Wednesday, April 8, 2020

In Pandemic, Russia’s Regions and Republics ‘Coming to Hate Moscow Ever More,’ Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 5 – Experts surveyed by URA journalist Kseniya Nigamayeva says that the steps that have been taken in Moscow in response to the pandemic are “completely justified” but that “as a result of this may arise a new conflict between Moscow and the regions, the consequences of which are unpredictable” (

            Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has announced various economic programs to ensure that the pandemic and its economic consequences will not destroy his city, actions most Russians elsewhere accept because Moscow has more cases of infection than they do, Ilya Grashchenkov of the Center for Regional Policy says.

            But if they understand, they are also increasingly angry because as former economic minister Andrey Nechayev points out, the center’s tax policies mean that the regions and republics do not have the resources needed to offer their citizens and businesses equivalent support.

            “The regions are trying to act independently in the current situation, Grashchenkov says. “The dissatisfaction of the population will grow because residents of the regions really can look at Muscovites with a certain envy,” a conclusion that independent Moscow commentator Valery Solovey seconds.

            As he puts it, “the residents of the regions see that the capital is in a completely different position, and this situation is generating incomprehension.” So far, there haven’t been mass protests, but Nechayev says that the first signs of anger beyond the ring road is that the regional leaders are “’begging’ the federal center” for more resources.

            If people in the regions do decide to protest, Grashchenkov says, that will not happen “earlier than the fall,” and there will be important variations among the regions and republics. Moscow certainly understands this and will take steps involving both carrots and sticks to keep things quiet.

            Solovey for his part says that it is really possible that “spontaneous disorders and pogroms will begin as a result of hatred to the powers as a whole.” But that will only happen if the self-isolation regime continues for a long time.

            Natalya Zubarevich, a regional specialist at the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service, offers a different projection. She says that people in the regions are likely to direct their anger and any protests at the regional authorities rather than Moscow. People there “will envy Moscow but curse the local powers.”

            Most people in the regions today are too frightened to protest, she says, but how long their patience and understanding that even the central government lacks the resources to respond will last remains very much an open question.

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