Russian Region’s Official Site Features Call for Secession — For Three Hours

October 9, 2014
Police block a protester against disputed mayoral elections in Astrakhan in 2012. Photo by AP

Staunton, October 7 – At the end of the Soviet era, a joke circulated in Moscow that appears to be having an echo today. According to the story, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze met President Mikhail Gorbachev at the airport when the latter was returning from Estonia.

“What have you done?” Shevardnadze supposedly asks. Gorbachev replies: “Nothing. The Estonians asked for independence, but I said no. Then they asked if they could be independent for a week and again I said no. But they asked if they could be independent for a day, and I told them why not? After all, what could they do in a day?”

“Then you haven’t heard?” the Soviet foreign minister says. “No,” says Gorbachev. “What happened?” “Well,” says Shevardnadze, “the Estonians used that day of independence you gave them to declare war on Sweden, and then they surrendered. Now, with Swedish forces at Narva, what are you going to do?”

Today, the portal reports that the website of the Astrakhan Region duma or legislature featured for three hours a call by the leaders of that region to secede from the Russian Federation and form an independent Lower-Volga People’s Republic. The press service of the regional duma blamed this on a hacker attack.

Because the declaration was put up overnight, an official at the regional FSB office responded to an inquiry by Elena Grebenyuk of Kavkaza-Uzel by saying that he “could not say anything” and asked her to “phone back during normal working hours.”