Monday, January 30, 2023

Regionalism isn’t Separatism, as Europeans Know but Moscow Doesn’t, Shtepa Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 29 – There is little or no public support for the independence of Karelia from the Russian Federation, despite the statements of some emigres and the insistence of some Moscow officials that all talk about regionalism is simply a cover for separatism, Vadim Shtepa says.

            Europeans understand the difference between regionalism and separatism but many Moscow officials do not, the committed Karelian regionalist who promoted the one but not the other before being forced to flee abroad in 2015 because Russian officials refused to recognize the difference (

            Regionalism, as the editor of the Tallinn-based regionalist portal points out, is about promoting the interests of a particular territory within a state by involving the local population in the politics of the state and their region. Separatism in contrast is all about seeking the exit of a territory from an existing state and its becoming part of another or independent on its own.

            “Our Karelian Republic Movement,” Shtepa says, “was a regionalist not a separatist organization. European political analysts understand the difference between these two terms perfectly well. Regionalists don’t have as their goal ‘the separation’ of a region but its maximum self-administration, political, economic and cultural.”

            “Unfortunately,” he continues, “this difference is not understood and therefore we are constantly called ‘separatists’ even in the organization of the Solstice music festivals.” Finally, “the authorities de facto banned” our movement. “But today in social media one can see a new outburst of regionalist attitudes in Karelia, although these are informal and mostly youthful.”

            According to Shtepa, it is “completely impossible” to speak “about any regionalist organizations in the present-day Russian situation. There is the National Movement of Karelia headed by Dmitry Kuznetsov (Mitter Panfilov), but I don’t see his movement having many prospects given his ethno-nationalism” which doesn’t correspond to the situation in Karelia.

            Shtepa’s remarks are featured in an article by Valta Yalagin about the history of Karelian political movements over the last century which all point in the same direction.


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