            Instead, “they experience a strange ‘patritic pride’ from the fact that ‘great Russia’ openly steals from them.” The most they ask for is that it leave them just a little more than it does at present.

            When the Sakha Republic declared its sovereignty in September 1990, it declared all the natural resources on and under its territory t be the property of its people. But now its diamonds, to give but one example, belong not to the Sakha people but to a corporation in Moscow, Alrosa, thousands of kilometers away.

            As a result, the republic doesn’t have enough money to build a bridge over the Lena River which it has long needed but instead is seeing its wealth redeployed to pay for a bridge to Crimea which it doesn’t, thus showing Moscow’s “openly colonial attitude” toward Sakha and “’the Far East.’”

            Changing how people refer to the region is an obvious first step to changing that reality, Region.Expert says. 

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