Sunday, July 21, 2019

‘What if Tver Oblast Wanted to Live Independently of Moscow’ – an Instructive Fantasy.

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 18 – Fantasies are often instructive because of the assumptions they reveal their authors have made and because of the possibilities they open for others who may not ever have imagined exist. One such fantasy concerning what would happen if Tver “wanted to live independently of Moscow” offers food for thought on both points.

            In an essay first posted on St. Petersburg’s Gorod-812 portal ( and reposted by Region.Expert (, Vitaly Smyshlyaev offers a vision of the future that says relatively little about what such an independent Russian oblast might be like but a great deal about why he chose Tver and how Moscow would inevitably react. 

            The St.Petersburg writer begins by saying that he had to choose carefully if he wanted the independent oblast of his fantasies to be a useful “experiment.” Immediately, he suggested, he had to exclude Siberia and Primorsky Kray because of Chinese and Japanese interests in any such independence project.

            Russia’s southern districts “don’t work either,” he continued. The Cossacks are always interested in going their own way, as are the mountaineers of the North Caucasus. Moreover, Ukraine is close to both. And they are hardly the only ones where a fantasy about the independence of a Russian region might be too close to the truth.

            The same applies to “European Petersburg, Smolensk with its ties to the Grand Principality of Lithuania, the Urals, Pskov and Novgorod,” a list that excludes most of the Russian Federation and says something about Russian realities as far as secessionist interests are concerned.

            Consequently, he picked Tver, a region caught between the Russian capitals and not known for links to outsiders. Smyshlayev’s vision of its future as an independent state is remarkable only in how banal it is: Once independent, the region wants little more than to control its own taxes, exactly what many regions want today.

            But perhaps the most interesting aspect of his fantasy is his discussion of how Moscow would react. According to the St. Petersburg author, it would do everything in its power to project back in time the perfidy of the Tver people, suggesting on television and in films that its residents waited for Hitler and those who remain would like to see the Germans come back.

            As a result of this propaganda barrage, Smyshlayev says, most Russians would accept that vision of the people of Tver, yet another way in which his fantasy touches on and illuminates what is the reality of Russia today.

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