Staunton, May 9 – When the Soviet Union came apart, the non-Russians within it formed approximately half of the population of the USSR; now, the non-Russians living in the republics within the current borders of the Russian Federation number only about 20 percent of the total population of country.
That means two things which those thinking about the Russian future need to keep in mind, Vadim Shtepa, editor of the Region.Expert portal, told the Free Peoples of Russia Forum in Warsaw last week. (On that meeting, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/05/free-peoples-of-russia-forum-assembles.html; for his presentation, see region.expert/no-past-war/).
On the one hand, it means that even if all the non-Russian republics were to become independent, that alone would not be sufficient to shake the existing political system in Russia to its foundations and open the way for the remaining collection of predominantly ethnic Russian oblasts and krays to have a chance at democracy.
And on the other, it means that those who want to see Russia transformed must seek to promote regionalist movements in these predominantly ethnic Russian areas. Some of these regionalist movements may want independence; but others, if the regionalist movements do emerge, will be able to come together and lay the groundwork for a genuine federal system.
All too often both Russians who want to see their country transformed and others who want Russia to become a normal country which does not threaten its neighbors and the world make the mistake generals often are accused of doing – fighting the last war when conditions have radically changed, the regionalist says.
They mistakenly assume either that Russia can become such a country with its current borders if a “good” tsar replaces the current “bad” one or that it would cease to be an empire and thus a dangerous threat to the world if the non-Russians were to leave but the ethnic Russians were left.
Instead, the future requires that predominantly ethnic Russian regions become more assertive and demand their rights to a genuine federation. It is very likely that only if that happens can the non-Russians who want to leave be able to leave or those who don’t will have the chance to live under conditions which will allow them to flourish.
In making this argument, Shtepa cites the arguments offered by the author of these lines in December 2016 in an article for his portal, “Regionalism is the Nationalism of the Next Russian Revolution” (in Russian at region.expert/regionalism-next-nationalism/).