Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Siberian Nationalists Issue Appeal to the World

Paul Goble

Vienna, October 12 – Siberian nationalists, encouraged by the response to their call for residents of that enormous region to declare themselves Siberian by nationality in the upcoming Russian Federation census, have now issued an appeal to the broader international community about what they see as the coming of age of the Siberian nation.
The 400-word appeal, which was posted online yesterday in both Siberian/Russian and English, argues that the willingness of people there to declare their nationality as Siberian marks “the end of the ripening and forming of Siberian identity” and thus the coming into existence of a Siberian nation (www.verkhoturov.info/content/view/1010/1/).
“We have been able to overcome the forcible imposition of an alien identity, the destruction of our culture, and the suppression of free speech which had blocked our development and self-determination,” the appeal says And it continues that “while there are difficult problems ahead,” the Siberian nationalists say they see the way clear to do so.
Among the most serious problems the nationalists say they and others in the region face are “the rehabilitation of natural resources that have been harmed by severe industrial pollution,” something that they suggest can be achieved only if Siberians “consolidate our rights to be free on our own land.”
(Indeed, although the appeal does not go into details, it is the coming together of ecological and economic concerns that is driving this movement, in particular, Moscow’s willingness to exploit Siberia even if that involves destroying it and involving Chinese investors. On this, see www.plotina.net/eurosibenergo-china-yangtze/#more-2390.)
The appeal then specifies the attitude of Siberians toward “other nations of the world.” First of all, it says, “Siberians wholly respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the [Helsinki] Final Act, “ideas which changed humanity for the better and have become the foundation of all international relations.”
Siberians, the appeal says, “will follow these principles regardless of the form that our political self-determination takes.”
Second, the appeal asserts, “Siberians do not threaten any nation which lives in peace, have no plans to attack anyone, condemn war and violence and reject double standards.” Third, Siberians support “the development and progress of all nations” and support all efforts to promote scientific and technical development.
“We see ourselves as part of humanity,” the Siberian appeal whose authors include Dmitry Verkhoturov, Yaroslav Zolotarev and Anton Patrushev ends, “and intend to devote all our efforts to promote progressive development” and “offer peace, friendship and equal cooperation” to all others.
This declaration is important even though it is clear that not all residents of Siberia share its implicit interest in the pursuit of independence. On the one hand, it is likely to be used by Moscow and Russian nationalists as evidence that the Siberian movement is “secessionist” as Russian commentators have said.
But on the other hand, the appearance of this declaration is an indication that Siberian regionalism is own rapidly evolving in a more explicitly nationalist direction, the result of policies that in and of themselves are contributing to a growing sense of victimhood among Siberians.
In this sense and more clearly than in any other predominantly ethnic Russian region in the Russian Federation, Siberia provides a clear indication of the direction other “Russian” regions are likely to follow if the powers that be continue to destroy the last remnants of federalism, something that they seem bent on doing.

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