Tuesday, August 24, 2021

A Very Rare Bird: A Russian Regionalist who Regularly Mixes It Up with Russian Nationalists

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 23 – Most Russian regionalists and Russian nationalists interact only with those who share their views, but Vladimir Serbrovsky, who runs the RottenKepken Telegram channel, is a rare exception. He is a committed St. Petersburg regionalist, but he regularly engages with Russian nationalists who are his intellectual and political opponents.

            His is a sufficiently rare case in Russia in the age of the internet that Todar Baktemir, an IdelReal portal journalist, has interviewed him about his approach and about how he sees the development of these two very different streams of thought and of the Russian state’s reaction to each (idelreal.org/a/31420323.html).

            While a regionalist and supporter of the rights of indigenous peoples, Serbrovsky “constantly finds himself in dialogue with imperialists and right radicals;” and his posts, Baktemir says, thus attract the attention of both groups and lead each to refine their arguments through an appreciation of the positions of their opponent and through simple fact checking.

            Some Russian nationalists read his posts and obviously think about them, the blogger says. But others dismiss him as “a Kashin Udmurt,” not because of his ancestry although it does include Finno-Ugrics but because he spoke out in favor of Albert Razin, the Udmurt scholar who burned himself to death to protest Moscow’s efforts to destroy his language.

            Those who came up with this name viewed it as an insult – the Kashin part comes from the name of Oleg Kashin, who reacted to thew blogger’s post by saying he was clearly not a Russian – but Serbrovsky says he views the moniker as a mark of honor and has been supported in this by Finno-Ugric activists.

            The blogger says his views are close to those of the Christian conservative G.K. Chesterton but that he supports some left of center policies such as the rooting of non-Russian nationalities by the Bolsheviks in the 1920s. Now, he focuses his work on opposing having all money flow to Moscow and all power be concentrated there.

            That leads to absurdities, he says. Fires are ravaging Sakha inside the Russian Federation, “but Moscow is sending planes to put out fires in Turkey.” Such things should not be allowed and would not be if Russia became a federation of republics, with all oblasts and krays elevated to the status of republics.

            Serbrovsky says he is confident that his vision of the future will be realized although perhaps not soon because among advanced countries regionalism is spreading. That is something most self-described Russian nationalists don’t understand. They in fact are the real Russophobes because they don’t like their own people and in this they are like the Taliban.

            For those who call themselves Russian nationalists, the “ideal” Russia is someone who is prepared to be cannon fodder in the trenches of the Donbass and a faceless executor of the will of tyrants and gendarmes.” Those who point this out aren’t popular and some of them have threatened Serbrovsky with prison.

            “If they want to put me in jail,” he says, “they will find some reason,” by planting drugs or some other means. “This can happen to anyone.” The question is whether those in power are giving orders. If they aren’t, these threats are meaningless. When people making threats can’t be bothered to file a complaint with the police, “I see no reason to be more afraid than usual.”

            Their actions can only be treated with laughter and contempt,” the Kashin Udmurt says.

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