Sunday, October 6, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Ingermanland is a ‘Ready-Made European State,’ Activist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 6 – Ingermanland, a region around and including St. Petersburg, is “a ready-made European state,” according to Dmitry Vitushkin, an activist who has supported its independence since losing confidence that either the Russian government or the political leaders who oppose it will promote federalism and defend the rights of the regions.

            In an interview on the name day of St.Irina, the patron saint of Ingermanland (, Vitushkin, a journalist, told “Debryanskaya Rus’” that after Russia’s “inevitable disintegration,” there will appear not only non-Russian states but several new Russian ones, including Ingermanland (   

Vitushkin, who has attracted attention for a program on Petersburg television in which he interviews prominent and interesting residents of the city (, said he had not been a regionalist a recently a decade ago, when he still had “some hopes for the federal opposition.”

                The failure of the opposition to address the concerns of the country outside of Moscow is one of the reasons many have turned to regionalism, he said. But others have “come to regionalism after disappointment in nationalism or even in Stalinism” as alternative political ideas.

            Vitushkin says that Ingermanland traces its history back 2500 years to Neolithic times,but he points to personalities like Yurye Elfrengren, a Finnish officer who helped lead a Crimean Tatar revolt and fought the Soviets alongside Boris Savinkov and Sidney Reilly before being executed in 1927 as a seminal figures (

                The Ingermanland movement today is not large, he continues, with the number of committed members not more than 10,000, but it has many more sympathizers to such from the comments of people he has met, most of whom are afraid to speak on the record about their views, and the number of daily visitors to the movement’s website.

            That there is a large pool of supporters for regionalism in St. Petersburg should not surprise anyone: On April 25, 1993, 74.6 percent of city residents voted to raise the status of their region to that of a republic, something Moscow not only did not do but has in fact moved in the opposite direction.

            The Ingermanland movement draws strength not only from the population of the region but alsso from it close contacts with regionalists from Kareli, Koenigsberg, Zalesya, Pomorya, as well as “from Latvia, Estonia, Belarus and Ukraine.”  The groups cooperate and plan to launch a common website in the near future.

            Vitushkin said that he personally does not support the formation of a single “federal inititive for the unification of regionalists, especially if it has a center in Moscow.”  As the late Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin put it, “Whatever party we build, we will get a CPSU!”

            Consequently, Ingermanland will do better o “create a single trade and economic space with the countries of Scandinavia, the Baltics and perhaps Poland, Belarus and Germany … and with regions like Karelia, Pskovia, and Novogordia.”  A Hansa League is perhaps the best model of all.

            According to Vitushkin, “Ingria (in the borders of present-day ‘Leningrad oblast’) is a quite compact European country, and it fully can be a unitary state with developed local self-adminitration and braod national-cultural rights for the Izhors, Vepsy, Vozhans, Karels and Ingermanland Finns” with such autonomy broader than that which they had in the 1920s.

            Vitushkin said that the Ingermanland movement has a complicated relationship with both the National Democratic Party and the National Democratic Alliance.  With regard to the first, he asked how his regionalist group could ally itself with a party that called “the Russian Imperial Movement” its friend.

            With regard to the latter, he notes that the NDA never mentions Ingermanland and thus acts as if the large northwestern region it would like to form would be unitary.”Why should we, it is reasonable to ask, be ready to echange one large empire for seven smaller ones?” Other opposition groups are even less attractive as allies.

            Ingermanlanders should have nothing to do with “the Muscovite pseudo-opposition.”  Aleksey Navalny, for example, “is at the level of principle indistinguishable from Putin; these are two faces of one Janus.” Those who want to change “yuganov, Putin and Mironov for Ponomarev, Udaltsov and Navalny” are deceiving themselves: “this is an external upgrade and nothing more.”

            The Ingermanland movement is less about forming a party than about using various means to promote its cultural and political views in flexible and ever-changing ways.  But “when the inevitable federal ‘thaw’ occurs, several political parties will immediately arise in Ingermanland, ranging across the political spectrum.

            “Sooner or later all of us awaits one and the same future: death.  And that is just fine. Russia here is no exception. Any empire is finite,” and it will end. Ingermanland, as a linguistically, culturally, and architecturally distinct region is ready for that and ready to assume its natural position as an independent state.

            Sometimes, Vitushkin said, opponents of the Ingermanland idea say that such a state could not survive because it doesn’t have oil, ignoring both the ways  in which oil can be a curse and the even more important reality that many countries without oil and gas are doing far better economically than those which have these resources.

            As far as addressing Russia’s problems by shifting the capital away from Moscow is concerned, Vitushkin argued that “Russia not only does not need a new capital; Russia itself is not need. The geopolitical project ‘Russia’ has reached its end – all its historical missions and attempts at mission it has fulfilled.  It is time for people iin our regions to stop being a bugger between the West and China and between the West and the Islamic world; it is necessary to live one’s own life and according to one’s own interests.”

            “The Russian Federation” is not a vital and functioning formation, he said, for “a large nuber of historical, geopolitical and demographic reasons,” and therefore moving the capital “will not help.” The interests of the federal subjects “are too varied” to follow a single center, especially one “capable only of exploiting the lands and people subordinate to it.”

            Regionalism must be understood therefore as “a struggle not against Russians but a struggle for them,” one necessitated by the fact that “the very existence of the present post-empire is profitable only to a clutch of temporary holders of power and not to the majority of the population.” In short, “Ingria is a project of Russians and for Russians,” not a threat to them.

            Just before Vitushkin’s interview appeared, carried a comment by Vitaly Trofimov-Trofimov, the coordinator of the Gumilyev Center in Petersburg, concerning Russian cultural policy and the regions that deserves to be considered alongside the Ingermanland activist’s remarks (

           He said that it would be well if the Russian cultural ministry distributed its powers down to the regional level but suggested that such a change ws unlikely because officials in Moscow view “behind each national holiday a manifestation of separatism as happened with the Pomor ‘new year.’” That reflects the fact that “now, no one [in the central apparatus] trusts the peoples.”


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