Staunton, Feb. 20 – Vladimir Putin has said repeatedly that Ukraine exists only because Lenin established the Ukrainian SSR, statements that are alarming people in the non-Russian republics whose state structures were also set up by the Bolshevik leader, according to Elena Solovyeva.
In a commentary for Posle media, she says that some of the non-Russians fear that what Putin is now doing in Ukraine will be the opening of a new attack on their republics, a worry that has been exacerbated by Moscow’s increasing extraction of resources from them and its installation of outsiders to run them (posle.media/komi_colony/).
There is a growing sense, Solovyeva continues, that they are colonies, especially in paces like the Komi Republic where the feeling is that “we send all our resources to Moscow and Moscow sends us its trash,” a reference both to the planned trash dump that sparked the Shiyes protests and, it appears, a judgment about those Moscow sends as its rulers.
Such concerns have grown in anger over the last year, the commentator says, not just because of Putin’s comments about Ukraine but also because there is growing evidence that Russian census takers falsified the results of the 2021 enumeration, artificially reducing the number of Komis by refusing to list them as such or even by listing them as ethnic Russians.
As a result, there is a coalescence of environmental and economic concerns with political ones in places like Komi and other non-Russian republics, a coming together that has been overshadowed by protests about Putin’s war in Ukraine but has led to the rejection by the Komi of Moscow-nominated politicians and to large demonstrations.
Without attracting much attention outside the republic, she continues, “the national question in Komi as a whole has become so sensitive that any further pressure from the center can and will provoke an increasingly fierce response,” transforming the current low boil to something more radical.
“Can the separation of the republic from Russia be the result of the anti-colonial rhetoric now heard in Komi?” she asks. “Theoretically, yes. Formally, the republic already as a state structure including a constitution. “But geographically, it may turn out to be in the position of an enclave state,” surrounded by Russian territories.
For the time being at least, Solovyeva suggests, “the internal demand for Komi statehood is not that great.” But real demands for “greater federalization and greater economic and political freedoms” exist” and “as soon as the federal government begins to weaken, the republic, along with other regions and republics, will more actively seek to win back its rights.”