Thursday, June 20, 2019

Shiyes Protest in Russian North Breeding Ground for Regionalist Attitudes, Komi Activist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 20 – Nikolay Udoratin, a leader of the Komi national organization ‘Let Us Defend Ourselves’ (Doryam asnymoos), says that the protest at Shiyes is continuing despite official promises to end construction of the dump for Moscow trash and reports that equipment has been removed and that this action is proving to be a breeding ground for regionalism. 

            He says that the demonstrated camped out at Shiyes have formed “a kind of informal ‘republic,’ where everyone understands everyone else and has found a common language.” Everyone recognizes that if Moscow builds the dumps everyone in the Russian North will suffer (

            “Among the positive impressions” from his visit to the site, Udoratin says, is “the growth of regionalist views among the activists. Our modernized flag of the Komi Republic has attracted the interest of many participants.” The Ingermanlanders have their own tents, as do several other groups.

            It is still the case that “many activists from Arkhangelsk Oblast still stand under Russian flags rather than the flag of their region,” the Komi leader says; but he adds, “I think this will change” as the recognition spreads that “to defend one’s land from Muscovite colonization can succeed only with the help of regional self-administration.”

            In his report, Udoratin points out that the authorities are clearly worried about the protests. They have suspended train stops nearby in order to make it more difficult for people to come and protest. But despite that, he says, ever more people are coming to Shiyes because they are convinced that the powers that be will not keep their promises to end construction.

            Other steps by the authorities to restrict or intimidate the protesters include the daily sweep of the area with metal detectors in order to find weapons or mines and the introduction of fully armed Russian Guard and OMON forces even as Moscow says construction is ending. Government workers rebuilding the wall around the site, however, are showing little enthusiasm.

            In the last few days, according to other reports, some of the construction equipment but not the armed guards have been moved away. But most people in Shiyes think this is all for show in advance of Putin’s “Direct Line” program and are certain that once that program airs, all the equipment will be returned (

            They have their reasons. According to people at the site, the equipment has been moved back, but it hasn’t been packaged up in a way that suggests it is going to be removed from the area. And that means that it is likely parked only a few kilometers away and can be brought back as soon as Moscow thinks no one is looking.

            Because of that belief, those at the Shiyes protest encampment aren’t leaving – and every day they are there, they are likely becoming even more radical and regionalist in their views. 

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