Staunton, June 22 – In a move that reflects the growing influence of Siberian regionalists and Moscow’s increasing concern about that trend as well as the broader crackdown against any opposition that Vladimir Putin has been conducting, Russian officials have launched what appears to be the start of a broad campaign against members of this group.
Early on Wednesday morning, police in the Altay Republic carried out searches in the homes of the Assembly of Rus of Glorious Families, a group that has sought to promote a multi-ethnic Siberian identity through the development of local and ethnic crafts.
Those whose homes were searched were then questioned. They say that they expect a criminal case to be opened against them and told Siberian news outlets that what had happened to them “was begun in connection with the suppression by the governed of those who think differently and of national self-consciousness in contemporary Russia.”
The Assembly of Rus of Glorious Families has branches in Novosibirsk and other cities east of the Urals. It calls for the formation of a Siberian State over the longer term and to that end has created a spiritual cultural center in the Altay and issued special coins. Its leader, Aleksandr Budnikov, has been charged with extremism several times in the past but has not been convicted.
Siberian regionalism, which has its roots in the oblastnichestvo of the mid-nineteenth century, has re-emerged as an idea over the last two decades. It attracted attention when it sought permission to have “Siberian” entered as a national identity in the 2002 and 2010 censuses, a declaration many more made than Russian census takers recorded.
More recently, it has issued currency and stamps both to raise money and consciousness, and supporters of Siberian regionalism are now selling flags and other items via the Internet at with the slogans like “I’m Siberian” [and] Nothing can ever Break Me” on them.