Monday, June 26, 2023

Despite Moscow's Opposition, Push for Restoring Popularly Elected Mayors Spreads in Northern Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 26 – Officials in the Komi Republic dependent on Moscow have rejected a petition by local activists calling for a referendum that if approved would restore the earlier system in which mayors were elected rather than appointed. But despite that, activists in a neighboring republic, Karelia, have now advanced a similar demand.

            (On the Komi campaign, see; on the June 21 decision of the Republic State Council against having a referendum, see

            Despite this clear signal about what Moscow will allow and won’t in the republics, activists in the Republic of Karelia are now pressing for an analogous  referendum that if the voters approve would restore the direct popular election of mayors there (

            It is likely that the center will intervene once again to kill hopes for this referendum, but that is not the point. Instead, it is that activists in one republic or region and paying close attention to what activists in others are doing – and pressing ahead with their own campaigns even if they have little chance of immediate success.

            This recalls what happened during the earlier “parade of sovereignties” and is an indication that what happens in one place may be picked up in another even if Moscow doesn’t approve and even if activists know that they potentially insurmountable obstacles in achieving anything.

            Vadim Shtepa, the editor of the Tallinn-based Russian regionalist portal Region.Expert, says that in his view what is happening may be described as “a domino effect. And if that is the case, then the empire will begin to crumble ‘from below’ because elected heads of municipalities will be interested in local development and not in a war  imposed by the Kremlin” (

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