Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Petersburgers’ Response to Terrorist Act Frightens Moscow as Much as the Act Itself, Ingrian Activist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 11 – In the wake of the April 3 terrorist attack in their city, residents of St. Petersburg acted on their own like members of a developed civil society, a sharp contrast to the way Muscovites did when terrorism hit their city and a development one regionalist writer says that frightened the Kremlin as much as the terrorist act itself.

            In a commentary on the AfterEmpire portal, Dmitry Vitushkin, a leader of the Ingria movement, points out that “already in the very first hours after the tragedy, Petersburgers displayed their special character. Taxi drivers too people home for free, and psychologists offered assistance pro bono as well (afterempire.info/2017/04/10/ingria-after/).

                By those and other actions taken independently and without orders from above, the regionalist writer says, Petersburgers stood in sharp contrast to Muscovites who behaved entirely differently. Taxi drivers raised their rates, and no one rushed to help until directed to do so by the authorities. 

            To be sure, Vitushkin says, the city authorities in St. Petersburg responded in a good way as well, “but much more important is the fact that in this critical situation, the Petersburgers themselves, without any directive from above organized things themselves.” And they honored the victims on their own schedule, the night before Moscow told Russians to.

            “This ability to self-organize and the capacity for mutual assistance in developed countries is called civil society, although Muscovite public discourse [in Russia] has made this term almost a curse,” the regionalist says.  And Petersburgers showed their mettle in another way too: they remained calm, thus denying the terrorists a victory.

            Most residents of St. Petersburg, of course, don’t know much about the idea of Ingria let alone support it. But what they do support is remarkably congruent with the Ingrian movement principles of freedom and security.  And opposition demonstrations that reflect these values attract more people there than do those which don’t.

            The powers, especially those in Moscow, “don’t like regionalists,” in St. Petersburg or anywhere else, Vitushkin says, “not only because [regionalists] criticize them … and call for a new federative agreement on a voluntary basis but also because the Kremlin in principle doesn’t accept any initiative ‘from below.’”

            And for that reason, the regionalist author and activist says, one can say with certainty that “the reaction of Petersburgers to the terrorist attack scared people in Moscow more than the act itself.”  The Petersburgers acted calmly and quietly “without waiting for decisions from above and without glancing at the powers.”

            “In a democratic state,” Vitushkin concludes, “the government authorities would only be glad that people demonstrate such independence. But in an authoritarian regime where the powers treat their subjects like small children, activism of this kind can elicit only fear among those in power.”

            That is because if those in power look closely, they will see evidence in the reaction of Petersburgers to the terrorist incident that “’the children’ have long ago grown up.”  There is no place for those who want to continue to act as if they hadn’t.

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