Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Disappearance of Regional Symbols in Russian Protests Doesn’t Mean Regionalism is Dead, Shtepa Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 31 – Protests are taking place in far more cities across Russia now than six years ago – in many cases, they are occurring where there had never been a protest in the past; but those taking part in these meetings are far less likely to display regional flags and symbols, Vadim Shtepa says.

            How is this “contradiction” to be explained?  The editor of the regionalist After Empire portal says that in order to understand what is going on, it is importable to remember “the modern history of regionalism in Russia,” one in which regional parties … arose almost at the same time as those in Europe” (

            In the European Union, regional parties arose as a counterweight to the centralism of Brussels and have enjoyed remarkable electoral success. But regional parties in Russia, which arose in the 1990s, were prohibited in 2001.  Moscow thus achieved its goal of “driving the regionalists out of politics.”

            As a result, Shtepa says, “many local bureaucrats who had been members of regional parties in the 1990s, humbly joined United Russia. However, he points out, “one shouldn’t reduce regionalism only to the interests of officials,” as there have always been many civic activists within it.

            Since the early years of this century, two things have happened that affect the manifestation of regionalism in Russia. On the one hand, the destruction of federalism by Vladimir Putin meant that the civic activists were radicalized. And on the other, the events in Ukraine changed everything.

            Slogans like “’separate from the empire’ became ever more popular in the most varied regions,” Shtepa says, “and from then one, Russian imperialists became accustomed to conflating regionalism and separatism.”  Had Russia remained a federation, neither of those things would have happened.

            “The political apogee of informal regionalist movement can be viewed as the winter of 2011-2012 when protest against the falsifications in Duma elections combined with protest against imperial centralism as such.” That even forced Dmitry Medvedev to return gubernatorial elections, but with the return of Putin, that didn’t happen.

            Then came Ukraine. Moscow created the “pseudo-regionalist formations” of DNR and LNR, which had a profoundly negative impact on Russian regionalists – “although in reality this was an imperial inversion of regionalism,” annexing territories of another country while displaying “above all its fear of ‘separatism’ in its own.”

            “By calling for the federalism of Ukraine, [Putin] finally destroyed federalism in Russia itself.”  That is why regionalist symbols like flags and coats of arms disappeared from subsequent demonstrations. Otherwise those who carried them might be convicted of the crime of promoting the violation of the territorial integrity of the country.

            “Nevertheless,” Shtepa continues, “in ‘the voters’ strike’ and in other actions of Aleksey Navalny, Russian regionalist movements literally have acquired a second breath.” One might call them “’spontaneous regionalists.’”  That is, they wanted free elections in their own areas as well as in the Russian Federation as a whole.

                Indeed, he argues, “Navalny is a much greater federalist than many other politicians who consider themselves that.” He has visited more Russian cities than all other “’federal opposition figures’ taken together have.” And in that he has set himself apart from many Moscow opposition figures who remain centralist and only want “the empire to be ‘more liberal.’”

            One measure of Navalny’s commitment to regionalism and federalism, Shtepa says, is the fact that his command is structured as “an inter-regional network of volunteers,” a complete contrast with all other party figures.  Consequently, “the themes of regionalism and federalism in the coming years will become ever more important.”

Average Russian an Overweight 37-Year-Old Married Woman with Children Who Smokes, Drinks and Suffers from Depression, Doctors Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 31 – Olga Khlynova and Yevgeny Furman, two doctors who are also candidate members of the Academy of Sciences, say that the average Russian today is an overweight 37-year-old married woman with children who smokes and drinks and suffers from migranes and depression.

            Their observations came during a lecture in Perm on the health status of Russians today, a lecture in which they pointed to the increasing impact of alcohol and smoking on the health of Russian women and their children (

            Khlynova and Furman say that tragically, Russians are “drinking themselves to death.” Alcohol consumption in Russia is now 18 liters of pure alcohol each year for everyone, including newborns. For adults including women, the figure is much higher. People must learn that “if consumption exceeds eight liters of alchohol a year … the degradation of the nation begins.”

            Smoking is also an increasing problem, both direct consumption and via second-hand smoke.  And these two things, along with other environmental factors, mean that few Russians by middle age suffer from only one disease but rather from several at once, a situaiton which is even harder to treat.

            Smoking has a powerfully negative impact on children, especially if mothers smoke during pregnancy; and electric cigarettes are no solution because they contain powerful carcinogens. Yet another problem is obesity: today, “half of young children in Russia have excess weight.”

            Another study reported today focuses on what Russian mothers are telling their children about their lives. Conducted by psychologists at the Higher School of Economics, the research concludes that mothers today see the future as more secure than it was for them and believe that children won’t have “a survivor mentality” (

                This marks a big change for mothers now who were told something very different by their mothers. They were told, the study says, that “in a dangerous world wwere one must survive each day, one doesn’t need a long-term perspective, ethics or professional habits.  One must survive here and now.”

Moscow’s First Response to ‘Kremlin List’ – An Expansive Definition of Sovereignty and Its Violation

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 31 -- In response to the publication of “the Kremlin list” as well as the restrictions imposed on Russian athletes at the Olympics, the Commission for the Defense of State Sovereignty in the upper house of the Russian parliament is preparing a law containing an expensive definition of sovereignty and thus expanding the list of actions which violate it.

            The RBC news agency quotes one of those preparing the legislation, Lyudmila Bokova, as saying that “there exist a multitude of facts of interference by foreign powers in the internal affairs of our country.” To counter them, she says, Russia needs a “mirror-like” response to what others are doing (

                One of the first steps,” Bokova continues, in this process is to insert in the legal code precise definitions of “sovereignty” and “interference in the sovereignty of the country.”  Boris Nadezhdin, a specialist on regional legislation who is participating in drafting the bill, says that there is agreement among the senators on several important facts.

            They believe, he says, that interference in the internal affairs of Russia includes all actions “not based on international law and international agreements” that are intended to “influence the decisions of the state organs of the country.”  And sovereignty is defined in the new legislation as “the completeness of the power of the state within the country.”

            Anything which “threatens this completeness of power is illegal,” Nadezhdin says, because “it has as its goal the violation of the course of the political process,” something he suggests constitutes “interference.” Others, RBC says, have an even more expansive view of sovereignty and those actions that would constitute its violation.

            Perhaps significantly, the news agency continues, people in the Duma said that “they had not heard about the development of such a legislative action. Specifically Pavel Krasheninnikov, head of the lower house’s committee on legislation, said that he had not taken part in any drafting and therefore couldn’t comment.

According to the draft so far, the agency reports, “under the term ‘interference’ in the first instance fall sanctions toward Russians,” the activity of NGOs financed from abroad and taking part in political processes in Russia.  Those actions, which would become illegal, would include polling about electoral outcomes.
Some in the Federation Council have been pushing for such a law since the commission was created last summer.  The publication of the American “Kremlin list” gave new impulse to their plans, the news agency says, adding that the legislators certainly would not have acted without the go ahead from the Kremlin.
Yekaterina Schulmann of the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service says, however, that the Federation Council may simply have wanted to get out of the gate in this process before anyone else in order to solidify or even “monopolize” its role on foreign policy questions.
            The draft legislation will be taken up by the upper chamber sometime in February.