Sunday, September 8, 2019

Russia’s North-West Even More Torn Between East and West than Rest of the Country, Yarovoy Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 4 – The residents of Russia’s North-West for geographic and historical reasons, Gleb Yarovoy says, are “educated, independent, and European-thinking people,” more torn between East and West and affected by both than are those in any other part of the country.

            Over the last two decades, the Russian political scientist says, people from the region have travelled abroad and spent more money there than Russians elsewhere, although in the last few years, they have been more restrained about these cross-border ties now and in the past (

            Ever more rarely, Yarovoy says, do they “recall the veche traditions of the Novgorod and Pskov republics and almost do not remember the Ukhta Repubic and Ingria, dream about ‘a Pomor Rebirth,’ lest they fall victim to charges by Moscow of extremism and ‘incitement to hatred and enmity.”  

            But at the same time, he continues, “people of the North are not afraid either of the cold or protests: they insist on their rights, their freedom of speech, and the nature around them.” Shiiyes, at het border of Arkhangelsk Oblast and the Komi Republic has become “ a symbol of civic activism and an example for al who consider important concern not only about oursevls but also about future generations.”

            Many call the region “’the Russian North,’” Yarovoy says, “but it is more correct to call it the multi-ethnic North. Besides the representatives of the titular nations and nationalities, here live various indigenous peoples and ethno-cultural groups, from the trans-nation Saami to the extremely small in number representatives of the Izhors and Vods, whose languages are on the brink of extinction.”

All of this reflects their status in the borderlands between East and West, with peoples on both sides of the 2500-kilometer-long state border sharing much in common and having contacts with each other even during the Cold War, however militarized each side of that border in fact was.

Paradoxically and also symbolically, Yarovoy says, it was precisely in the North where NATO and the USSR bordered one another that there was for “many years, the only part of the border” of the Soviet Union which had a visa-free regime for residents of the borderlands on both sides.

And Yarovoy points to another aspect of the North-West’s combination of East and West, the psychological situation of the new elite that has been running the Russian Federation for the last two decades, almost all of whom are from St. Petersburg, not only the country’s second capital but also the center of the North-West Federal District.

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