Staunton, April 8 – The massive and widespread protests in the Russian north, New Times journalist Elena Solovyeva says, constitute a challenge to “Moscow’s colonial policy,” a formulation that deserves attention because it highlights the fact that the Kremlin is treating predominantly ethnic Russian regions as colonial subjects just as it does non-Russian republics.
That formulation which she offers in the title of her report today about yesterday’s demonstrations (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/179224) is important not only because it confirms what many regionalists say but also because it suggests that Moscow cannot build “a Russian world” domestically because it is treating Russians outside the capitals like second class citizens.
The arrogance of officials in Moscow in thinking that they can send their city’s trash wherever they like and that people beyond the ring road will simply have to accept it is now backfiring, with ever more people in the regions and republics alike coming together to denounce the imperial attitudes of the center.
Such a movement and such an alliance may have seemed improbable only months ago, but now the Kremlin has found a way to unite those outside of the capital in a way that will make the center’s control of the country more difficult. If ethnic Russians see Moscow views them as colonials, the country will be unmanageable except at levels of coercion too horrible to imagine.
At some point and probably not in the too distant future, some in the Russian opposition will recognize this movement against Moscow especially among ethnic Russians and seek to mobilize it for their purposes. If they do, the Kremlin will face a far greater challenge than it did even in 2011 and 2012 – indeed a greater one than it has since 1991.