Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Unlike EU, Russia is Transforming Regionalists into Separatists, Shtepa Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, September 28 – Unlike the European Union which has successfully transformed most separatist movements into regionalist ones, Moscow is transforming the regionalist movements in the Russian Federation into separatist ones, according to a leading Russian theorist on regionalism.
In a speech earlier this month in St. Petersburg on the future of northwest Russia, Vadim Shtepa argued, drawing on the work of Britain’s Roland Robertson, that “globalization, however paradoxical it may seen is connected with the growth of regionalism” in a “dialectical” process known as “glocalization” (www.ingria.info/?biblio&news_action=show_news&news_id=5059).
That places new challenges on governments and on larger political unions. In both the European Union and in the Pacific region, regions within one country are establishing direct contact with regions in others, a process that some have said will lead to “the end of the nation state” but that in fact may help keep regionalism from becoming separatism.
Unfortunately, Shtepa says, “in Russia, the world ‘regionalism’ is taboo because it is conflated with separatism. But regionalism is transformed into separatism only when this or that region is deprived of political and economic self-administration.” Europe understands this and gives regions self-government; Russia doesn’t, and the result is separatist movements.
Indeed, he continues, “Russia today is evolving not according to a federal model like that of the European Union as a whole but is trying to build a centralized ‘national state’ with ‘a titular nation.” That requires depriving the regions of any control over their affairs, and that in turn helps to promote what Moscow most opposes.
In short, Shtepa argues, the powers that be at the center are breeding their own nemesis by their approach to the regions, both predominantly ethnic Russian and non-Russian.
Regionalism movements in the Russian Federation today, he continues, combine within themselves another dialectic, that between the right and left of the political system. Therefore it is impossible to consider them” one or the other, and it is a measure of Moscow’s problems that its analysts are struggling to define regionalism or combat it.
Shtepa focuses on one interesting detail of the regionalist agenda in the Russian Federation today: hostility to the existing metropolitan centers of control so strong that many regionalists want some other center established for their regions. Thus, some Ingermanlanders want another city to be the capital, like Ottawa in Canada, and St. Petersburg to be a Montreal.
That most Moscow commentators and Moscow officials have little or no understanding of the dialectical nature of regionalism and hence are behaving in ways that undermine their own goals is shown in two other analyses published this week, one concerning Moscow’s anger about regional identities and the other containing the latest Russian attack on national republics.
In an article on “Svobodnaya pressa” yesterday, Dmitry Treshchanin details both the increasing proclivity of people Moscow considers ethnic Russian to identify as something else, including Siberians, and the angry response of most Muscovites to such declarations and their presumed meaning (svpressa.ru/society/article/31063/).
And in the other, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the LDPR head who is vice speaker of the Duma, called, as he has before, for redrawing the borders of the federal subjects and ignoring ethnicity as a factor in the formation of such units, a call that is infuriating not only non-Russians but increasingly Russian regionalists as well (116.ru/news/323188.html).

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