Staunton, June 28 – Those who argue that Russia needs to have federalism usually stress the disadvantages of hyper-centralization in ruling a large and ethnically and economically diverse country or the ways in which federalism in and of itself promotes democracy by establishing different units in which different majorities can form.
But Moscow blogger Dmitry Milin says there is an even more fundamental reason for Russia to adopt a genuinely federal system. According to him, “various residents of Russia now ‘live’ in various centuries” and only a federation can allow them to coexist within the same borders (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=62CDC15D31239).
The Russian powers that be are “typical representatives of the 19th century” who want to return to an even earlier time, he argues. People in the North Caucasus and elsewhere are beginning to experience the industrialization of the 20th century. Most others live in the 20th century, and those who flee abroad or at least to the capital are part of the 21st.
Because this is the case, Milin continues, “we cannot have a single economic and political system for the entire country. Russia, as by the way the US with its hillbillies and rednecks from the 19th century, its New York financiers from the 20th, and its Silicon Valley in the 21st, has people who live at one and the same time in three centuries.
“For development,” he says, “Russia need much greater federalization than now in order to allow people of various centuries to live comfortable.” Those in the 21st need genuine democracy; those of the 20th need enlightened authoritarianism and a good leader; and those in the 19th require leaders of an even more authoritarian type.
Milin does not say what would prevent such a country from flying apart besides inertia, the use of force, and fears of both its residents and the rest of the world as to what that might lead to. But his words are a useful reminder of just how radically varied Russia is, far more radically so than just ethnicity or economic development.