Staunton, December 6 – The ninth Free Russia Forum, which took place virtually at the end of November instead of face-to-face in Vilnius, remained very much divided on the issue of federalism, with regionalists arguing only federalism can save the country and centralist parties suggesting federalism could open the way to the disintegration of Russia, Kharun Sidorov says.
The Prague-based analyst says that the predictions of disintegration by some at the meeting were picked up by Moscow media outlets which suggested that the entire émigré opposition movement is all about promoting the disintegration of the Russian Federation. In fact, regionalists who took part were mostly opposed (idelreal.org/a/30987951.html).
If prominent speakers like Igor Yakovenko, Leonid Grozman, and Gary Kasparov appeared to suggest that any decentralization would lead to disaster, those who represented the regionalists argued that only federalism can save Russia because centralization will inevitably breed demands for parts of the country to leave.
The regionalist speakers were largely confined to a panel moderated by Vadim Shtepa, the editor of the Tallinn-based Region.Expert portal which asked “Can Federalism be Revived in Russia?” Most of its participants argued that it could be and proposed various means, including changing the division of taxation authority and income between the regions and Moscow.
They called for restoring many of the rights republics had in the 1990s and for extending republic status to all the component parts of the Russian Federation, an approach that Sidorov says reflects not Bolshevik ideas but rather the principles articulated by the Constituent Assembly the Bolsheviks suppressed.
The irony of the situation was not lost on anyone, the Prague-based commentator suggests. Those among Russia’s leading opposition figures who proceed from a Moscow-centric approach not all that different from the Putin regime talk about regional issues in terms of disintegration, while regionalists increasingly argue only federalism will prevent that outcome.