Thursday, November 19, 2020

Khabarovsk Could Become a Russian Gdansk or a Russian Ulster, Moskalenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 18 – Protests have been going on in Khabarovsk on a daily basis for four months, and people are becoming ever more radical and even calling for the creation of a regional political movement since regional political parties are banned by Russian law, Yury Moskalenko says.

            What happens next, the Far Eastern native who now lives in the Republic of Georgia says, depends on circumstances. If there is a sharp economic downturn, Khabarovsk could become a Russian Gdansk with workers taking the lead. If, however, Moscow decides to suppress the protests, the city could become a Russian Ulster (

            Both would be a threat to the Moscow government, but the latter would be a far greater one because it would mean that those protesting for their rights would have given up on the current regime to provide them and would instead seek to challenge that regime with guerilla warfare, “an urban civil war.” 

            The Far East has long been the region within the current borders of the Russian Federation with a large amount of protest activity because its residents experience more than anyone else “the colonial system of rule in present-day Russia, Moskalenko says. Thus, it is completely natural that “anti-Moscow attitudes” have been growing there.

            With each passing year, “attitudes toward Moscow have become ever more negative and hostile but not to the city and ordinary Muscovites but rather toward ‘Moscow’ as a symbol of the imperial capital.” Both the strikes in Primorsky kray in 2010 and the protests in Khabarovsk now reflect that and also reflect a growth in regional self-consciousness and identity.”

            The demonstrators in Khabarovsk enjoy the sympathy of many Russians in other regions but they would get even more sympathy and open support and a copying of what they are doing if their proposed regional political movement should broaden its agenda from the current Khabarovsk-centric set of issues. 

            The protests in Khabarovsk aren’t dying out or disappearing because that city like the Far East as a whole is “an awakening volcano.” If the Russian Federation allowed regional parties, these attitudes would be channeled into them. But Moscow has banned such organizations because it views them as likely to generate secessionist movements.

            In fact, it is Moscow’s imperial policies and its heavy-handed approach to demonstrations that is driving residents of the Far East and other regions in that direction. And what is more, the center is ever more frequently pushing those concerned about economic issues and those concerned with political ones into the same camp.

            As a result, Moskalenko says, Moscow may soon face, coming out of the Far East, either a Solidarity movement or a Russian version of the IRA. Which one will depend less on the residents of that region than on what Moscow does next, a fact of life that the Kremlin will eventually have to face up to.   

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