Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Moscow Oblast Could Become a Center of Regionalist Challenge to Center, Butakov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 19 – Many Russians who live far from Moscow lump those who live in the city and oblast together, Yaroslav Butakov says; but in fact, those in the city of Moscow and those in Moscow oblast have “diametrically opposed” interests, a reality that could become the basis for a regionalist challenge to the center from those living close by.

            One of the reasons for this conclusion and this neglect of the differences is rooted in the Russian language itself, the Russian regionalist says. Russians normally use the preposition “pod” which means most generally “under” for places near a major city rather than “okolo” which denotes “in the area of” (

                As a result, many view the oblast as those who are part of Moscow or who want to be for what may seem the entirely justifiable reasons that in Moscow the conditions of life are better.  But in fact, that perspective reflects the colonial position of the oblast relative to the city, something that has become more pronounced since 1991.

            And those who arrive from other regions of the Russian Federation or abroad view the oblast as “only a certain intermediate stage on the path to being included within Moscow city,” much as in some colonial situations, those who worked directly for the masters were viewed as better off than those who worked for their agents.

            That has colored Moscow city’s attitudes as well. It has treated the oblast as a resource to be used as it wants rather than as a place with its own interests. And “it has become customary that the oblast organs give unqualified agreement to any demands of Moscow city even when they aren’t formally asked for their agreement.”

            As a result, Butakov says, “Moscow oblast was almost completely deprived even of that shadow of subject status which other regions not so close to the capital make use of.” And as a result, Moscow city feels comfortable absorbing parts of the oblast that are of greatest value to it rather than those consisting of populations that would benefit.

            Thus, Moscow is taking the less-populated southwestern areas of the oblast which are most useful for the recreation of its own residents but leaves the rest of the oblast with less for itself and does nothing for its population. That makes the administration of the oblast more difficult and reduces still further its sense of independent identity.

            “The most honest” resolution of the current situation, the regionalist says, would be “the complete unification of Moscow and the oblast into a single federal subject.  But Moscow does not want this.”  It doesn’t want the burden of having to raise the standard of living of people in the oblast to something approaching that of the city.

            One indication of Moscow city’s dominance is the transportation network in the oblast which is entirely based on lines running into and out of the city and not on line that connect one part of the oblast to another. 

            And as a result, even though “the interests of Moscow and Moscow oblast are now diametrically opposed, the residents of the oblast in their majority consider themselves as being ‘five minutes away from being Muscovites’ and do not recognize this,” Butakov continues. But things don’t have to stay that way.

            “Moscow oblast regionalism, based on a consciousness of the long-term interests of the development of the economy of the region not as a reserve base for the business of capital state corporations but as an independent unit not only is possible in principle but is also necessary,” he argues.
            The people of the oblast would benefit, but so too would the people of Moscow city who now live at the brink of transportation collapse.  The residents of each have some common interests, he suggests; but these commonalities can be promoted only if each side recognizes that the basic interests of the other are entirely different.

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