Staunton, June 28 – The first session of the Federation Council Commission on Countering Hostile Interference in the Affairs of Russia suggests that there has been a significant change in Moscow’s concerns. No longer is Western support for non-Russians the primary problem but rather Western backing for opposition movements and regionalism.
Given that the expression of such views is likely a harbinger of where Moscow will crack down next and hardest, opposition groups and regionalist movements are more likely to be the next target than ethno-nationalist ones, a major change in focus that in turn suggests the Russian leadership has reached two main conclusions.
On the one hand, this shift suggests the Kremlin is now focusing on the increasingly active opposition movements and especially the young people who support them despite never having known any other Russia than the one ruled by Putin, a shift that many have argued reflects the center’s concerns about participation and voting in the upcoming presidential vote.
And on the other, it indicates that many in Moscow now believe that the non-Russians within the Russian Federation are far less of a threat to the territorial integrity of the country than Vladimir Putin and others have maintained in the past and that regionalist movements within Russia are very much more of one than they have ever indicated up to now.
The second shift is in some ways the more interesting, although it has received less attention. Yesterday, as Kommersant reports, Senator Andrey Klimov, chairman of the Federation Council commission, referred to the Urals Republic, something few in Moscow ever do (kommersant.ru/doc/3337333 and politsovet.ru/55736-v-sovete-federacii-vspomnili-pro-uralskuyu-respubliku.html).
Foreigners, he said, have encouraged opposition groups, including regionalist ones, to think that the West will help them. “In my native Perm kray,” Klimov said, “the question of establishing a Urals Republic was raised, “a question that was actively cooked up from the outside.”
What is especially striking is that the idea of the Urals Republic was pushed in 1993 by the then head of the Sverdlovsk Oblast, Eduard Rossel, who since 2009 has been a member of the Federation Council. And some of his followers have raised this issue in recent times, an indication that regionalism is an increasingly important phenomenon.
But that phenomenon has domestic roots and not the foreign ones that Klimov and his colleagues are suggesting, likely in the hopes that they can use such charges to discredit the movements and also to justify the use of the police power of the Russian state against those who do support.
(For a discussion of the issue of regionalism in Russia today, see this author’s “Regionalizm – eto natsionalizm sleduyushchey russkoy revolyutsii” at afterempire.info/2016/12/28/regionalism/).
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