Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Smolensk Oblast Deputy Announces in Warsaw Formation of Smolensk Republic Center to Seek Independence for His Region

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 13 – Vladislav Zhivitsa, a deputy in the Smolensk Oblast Duma, announced today the formation of a Smolensk Republic Center to promote the independence of his region from Moscow and closer ties with Belarus once the Minsk dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenka is overthrown.

            This event has attracted widespread attention not only because the announcement was made by a serving deputy, although he will soon lose his post now that he is in emigration and has made this declaration, and because it was a rare move by a region rather than a non-Russian republic to achieve independence.

            Prague analyst Vadim Sidorov described Zhivitsa’s statement as “one of the most resonant events on the field of (post)Russian regionalist politics in a long time” and cautioned against dismissing it as a flash in the pan because as he said the idea of Smolensk getting out from under Moscow has a long history (

            Sidorov points to some of this history, but in fact, it is even more ramified and complex than he suggests. He acknowledges that Zhivitsa’s announcement “did not come out of nowhere.” A year ago, activists in Smolensk along with those in Pskov and Tver launched three telegram channels to promote what they called the Eastern Kryvian Platform (

            The Smolensk channel has the largest number of followers and has now renamed itself the Smolensk Republic ( and This channel has been talking about autonomy, union with Belarus or even independence throughout its existence.

            But interest in the independence of Smolensk from Moscow has another source as well: Belarusian dictator Lukashenka has raised the possibility that that region should be given back to Belarus as it was part of the republic until World War II (,,, and

            These Lukashenka efforts have not gone far but they have made talk about Smolensk and its possible transfer to Belarus less politically toxic than might otherwise be the case. And it is significant that Zhivitsa mentions a rapprochement with Belarus as a possible outcome, admittedly in his view only if Lukashenka leaves the scene.

            There are two other aspects of this situation, the first noted by Sidorov and the second not, that matter. The first is that Zhivitsa is a Roman Catholic activist who has called for the return of a former Catholic church in Smolensk to ROC control. Given Catholic involvement in protests against Lukashenka, that is highly significant.

            The second is that it is becoming common ground among analysts of the region that the western borderlands of what is now the Russian Federation have a far better chance to be genuine functioning democracies than does the Russian Federation as a whole (

            Consequently, what happens in Smolensk is likely to matter to others as well (; and at the very least, developments there serve notice that Russian identity is fragmenting rapidly outside of Moscow (

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