Paul Goble

Staunton,February 11 – “The process of the destruction of ‘the power vertical’ in Russiais beginning in the Far East and the North-West” because of the clash betweenMoscow’s “openly colonial” approach to the federal subjects especially in thoseregions and the country’s need for federalism if it is to prosper or evensurvive, Russian economist Yury Moskalenko says.

Thisclash is most clearly in evidence in two geographically separate butpolitically and economically similar regions, the Far East and the North West, Moskalenkoargues, where protest activity and protest voting is on the rise (

“Those whoconsider that the voting [in the Far East] for KPRF and LDPR candidatesreflects some sort of paternalist attitudes of people [in that region] aredeeply mistaken,” the economist says. “Geography and especially the centralgovernment have long forced the local residents to count only on themselves.”

“TheFar Easterners voted against the so-called Federal Center and itsrepresentatives in the localities; they voted against the United Russia Partywhich embodies the power vertical; they voted for the systemic pseudo-opposition”because the real opposition had been kept by Moscow from taking part in theelections.

Likethe Far East, St. Petersburg is a leader in protest activity; and for many ofthe same reasons: These are places “which are more integrated into thestructure of the world economy because of their geographic location. Petersburgand Vladivostok are major ports. These are regions which are next to Europeancountries in the West and Pacific rim ones in the East.”

Becauseof that, both find the Kremlin’s policy “directed at the economic isolation ofthe country and military confrontation with nearby and further afield neighborscompletely unacceptable,” Moskalenko says.That is true of small and mid-sized business and millions of peopleliving in both places.

Further,he continues, people in both places can compare what has happened to them withwhat has happened in Europe and the Pacific rim states over the last twodecades: Russia has stagnated while the others have raced ahead.They properly blame the center for this andso naturally “anti-Moscow attitudes in these regions are growing.”

Ifthere were relatively honest and free elections in these regions, the voters ofboth would support those candidates advocating “maximum independence from the FederalCenter, which has been conducting a colonial and anti-social domestic policyand an adventurist foreign policy,” the economist says.

TheKremlin has even had to take this reality into account, allowing its candidatefor governor in Primorsky kray, Oleg Kozhemako, to play on anti-Moscow attitudes“with the approval of the Federal Center,” Moskalenko continues. But the centerhasn’t succeeded as much as it hoped.

“Despiteall the cleverness of the Kremlin political technologists, the elections inPrimorsky kray had to be conducted as ‘a special operation.’ And as a result,the residents of the region got not an elected but in fact an appointed governorwhich will inevitably lead to an intensification of social tension and the growthof protest activity in the region.”

St.Petersburg may be even more likely to move in that direction. “An extremelysignificant part of its residents are opposed to the anti-Western foreignpolicy and reactionary domestic policy of the Kremlin” because it is “the mostEuropean city of Russia” and still has large numbers of creative workers whooppose the obscurantism of the Kremlin.

IfMoscow is forced to adopt the same strategy it employed in future elections in St.Petersburg, Moskalenko says, “this would inevitably lead to a sharpintensification of protests” in the northern capital.These two regions are the most advanced inthis respect; others will be following them.

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