Staunton, Feb. 8 – Russian regional identities exist but they remain relatively weak because of the overwhelming pattern of migration, Oleg Grigorenko says. Russians move from villages to cities to Moscow rather than to other regions and know they aren’t Muscovites but don’t recognize how different they are from other Russian regions.
The founding editor of the 7x7 news service which covers the regions says that for those who identify as ethnic Russians, regional identities remain relatively weak because which “everyone knows for sure he or she isn’t a Muscovite,” they don’t know about their differences with other predominantly ethnic Russian regions (reforum.io/blog/2024/02/08/ne-vse-gotovy-idti-v-tyurmu-za-svoi-ubezhdeniya-no-zhelanie-rasskazyvat-i-znat-pravdu-ochen-veliko/).
Those who move from one region to another or who travel regularly to various regions as he did before he was forced to emigrate are very conscious of the fact that Russians in the regions include groups speaking very different dialects and having very different visions of the past and future.
Grigorenko says that because of this he doesn’t “expect that Russia’s renewal will begin with a united regional movement, although as events in Khabarovsky show, individual regions may pursue their own goals. And consequently, “Russia will continue to remain a patchwork quilt” despite the Kremlin’s efforts to homogenize things.
That effort may trigger more regionalism and regionalist protests, the journalist continues; but the fact that there are so many regions in Russia gives Moscow a valuable weapon it can use to suppress any demonstrations by moving in police or other forces from one region into another.
“Protests in Voronezh can be suppressed by forces brought in from Lake Baikal and who do not feel any connection with those they are beating, Grigorenko says. “If in a small country, a policeman beats a protester, the next day his mother will call him and ask ‘why did you beat my cousin’s nephew? How can I look people in the eye?”
He recalls two protests in his home city: “At the first there were Voronezh police, at the second, police were brought in from another region. The difference between the two was enormous; and the second looked like a scene from a movie about the Gestapo … [Local police] did not offend their own people like that.”