Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Reflecting Growing Radicalism in Russian Regions, Khabarovsk Demonstrators Fly Regional Flag

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 19 – No one finds it surprising anymore when protesters in the non-Russian republics within the current borders of the Russian Federation carry their own national flags. That has been the case since Gorbachev’s times. But demonstrators in predominantly ethnic Russian areas have generally avoided that – until now in Khabarovsk.

            In Arkhangelsk, Vadim Shteppa, editor of the Region.Expert portal notes, “those protesting against a dump in Shiyes were afraid to raise their regional flag because of fears they might be accused of separatism.” They used the Russian tricolor, an especially perverse act given that it was Moscow’s trash they were objecting to (region.expert/category/regbrending/).

            In Yekaterinburg, he continues, most protesters carried the Russian flag during protests against plans to build a Russian Orthodox Church in the main square of that Urals city. Only a handful raised the flag of the Urals Republic of which Yekaterinburg was the capital only a generation ago.

            “But today in the Khabarovsk demonstrations, the flag of that kray dominates the scene. And the Russian tricolor is almost not to be seen,” a shift that highlights the extent to which not only in that predominantly ethnic-Russian region but in others, people are identifying more with where they live than a country centered far away in Moscow.

            They are being cheered on in this by representatives of other regionalist movements, including those from the Middle Volga. While many of those involved have been forced into emigration, what they are saying in response to the Khabarovsk demonstrations does not seem nearly so alien as it would have only weeks ago.

            In a declaration signed by some of the most prominent Middle Volga activists (tatar-toz.blogspot.com/2020/07/blog-post_20.html), they declare:

            “Khabarovsk, we are with You, for a Khabarovsk Peoples Republic! Khabarovsk Kray today is a source of pride for all citizens of the former union republics of the USSR.

            “The residents of Khabarovsk Kray and the residents of other Far Eastern regions who have united with them are showing the Muscovites that they are worthy citizens of the civilized world. You understand perfectly well that the center can’t arrest, frighten or buy off everyone. They have shown civic courage and taken responsible for their own native region.

            “And it is obvious that for Moscow positive solutions to the problems of Khabarovsk simply do not exist.

            “People in struggle acquire the right to their own values and their own independence; and we prose that the Khabarovsk residents have a referendum about and then begin to build a Khabarovsk Peoples Republic. And further down the line, we will call for the immediate recognition of the results of the referendum and the inclusion of the Khabarovsk Peoples Republic in the European Union.

            “We remember that on March 21, 1992, a referendum took place in Tatarstan on the status of the Republic of Tatarstan. In response to the question, “Do you agree that the Republic of Tatarstan is a sovereign state, a subject of international law which is developing its relations with the Russian Federation and other republics and states on the basis of equal agreements?” 61.2 percent voted for the independence of the Republic of Tatarstan.

            “Unlike in the case of Crimea, the referendum in Tatarstan was peaceful, legitimate and took place without the intervention of forces of a foreign state. In connection with the recent events in Crimea, we demand that Moscow recognize the 1992 referendum on the sovereignty of Tatarstan and return to the republic its status as a sovereign state.

            “For your freedom and ours!”

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