Friday, November 3, 2023

‘Russia’s Regions have Become Moscow’s Colonies,’ Saratov Deputy Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 31 – “The federal center is robbing the regions in order to be able to accuse them of being freeloaders and then force them to pay political tribute,” Nikolay Bondarenko says, creating a situation that can only be solved if the people in the regions return to politics and demand that their own authorities have as much power as possible.

            The Saratov Duma deputy says that this situation shows that Russia’s regions and not just its non-Russian republics “have become Moscow’s colonies,” an over-centralized arrangement which is “slowing down not only the economic but even the intellectual development of the country” and leaving the region’s empty shells (

            It is now commonplace for observers to speak of the non-Russian republics within the current borders of the Russian Federation as colonies and talk about the need for their decolonization. But it is less so for those who discuss its regions qua regions in the same terms. And that is what makes this Saratov politician’s observations so important.

            They suggest that some in the regions increasingly feel the same way those in the republics do and that the rhetoric of empire and decolonization has jumped from the one to the other without the need of the regions to articulate an ethnic or even a specifically regional identity to support such an approach.

            Instead, Bondarenko and others who think as he does are talking about the kind of issues that people in many federal systems are concerned with and have adopted the language of colonization and decolonization because they feel that Moscow is ignoring their interests and hurting not just them but the country as a whole.

            Such people could become allies of politicians at the center who take a longer view; or in the absence of people like that in Moscow, they could easily become part of the decolonization movement, adding regionalism to nationalism as a challenge to the current overly centralized Putin system. 

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