Saturday, November 25, 2017

Putin is Destroying Last Vestiges of Russian Federalism, and Russians Aren't Yet Resisting

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 24 – Vladimir Putin’s centralization of power combined with the mobilization of ethnic Russians who believe that the existing federal system puts them at a disadvantage and thus must be changed is rapidly changing Russia away from the federal principles that the 1993 Constitution calls for.

            Mariya Krasina of the OnKavkaz portal spoke with two Russian journalists, Nadezhda Kevorkova and Ruslan Kurbanov, about this process, one that involves the end of elected governors, centralization of power, and restrictions on non-Russian language rights (

                “All freedoms and rights are being restricted,” Kevorkova says; and “it would thus be strange” if this didn’t affect the republics as well. Most regions think they have no choice but to go along. However, “protests of a stormy kind always arise somewhere other than where they are predicted” and so things may change quite unexpectedly.

            Kurban agrees. He says that “political freedoms are being curtailed not only of the national republics but of all others. Political analysts call the existing model [in Russia] preventive democracy,” where formal powers are rapidly being hollowed out and rendered meaningless.

            The Kremlin’s appointment of outsiders as governors is especially dangerous for the future of federalism because such people have little or no loyalty to the region or republic they oversee but instead look only to Moscow, Kurbanov says. This has happened not only in Daghestan but in Udmurtia, Novgorod, and Novosibirsk so Russians are losing out too.

            This policy, he continues, “allows the Kremlin to suppress the pretentions of the regions for uniqueness and for the preservation of a certain real or invented autonomy from the center even about insignificant issues.  The residents of the country like the residents of the Caucasus are infected with political apathy.”

            According to Kurbanov, “the majority of the population is prepared to allow the authorities to limit their political freedoms in exchange for stability” and the avoidance of the problems of “‘the wild 1990s.’ Moscow sees this willingness of the population to go alone and considers that this resource of Russian tolerance has not yet been completely exhausted.”

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