Monday, December 23, 2019

Russians in Regions More Interested in Changing the Country than Leaving It, Luzin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 22 – As angry as many in Russia’s regions and republics are about the absence of federalism and the injustices of the Putin system, they are much more interested in trying to change Russia than in leaving it, according to Pavel Luzin, a longtime advocate of restoring federalism.

            Because that is the attitude of most Russians outside of Moscow, he argues, talk about “a Urals Republic, a Siberian Republic, a free Koenigsberg and the like” may be a useful intellectual game “in a narrow circle,”  but for better or worse, such ideas “are cut off from objective reality” (

            Consequently, Luzin suggests, it is more important to discuss how Russia should be organized “’after Putin’” than to think about how “to live ‘after Russia,’” as Mikhail Kulekhov has argued in a recent essay (

            Empires die – and the Russian one among them – Luzin says, when the benefits to the center of holding the periphery are exceeded by the cost of doing so, something regional elites can on occasion promote but seldom are in a position to radically change the balance in the center’s calculations.

            “Despite the profound disfunction of [Russia’s] political institutions, the political-economic system continues to exist because its stability is defined not only (or not so much) by institutions but by a conglomeration of state and formally private corporations.” And it is this conglomerate with which the regions must in every case deal.

            “There are of course local elites and they trade with the Kremlin, but they depend on the Russian corporatist model and cannot offer anything to the global market bypassing the metropolitan center,” Luzin says. “And in the regions, there are no interest groups or ideological trends which could form a counter-elite interested in secession.”

            “In other words,” the regionalist writer says, “if we see the disintegration of Russia as the only possible variant of its decolonization, where are the economic and political factors for this? There aren’t any.” And with rare exceptions, “there isn’t any cultural or demographic development which could form these factors in the future.”

            Despite that, however, “the present-day Russian political-economic system which remains essentially colonial is viewed by us as unjust. In the eyes of the Russian elite, we are aborigines … or plebs … and in their view, we are not capable of talking serous decisions.” Instead, for them, “we are destructive and need constant supervision.”

            Those who care about Russia’s regions and their future should be focusing on changing the Russian system after Putin so that they can achieve justice rather than spending their time talking about what kind of a world would exist if Russia fell apart and ceased to exist, Luzin suggests. 

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