Staunton, June 6 – Earlier this year, Andrius Almanis, a Lithuanian politician, working with Vadim Shtepa, editor of the Tallinn-based Region.Expert portal, established an Institute of the Regions of Russia in Vilnius to promote the study of Russian and non-Russian regions outside of Moscow (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/03/head-of-new-vilnius-institute-of.html).
The institute has now launched a website and declared its more specific intention of overcoming what it describes as the Moscow- and even Kremlin-centric approach to the Russian Federation as a result of which developments beyond the ring road are viewed almost exclusively through a Moscow “prism” (https://rureg.eu/).
The institute’s task, the website declares, “is to fill what is in fact an empty niche in the sphere of studying Russian regions that can be observed in present -day Western institutions. Many foreign rese researchers are surprisingly similar [in their point of view] to Kremlin centralists.”
Both “view Russia ‘through a Moscow prism’ and therefore do not note or understand events which are taking place in more than 80 regions, situated across the gigantic space from the Baltic to the Pacific.” In this, they resemble their predecessors in Soviet times who were caught flat-footed by the collapse of the USSR.
Because of Vladimir Putin’s hyper-centralist approach, “no independent regionalist institutions currently exist in Russia,” and therefore many of the issues that now agitate people in the regions and republics of the country go unreported and thus are not included in assessments of Russia as a whole.
“The hyper-centralist, neo-colonial policy of the Kremlin is giving rise to growing protest attitudes in various regions of Russia … and the most passive protests in recent years have taken place in the regions rather than in Moscow.” The future of Russia once again may be being determined far from the walls of the Kremlin whatever its denizens or Western students think.
“Our institute,” the organizers say, “intends to study the causes of these regional protests and cooperate with their representatives so that their point of view will become known to the world and not be minimized by pro-Kremlin media.” \
“For Lithuania, Russia’s Kaliningrad Oblast represents particular interest as civic protests frequently arise there. Our institute plants to investigate the situation in this enclave in detail.” But it also intends to track developments elsewhere and to cooperate with experts from the regions and from countries around the world.
Shtepa’s Region.Expert portal, the only independent web portal devoted to regionalism in Russia will be the Internet face of the Vilnius Institute.