Wednesday, December 20, 2017

When So Many Officials are ‘Temporarily Fulfilling Obligations of Office,’ Russians Feel the Same Way, Omsk Journalist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 19 – Vladimir Putin’s appointment of new officials, styled as “temporarily fulfilling the obligations of office” before being confirmed by regional parliaments, has had an unanticipated consequence: Russians living in regions led by such people feel themselves to be only “temporarily fulfilling the obligations” of being a people.

            Indeed, Omsk journalist Natalya Yakovleva says, this has become something of a joke among them at least in her Siberian city. But its result is anything but positive because since people feel they are present “only temporarily,” they are even less inclined than before from taking actions to promote change (

                Another consequence of this sense, she continues, is that people are losing touch with their own place of birth and longtime residence and leaving for one of the major cities in Russia or abroad, sensing that nothing is going to change and that they will never be the masters of their own fates. This year alone, she notes, “almost 30,000” residents of Omsk have departed.

            For almost two months this fall, Yakovleva says, her native city was nominally ruled by a mayor and a governor who weren’t confirmed in office but only “temporarily fulfilling the obligations” of those offices.  As a result, almost instantaneously, the power verticals they represented were “replaced by almost no power at all.”

            Omsk residents responded by going into the streets and making demands. And the police who weren’t being directed otherwise from above responded in a completely correct way, thus allowing for a brief time “that out of the sparks of civic self-conscious could burst a flame” of real citizenship.

             But then “the period of no power at all in the city came to an end.” Demonstrations and public activity by residents gradually died away. No one had accomplished anything and now no one expects to. The people had it in them not to be just temporarily fulfilling the obligations of citizenship – but only for a time and only until the powers that be restored themselves.

            This shouldn’t surprise anyone, Yakovleva says. One can’t fight “historical traditions” without aid for a long time. “Omsk, like all Siberian cities, in pre-Soviet and Soviet times is a place of exile.” Some believe that because no one can be exiled further, that gives Siberians a certain freedom of thought.

            Unfortunately, persecution and the unwillingness of officials to respond to those below them instead of only obeying those above has affected even the Siberians – and it is going to be hard for them to change when they have concluded that they are only “temporarily fulfilling the obligations” of being citizens when the state doesn’t recognize even that. 

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