Staunton, March 13 – “Despite long years of centralization, people in the non-Russian republics understand very well what their interests are and are ready to declare them to the center” even if Moscow can and likely will override them, Russian commentator Rostislav Turovsky says (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/191856).
In the course of the discussion about constitutional amendments, he continues, “Sakha is an example no less interesting than Tatarstan which is typically the place associated with survivals of regionalist aspirations.” Indeed, it may be even more interesting because its politicians are focusing on the possibility that Moscow will use new powers to take its lands.
One of the amendments under discussion would allow Moscow to directly administer large swaths of territory rather than having such land remain within existing federal subjects, especially in the Russian North and around environmentally and economically sensitive locations elsewhere (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/02/russian-constitution-may-be-changed-to.html).
Sakha, as both the largest federal subject and the one with the longest coastline on the Arctic, is thus particularly at risk if Moscow should exercise that power. It could lose its Arctic littoral and be reduced to a micro-republic further south, something that would simultaneously reduce the share of non-Russians in Sakha and undermine their aspirations further.
That danger explains much of the passion behind the objections of Sakha parliamentary speaker Petr Gogolev (https://yakutia.info/article/194019) and the decision of Sulustaana Myraan, a Just Russia deputy, to resign her position and speak out against all the amendments Putin is pushing.
(Her protest has attracted widespread attention. For her remarks about her decision and the largely positive reaction of others to them, see newtimes.ru/news/detail/191830 sibreal.org/a/30486181.html, turantoday.com/2020/03/sakha-yakutia-sulustana-myraan.html and novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/03/14/84321-s-takoy-konstitutsiey-ya-zaschitit-interesy-naroda-ne-mogu
Turovsky points out that their actions “will not have political consequences,” either positive for them within the republic or negative in Moscow removing them. But they are a reminder that “despite the long years of centralization, the republics understand perfectly well their interests and are ready when needed to declare them” to Moscow.
And although the Russian commentator doesn’t say so, they also put down a marker intended to warn the center against moving in a direction the republics oppose lest it spark protests or even a new “parade of sovereignties” that would threaten the central authorities in ways they have not been challenged for more than a decade.