Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Yekaterinburg Protests Both Reflect and Re-Energize Urals Regionalism, Sarutov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 1 – Although the protests in Yekaterinburg were nominally about a single issue – blocking official plans to build a cathedral in that city’s main square – they both reflected and re-energized Urals regionalism and prompt people there to think about themselves and their city and region in a new way, Dmitry Sarutov says (

            “Despite the fact that the goal of the protest was very specific,” the Urals regionalist says, “the protest itself to a remarkable degree arose on the basis of Urals regionalism.” Those sympathetic to the idea of the Urals Republic were “represented at all levels, from ordinary people and organizers to representatives among those negotiating with the powers.”

            Just a few years ago, Sarutov says, he had concluded that the Urals Republic was something that inspired “only 40-year old political analysts and that younger people weren’t especially interested. But now in the clearest possible way that view has been shown to be false. Not only younger people but much younger people are interested.”

            Besides the appearance of the Urals Republic flag at the demonstrations, there have been other indications of that, he continues. At Yekaterinburg’s museum night, the Young Guard of United Russia set up a booth devoted to the Urals Republic “where the chief exhibits were the Urals francs,” the currency the republic issued in the early 1990s.

            Clearly, “the narrative about Urals independence is living its own life, little dependent on subjective and personal factors and it is going to be difficult or impossible to simply shut it down.”  Nonetheless the Moscow regime is going to try, blocking websites, arresting partisans, launching propaganda campaigns, and attacking Yekaterinburg as such. 

            But supporters of the Urals Republic are standing up for what they believe. One, Stepan Korepanov, a Libertarian Party activist from Chelyabinsk, brought a Urals Republic flag to the anti-cathedral demonstrations.  On it was written, “You will be able to do everything,” something so threatening to Moscow that he quickly became the subject of FSB interest.

            According to Sarutov, there are now two versions of the Urals on display in the region: the subservient one Moscow wants and “the popular and outspoken one prepared to declare ‘the Urals are freedom,’ ‘down with appointees from the center,’ and ‘referendum.’”

            July 1st is the anniversary of  the proclamation of the Urals Republic in 1993, and this year it is really worth celebrating because now, “thanks to the victory of that second ‘deep’ Urals [in the fight over the location of the new cathedral], regionalists can look too the future not simply with hope but with optimism.”

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