Staunton, April 29 – Moscow TV commentator Vladimir Solovyev got an unexpected reaction to his criticism of Yekaterinburg for being the site of a protest against Putin’s war in Ukraine: he united the Urals region against him and against his backers in Moscow, Dmitry Sarutov says.
Solovyev’s intemperate language about “scum” in Yekaterinburg had the effect of uniting all residents of the city, both in the government and in the population, against his remarks, a response that led him to become even more rabid in his comments and provoked still more criticism, the Urals regionalist says (region.expert/antiural/).
In his response to criticism, the Moscow television personality reproduced virtually “all Uralophobic stereotypes” which have taken shape “in imperialist-chauvinist circles” and denounced those in the government in Yekaterinburg of failing to block those in the city from calling for the creation of a Urals republic.
That did not, as he must have hoped, put the Urals people in their place. Instead, it provoked even more anger. Among the many who have spoken out is Yegor Mekhontsev, an Olympic boxing champion from the Urals, who denounced Solovyev in the strongest possible terms:
On his telegram channel, Mekhontsev addressed Solovyev directly: “You have gone out of your mind. You insult people based on geography. Tomorrow, you will insult them on the basis of nationality. And the day after that, you will go out to kill and rob. Everything starts small and then grows” (t.me/ve4ved/61024).
“You are the neo-Nazi you are always ranting about,” the boxing champion says. “Com to Yekaterinburg, to the Urals and we will teach you what really “tough negotiations” are like.” It you had ever experienced such negotiations, he concludes, “then you would not behave like this.
Two Yekaterinburg journalists have brought suit against Solovyev for inciting ethnic hatred, Sarutov says, adding that the Moscow commentator has offended people in the Urals before, in 2016 about separatist attitudes there, and in 2019, when he denounced opponents of the construction of a cathedral in a city park there.
In the latter case, he called Yekaterinburg, “a city of demons,” a term of abuse that residents in many cases now use as an ironic sign of pride.
According to Sarutov, “in the consciousness of the chauvinist part of Russian society, propagandists [like Solovyev] have already formed an image of Urals people as potential ‘traitors of the motherland.’ On the one hand, this can be used for the strengthening of Urals identity.”
But on the other hand, he continues, it may be a sign that some in the Russian capital are really thinking about conducting “military operations in the Urals and bombing Yekaterinburg in particular.” That is not as farfetched as it should be given the attitudes one sees displayed by people like Solovyev, Sarutov says.
“Five-minute hate sessions” like Solovyev’s, the regionalist says, “only convinces people of the Urals of the inadequacy of the ‘federal’ bosses and creates a favorable milieu for the development of regionalism which in turn brings close the day when the Urals Republic will be restored.”
Thus, once again, Sarutov says, Moscow has unintentionally and unwittingly promoted exactly the reverse of what it says it wants.