Collapse Of Russian Empire ‘Inevitable’ Because Urban Identities Becoming ‘Stronger Than A National One’ – OpEd


Marat Gelman, who has produced cultural events across the Russian Federation, says that the disintegration of that country is “inevitable” because for ever more people, identification with the cities in which most of them live is “stronger” than identification with the country as a whole.

In the course of an interview with Vadim Shtepa of the Tallinn-based regionalist portal Region.Expert, the producer adds that “even now we observe that anti-war actions continue and people aren’t submitting to the propaganda of an aggressive ‘Russian world’” (

Given the confidence the Kremlin has that urbanization will tie the Russian Federation together, Gelman’s observation is noteworthy because he suggests that the growth of cities will have exactly the opposite effect. In about ten years, he says, what will matter is not that you are a Russian, a Ukrainian or a German but a Yekaterinburger, a Lviv resident or a Munchener.” 

Asked why the Russian authorities are suppressing regional cultural projects, Gelman says that “as they say, having taken off your head, you don’t cry about the loss of your hair.” The war has “inevitably led to ‘the totalitarianization’ of consciousness when free cultural projects become inappropriate or even intolerable for the powers that be.”

“Regional cultural initiatives contradict imperial ideology by demonstrating the diversity” of the population. For war, Moscow needs “a unified mobilization” and “therefore, there is a process of cultural degradation going on in Russia.”

According to Gelman, “decentralization and modernization are interconnected processes. As soon as the transition to imperial centralization begins, we fall into cultural backwardness and development stops.”

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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