Monday, April 1, 2019

‘Dormant Volcano’ of Separatism May Erupt in Russian Far East, Khabarovsk Scholar Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 1 – Aleksey Filimonov, a historian in Khabarovsk, says that the defeat of United Russia candidates last September and the new charges against Viktor Isayev, a former regional head, suggest that “’the dormant volcano’ of separatism” may soon erupt in the Russian Far East in ways that recall the movements that led to the disintegration of the USSR.

            The collapse of public trust in Vladimir Putin and indeed in the entire system of rule he represents, Filimonov says, is intensifying especially in regions far from Moscow and could lead to efforts by people in them to have their regions exit from the Russian Federation and become independent countries (

            Interviewed by Newsader journalist Aleksandr Kushnar, the historian says that Putin’s official ruling party is bankrupt and that the population increasingly sees it. Membership in it is toxic for any candidate, and “there are now no means which would allow United Russia to return is lost popularity,” something that has been obvious since the ill-fated pension reform.

            The problem with that reform, Filimonov says, is not that it occurred but that the powers that be tried to sell it in a completely tone-deaf way. If they had said that the country is surrounded by enemies and that Russian need to tighten their belts, people would have gone along. But United Russia said it would benefit them, something that was obvioiusly not the case.

            Such absurd suggestions recall the worst cases of counterproductive propaganda at the end of Soviet times, the historian continues.  But that is not the worst of it: Kremlin candidates for governors want to talk about foreign policy which is not their province, and people want to know who they think they are.

            As a result, both within United Russia and in the country as a whole, each part is acting on its own without concern for others – and that leads to chaos and possible disintegration.  “Formally, there are no such tendencies” at the  moment, because of the certainty of being punished for them. But there are reasons to think they are growing below the surface.

            Two reasons for that are provided by the Kremlin itself: On the one hand, Filimonov continues,“when Russia wants to get the territory of another country, it appeals to the opinion of the citizens, but on its very own territory, it prohibits the citizens from calling for separation.” Russians can see that and are beginning to ask questions.

            And on the other, Moscow and especially United Russia act as if people beyond the ring road are irrelevant. People can see that and are angry.  If a regional politician starts talking about the need to “stop feeding Moscow,” he or she will get support – and both regional politicians and the population know that. That could allow “the dormant volcano” of separatism to erupt.

            There are other reasons as well: Some of them lie beyond the borders of Russia and include China and Japan. People in those countries are asking “why is it possible for Crimea” to change from one country to another but not the Russian Far East? “What indeed is the problem with that?”

            “I am not saying that this is good or bad,” the historian concludes, “but within the next ten to fifteen years, such a possibility exists.”

No comments:

Post a Comment