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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Kremlin Working Hard to Conflate Two Meanings of ‘Moscow’ Lest Regions and Muscovites Come Together, Vakhitov Says


Paul Goble
            Staunton, September 6 – When Russians use the word “Moscow,” Rustem Vakhitov says, “they have in mind two completely different things: Moscow as the federal center and Moscow as a separate subject of the Federation.” The Kremlin seeks to conflate these two lest other federal subjects ally themselves with Moscow in the second sense and challenge the regime.
            The powers that be fear that if protests in Moscow and protests in the regions and republics ever came together on the basis of a recognition that Moscow is an oppressed region as well, such an alliance would be more than they could cope with, the Russian analyst says. And they have good reasons for such fears (gumilev-center.ru/moskva-na-ne-vrag/).
            These two protests have different social bases and different slogans, “but politics is the art of compromise,” and history suggests that the two could easily come together as soon as regionalists come to view Moscow not as the enemy but rather as an ally in the struggle against a common foe, the Kremlin.
            This has occurred before.  “In 1917, the combination of two revolutions, in the villages and in the cities, with a compromise between revolutionary workers and revolutionary peasants led in Russia to the fall of the tsarist regime and the Provisional Government.” Today, Vakhitov says, “there is a similar situation in Russia.”’
            Unfortunately, up to now, “there is no ideology which would make possible such a compromise,” but “in this sense, the experience of the left-wing Russian federalists of the beginning of the 20thcentury is interesting. There were the Russian populists whose ideas Lenin at one point made use of.
            “The ideology and slogans being advanced in the course of the Khabarovsk protests, the protests in Shiyes and other regions, are about real federalism, a just redistribution of incomes, and taking into account the distinctive features and interests of all peoples and all regions,” the writer says.
            “Naturally, Russia needs a central federal power, but one that reflects the interests of the regions rather than suppressing them. And in the struggle for such a system, Moscow will be in the same rank with other regions of the Russian Federation.” It is a region too, however hard Moscow works to obscure that reality by its propaganda. 
            As the protests in Khabarovsk have continued, Moscow media when they aren’t ignoring these developments altogether are suggesting that the demonstrators are “anti-Moscow” in both senses of the term, something many in the regions and republics and in Moscow uncritically accept.
            But Moscow as the seat of central power and Moscow as a region are not one and the same thing. Indeed, the interests of the two are often at loggerheads. Not only are most of the people at the very top of the power pyramid from somewhere else, but it is clear that they do not like Muscovites and Muscovites don’t like them, Vakhitov says.
            Opposing those who rule over Moscow and over Russia is entirely justified and appropriate, but allowing these rulers to use Moscow in the other sense to prevent the formation of an all-Russian alliance is not for either the regions beyond the ring road or the very real region within it. 

Window on Eurasia — New Series