Saturday, October 5, 2019

Talk about ‘Moscow and the Provinces’ Keeping Russia from Becoming a Federation, Siberian Activist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 3 – Many Russians both within the ring road and beyond keep talking about the division of the country between “the capital” and “the provinces” without recognizing that the latter term isn’t used in any modern federation and its continued use in Russia will prevent that country from becoming one, Tatyana Vintsevskaya says.

            The activist, a Siberian now living abroad as a member of the Siberian diaspora (, says that talk about “provinces,” rare to the point of being non-existent in real federations, has long been accepted in Russia which remains “an empire” (

            “’Provinces’ in Russia,” Vintsevskaya continues, “are something secondary and wretched and therefore the appearance of analogues of contemporary and creative European regionalism are impossible here because regionalism exists only where there are self-administered regions. And what ‘regions’ can one speak of if their governors are assigned from the Kremlin?”

            As a result, in Russia to this day, “there is only the Kremlin and the provinces.”

            But the situation is even worse, she suggests. Moscow doesn’t stand in opposition to the provinces. It too is “an imperial province,” one that isn’t allowed to select its own rulers as the events of the past summer show.  The bigger problem, however, is in the various regions where people continue to “use the word ‘province,’” not recognizing how that holds them back. 

            Words matter: they have “their own magic,” Vintsevskaya says. “And if we ourselves call our motherlands ‘provinces,’ they will remain that;” and the Kremlin will continue to rule the entire country.  If, on the other hand, we in the provinces and Russians everywhere in the opposition stop using the word, they will destroy the myth that all provinces are the same.

            The Siberian activist says she isn’t surprised that there exists a “Provincial” publishing house in Moscow, but she is distressed that not only “imperial propagandists” but “Moscow opposition figures” continue to speak about “the provinces” and view the as a single whole in contrast to Moscow.

            But even more disturbing is when people from the regions talk about “the provinces” in this way as Tatarstan’s Kamil Galeyev did recently when he spoke about “the despotism of the Russian province” (

            As long as people in the regions and republics talk that way, Vintsevskaya says, they can’t expect that “’the metropolitan center’ will give them any freedoms.” Only by insisting on independent republics and self-governing regions can they hope to escape Moscow’s despotism and create a genuinely democratic and federal state.

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