Friday, July 3, 2020

Federalism Will Help Russia Shift from ‘People for the State’ to ‘State for the People,’ Advocates Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 1 – While Vladimir Putin is promoting constitutional amendments that will make the Russian Federation ever less federal and ever more authoritarian, federalist thinkers are arguing that only by the creation of a genuine federation can Russia survive and relations between the state and the population change.

            Up to now, the Russian people exist for the state as far as the country’s rulers are concerned; but if Russia is to become a modern country or even last over the coming decades, the state must serve the people rather than the other way around. Federalism is a necessary precondition for that shift.

            The Tallinn-based Region.Expert portal under the leadership of Vadim Shtepa has long been promoting attention to the value of federalism not just as an end in itself but as a means to bringing freedom and law to the Russian Federation. Now, the site is encouraging regionalists to come up with programmatic documents.

            One has now been offered by regionalist writer and theoretician Artur Tushin ( It is not intended as a final statement but rather as the basis for further discussion and debate.  Nonetheless, its arguments are important; and an informal translation of the statement is given below:

            “In earlier historical periods, Russia has had a tradition of authoritarian regimes which have always sought to concentrate all power in one set of hands and one head, an autocratic model of administering everyone and everything from the center (capital) under which without the direction of the center, nothing can happen, a model of ‘the individual for the state’ and an imperialist system of the power ‘Vertical.’

            “Such models of ‘the individual for the state’ dominated the entire world for many centuries, but with historical development and the recognition of the value of man as an individual with rights ands freedoms, societies began to shift to the progressive models of ‘the state for the individual,’ to a system of ‘horizontal’ power, one that rejects the archaic models of ‘the individual for the state’ and ‘the Vertical.’

            “Post-Soviet Russia, it seemed, made the first step away from this empire-centric model when it proclaimed itself a Federation. However, the centuries of authoritarianism again brought to power the forces of hyper-centralism which gave rise to a unitary empire-centric Vertical.

            “As a result, a situation arose in which Russia did not shift from the model of ‘the individual for the state’ to the model of ‘the state for the individual. And this failure prevented our country from developing in step with the times and with prospects for the future. Those caught in the past have no future.

            “We are federalists. We consider that it is time for Russia to replace the empire-centric system of power of a Kremlin-centric Vertical with a federalist Horizontal, where priority will be given to the thousands and thousands of living direct ties between the subjects of the federation. The empire-centric system of the power ‘Vertical’ is simple, understandable, harsh, hard, but weak. And each time it falls apart, under its remnants the country is destroyed, drowning it in a sea of blood, tears, suffering and loss. The Federalist ‘Horizontal’ is complicated, multi-faceted, and flexible because the majority of citizens are involved in it.

            “We federalists consider that the individual with his natural, inalienable and holy rights and freedoms as featured in the Declaration of Rights and Freedoms of Man and Citizen is the highest value. And therefore, on this basis, must be arranged all governmental and municipal institutions.

            “We federalists assert: a Federation is voluntary.

            “We federalists call for the convention of a Constituent Assembly at which authoritative and freely elected representatives of the subjects will define the ways in which Russia will be reordered on the basis of an agreement among the regions.

            “We federalists hold that the Federative Treaty must become the basis for a new Constitution.

            “We federalists believe that all subjects which create the federation must have the same state-legal status as Republics. (Oblasts and krays are administrative units of a unitary state but not of a federation.)

            “We federalists stand for the idea that precisely the subjects of the Federation organize the federal center which they impose upon a number of obligations for the fulfillment of their will rather than having the center dictator to the regions how they are to live.

            “We federalists consider that the capital of the Federation cannot be a subject of the federation. The capital of the Federation must not be located in Moscow, a city which for centuries has existed according to the paradigm of Kremlin hyper-centralism. The location of a new capital will be decided upon by participants in the Federative Treaty.

            “The 21st century msut become for Russia the era of final liberation from the empire and the victory of federalism across its territories. It is time to build a federalist Horizontal and time to cast the empire-centric Vertical into the trash. Otherwise, Russia will end its path in history.”

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