Monday, May 21, 2018

‘Great Russian Nation’ Antithesis of Kremlin’s ‘Russian World,’ Zalessiya Regionalist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 21 – Ilya Lazarenko, one of the organizers of the Zalesskaya Rus regionalist movement, says that he and his fellow supporters of central Russian regionalism view “the Great Russian Nation” as the antithesis of the Kremlin’s “Russian World” in that they consider both Ukraine and Belarus separate countries.

                Indeed, he says, when the Zalesskaya Rus regionalists first organized in 2008, many of them wanted to name their group Velikorossiya because they see that term better corresponding to the regional interests of the people of central Russia or more precisely of the city of Moscow and Moscow Oblast (

            Their hopes for developing a serious regionalist movement, however, “stalled” because “the theme of regionalism in ‘central’ Russia does not work especially well, precisely because of the total centralization” of the country.  It can only “be formed by the process of exclusion” with the emergence of serious regionalist movements in Siberia, the Urals, and the Volga region.

            Asked why the central Russian regionalists could not play a role in the demise of the Russian Federation much like that of the RSFSR in the coming apart of the USSR, Lazarenko says that “the analogy is not completely correct because the RSFSR all the same was institutionalized as one of the sovereign republics of the USSR.”

            “Zalessiya,” he says, “doesn’t have anything similar. Karelia and Tatarstan do but ‘central’ Russia doesn’t.” Moscow City and Moscow Oblast do exist, however, and “therefore in the existing situation, [he] considers much more realistic the project of a Moscow Republic via the unification of the city and the oblast.”

            Lazarenko argues that “Zalessiya remains more a cultural political project, but Great Russia [Velikorossiya] could become a political one.”

            Velikorossiya, he says, is not part of the three in one national project of the 19th century that embraced Russia, Little Russia and White Russia, one those who support the Russian world still embrace. Instead, Velikorossiya “stresses the Great Russian ethnic element and this means that we elate to Ukraine and Belarus as different and completely independent states.”

            But at the same time, the central Russian regionalists have no interest in including within their future state non-Russian areas like Karelia or Tatarstan. Instead, for its supporters, “the borders of Velikorossiya are intended to be approximately those of Zalessiya,” an area not significantly larger than the Central Federal District.

            Other regions within the current Russian Federation where ethnic Russians predominate, Lazarenko continues, will be outside its borders as well, because in them “will arise other identities, Volga, Ural, Siberian,” and so on. Velikorossiya will arise in the area between the Oka and the Volga, the historical Zalessiya” with its own “contemporary identity.” 

            Its identity will include many aspects of the Great Russian ethnos, the central regionalist continues. “This factor must not be ignored – otherwise, once again will win out ‘a multi-national empire.” Instead, it will be Russian great not by size but by purpose. “We’ll do away with the empire but ‘the greatness’ will remain.”

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