Tuesday, July 21, 2020

‘I’m Not from Moscow; I Only Work There,’ Putin’s Man for the Far East Tells Khabarovsk

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 19 – Just how alienated Khabarovsk residents feel from Moscow and how much the Russian system has changed was underlined when Yury Trutnyev, Vladimir Putin’s plenipotentiary for the Russian Far East, felt compelled to tell people in Khabarovsk that “I’m not from Moscow; I only work there. I’m from Perm which is very similar to Khabarovsk Kray.”  

            This is the latest but hardly the worst mistake Trutnyev has made, Ruslan Gorevoy, a commentator for the Versiya portal says. Not only has he continued to live in Moscow rather than in his federal district, but he has insulted Khabarovsk residents by shifting the FD capital t Vladivostok and renting 3.5 million hectares to the Chinese (versia.ru/xabarovskie-protesty-poslednij-shans-nesistemnoj-oppozicii-rastashhit-stranu-po-chastyam).

            As a result, Gorevoy continues, it is important to see the Khabarovsk protests for what they are: an attack on Trutnyev even more than an attack on Moscow and an effort by the liberal opposition to weaken and dismantle Russia before the new constitutional amendments make it absolutely impossible for anyone to even talk about separatism.

            The Versiya commentator points out that he has been warning about Moscow’s “insane policy” under Trutnyev for almost two years (versia.ru/bezdumnaya-politika-moskvy-v-regionax-mozhet-privesti-k-pechalnym-posledstviyam), a policy that has left the region increasingly impoverished and thus fertile ground for those who want to promote separatism.

            He cites a variety of observers to support his point, but their words suggest the problems of the Far East won’t be cured by the removal of Trutnyev, something Gorevoy clearly seeks, because they reflect more profound shortcomings in the center’s relationship with Russia east of the Urals.

            Anatoly Nesmiyan, who blogs under the screen name El Myurid, says that “in essence what is happening in Khabarovsk Kray now is a purely anti-colonial struggle;” and he reminds that “an anti-colonial struggle inevitably transforms itself into a national-liberation movement with the next stage being the freeing of the colonies and the establishment of nation states.”

            People in the region even have a precedent, the Far Eastern Republic, “an independent state with its own flag, coat of arms and even ruble,” he continues. (On echoes of that history today, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/07/protesters-in-khabarovsk-now-talking.html.)

            Gorevoy also cites the words of Dmitry Sokolov-Mitrich, a Moscow liberal, who points out that if anyone doesn’t know, people in the Far East “don’t love Moscow.” And when people there speak about “the West,” they have in mind not what Russian television talk shows do but rather “everything to the west of the Urals.”

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