Friday, July 17, 2020

Russia’s Regions See They are ‘No More than Moscow’s Colonies,’ Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 15 – The Khabarovsk protests highlight the fact that the Russian state today is an empire with colonies rather than a federation and that people in the regions recognize that unless something radically changes, they will remain “no more than colonies of Moscow,” Vladimir Pastukhov says.

            “This is very dangerous,” the London-based Russian analyst says, because it means that regardless of what may trigger anger in the regions and republics, this conclusion and not the original source of outrage will be increasingly what residents of those places act upon (

            And that situation is exacerbated by another: All too many people in Moscow do not understand how people in the regions and republics think and therefore believe that it would be good to return the country to Soviet or even pre-Soviet conditions in which there would be no nonsense about federalism and Moscow would run everything through governors general.

            But such people within the ring road have forgotten that federalism in Russia “did not arise out of nothing. It arose” when the country was on the brink of disintegration and when only concessions to the periphery kept it from falling apart into even more pieces, first in the 1920s and then in the 1990s.

            Those who want to dispense with the compromise arrangements made in the 1990s do not recognize that by doing so, they risk recreating the situation the RSFSR found itself in when the USSR collapsed and many thought that parts of the Russian republic might leave as well. In any crisis, especially one as deep as the current situation, that is a serious danger.

            Pastukhov adds that he doesn’t know whether Furgal is as bad as Moscow paints him, although it he is, that raises some serious questions about a political system that could have allowed such an individual to operate for so long and to rise so high. But that isn’t the important question for him or for the people of Khabarovsk.

            For Khabarovsk residents, Furgal’s past is a matter of indifference. To put it in the crudest terms, for them, he may be a bastard but he is their bastard. And Moscow’s intervention against him makes them even more convinced of that and of the fact that the center is treating them without respect but only as a colonials.

            In support of that process in which even someone who might be a problem under other conditions can attract support when people conclude he is “ours,” Pastukhov recalls his experience as a graduate student in Kyiv at the end of Soviet times when he was allowed access to the closed special collections, a major mistake, he says, of university officials.

            What he discovered was that in 1917 between the two revolutions, some agitators tried to get Russian troops to reject Trotsky because he was Jewish.  The troops responded that Trotsky might be a Jew but he was “our Jew” and thus worthy of respect. Such attitudes are often ignored by outsiders but only at their peril.

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