Friday, June 7, 2019

Idel-Ural Movement Seeks Backing of Free Russia Forum, Urals One Ready to Go It Alone

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 5 – The Government of Tatarstan in Exile is asking the Free Russia Forum to recognize the independence of the republics of the Middle Volga (Idel-Ural), thus challenging the largest gathering of Russian liberals to live up to their principles and back the realization of those principles for others ( and

            Meanwhile, Andrey Romanov, emigre head of the Free Urals movement, has declared in a Ukrainian outlet that “the Urals will be free even if the West will save Moscow,” a recognition that once again as in 1991 the West will stay with the status quo until someone else changes it (; in Russian at

            Some may be inclined to conclude that these are voices of despair, but in fact, they are indications of the growing influence and maturation of regionalist challenges to Moscow among both Russians and non-Russians and their recognition that they may be able to count on Russian liberals who after all are victims of similar oppression but not on the West.

            In this, history is repeating itself. In the last years of the Soviet Union, many nationalist movements did reach out to and gained support from Russian liberals opposed to communist oppression, and some of them hoped for active support from the West, only to be disappointed even in the case of the Baltic countries let alone elsewhere.

            But those in the West, especially those who take credit for the demise of the USSR which in fact they did not work to promote, need to remember that that form of the Russian empire collapsed not because but in spite of them and that its successor will follow the same path (

            That is something that the leaders of the republics and regions of Russia as these two new moves demonstrate have learned and are acting on; and they merit the closest attention from those in the West who say they are committed to the rights of individuals and nations and the rule of law but who appear to be even more dismissive of those things now than 30 years ago.

            Earlier this year, a group of Tatar émigré politicians, led by Vil Milziyanov, formed a government in exile, to promote their goal of freedom for Tatarstan and the other nations of the Middle Volga ( They first appealed to the West; now they are seeking support from Russian liberals.

            In this latest effort, they declare that “the task of the Tatar government in exile and the social-political organizations of Idel-Ural is the achievement of real sovereignty of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Chuvashia, Udmurtia, Mari El and Erzyano-Mokshania (Mordvinia)” (

            “We want to live in friendship and agreement with the peoples of Siberia and the Caucasus, to be free like the majority of peoples in Europe! In pursuit of this goal, we ask You [the representatives of Russian liberalism at the Free Russia Forum] to recognize the independence of the republics of Idel-Ural!” 

            The Idel-Ural movement is growing, the government in exile says, because “repressions for political and religious reasons have increased and become transformed into open terror. As a result of this and various other causes arising from this form of rule, thousands of people are leaving Russia having lost hope for justice.”

            The organization notes that the Ukrainian parliament has expressed its support for the peoples of Idel-Ural and other nations within the current borders of the Russian Federation and asked international organizations and governments in the West to do the same. (For background on this, see

            The appeal is likely to be discussed by the Forum’s panel on “The Future of Russia: Disintegration or the Preservation of a Single State?” that will take place on Sunday at 1630 Vilnius time. This session is currently scheduled to be carried live at

            Meanwhile, in a related development, Romanov, who heads the Free Urals movement from emigration in Finland, describes both the repression Moscow continues to visit upon his group and others like it and the hopes that those involved nonetheless have for the future, a future they believe they will have to make on their own without outside help.

            Because of Moscow’s oppression, he continues, the Urals movement today “is not able to have any structured form – it consists of individuals who are advancing the idea on their own and as they can” despite the Russian secret services’ moves against them not only in Russia itself but abroad as well.

            The situation in the Urals is deteriorating and people there increasingly recognize that their problems will not be solved by Moscow or by anyone but themselves. Hence they are seeking ways in which they can do so.  But they are limited by Moscow’s confiscatory tax policies, its repression and the lack of understanding and support from the outside.

            The peoples of the Urals welcome support from Ukraine and they hope to gain it from Kazakhstan as well. “For the Urals,” Romanov says, “it is a very important subject from a geopolitical point of view,” as the closest foreign state and “one of the main trading partners of our region.”

             “If the Russian Federation disintegrates, the influence of Kazakhstan on the Urals will only grow, above all because this country will be considered as a very convenient transit link.” (For background on that and how it could accelerate the demise of the current Russian empire, see

            But at present, Romanov concedes, any alliance with Ukraine or other independent countries is impossible,” not only because Moscow is engaged in active propaganda against the regions of Russia abroad but also because it is oppressing regionalists within the borders of Russia and in other countries as well.

            But despite this, he continues, time is working against Moscow and for the regions. “Moscow it seems clear has already long ago understood that the RF is not a living organization and that everything the Putin regime is doing today is making its approaching end and complete collapse ever more rapid, just as was the case 30 and 100 years ago.”

            “When we, people of the Urals, travelled to Moscow in 2012 and took part in the anti-government demonstrations, then each of us gave the RF 30 years of life. Today, we give it 15.”  Thus, in just seven years, the Putin regime by its actions has shortened the life of the empire it heads by half.

            Everything suggests that Putin will continue to accelerate this process. “History again shows that it does not teach anyone anything,” a bitter truth but one that must be recognized, Romanov says. But this lack of learning from the past extends far beyond Moscow and includes most of the West.

            “The West is not coming to the support of regionalists in any case by the paths which some expect. In Russia, Putin patriots love to say that the West day and night thinks about how to divide up Russia.” But that is not the case: “the countries of the West always are in defense of the status quo” – and that means supporting the existing regime in Moscow.

            And so Romanov concludes: “the peoples of the Urals understand that they must count only on themselves, on their own strengths and possibilities and not dream that the West will come and help.” But in doing so, they can take courage from the fact that the USSR fell apart “completely unexpectedly for the West.”

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