Staunton, April 23 – Many people commented on the fact that pro-Navalny protests both earlier this year and again now are increasingly taking place far beyond Moscow’s ring road, but they have focused less attention on the fact that in some of these places, the regional authorities are behaving even more repressively than those in the capitals, Vadim Sidorov says.
In the case of the demonstrations this week, Ufa arrested more people, 170, than any other city except St. Petersburg, and Kazan arrested 70 putting it in third place, the Prague-based regionalist says. He suggests that these two “sultanates” have compelling reasons for this perhaps unexpected behavior (region.expert/sultanates/).
While Tatarstan has many residents who support Navalny, Bashkortostan follows the pattern more characteristic of the North Caucasus republics who view Navalny with suspicion because of his anti-Caucasus statements. And the Ufa government is interested in reinforcing that view lest it lose the preferences it gets from Moscow, Sidorov suggests.
He points to the report of Ufa.Online (ufa1.ru/text/gorod/2021/04/22/69879374/) about this week’s events in support of that conclusion. The Ufa authorities really cracked down hard, Sidorov continues, but “in Bashkortostan, repressions ever more often are being carried out not by the official siloviki” but by unofficial groups armed with baseball bats.
That was the pattern at the Kushtau protests earlier. (See windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/08/why-is-kushtau-so-important-to-bashkirs.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/10/bashkortostan-like-athlete-who-has-been.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/08/ufa-has-transformed-environmental.html.)
What this suggests, Sidorov continues, is that Moscow is putting pressure on the republics to suppress the Navalny movements on their territories. And as a result, it is no surprise that Lilya Chanysheva, the head of his staff in Ufa, has now been evacuated before she suffers any further unpleasantness.
That has two meanings, he suggests. On the one hand, it means that in the future, Navalny and his supporters may not be able to count on protesters assembling at their call in at least some of the non-Russian republics, exactly the outcome that the political technologists in the Kremlin hope for.
But on the other, it means that the rising tide of nationalism in many of them will not be as integrated with Navalny’s all-Russian effort and will instead be channeled into increasingly nationalist directions, something that may make the challenges many officials in the non-Russian republics face become even more serious.
“In Bashkortostan,” Sidorov concludes, “the potential for civic resistance is obviously growing.” And that means, he says, that “the struggle against ‘the electoral sultanates” which have provided Putin and United Russia with votes they need “will continue despite all the ‘preservation’ efforts of the Russian Guard and bandits” in Ufa and elsewhere.