Monday, January 14, 2019

Officials and Activists from Adjoining Regions Coming Together to Protest Moscow’s ‘Colonial’ Trash Policy

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 14 – Interregional cooperation to protest against Moscow’s colonial policy toward the periphery is rare, but it is emerging in one key area in ways that may pose a far more serious challenge to the center than anyone now expects.  That is in opposition to Moscow’s conviction that it can send its trash to regions regardless of what the people think.

            Moscow City has already sparked protests in Moscow oblast against the opening of new trash dumps there ( and  Now, it is spreading to the Russian north (

            But it is not just spreading with specific places protesting against it. It is sparking cooperation across existing administrative-territorial divisions there, creating the basis for a broader challenge on this issue and creating the foundation for inter-regional protests against the center.

            A case in point is the formation of a group called the Committee for the Defense of the Vychergdy by deputies as well as activists from both Arkhangelsk Oblast and the Komi Republic, an indication that opposition to Moscow now involves the very officials the Kremlin sees as part of its power vertical (

            Oleg Mikhailov, a deputy of the State Council of the Komi Republic, says bluntly: “Trash is a poitical problem. We see how relations have been developing between the regions and the federal center. Arkhangel Oblast and the Komi Republic send enormous amounts of money to the center in the form of taxes.”

            But “in exchange,” he continues, they are given poisonous trash rather than the assistance they need. As the editors of Region.Expert point out, this recalls the events of the mid-1980s when “many prominent regional politicians, including Boris Nemtsov began their activity precisely with environmental movements.”

            Indeed, in many places, environmental protests became the basis for the formation of popuar fronts and even independence movements. At least some in Moscow will recall this and be worried by something they did not expect would ever re-emerge in their Russia. They will be more worried because such regional movements cross administrative lines Moscow has drawn.

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