Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Only Creation of Multiple Ethnic Russian Republics Can Save Russian Federation, Butakov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 24 – Only the formation of multiple ethnic Russian republics alongside existing and some new non-Russian republics on the territory of the Russian Federation would give that country a chance to survive and to become a democratic federation, according to regionalist Yaroslav Butakov.

            Many assume no Russian republic could be created because its borders would be extremely complicated and gerrymander much of the country, and others are concerned that any such a republic would not only be “a counterweight to the federal center” but would become a miniature version of the authoritarian system that now exists.

            But those concerns, he says, can be mitigated if there is not one ethnic Russian republic but seven or eight, something that would seem to be required given that its borders would spread across much of the Russian Federation. Otherwise, he says, “it would inevitably repeat the fate of the existing ‘federation’” (

            If there were to be established only a single ethnic Russian republic, Butakov continues, “there are no guarantees that the power center of [such] a republic even if it replaced the existing ‘federal center’ or especially if it did would not begin to conduct [Moscow’s] previous imperial policy toward all the Russian space and its environs.” 

            There is no reason in principle to think that such ethnic Russian republics could not be created, but “there is a very important question: by what path would we come” to such a set of ethnic Russian republics? According to Butakov, this could be avoided only by a complex series of referenda that would govern the voluntary formation of such places.

            The legal basis for such reformation of the Russian Federation exists: no fundamental constitutional or legal changes would be required beyond the introduction of new names in the list of federal subjects.  At present, that happens when two or more subjects combine, but it could be extended to “any existing subject” which would have the right to raise its status to a republic.

            Such republics could help keep the country together while allowing for more freedom and diversity. Thus, “the Voronezh and Kuban republics could adopt Ukrainian as their second state language. The Yuga Republic could do the same with the languages of the Khants and Mansis.”

            “And any republic in Siberia could by law establish Siberian as its state language.”

            “Only by such a path,” Butakov argues, could the common state be preserved for long as a genuinely federal and democratic one” because it would extend “to Russians and at the same time other unrecognized peoples ascribed to Russians” the right to “acquire in this state the status of political subjects.” 

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