Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Alksnis Says Prokhorov’s Call for Disbanding Non-Russian Republics Reflects Kremlin Thinking

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 31 – Mikhail Prokhorov’s suggestion last weekend that Moscow disband the non-Russian republics reflects Kremlin thinking, according to a Russian nationalist commentator. But doing so won’t be easy, he continues, because even Stalin who understood the threat from such republics was not able to dispense with them.

            On the “Svobodnaya Pressa” portal yesterday Viktor Alksnis says that the proposal Prokhorov made in fact has been “widely discussed at a minimum for the last 25 years” and by many who understand the nature of the problem far better than the Civic Platform billionaire (

            Prokhorov, Alksnis continues, “evidently poorly studied the history of Russia in school because he doesn’t know that long before the appearance of the ‘Lenin-Stalin’ Soviet Union there were such unique ‘national subjects of the empire’ within the Russian Empire as the Grand Duchy of Finland, the Kingdom of Poland and the Bukharan and Khivan khanates.”

            According to the Russian nationalist commentary, Prokhorov’s proposal which has sparked so much discussion in the media was likely “recommended to him from behind the Kremlin wall” where “the Kremlin has decided again to take up the reform of the state arrangements of Russia.”

            That is because, Alksnis continues, the occupants of the Kremlin “understand perfectly the danger of the national principle of the construction of the state and that it will inevitably lead the country to collapse.” Ethnic federations routinely fail, he continues; non-ethnic territorial ones have a greater capacity to survive.

            Today’s Russian Federation, he continues, “inherited from the Russian Empire and Soviet Union all those destructive ‘illnesses’ which will make its existence as a single state impossible already in the not distant future.”

            Among those “illnesses” are the division of the country its “first class” subjects, the republics, and “second class” ones, the oblasts and krays, and the “de facto” support for the principle that members of the titular nationality have greater rights than others, regardless of what the Constitution says.

            Anyone who thinks this is not the case should ask himself whether he thinks an ethnic Russian could head Chechnya or Bashkiria or Tataria. “Theoretically, yes, he could. But we all understand that in fact this is impossible.” And the same thing is true with “the majority of leading posts in the national republics.”

            That situation gives rise to the sense among members of the titular nationality that their ethnicity alone gives them the right to aspire to membership in the UN or NATO, Alksnis says. “And why not? For if the Georigans and Latvians can, then why can’t we,” the  non-Russians asks.

            Alksnis suggests considering the case of Bashkira.  “By the way, why should we today call this republic Bashkortostan? He asks. Russians don’t call Britain or Germany the way the British and Germans do, so why should they be forced to call the land of the Bashkirs Bashkortostan in the name of “respect.”

            And he continues by asking rhetorically  “why have been manifested open hostility to the Estonia people and refusing to write the word ‘Tallin’ with two ‘n’s’ at the end when in Estonian, that work is written Tallinn? And why up to now [is there still a controvery over whether] to write ‘in Ukraine’ or ‘on Ukraine’?”

            Focusing on Bashkiria, Alksnis notes that at the end of the Soviet period, the share of official positions occupied by Bashkirs was roughly the same as their percentage in the population” but now the share of Bashkirs in office has more than doubled.”  And that republic is far from the worst in this respect.

            “If someone says this is normal,” the Russian nationalist writer and activist says, he “would respond that such things speak about an extremely unfavorable situation in nationality relations and that in Bashkiria at an official level the principle of the priority of the indigenous nationality, which contradicts the Constitution of Russia is being realized and is leading to the collapse of the country.”

            Because this situation obtains in practically all non-Russian republics of the Russian Federation, he says, “national elites and national administrative cadres are being created who are ready to go to the next step, to an exit from Russia and to the construction of [independent] national states.”

            Most of these people are currently “afraid to take that step because the defeat of the Chechen separatists in the second Chechen war is still fresh in their memories.”  But despite that, these elites “are ready and simply waiting a suitable moment” to act. And that means that “Russia faces severe tests” in the near future.

            “The only way to avoid” this threat to the existence of the country is to shift away “from the national-territorial principle of the construction of our state to the territorial one,”a shift where the “borders among the subjects of Russia” would be like “the lines which form the borders of the states in the US.”

            Taking this absolutely necessary step, Alksnis concludes, will be “hyper-difficult,” noting that “even I.V. Stalin, at the height of his powers in the post-war years, did not take the risk of doing away with the sovereignty of the union republics – even though he recognized very well all the danger of this sovereignty.”

            “But there is no other path,” he concludes. “Otherwise the collapse of Russia is ahead of us.”

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