Staunton, February 9 – When a predominantly Russian oblast or kray objects to something Moscow is doing, most commentators label that as regionalism and analyze it accordingly. When an ethnic republic does, these same commentators suggest that nationalism is at work and consider it according to a very different matrix.
In fact, the relationship of regionalism and nationalism is more complicated than that with the objections of ethnic Russian oblasts or krays often informed by a different understanding of Russian nationalism than the usual Moscow-centric kind and those of non-Russian republics by regional as well as ethnic concerns.
(For a general background discussion of this issue and its consequences, see the current author’s December 2016 essay, “Regionalizm – eto natsionalizm sleduyushchey russkoy revolyutsii,” on the AfterEmpire portal at afterempire.info/2016/12/28/regionalism/.)
Some of the complexities of the interrelationships between regional and national concerns are highlighted in a commentary by Anton Chablin, one of the most sensitive observers of the North Caucasus, concerning a fight about a park in Daghestan between regionalism and all-Russian patriotism (vz.ru/society/2017/2/8/856819.html).
In yesterday’s issue of the Moscow newspaper “Vzglyad,” Chablin notes that a major conflict has arisen in the Daghestan capital of Makhachkala between the powers that be there and the population, a clash he suggests that reflects a conflict between “all-Russian patriotism,” on the one hand, “and regionalism” rather than nationalism, on the other.
The cause of the conflict was a decision by local officials in Daghestan to follow Vladimir Putin’s call in December 2015 to open museums in cities across the country devoted to the history of Russia and to put it in one of Makhachkala’s most popular public parks that was established more than a century ago.
Incensed that the decision was made without their input and reflecting the NIMBY values that have led others in the Russian Federation to protest the construction of Russian Orthodox churches or mosques in public spaces, Daghestanis reacted with anger and with a clever combination of tactics, all reflecting regional rather than ethnic concerns.
As Chablin details, they organized protest meetings, launched an anti-museum webpage, began collecting signatures online to oppose the proposed location, and even went to court to seek to block the decision. But things did not look good for the protesters: officials scheduled a groundbreaking ceremony for last Friday.
But when that was supposed to take place, no one showed up. And on Tuesday, republic head Ramazan Abdulatipov who has faced protests often in the past and knows both when to hold and when to fold backed down and announced the museum will be built but not in the park. Instead, it will be erected on Imam Shamil Prospekt near other museums.
In doing so, Abdulatipov contradicted the arguments of his own officials who had said tht Moscow [was] requiring that the museum be built only in the park.” According to the republic head, reports that this was the case were guilty of spreading “’disinformation’” and that he personally would make sure that nothing was put up in the park.