Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Beyond the Ring Road, Russian Identity is Dissolving and Regionally-Based Proto-Nations are Emerging, Chadayev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 19 – Few Muscovites visit the depressed areas throughout the Russian Federation beyond the ring road, but one who has in recent weeks, political analyst Aleksey Chadayev, has returned with disturbing news: Not only are people depressed and distrustful, but their Russian identity is dissolving and regionally based identities are assuming new importance.

            The political scientist has just completed an assignment that has required him to travel to the other Russia, and he has brought back a report about what is going on “from the depths of the deep people” Muscovites sometimes refer to but whose views they generally ignore (

            In the depressed regions of the country, those who have not left are either “sitting on their suitcases” and calculating how much money they’ll need to make to pay the higher prices in the cities or descending into an angry despair in which they show little sign of either making sense or figuring out how to exit, Chadayev says. Some are envious of the successful; others dismiss those as well.

            What is most striking, he suggests, is that regional identities, compared with ethnic, religious, all-Russian “or any other” are intensifying. Almost everyone divides the population into those who have been living in our region for a long time and everyone else, including those from elsewhere who have moved there.

            A sense of Russianness,” he continues, “is disintegrating.” In its place are rising “the up-to-now proto-nations of Smolensk, Yaroslavl, Vladimir and Tver, not to mention the Siberians and the Far Easterners.” But “at the same time,” those in each of these are trying to figure out how they fit in and can cooperate with other regionalists like themselves.

            “In short,” Chadayev says, these people “are no longer looking for any ‘national idea.’” Instead, they hope they can find “some ‘regional’ one.” But this does not point to the rise of a revolutionary situation. People in these regions say “we don’t need revolutions and regime changes.” Obviously “something needs to be changed,” but just what is a question they don’t yet have an answer for.

            “We don’t believe the authorities,” people who live in these depths of Russia say; and we don’t believe those in the opposition. Instead, they say, “we will ignore” the latter “and bargain with those in power” because they have things we want, and we have at least one thing they want, votes in the upcoming election.

            In addition, the residents of this other Russia are convinced of one thing: “’we shouldn’t have quarreled with the whole world again.” We likely need to cooperate but first we have to decide who they are and, even more important, “who we are,” Chadayev concludes.

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