Staunton, March 25 – Andrius Almanis, a Lithuanian politician who has just established in Vilnius an Institute of the Regions of Russia to promote attention to developments in the Russian Federation outside of Moscow, says that the appearance of new newly independent states on the territory of what is now the state controlled by Moscow is “inevitable.”
Almanis says he was inspired to establish such an institution by Vadim Shtepa, the editor of the Tallinn-based portal on regionalist issues in Russia, Region.expert, and that he hopes to back it a center for research and conferences on the issues of Russia’s enormously varied regions (region.expert/irr/).
The new institute is in Vilnius because Almanis is a Lithuanian citizen and it was easier for him to register it there than anywhere else and because Lithuania is a place where people from Russia and the West often come together to meet as in the case of the Free Russia Forum which holds face-to-face meetings when possible there.
“In Russia itself,” he continues, “regions are studied but most often only in terms of history and economics and are treated as subordinate to an unchanging Moscow metropolitan center. In Putin’s Russia, there simply aren’t and cannot be independent regional studies centers.”
Regions in the Russian Federation are becoming ever more important as the recent waves of protests have shown, and it is necessary to keep track of the various trajectories the regions are following so that as these continue no one will be surprised about the outcome as so many were in 1991.
As a member of Lithuania’s Freedom Party, Almanis says he and his colleageus belief that “it is clear that the Putin regime not by day but already by the hour is becoming ever more authoritarian and harsh and there is no sense of conducting any dialogue with it. That is possible only with the democratic opposition.”
And those who seek such dialogue should focus not on the Muscovite-centralists but rather “the democratic opposition in various regions.” He suggests that his new institute will promote precisely that kind of opportunity. But first of all, his new creation will help break down the assumption of so many Western specialists who view Russia “through ‘the Moscow prism.”
They need to learn that the appearance of new newly independent states on the territory of what is now the Russian Federation is “absolutely inevitable. The only question is when and how?” Almanis says that he is personally convinced that “sooner or later and better sooner not Russia but people living on the territory of Russia will live no worse the EU citizens now.”