Staunton, Aug. 17 – The Kremlin has decided to focus on suppressing any manifestation of regionalism, even making use of ethnic movements in some cases to undermine the possibility that larger regions will come together and threaten Moscow’s rule, according to Vadim Shtepa, the editor of the Tallinn-based regionalist portal, Region.Expert.
A clear example of this is in the northwest quadrant of the Russian Federation just east of Estonia and Finland. There Moscow is targeting the Ingrian regionalist movement to the point that many of its leaders have been forced to flee abroad, and it is even using Ingrian ethno-nationalists as its allies in this process.
That is because, Shtepa says, the ethno-nationalists are smaller in number, do not pose as great a threat to Moscow, and in some cases even rely on the Russian government for what funding they do it (rus.postimees.ee/7835749/vadim-shtepa-proevropeyskaya-ingriya-pokinet-antievropeyskuyu-moskovskuyu-imperiyu reposted at region.expert/reg-ethno).
This has created a situation in which to the confusion of many, some who call themselves Ingermanlanders are arrayed against others who do the same, the first being civic regionalists and the second ethnic ones. (For a discussion of this perhaps unexpected development, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/08/ingrian-regionalists-and-ingrian.html.)
“The current Ingrian regionalists are, of course, a completely international group, although they are Russian-speaking. But if you call them "Russians", many of them will argue as they do not want to be associated with the "Russian world" that the Moscow Kremlin imposes.”
At the same time, however, Shtepa continues, “the attempts of the Ingrian Finns to “privatize” the name of the region are answered logically and witty: “If there are Ingrian Finns, then why can’t there be Ingrian Russians, Ingrian Ukrainians, and Ingrian Jews?” The ethno-nationalists have no clear answer.
For regionalists, “Ingria is their native St. Petersburg and the region surround it; and they are ready to defend and promote their interests in every possible way. They respect the regional Finno-Ugric cultures … but they clearly understand that these cultures, of which there are only a few thousand people, are unlikely to dominate a multi-million-strong region.”
As Shtepa points out, “the metropolis of St. Petersburg will not speak Izhor or Vot or even Finnish; but this will not prevent the realization of the dream that ‘Ingria will be free” and that it will be very much part and parcel of Europe. That is not the goal of most of the ethno-nationalists.
“It might not make much sense to delve into these historical jungles,” the regionalist expert says, “if it were not for the constant claims to historical and symbolic ‘copyright’ of this territory by Ingrian-Finnish ethno-nationalists.” But it has to be done because all too often the ethno-nationalists in their fight against the regionalists turn out to be “allies of the Kremlin.”
“Sometimes these ethno-national movements refer to the Estonian Singing Revolution of the late 1980s as their model; but Estonia, which was then freed from the Soviet empire, in addition to historical folklore, had already developed a modern political and economic program … while the Ingrian ethno-nationalists have done nothing similar.”
According to Shtepa, “some ethno-national movements in Russia view themselves as something like ‘the loyal Indians’ of their era, groups of people who are pleased that the empire is setting up ‘cultural reservations’ for them and thus they are hostile to supporters of national independence.”
“But in the end, he says, “modernity wins, and the names of these Indian tribes remain only in the names of American states.” Consequently, “disputes about who is primary instead of a path to the future can only lead to battles between Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons” and a rapid path backwards.