Monday, September 19, 2022

Aspirations for Urals Autonomy have Deep Roots, Involving Democratic Novgorod the Great and Later Even Boris Yeltsin, Sarutov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 15 – When the idea of autonomy for the Urals is discussed, most Russian commentators focus on the Urals Republic created by Edvard Rossel after the collapse of the USSR. But in fact, Dmitry Sarutov says, Boris Yeltsin pushed the idea as early as 1990. And support there for autonomy from Moscow has roots extending to medieval times.

            “The Slavic colonization of the Urals occurred primarily from the north, from the lands of Novgorod and the Vyatka Republic,” the Urals regionalist says. “And it practically had no connection with the activities of the Moscow principality.” The character of the population then made pursuit of autonomy “historically inevitable” (

            As many forget, Yeltsin was from the Urals and originaly supported Urals autonomy even though later he worked to crush it, Sarutov continues. “And now Yekaterinurg as the capital of the Urals so actively opposes ‘the special military operation’” that the Kremlin has become hysterical (

             The Urals mentality, Sarutov says, is an inner freedom and an unwillingness to submit to authority that has not been won but only imposed; and that includes opposition to the use of aggressive military tactics, as in the case of Putin’s war in Ukraine.

             Put in broadest terms, the regionalist continues, “the Urals is the advance post of freedom” within Russia. It has given the country “the most liberating sons of Russian rock. It is opposed to Moscow clericalism. And it was one of the first to oppose the war in Ukraine. Indeed, Moscow wants to crush that but fears the Urals would revolt if it imprisons Yevgeny Royzman.

             Sarutov makes five points about the future of the Urals and regionalism there. First, he says, “for internal stability, the Urals Republic should include in itself primarily those territories in which the majority of the population has aa northern identity … and have passed through the rigors” of defense industry, Perm Kray, and Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk and Kurgan oblast.

             Second, the new Urals Republic must find common ground with its Turkic and Muslim neighbors. Otherwise, Moscow will exploit any differences to bring both to heel. Third, relations with Moscow must be based on a treaty negotiated by both sides rather than one imposed by the center.

             Fourth, the Urals Republic must promote from the first day of its existence “the development of a Urals identity” separate from the Russian. And fifth, it must seek alternative transit routes for trade with the outside world, routes that bypass areas controlled by the central government in Moscow.

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