Staunton,November 4 – Many observers of the Russian scene assume that everything is manageableon the nationality front unless there begins a new “parade of sovereignties,” adevelopment that would highlight both the weakness of the central authoritiesand the growing interest of non-Russians in taking control of their own livesand pursuing independence.
Butsuch an approach misses much that is going on that may have even longer-termconsequences as republic governments struggle to cope with the unfundedliabilities Moscow has imposed on them and the economic crisis which again hasits roots in the policies not of the republics and regions but of the center.
Onedevelopment over the last few days suggests that republic governments areincreasingly prepared to act to try to help their own residents not by adoptingdeclarations of one kind or another but rather by taking actions on their own that address the plight ofthose residents that Moscow has imposed.
Becauseof radically rising gas prices, Yakutsk has decided that the Sakha Republic willdivert some of its petroleum production to the distillation of gasoline so thatsupplies will increase and prices hopefully fall. The republic authorities havealready given the orders for this to occur (versia.ru/yakutiya-pridumala-svoe-reshenie-problemy-dorogogo-benzina).
Republic headAysen Nikolayev also lashed out at Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozakwho had said that the quality of gasoline in Sakha left much to be desired,pointing out that those responsible for that situation are in Moscow notYakutsk and that Yakutsk is trying to do the best it can given suchconstraints.
If Sakha canachieve its goals on gas prices, its population will be pleased but it may alsoseek to have Yakutsk take the initiative in other areas as well, something thatwould erode Moscow’s control of a republic that is larger than all the EUcountries put together.But there is anotherlikely consequence that Moscow needs to reflect upon.
Other republicsand regions are certain to be watching what Sakha is doing. If what it istrying out works, they may try it out as well. And a future historian mayconclude that the latest wave of imperial devolution in Russia began not inmeetings with banners about sovereignty but at gas stations where even morepeople spend their time.