Saturday, December 31, 2022

Russian Liberals’ Unwillingness to Drop Imperial Perspective has Led Russia’s Regionalists to Join Forces with Non-Russian Nationalists, Sidorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 31 – One of the most fateful developments of the last year, Kharun Sidorov says, is that the unwillingness of even anti-Putin and anti-war Russians to move away from a Moscow-centric vision of Russia in the future has pushed Russian regionalists to join forces with non-Russian nationalists.

            Until a year ago, Russian liberals were willing to at least cooperate with Russian regionalists, the Prague-based commentator says, including the latter in their meetings in Vilnius; but now, the failure of the liberal bloc to support a radical shift away from a Moscow-centric future for Russia has changed that (

            That has led to a radicalization of both regionalists and nationalists, and this close cooperation has taken place under the aegis of the Ukrainian authorities, which have also reached out to those Russians who are willing to allow for the independence of non-Russians now within the borders of the Russian Federation and genuine federalism for those who remain.

            The two most important signs of this development have been the emergence of the Free Nations League and the Forum of Free Peoples of Post-Russia, both of which were initiated by activists in Kyiv with the support of the Ukrainian government, which also took steps to reach out to non-Russians and regionalists inside Russia itself.

            What this confluence of developments will mean remains to be seen. On the one hand, it is certain to infuriate both the Kremlin which will increasingly view nationalists and regionalists as threats that must be suppressed and the Russian liberal opposition which appears to view such activists almost as strikebreakers who are undermining a common anti-Putin and anti-war effort.

            But on the other hand, it will likely energize both the regionalist and nationalist movement, with the former drawing on the increasing radicalism of the latter and the latter gaining support from the former. That matters because the non-Russians form as smaller percentage of the Russian population now than they did in 1991, 20 percent compared to 50.

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