A prominent Russian businessman and former State Duma deputy Konstantin Borovoy writes this editorial for Echo Moskvy, a liberal online newspaper. At face value, it is an apocalyptic scare piece, but there is also insight about the geographical integrity of Russia. With the Russian economy sagging, there are now significant structural problems in many of the regions. The recent headlines about the Caucasus come to mind as examples, but the vast Far East is increasingly slipping out of Russia’s control, despite Putin’s efforts to bolster the military, especially in that region. When the Far East was devastated by historic floods in recent months, authorities only allocated 6 billion rubles (about $188 million) to help relieve more than 25,000 households that have been affected and nearly 600,000 hectares (about 2300 square miles) of destroyed farmland. Even this amount of aid is historic, but if it is not enough, then public sentiment in the far-flung region will likely quickly sour.
Borovoy’s argument may be premature, perhaps even alarmist, but it reflects the growing concern among Putin’s critics that systemic problems continue to fester in Russia. – Ed.
The collapse of the vast colonial empire of the USSR that began in 1991 has not yet ended.
The 20-year duration of the existence of Russia, a relatively brief historical period, in what is almost the same imperial, colonial form, is ultimately a continuation of that process.
The genuine federalization of the regions started by Yeltsin, perhaps a forerunner to the creation of a confederation of Russian territories, was stopped by Putin. The first shoots of economic and political independence of the regions (their growing effectiveness in competition and the real increase in the authority of regional governments) were crushed ruthlessly.
Putin has managed to restore the empire that disintegrated before our eyes to the last detail, and therefore the inevitable looms. The fate of the new colonial empire can be none other than that of the USSR. It is the law of the historical development of the world, and out of anyone’s hands. The new empire cannot survive in its present form, for many political, economic and social reasons.
The only question is how this will happen?
The catastrophically declining effectiveness of the economy is likely to be a key factor in this process.
The regional governments must at some point take charge of the empowerment of the regions. Otherwise they will completely lose their own legitimacy.
The simple problem of arithmetic which will face every governor at some point – whether to try and save the region and its citizens by abandoning their loyalty and tribute to Moscow – will be quickly and unequivocally solved by every governor. Or by the next governor, following their predecessor’s prompt removal by a hungry people.
For the citizens the only cause will be collective SURVIVAL.
One can, of course, ban people from speaking about this, or even thinking.
But then the process may be transformed from a ‘final, civilized divorce’ into a bloody orgy.
There is not much time left to wake up to the inevitable and make important decisions.
The budget can’t be supported by oil at $110 a barrel. But under Yeltsin $9 a barrel was enough.