“Moscow, go away!” Do they mean it?

Back in 2014, one of Russia’s senior politicians (later elected chairman of the lower chamber of the Russian parliament) quipped: “There is no Russia today if there is no Putin.”

Future developments might prove his claim correct, in a peculiar way. Once Putin’s active lifetime runs out, what will be the odds that the Russian state disintegrates within a few years?

One can’t avoid thinking about this, seeing Russians in the Far East carrying slogans like “Moscow, go away!” This sentiment is nothing new: it’s common for residents of the Russian Far East (as well as other Russian regions beyond the Urals) to claim that Moscow only takes away without giving back and the federal government is basically useless and possibly harmful on the balance.

Such sentiments are no threat to the state’s integrity while in their low-intensity, chronic phase but grievances tend to erupt uncontrollably during political and/or economic crises. The Kremlin must be well aware of this. It has tried to address the Far East problem in different ways within its self-imposed limits. With every passing day, fewer doubts remain about the futility of these efforts.

By the way, the rally is still continuing. Stanislav Belkovsky claims that (reliable) estimates of the number of protesters in the streets of Khabarovsk range from 35,000 to 50,000. Moreover, his sources say that riot police forces were flown from Rostov-on-Don (a major city in the south of Russia, about 5,350 miles from Khabarovsk) but have so far been standing on the sidelines.

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