By Paul Goble
Because the Soviet Union disintegrated along ethnic lines, most observers inside the Russian Federation and abroad focus on separatist ideas and movements in the non-Russian republics and thus miss one of the most interesting developments in Vladimir Putin’s Russia: separatist ideas in predominantly Russian areas.
The current author has argued that “regionalism is the nationalism of the next Russian revolution” because Moscow has treated Russian regions as bad or worse than it has treated non-Russian ones and because Russian ethno-national identity is far weaker than many in Moscow and elsewhere believe (afterempire.info/2016/12/28/regionalism/).
There are many websites reflecting the views of Russian regionalists, but often those who run them have been forced to emigrate by the Russian authorities. As a result, the best evidence for the spread of separatist ideas in predominantly ethnic Russian regions is often provided by those who attack these ideas, both Russian officials and Russian nationalist writers.
This week offers two such examples, one, the trial and conviction of an unnamed Russian regionalist in Murmansk (afterempire.info/2018/05/15/free-murmansk/ and sud51.com/criminal/276) and the second, an attack on what the Russian commentator calls “sleeping separatism” in the Russian Far East (stoletie.ru/vzglyad/spashhij_separatizm_782.htm).
Earlier this spring, a resident of Severomorsk was tried on charges of threatening the territorial integrity of Russia, charges equivalent since 2014 to extremism, by calling for a referendum on the separation of Murmansk oblast from Russia. He was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison on a suspended basis as well as 18 months of probation.
One of the interesting aspects of this case is that local judges refused to give the man’s name lest they attract attention to him.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the Russian Federation in Vladivostok, Igor Romanov, editor of the Russian nationalist Bereg Rus portal writes that “the separatist threat in the Primorsky region and in the Far East is completely real but now it is hidden and in a sleepy state…”
Because the United States and other foreign powers want to gain access to and control over the natural resources of Russia east of the Urals, he says, any weakening of Russian power in the enormous regions will “instantly” lead this sleeping enemy to awaken and threaten Russian control there.
At present, Romanov says, “our people has been weakened.” Many in Moscow and Vladivostok are more interested in getting money than in defending their country. And such people have too much influence, he says. They need to be replaced with real patriots “for whom service to the Fatherland is a calling.”
Otherwise, there will be a disaster ahead.