Staunton. July 5 – Whenever there has been an increase in protests in Russia, Abbas Gallyamov says, it has taken the form of liberalism in the capitals, ethno-nationalism in the republics and separatism in them and in the predominantly ethnic Russian oblasts and krays far beyond the ring road. That pattern is being repeated now.
Dissatisfaction with Moscow has been growing in both non-Russian and Russian regions for many years, the former Putin speechwriter and now commentator says. It is especially strong in non-Russian republics, but it is increasing in intensity in a place few are considering, the oblast and krays (publizist.ru/blogs/112974/43461/-).
There, “if anything unites the population with the elites, it is precisely their common dislike of the federal center,” Gallyamov says. When the situation grows into a crisis, the only way the elite can survive is to join the choir of anti-Moscow voices in the population, just as they did at the end of Soviet times.
That is easier for the non-Russian republic leaders to do because they have common ethnic grievances, but it is happening among the oblast and kray elites too. “Putin’s current ‘technocrats’ there will do” what their non-Russian counterparts have done, albeit perhaps with a bit of a lag. Sakhalin’s Oleg Kozhemyako is an example of how that will occur.
“I worked for nearly four years as deputy head of the Presidential Administration of Bashkiria and I know what I'm talking about,” the commentator says. “A powerful wave of ethno-nationalism and separatism is coming. As soon as the center is sufficiently weakened, it will all begin. Putin has compressed the spring so much it can’t help but spring back sharply.”
Moreover, Gallyamov continues, “in the national republics, there are serious problems with how the population and elites view the current ‘special operation’ in Ukraine.” They view it “through an ethnic prism” and thus do not see the war as one between Russia and Ukraine but between Russians and Ukrainians.
From their perspective, “Russians attacked Ukrainians, another proof that ‘Russians are an imperial people’ from whom if it ever is possible, it is better to distance oneself.”
And with this war, Moscow is throwing away one of its chief arguments for holding the Russian Federation together. By annexing the territory of other countries, it is destroying the idea of the inviolability of the territorial integrity of states. That opens “a Pandora’s box” in Russia, one the Kremlin won’t be able to close without major effort and losses.