Sunday, July 7, 2019

Regionalism Helps Russians Become Masters of Their Own Land Rather than Subjects of Empire, Gushchenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 6 – Despite what its critics say, regionalism does not take anything away from Russians, not their language, not their lands, and not their identity, Stanislav Gushchenko says; but rather it gives them something critically important – the possibility of being masters of their own land rather than remaining subjects of empire.

            In a commentary for the VOstroge group that has been reposted on the Region.Expert portal, the Russian blogger responds to those who say that regionalism is a threat to Russia and Russians. Nothing could be further than the truth, he says, in an essay entitled “Excess Baggage” ( and

            No advocate of regionalism believes that the Russian language is going to disappear, no one thinks that some territory called Russia is going to cease to exist, and no regionalist says that people who consider themselves Russians should cease to do so, Gushchenko says; but what regionalists do call for is a new relationship with the land and people.

            There is only one thing regionalists believe should and must disappear, “one small characteristic of their consciousness” that is getting in the way of their living a full and rich life. And that is this: a sense of being linked to the land around one and having responsibility for it and the people who live on it.

            For people to have that sense of place and sense of responsibility for it, that land “cannot be immeasurably large, it cannot consist at one and the same time of tundras and hot desert sands, of taiga forests and warm coastlands, of might forests and endless steps. Either the one or the other or the third.”

            That more limited area is one’s “native kray, one’s land, one’s Homeland.”  It is a place where one has “a feeling of being the master of one’s own home and a feeling of concern about one’s native land,” feelings Gushchenko says that are naturally and inevitably interrelated and mutually reinforcing. 

            “No,” he says, “this isn’t nationalism.  “In one’s native kray can live people of various nations from whom it has become a home.” And this is what “we call regionalism. If someone can think up a better term, please go ahead,” as it is the underlying reality and not the specific term that matters.

            This allows Russians to escape from the myth that has been imposed upon them about their native land being endless and having eternally expanding borders, a myth, Gushchenko argues, that has been imposed to “transform the individual from the master of his own land into a subject of empire” and to send him to conquer other lands even at the cost of his life.

            Until Russians identify with a space not so unbelievably large, he suggests, they will not be inclined to take care of it, so getting rid of this “excess baggage” and focusing on smaller units even if they remain within the same political borders is the only way forward to a more responsible public life. 

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