Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Russian Liberal Opposition Moves Closer to the Views of Nationalists and Regionalists

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 29 – Until recently, the liberal Russian opposition and the leaders of ethnic and regional movements, many of whom also are abroad, have often been at dagger’s drawn, with the former insisting that Russia could liberalize without changing borders and the latter arguing that Russia can’t possibly change unless their peoples gain independence

            But there are indications that some leaders of the liberal opposition are increasingly prepared to accept the position of the nationalists and the regionalists, although that shift is as yet incomplete and may reflect a calculation that it is necessary to unite all opposition groups and to reassure the West and especially the US that the complete disintegration of Russia is unlikely.

            At the 12th Forum of Free Russia last week in Vilnius, even though there were no panels for the regionalists or nationalists to present their views, many of the leading Russian liberal oppositionists, including Gary Kasparov, said that in the future, some regions and republics now within the borders of the Russian Federation would have to be allowed to go their own way.

            Only by allowing that to happen in some cases, he and others suggested, could the liberal opposition be true to its commitment to the right of nations to self-determination and ensure that a genuinely democratic federal or confederal political system could be put in place after the departure of Putin from power.

            Commenting on this change, Kharun Sidorov, a Prague-based specialist on ethnicity and regionalism, says that Kasparov “has always said that Russia as an empire will cease its existence” after the democrats come to power (idelreal.org/a/imperii-nanosyat-otvetnyy-udar-forum-svobodnoy-rossii-nashyol-glavnuyu-oppozitsiyu-putinu/32836943.html).

            But up to now, Kasparov’s vision had remained very different than that of the regionalists and nationalists, the analyst argues. Now the liberal leader’s view is much closer to theirs. Indeed, he suggests, Kasparov would allow and might even “want the separation of the Muslim regions which in his view would interfere with movement of a future Russia toward Europe.”

            According to the Prague analyst, Kasparov “definitely would not want Chechnya and a significant part of the Caucasus to remain in Russia.” Moreover, “he probably wouldn’t mind losing both Tatarstan and Bashkortostan; but as for Siberia and the Far East, it is important for [Kasparov] that they be kept” within the borders of Russia.

            Kasparov provides additional indications of the nature of the change in liberal views and the reasons for that change when he amplified his views in an interview with Andrey Grigoryev of the IdelReal portal (idelreal.org/a/garri-kasparov-buduschaya-svobodnaya-rossiya-neobyazatelno-ostanetsya-v-etih-granitsah-/32842467.html).

            The liberal Russian leader said that the probability of the total disintegration of Russia after defeat in the war in Ukraine was “improbable,” but at the same time, he said, it wasn’t absolutely necessary that the future Russia remain within its existing borders. Certainly Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Daghestan and Chechnya could exit and become independent."

            According to Karparov, “the nightmare of the disintegration of Russia” affects American leaders in particular, who “are accustomed to think in the categories of the Cold War and are poorly oriented within the complex multi-polar world” that now exists and assume any devolution would lead to bloodshed.

            He says that the disintegration of the Russian Federation is “not pre-ordained” and that economic factors will continue to work to hold most of the country together.” Any losses “will be minimal,” but they will be kept small only if Russia is reformatted as a federation or confederation organized from below rather than imposed from above.

            “It is perfectly obvious,” Kasparov continues, “that the imperial center in its current form cannot continue to exist because it will always be a generator of hyper-centralization and at the same time of military expansion.” That has always been true and would remain true if Moscow continues its current approach.

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