Staunton, November 7 – Russia has been disintegrating for more than a century, in large measure because its rulers have believed that authoritarian centralization is the only way to keep it together, an attitude that drives Vladimir Putin’s efforts to restore the empire and that tragically is reflected in the views of his opponents, Igor Yakovenko says.
What neither the one nor the other understand, the Russian commentator says, is that this centralism inevitably alienates those who live beyond the ring road and that when the compass of Russia shifts away from that position, there are few structures in place to keep it from passing through confederalism and federalism to disintegration (region.expert/regioland/).
Putin is doing his best to destroy those structures even though without them the future of his country as a single entity is increasingly improbable. For the Kremlin leader, “the main domestic enemies” are not just human freedom by federalism with its decentralization of authority and shared powers.
“A specific feature of the Russian empire,” he continues, “is the lack of a clear definition of the territorial limits of its metropolitan center. As a result, in the view of the colonial borderlands, the metropole is Moscow even though in essence it isn’t but rather is in fact also a colony of the Center.”
Because of that, once Putin weakens or departs the scene, there is every reason to think Russia will pass quickly from a hyper-centralized system to a collection of new independent states. After all, “the main energy of Russian protest is provided by hatred of the stupid diktat by ‘Moscow.’”
To prevent that outcome, Yakovenko suggests, four interrelated things are needed: First, Russians must work to discredit the centralizers who claim to be saving the country but in fact are doing more than anyone else to destroy it. Second, they must come up with an image of the Russia they want rather than as now arguing that once Putin is gone, everything will be fine.
Third, the Russian opposition must be regionalized. “’Moscow-centrism’ is a disease with the opposition to no less an extend than it is for the powers that be. There needs to be a Magna Carta of liberties for the opposition and it must include a recognition of the fundamental value of decentralization and federalization.
And fourth, each region needs to come up with a plan to restructure itself. Indeed, Yakovenko says, “the reconstruction of Russia must begin with the regions” if Russia as a whole is to survive.