Monday, July 6, 2020

Is Putin Narrowing His Complaint about Republics?

Paul Goble

Staunton, July 5 – Vladimir Putin has often attacked Lenin’s creation of union republics, saying most recently and dramatically that the Bolshevik leader had forced Russia to give these entities land that had belonged to Russian from time immemorial, attacks that suggests he dislikes the existence of republics as such.

But in an interview on the Moscow.Kremlin.Putin program on Russia-1, the Kremlin leader narrowed the focus of his complaint on the republics to just one provision Lenin had offered union republics: their right to exit the USSR on their own (

That and not the mere existence of the republics as Putin has seemed to suggest in most earlier commentaries is “the delayed action mine” which Lenin inserted under Russia in 1922 when he oversaw the formation of the USSR.

It is entirely possible that Putin’s remarks in this case mean nothing, that he views the right to leave as simply one aspect of the existence of the non-Russian republics. But there is at least a possibility that Putin doesn’t care if republics exist in Russia as long as they don’t have the right to leave.

At present, of course, the non-Russian republics do not have that right under the Russian constitution and laws. There is no chance they are going to have that right recognized by a Putin regime.  But if he can live with republics as long as they can’t leave and are under total central control, he may be less obsessed with abolishing him than many in them think. 

If that really is Putin’s position, it will offend many Russian nationalists who want the republics eliminated; but it will also be something the leaders of the non-Russian republics may try to explore, not because it represents all they want but because it may mean they are less likely to be targeted for extinction than they had thought. 

Indeed, Putin’s remark today suggests that doing away with the republics as long as they can’t leave may not be as high a priority with him as many had assumed.

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