Sunday, May 5, 2024

Decolonization won’t Happen Unless Non-Russian Republics View Russian Oblasts and Krays as Fellow Victims of Moscow and thus Allies in This Cause, Shtepa Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 2 – One of the disturbing trends in the national movements of the non-Russian republics is a readiness to blame Russia and Russians for not only the war in Ukraine but the mistreatment of non-Russians more generally, Vadim Shepa, the editor of the Tallinn-based regionalist portal Region. Expert says.

            Such attitudes represent both a failure to understand that, just like the non-Russian republics, the predominantly ethnic Russian oblasts and krays are also victims of Moscow’s imperialism and that without an alliance between the two the decolonization of Russia (

            It is of course true that “the Kremlin’s striving for total unification and ‘verticalization’ of Russia is especially painfully felt in the national republics,” Shtepa says; but there are some ways in which the oblasts and krays are treated worse: their local specifics are ignored and Moscow far more often imposes officials on them with no links to them.

            And it is also certainly the case that the non-Russian movements can be called “’the salt’ of the decolonization process;” but when these movements concentrated exclusively on ethnic demands, they represent ‘an oversalting’ which ignores political realities,” including demographic realities and the victimhood they share with the other federal subjects.

            Not only do the non-Russians form a far smaller share of the population of the Russian Federation than they did at the end of Soviet times and still retain significant ethnic Russian populations within their own borders, but they fail to recognize the diversity among Russians who are a single unit only in the imagination of the Kremlin.

            In so doing, the national movements today are making two mistakes that the non-Russians in the union republics did not make in the lead up to the 1991 collapse of the USSR. On the one hand, they are failing to reach out to Russians on the basis of a shared interest in opposing their joint enemy in Moscow.

            And on the other, they are not recognizing that Russians are extremely diverse – a sharp contrast with the actions of Lithuania’s Sajudis which supported regionalists in Russia and even went so far as to publish newspapers for Siberians when the latter could not do so in their own homeland (

            The inclusive approach of Sajudis was echoed by both the national movements in the union republics and in the autonomous republics of the RSFSR; and that, Shtepa points out, was a major reason why tens of thousands of people in cities in the Russian republic supported Sajudis and the Baltic independence movements when Moscow moved against them.

            If the present-day national movements do not change course and do not seek allies within what many view as a unified Russian nation and common enemy, the regionalist says, there is little chance that people in Russian regions will support them or that the non-Russians will gain the independence that they seek.


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