Friday, March 8, 2019

Russian Regionalists Set to Challenge Great Power Chauvinism of Russian Liberals

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 8 – Russian liberalism, it is sometimes said, stops at Ukraine; but some regionalists in the Russian Federation fear that it stops at the ring road around Moscow. And they plan to challenge this centralist and integralist vision at the upcoming Free Russia Forum in Vilnius. 

            Russian regionalists whose agendas run from demands that Moscow live up to the Russian Constitution to calls for the independence when calls for decentralization are ignored have had a hard time in getting Russian liberals, even in emigration, to take their appeals seriously (

            Initially, the Free Russia Forum ignored regionalist concerns, then it organized a panel for discussion of them, and then at the very next meeting froze them out again, leaving some without the occasion to present their visions and leading others to decide to stay away, having given up on the liberal movement.

            Now, Rafis Kashapov, the leader of the Free Idel-Ural movement who recently received political asylum in Great Britain, says he plans to present the views of regionalists and nationalists to the next meeting of the Forum scheduled to take place in the Lithuanian capital May 10-12 (

            He tells Ramazan Alpaut of the IdelReal portal that he decided to do after Mariya Baronova, the journalist who shifted from Open Russia to Russia today, said that “many regionalists are supports of self-determination for everyone except the Russians” and that they want independence not decentralization (

            Kashapov says he will raise the issue of independence for the republics of Idel-Ural in order to see “who really favors the dismantling of the empire and who only wants to change the names” things are called but not the underlying reality.

            According to the exiled activist, the Russian opposition has “the common disease of the Russian authorities – great power chauvinism, which gives rise to hatred, hypocrisy and double standards.”   Its members talk about freedom but then justify Moscow’s control and the Crimean Anschluss.

            “On Monday, [the opposition] cries about the attack on the Russian language in the schools of Estonia and on Tuesday, it sincerely asks the Kazan Tatars: ‘Who is interfering with your ability to use your own language in the kitchen?’ Why is this happening? Because the Russian opposition has common values with Putin and his entourage.”

            Kashapov says that he is certain that the liberal opposition is doing so in order to win support from ordinary Russians who have been swept up by Putin’s imperial visions and are frightened that any decentralization will open the way to the disintegration of the country as happened in 1991.

            “What can Moscow offer the republics of Idel-Ural?” the activist asks. “Not economic of political freedom. Nothing. We are constantly told that the republics have to take money from the center and couldn’t survive without Moscow. They say this with pride as if it they were not running the republics as conquered colonies.”

            It is important to make clear to all Russians, including the liberal opposition, the head of the Free Idel-Ural movement says that “economic development is impossible under the conditions of a concentration camp.” To think otherwise is to fail to understand how people beyond the ring road actually live.

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