What Comes Next: Insights into the Russian Post-War Administrative Geography
The world will obviously never be the same after the war. Deputy Head of the Kalmyk Oirat People Congress Vladimir Dovadanov shares with Free Idel-Ural his take on possible scenarios of the situation development in the post-war Russia and future prospects of indeginous people.
Since 24 February, when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, the situation in vast territories, covering not only the countries of the former Soviet Union, including the Caucasus, Central Asia and Europe, has changed dramatically in numerous respects. The nature of these changes is global and they undermine the further development of almost all humankind.
Many people who perceive reality objectively are no longer looking for answers to the question: who will win? It is quite clear that the Western coalition of states united around Ukraine is stronger than its aggressive eastern neighbour in all senses and aspects. At the same time, the “nuclear” rhetoric and threats voiced by Putin, other Russian officials and propagandists raise some legitimate doubts and concerns. However, the West takes these considerations into account and takes decisions and actions in response. Even so, the answers to the questions about the course and outcome of the Russian-Ukrainian war are still relevant today: how long the war will last, what will be the specific indicators and parameters of the Western coalition’s victory and Russia’s defeat and so on.
However, what should come to the fore in the coming months – gradually, but inevitably and quite justifiably – is the search for answers about post-war arrangements in Eurasian space that currently includes the Russian Federation, its forced “allies” and satellites. It is essential not just to make predictions, but ensure direct and effective influence over the development of events in this macro-region after the victory of Ukraine and its allies in this war with Russia. The future of the states adjacent to Russia deserves a separate analysis.
Let us consider possible scenarios how the situation in Russia may develop after the war and Russia’s defeat.
Long before the outbreak of war and even before 2014 events, some experts and activists who analyzed different scenarios that could result in the fall of Putin’s regime, argued that this could happen as a result of one of the following events and developments, or their combination:
– global natural disasters, including accelerated climate change, and large-scale social disasters they may cause, such as mass famine, epidemics, displacements, etc;
– any large-scale international confrontations, such as wars with neighbors and other states and their alliances, which could result in overstrain of socio-economic mechanisms, disruption and destruction of the normal functioning of all state systems and the state itself;
– the death of the leader and the assumed inability of his entourage to agree among themselves about maintaining the status quo, which could cause more large-scale and massive clashes;
– unlikely massive opposition to the rule of groups and segments of Russia’s population represented predominantly by the ethnic majority.
At the same time, the inevitable and continuous deterioration of state systems as a result of Putin’s policy, if faced with any of the above events, will be a weakening and dangerous factor that is destructive for the state.
Over time, some experts and representatives of the anti-Putin opposition, actually a very few of them, began to analyze the possibility not only of the fall of the current regime, but also the possible, or even inevitable, disintegration of Russia or liquidation of the Russian Federation in the configuration that came into effect after 1991.
The war unleashed by Putin’s regime in Ukraine, and the developments, decisions and actions it caused, became the factors listed above, or effective conditions for the fall of Putin’s regime, the beginning of the disintegration and total collapse of the current Russian state.
As a result of the collapse of today’s Russia and the actions of different actors, the following scenarios can be projected:
1. The emergence of several states that will unite several territories of the current Russia’s regions, similar to the division of the territories of the former British colonies.
2. The emergence of many large and small states that will be created along ethnic and geographical lines, similar to the collapse of socialist Yugoslavia;
3. The emergence of several states; territories not belonging to these states will face lack of proper statehood, anarchy and recurrent conflicts in large territories of former Russia.
4. In a less likely scenario, there will be re-establishment, the creation of a new Russian state within the borders of present-day Russia.
5. The occupation (introduction of troops) by foreign states to reduce the consequences of a humanitarian catastrophe in a significant part of Russia’s territories.
The ongoing developments, events and the expected outcomes of the war created opportunities for the Russian opposition to carry out activities aimed at regime change in Russia. It is important, however, to consider the following aspects:
– the “anti-Putin” opposition is highly heterogeneous and split organizationally;
– different parts of the “anti-Putin” opposition do not have mutual trust, do not consider others as equal partners, or their aspirations are based on different values, pursue different, often opposite goals;
– some parts of the “anti-Putin” opposition are only temporary allies, they are unwilling to make even little compromises, they stand on incompatible, hostile positions towards each other;
– if a common enemy personified as “collective Putin” disappears, part of the “anti-Putin” opposition may turn to hostile activities against each other.
The “anti-Putin” opposition can be roughly divided into three main groups.
The first group is made up of those who support “cosmetic repairs” of the imperial structure of the state. Their only intention is to replace the old faces in the current government with the new ones. Judging by their statements and behaviour, they do not even consider other ways of Russia’s development and believe that the former format of the state is quite acceptable. It will be sufficient to change the government and then everything will change and the desired result will be achieved. This may be accompanied by restoration of most democratic rights and freedoms, liberalization in the economy and business, expansion of the powers and rights of regions and non-Russian peoples.
These are mainly those Russians who, in fact, adhere to quasi-imperial position, that is they support a centralized state, superiority and state-sanctified domination of Russian culture and language, a common unified approach to organization of all citizens, peoples, cultures and territories without exception. We assume that some of them may even agree there is a need for a slight redistribution of powers between the federal center and the regions in favour of the latter, but with numerous reservations and restrictions regarding the right to self-determination for Russia’s indigenous peoples. Of course, supporters of this approach, in fact, preserve the remnants of colonial relations and the inequality of peoples – the practice that the Western countries abandoned back in the 20th century.
The second group includes representatives of the so-called “genuine” federalism. They advocate for limiting the powers of the federal center in favour of the regions, for expanding the rights and freedoms of citizens and indigenous peoples. 80 percent of the ethnic majority of the future federation will undoubtedly oppose this. One of the most prominent representatives of this group is Bashkir opposition politician Airat Dilmukhametov, who was declared an extremist and separatist by the Putin authorities that imprisoned him for nine years on political grounds, for the third time. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Grigoriy Yavlinsky and members of his democratic party Yabloko, Vladimir Ryzhkov, Nikolai Svanidze and many others also belong to this group.
These representatives of “genuine” federalism suggest a more demanding approach to the federal center, transferring the powers and preferences in favour of the regions, however, it still implies leaving the de facto system-forming principles of a highly centralized state that retains certain elements of an empire. By virtue of the Russian demographic majority, which is largely if not overwhelmingly infected with racism, chauvinism, xenophobia, and imperial swagger, a centralized state can easily be replicated and revived with leaders like the dictator Putin.
In the early 1990s, the national Republics and the Russian authorities signed the agreements, but we saw how easily these documents were later violated by the federal center. In case of Ichkeria, which aspired to be independent, Russia, based on Yeltsin’s orders and the wide support from the majority of the Russian population, this republic was bombarded and rocketed, hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed, dozens of cities were and villages destroyed, and a repressive government was planted there that uses the most inhumane methods against its fellow citizens, committing the acts of violence and killings.
Supporters of the third approach advocate for genuine freedom for Russia’s indigenous peoples or complete decolonization – self-determination and independence for some non-Russian peoples (regions and macro-regions), which implies a radical reformatting or complete territorial disintegration of the Russian state, which has never been a true federation and until the very last retained the archaic features of the empire of the 20th century.
Supporters of the first and second approaches have never considered the option of granting Russia’s indigenous peoples the right to real self-determination, independence and independence, even though in the 21st century it is up to indigenious peoples to make their independent choice and such scenario is quite reasonable and well-justified. The third option has few followers so far. Their demand for complete decolonization, the collapse of Russia and the acquisition of independence by the indeginious peoples in various forms, including state independence, still makes people fear that because of possible persecutions by the Russian authorities and indecisiveness due to their ignorance. Such perspective is also rejected by ethnic Russians, and causes uncertainty due to a possible separation from something strong and big. This is the most preferred path for those peoples and regions that are ready to take on this serious responsibility after all the sufferings endured for centuries of being part of the Russian empire.
Each indigenous nation living in their original territories that make part of Russia has constantly lost something and continues to lose – population, territories belonging to it, national languages and culture, control over their lands, subsoil, natural resources, rights, security, independence, their elites and so on. Before and during the Second World War about 20 indegenious nations of the USSR were subjected to deportations and genocide. Some nations within Russia either decreased in number catastrophically, or disappeared altogether.
Considering the idea of the independence of the indigenous peoples of Russia, I would like the governments of the European countries, the United States and other countries of the Western world to understand that the newly independent states on the territory of Russia, that are interested in global cooperation and gaining access to the civilizational experience of the West, can create new opportunities for investments on favourable terms, bypassing Moscow intermediaries.
In today’s Russia, funds received from the extraction and sale of natural resources in the regions are embezzled, unfairly redistributed, withdrawn abroad, use to replenish the militarized budget, while allocations on education and medicine are constantly cut, and budget funds are spent inefficiently, channeled to strengthen police arbitrariness in the country, and this is the factor that allowed Putin to build a thoroughly corrupt criminal terrorist state that pose threat to all of humanity.
Initiated by Russia, which in its turn has not given up its imperial ambitions, war against independent Ukraine is felonious, as it impinges the whole world order and breaks down the entire established system of international security. Apparently, it is time to review many of the international rules and principles, agreements, to bring them into line with the new reality requirements in order to exclude similar recurrences and to more extensively take measures, which would provide security for all peoples and ethnicities. Complete consolation of Russia from the list of the international relations entities will definitely strengthen international security and cooperation.
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