Friday, August 24, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Needs a ‘Russian Texas,’ Nationalist Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, August 24 – Moscow should move quickly to create its own “Russian Texas,” an area that would be “more Russian than the capital” in order to block the rising tide of separatist sentiment in ethnic Russian regions and to make the Russian Federation more truly Russian, according to a leading Russian nationalist writer.
In an essay posted online yesterday, Yegor Kholmogorov argues that Moscow should be far more worried about separatist projects in ethnic Russian regions than about similar efforts in non-Russian regions to which the central authorities have devoted more attention (
“With the exception of the North Caucasus,” he writes, “the basic mass of autonomous semi-separatist formations are located within Russian territory and by definition are not capable of being sustained.” Indeed, he continues, any separatism of these regions would be thinkable only “in the context of the total collapse of Russia.”
But the situation with regard to ethnic Russian regions is “entirely different.” Not only are they wealthier and now have borders with foreign states, but also attitudes among many in these places are being driven by what Kholmogorov calls “the anti-Russian, xenophilic regional policy of the center.”
And the result, the country now is confronted by a situation that is “not only real but in fact extraordinarily dangerous.”
Even after President Vladimir Putin’s effort to restore “a power vertical” between Moscow and the rest of the country, Kholmogorov says, what autonomy exists in most cases represents a kind of “prize for non-Russianness.” And that is just the reverse of what he says the situation should be for a truly Russian Russia.
Autonomy must not as now be a prize for non-Russians but rather one for Russians who should have significantly more powers and rights than the latter both because Russia is first and foremost “their” country and because some of them may decide to try to leave unless Moscow changes course.
Consequently, Kholmogorov continues, “As never before, contemporary Russia needs its own ‘Russian Texas’ and its own ‘Middle West,’ that is, regions which are ‘more holy than the pope’ and are more Russian than the capital” in order to ensure that the traditional values of “Russianness” will not only flourish but define the nation’s life.
To achieve these ends, however, Moscow will have to do more than simply shift the balance between Russian and non-Russian regions. It will have to create new and completely Russian-dominated regions, where Russianness “will be preserved untouched to the maximum extent possible and even to a certain extent artificially cultivated.
And it will have to dispatch Russian “commissars” and impose special taxes and restrictions on non-Russian areas to ensure that people living in them will recognize the values of assimilating as rapidly as possible to the Russian nation that is after all the core of the Russian Federation.
Virtually all non-Russians are certain to be horrified by Kholmogorov’s ideas, and many Russians as well, either from pragmatic considerations – adopting his program could trigger more non-Russian nationalism – or ideological ones – Kholmogorov’s traditionalist regions would threaten any chance for democratization and modernization.
And because that is the case, the real significance of his article is less in the arguments he makes for change in the Russian political order than in the fears of Russian regionalism and separatism that inform Kholmogorov’s article and beyond any doubt the thinking of many Russians not only in Moscow but in the regions as well.

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