What a Nationalist Movement Looks Like in Russia Where Elections are Still Allowed

July 30, 2014
"We demand registration of regional parties." Protesters for a free Karelia. Photo: free-karelia.info

Staunton, July 30 – Vladimir Putin has eliminated elections at the regional levels at least in part to ensure that nationalist parties do not have the opportunity to challenge his hand-picked party of power officials. But some nationalist groups are using elections at the city level to advance their cause.

In Karelia, Yekaterina Yemelyanova and Ilya Vereshchagin, two candidates of the Republic Movement of Karelia, are running for the city parliament in Petrazovodsk. They have issued their election program, one that combines concerns that are typical of such local elections with broader issues as well.

The majority of the planks are typical “good government” programs: a call for a greener and cleaner city, better road repairs, more transparent city planning, elimination of traffic jams, a better port and yachting harbor, increased security on trains and trucks carrying dangerous cargo through the city, and more assistance to young people, pensioners, and invalids.

But two of the planks have what some might view as a “national” or even “nationalist” dimension: preservation of the city’s historical center by excluding commercial development there and the “broadening of international ties both by sister city programs and via municipal organizations from other countries.”

By including these planks in the campaign of its candidates to a city council, the Republic Movement of Karelia, seeking greater autonomy from Moscow, is remaining true to its core principles – albeit with the restrictions that Putin’s regime has imposed. It is thus laying the groundwork for a more ambitious promotion of its ideas when that becomes possible.