Sunday, April 7, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Far Eastern Republic a Precedent But Not a Happy One For Middle Volga, Commentator Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 7 – Yesterday marked the 93rd anniversary of the proclamation of the Far Eastern Republic which was created by Moscow as a buffer zone between Soviet forces and the Japanese intervention but which has often been held up as a possible model for Siberians and others in the future.

            But a close examination of the FER’s brief history, Radig Kashapov, a writer for, says, shows that it was the result of a specific conjunction of events and that it cannot be applied by current residents there or of the Middle Volga in the ways that some there hope, whose interest in it is suggested by the appearance of Kashapov’s article.

            Instead, he says in an article on Saturday entitled “The Land of Rising Self-Determination,” the FER was a short-lived “playing at democracy” that Moscow had no intention of respecting and that failed to attract any international support during the five years of its existence (

            After the 1917 revolutions, the Bolsheviks lacked the means to control the entire Russian Federation or to oppose foreign powers from having an influence on or even control of certain of the most distant regions of the country.  As they built an army, they thus employed various strategems, including the establishment of the FER.

            Initially proposed by an anti-Bolshevik group in Irkutsk, the FER was to be in the understanding of Bolshevik Moscow a “buffer” state between the Soviets, on the one hand, and China, Japan and the United States, on the other, that the central Soviet government could tolerate until it had the power necessary to suppress and absorb it.

            On April 6, 1920, officials in the Trans-Baikal declared the formation of “the independent Far Eastern Republic,” with territories roughly coterminous with those of the current Far Eastern Federal District, Kashapov says, but with a government that did not control most of that land.

            Nominally a democratic state with numerous parties, the commentator observes, it was in fat controlled by the Far Eastern Bureau of the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of Russia and by the local branch of the Cheka secret police, the State Political Preservation Organization. 

                The FER was led during the entire course of its five-year existence by Aleksandr Krasnoshchekov, a native of Chernobyl and a graduate of the University of Chicago (where he was a student of Samuel Northrup Harper).  According to Sharapov, Krashnoshchekov consistently sought to “apply the American experience of development to Russia.”

            He urged that Vladivostok become a free city, analogous to several in Europe at that time, and supported the NEP consistently. But he failed in his ostensible goal: He did not attract recognition from a single foreign country.  And on November 15, 1922, when Bolshevik forces had defeated the Whites in the Far East, the FER was simply absorbed by Soviet Russia.

            But if the institution did not last, the idea has, Sharapov notes.  If one searches online under the term “Far Eastern Republic,” one finds numerous references not just to the FER between 917 and 1922 but to the aspirations of Siberians and others over the last 25 years to revive it or an entity similar to it today given the weakness of Moscow and the power of China.

            Do such ideas have any hope of realization?  Sharapov says no.  “When one speaks about the creation of a government now, it is simpler to compare this process not with the construction of a house but with the purchase of a room in a communal apartment” because there are so many states whose claims embrace the entire territory of the earth.

            After 1917 and then again after 1991, Russia faced similar challenges.  But Sharapov says, those who have pushed these ideas and failed need to recognize that “almost all small countries can be divided into three types,” not one of which is especially attractive or, even more, long-lasting.

            First, there are “marionette” states like Japan’s Manchukuo, which Japan carved out of northeastern China and ran as a colony between 1932 and 1945.  Then, there are those formed on the basis of nationality, a group that includes Don Cossack and Idel-Ural activists in the Russian Federation after 1991.
            Idel Ural, Sharapov says, was “a peaceful attempt to create a Tatar-Bashkir state in 1918 within the RSFSR.” But after that entity had been “liquidated,” its backers proposed as a fall back idea the notion of a Tatar-Bashkir republic, but that project “remained on paper” nearly a century ago.  And that will remain so, he says, for the same reason the FER did not last.

            The third kind of such “state” if one can in fact use the term includes “virtual states which are a kind of game” for bored politicians, including “pseudo-presidents and pseudo-ministers,” Sharapov says, a clear indication that he appears to be protesting about this entirely too much if his own predictions are correct.

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