Staunton, July 28 – Many accept the Kremlin’s claim that the pursuit of regionalism is the first step to separatism, but one of the leaders of the Ingermanland movement makes clear that regionalism need not lead to separatism as long as the rights of the people are respected and their wellbeing is promoted.
Viktor Shavu of the Ingria or Ingermanland group, says that “it is not so important to us whether our motherland Ingria is part of Russia, part of the European Union, or part of some other union, federation, confederation or completely independent” (trtrussian.com/mnenie/chego-hotyat-ingermanlandskie-regionalisty-6178367).
What matters, he continues, is that its citizens are “guaranteed a worthy level of life, democracy, the election of all branches of power, and the observation of regional interests. All of this may be achieved within any of the above-named state formations. However, if these rights are not provided to the people, then it has the right to self-determination.”
In reporting this argument, Vadim Shtepa, editor of the Region.Expert portal, says that Intermanland regionalists thus vary on many issues, but they do agree on one: St. Petersburg and Leningrad oblast should be combined into a single federation subject and given republic status “under the historical name Ingria (Ingermanland).”
In fact, there has already been a referendum on this. It took place in 1993, and 75 percent of those taking part voted in favor of this combination. But Moscow did not take note of this or implement it, a marked contrast to its acceptance of the 1991 referendum which returned the name of St. Petersburg to Leningrad.
Regionalists, Shtepa continues, are “supporters of a civic nation which can be politically.” They do not insist that regions be based on ethnicity. That does not mean they are not supportive of the development of ethnic languages and cultures but rather that that is not their primary concern. Local self-administration is.
In recent months, there have been disputes among Ingermandlanders over the shift of the capital of Leningrad Oblast from St. Petersburg to Gatchina. Most, however, while being St. Petersburg patriots, recognize that it is important to promote such decentralization, lest regions within regions become “provinces without rights.”
Their logic is the same as that of Mustafa Kemal, who shifted the capital of Turkey from Istanbul to Ankara.