Sunday, November 28, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Only Real Federalism Can Save Russia But Even That Won’t Hold North Caucasus, New Russian Political Movement Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, November 28 – The Russian Civic Union, an umbrella organization uniting groups like the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, the National Democratic Alliance, and the Russian Popular Democratic Union, has declared that only a return to genuine federalism can keep Russia intact but that even that step won’t prevent the independence of the North Caucasus.
The new group, which has published a manifesto (, held a founding conference (, and led to the formation of branches in the regions ( over the past ten days, has taken positions on many issues.
But perhaps its most important positions concern Russian federalism or more precisely the ways in which Vladimir Putin, first as president and then as prime minister, has undermined or even destroyed that system. And now, one of the chief ideologists of the new movement has offered a detailed discussion on precisely that.
In an essay posted on, Dmitry Feoktistov argues that “free regions are the basis of a free nation” and that “national democracy by its very essence is a national liberation and anti-colonial ideology,” one that supports the rights of all nations and peoples, including the ethnic Russians (
Many people now are asking, he says, “who today in the Russian Federation forms the metropolitan center and who forms the colonies.” That is “a serious question with a simple answer – the metropolitan today consists of ‘citizens of Kremlin nationality’ – that is, the Kremlin, the bureaucrats, the siloviki together with the oligarchs and the ethnocratic elites.”
“In the first instance, the Russian people must be recognized as colonized since the ethnic minorities retain the right at least to national pride, but the ethnic Russians are deprived of that.” Because that is so, the new union says that “national democracy today is the ideology of the national liberation of ethnic Russians and other indigenous peoples of Russia.”
One reason federalism is so important is to provide a basis for overcoming the impoverished state of the regions. “Without the strengthening of the principles of federalism and the establishment of a real equality of regions, one cannot even think about national liberation” in the current context.
Many in the regions recognize that they must act to achieve this end, Feoktistov argues, and he points to “the fact that in recent years, the center of gravity of opposition activity has gradually shifted from the center to the regions,” including most prominently the Far East, Kaliningrad and Yekaterinburg.
But “unfortunately,” he continues, “most often these protests slowly die out since there has not existed up to now in the country forces prepared to unify these initiatives, to assist their development, and to give a final goal for their activity.” The new national-democratic Union, he argues, can play that role.
It will strive to promote federalism, a federalism “based on the principles of regionalism and equality.” Such a system does not now exist as “today even a stupid individual would fail to recognize that after Putin’s coming to power in Russia a crisis of federative relations began rapidly to develop.”
Putin’s “vertical,” Feoktistov goes on to say, has destroyed “not only the political but the economic and social autonomy of the regions.” And the result of that is “a threat to the disappearance of a single cultural-political space of the Russian nation and consequently of the united ethnic Russian nation itself.”
The members of the new Union, he argues, “are convinced that for the preservation of a single ethnic Russian space and the securing of its further development, the system must take into account regional interests and ensure the restoration of full-blooded federative institutions,” arrangements that must be based on real equality.
Feoktistov says that he is mystified that Moscow pays almost ten times per capita as much to Chechnya as it does to Irkutsk. The only explanation for this is that “the Kremlin is forced to pay the North Caucasus for loyalty because no other levers of control over it currently exist.”
But “the policy of the Putin administration in the Caucasus has failed” because it has converted “this region into a budgetary black hole and delayed action mine” and has not managed to bring peace and stability. Instead, violence there is worse now than it was in the past, and this despite all the money Moscow is throwing at the problem.
In the manifesto of the new Union, Feoktistov says, “we speak about the necessity of reviewing the staqtus of the republics of the North Caucasus.” The group “is not calling for separating the Caucasus from Russia” because “we are certain that this has already happened de facto.”
It is “a fait accompli,” and there is “no doubt” that at some point in the future even Moscow officials will have to recognize that reality rather than continuing to act as if Russia cannot afford to continue to throw money at the problems there. Indeed, the question now is “how much time, force and blood” will Russian continue to waste there.
“Many say that to give up the Caucasus means to spit on the graves of those who fought in Chechnya. This is not so,” Feoktistov says.” “To pay tribute to the former militants” as Putin and Moscow are now doing at present “is to spit” all those who were sacrificed there over the last 15 years
And Feoktistov concludes by saying that he would like to remind skeptics “about one example, France and Algeria. Over the course of almost 150 years, France controlled Algeria, but when that control came into conflict with [French] national interests, Algeria received its independence. The world did not end, and France did not fall apart.”

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