Thursday, May 2, 2019

Multiple Civil Societies Exist in Russia – in Regions Spatially but Not Politically Far Apart

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 1 – Civil societies are emerging in many regions across the Russian Federation. They often are making similar demands and adopting similar strategies.  But they are kept apart both by the enormous distances separating them within the current borders of the Russian Federation and by Moscow policies designed to keep them apart.

            But one of the greatest limitations on any link up among the regions is that those in Moscow who might be expected to welcome such allies either downplay the importance of regional civil societies such as those which exist in Ingushetia and the Pomor region or want to subordinate them to a Moscow-driven agenda.

            That leads many to conclude that there is no civil society. In fact, there are many civil societies. They just exist in isolation from each other because they haven’t yet found a way to link up in ways that do not subvert what they are about. Regionalists are now attending to this issue and trying to figure out how to build alliances among them.

            This is a first-order task because as the Region.Expert portal points out, the situations in many regions “clearly demonstrate the estrangement from the people of the entire ‘power vertical.’  History teaches, it continues, how this ends: the civic solidarity of the regions will destroy the empire” (

            One analyst who is currently considering how to move in that direction is Viktor Korb, an activist from Omsk who now lives in the West.  He has even gone so far as to outline what he calls “the contours  of ‘a road map’” these individual civil societies can and should pursue to come together (

            Democratic activists often excuse their lack of success by arguing that “the chief problem of Russia is the small size of civil society.” In fact, “it is not so small. Rather it is split into many pieces and thus remains disorganized and consolidates only rarely, for short periods, for very simple (and not always really significant) reasons and on centralist and authoritarian schemas.”

            To overcome this situation, Korb argues, each civil society in Russia must in the first instance work to develop itself and then establish internet connects with all other cells of civil society to exchange information about what works and doesn’t and coordinate when possible their actions. Regions must speak to regions directly, not via Moscow.

            Russians everywhere must come to understand that “the basic subject of the process of civic self-organization can and must be the consistent supporters of regionalism in opposition to the neo-colonial agenda of their imperialist opponents.” Meanwhile, civic societies in the regions must consistently oppose centralizers both in the regime and in “’the federal opposition.’”

            This can be promoted, Korb argues, by “good trolling” against such people, putting them on the defensive and attracting more support for the regionalist and civil society cause.  To do this, a simple slogan is needed – and one is available: “’Stop Feeding the Kremlin!’”  Such a slogan will appeal to Muscovites as well.

            Under that banner, the many civil societies in Russia can gradually come together as one, not forced into some Procrustean bed but rather united by a commitment to allow diversity, the most revolutionary idea of all in the Russia of today. 

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