Thursday, September 26, 2019

Protests Against Moscow’s Plans for Trash Dumps in Russian North Go National and Radicalize

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 22 – In Moscow on Saturday ( and in some 30 other cities today (heavily concentrated in the north (,  Russian demonstrated to demand that Moscow stop its plans to build a huge trash dump for the capital’s trash at Shiyes.

            And while all these protests were held with the agreement of local officials, some protesters said that these would be “the last legal” demonstrations if Moscow doesn’t back down, a not so implicit threat to come out and face government siloviki likely to try to disperse them (

            Three things make this all-Russian environmental protest significant for the future. First, for the third time over the last year, the Shiyes protests have gone national with people far from the Arkhangelsk-Komi border location seeing the project as something that is of concern to them, a broadening of protests beyond narrow self-interest.

            Second, this spread shows the power of the Internet to overcome the official media which has consistently played down or not covered at all what has been happening at Shiyes, including the formation from below of a commune to formalize the existence of what residents say is a permanent encampment to block Moscow’s plans.

            And third and most important, this rise in environmental protests must be worrisome to the Kremlin and encouraging to the population because it was out of environmental defense efforts in the 1970s and early 1980s that the national movements in the Baltic countries and even in Chechnya took off.

            To the extent that people in various Russian regions see Moscow as threatening their environment, they may soon view it as a threat to their history, language and culture, and then conclude that the only way out is to pursue far greater autonomy than the Putin regime is prepared to allow or even independence if the Kremlin refuses.

That is what happened in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The denizens in the Kremlin are old enough to remember that, but so too are the hundreds and thousands of Russians who have taken to the streets.

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