BY EUGENE BAI, EXCLUSIVELY FOR AZERI DAILY
Marxist slogan 'Workers of the world, unite!' has undergone major changes in modern Russia. Last year, St. Petersburg hosted a congress of nationalists from all over the world, which could easily be given a motto 'Nazis of the world, unite!' And the last weekend Moscow hosted a congress of separatists from all over teh world - from Donbas to Hawaii.
Monarchy at Obama's home
'Aloha! I am the chief adviser to the king of Hawaii!' With such greeting one of the first speakers, Lanny Sinkin, a representative of 'an independent sovereign State of Hawaii' and 'adviser to King Edmund Keli’i Silva, Jr.' addressed the participants of the congress. This venerable gentleman with a necklace of beads around his neck quite recently was busy installing solar panels in the US city of San Antonio.
But in late 2014, he moved to Honolulu, to help restore the monarchy in this US state. Lanny, occasionally turning his head fiercely, told the audience that Americans in the nineteenth century overthrew the Queen of Hawaii, and then the island was flooded with Christian missionariesm who with their missionary boots trampled the local pagan religion. Sinkin explained to the guests of the forum: Hawaii was and remains a constitutional monarchy, there's only one little thing left - to detach it from the United States to gain independence and to revive the divine spirit of 'Aloha.'
Hawaiian envoy was harked to by a mixed separatist army - skinheaded, heavily tattooed fighter for the independence of Northern Ireland, a black man in a baseball cap and dark glasses representing the Pan-African international movement 'Uhuru,' a tough guy in a camouflage with a stripe 'Novorossiya' on the sleeve, as well as gentlemen in expensive suits from the 'Catalan Solidarity for Independence' coalition, Polisario Front of Western Sahara, which is fighting the 'occupiers' from Morocco and Mauritania, a member of the interim government of 'national sovereign state Borinquen' (it turns out to be Puerto Rico, a territory associated with the US).
'I've never seen so many freaks gathered in one place,' shares her impressions documentary filmmaker Beata Bubenec, who attended the conference.
Altogether 15 organisations were on the list of invitees. Of these, the most prominent were the Northern Irish and Catalans; reporters queued to meet with these delegates.
Russian independent television channel 'Dozhd' (Rain) reported that a representative of Sinn Fein came to Moscow at a time when a serious political crisis was continuing in Northern Ireland. In May 2015 in Belfast, the former leader of the Irish Republican Army Gerard Davison was shot dead (Sinn Fein is considered the political wing of the IRA). In August, an activist of the Provisional IRA, Kevin McGuigan was killed, while he was one of the suspects in the murder of Davison. IRA members were also suspected in death of McGuigan. In short, members of the leadership of Sinn Fein rather actively spell things out with firearms, but would not mind to come to a foreign forum and denounce the British colonialism. Of course, provided that the organisers of the forum fully pay for the trip and pastime in the country.
'Aspen stake in the heart of the vampires'
According to the Russian news agency RBC, 2 million roubles were allocated for the conference. The money was given by the so-called National Endowment Dund created on Putin's initiative in 1999 for dealing with the support of the military-patriotic projects and activities under the patronage of the Kremlin. As recognised by the aforementioned representative of the Hawaiian monarch Sinkin, four days before the start of the forum he heard nothing about it; but he was invited, given money, and so he was happy to come to Moscow.
In addition, a five-star 'President Hotel' was given to the separatists, which is on the balance of the Russian presidential administration. Hour lease of its conference room costs 45 thousand roubles. On the second day of the forum, the participants moved to continue the fight for freedom to the hotel complex 'Izmaylovo,' but its conference room rental also is expensive - about 30 thousand roubles per hour.
Guests, stigmatising American and British colonialism, and siding with it European Union, still tried to stay within the bounds adopted at international fora. The hosts did not restrain themselves in expressions. One of the organisers of the forum Fyodor Biryukov of the 'Rodina' (Motherland) party (it is a creature of the current Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin) urged participants to 'drive a stake into the heart of American vampires.' In the same spirit he performed at last year's congress of the neo-Nazis in St. Petersburg.
Who are you with, Russian separatists?
That Nazis forum caused fair indignation of many Russians. How was it possible to allow a forum of 'brownshirts' in Russia, and especially in a city that was under the blockade of the Nazis? The current congress of separatists causes as many questions. For what purpose did the Russian authorities provide a platform for expressing separatist views, if the problem of separatist territories is extremely acute for Russia itself?
According to the law in Russia 'public calls for actions aimed at violating the territorial integrity' are punishable under Article 280.1 of the Criminal Code. The maximum penalty for the first part of this article is four years in prison, according to the second part (using media, including publication in the Internet) up to five years in prison.
On September 15, in Krasnodar a trial of Daria Polyudova started. She is accused of publicly calling for separatism and extremism in a way of organising a 'March for the federalisation of Kuban.'
Russia narrowly avoided a collapse of the country in the early 1990s, however, this threat has not disappeared. At the Moscow Winery Plant in the gallery 'Cultural Alliance' of Marat Gelman in April this year there was an exhibition 'United States of Siberia.' The exhibition was held by the 'Cultural Alliance' in cooperation with the Fund for Support of Contemporary Art 'Siberia.' Behind the sign, harmless at first glance, is hidden desire for secession from Muscovy, for many years cultivated by the Siberians.
'Do not reproach Siberian, that he has a knife in his pocket. After all, he looks like a Russian, just like a leopard looks like a badger,' runs a Siberian saying.
The project to create a Siberian nation began to unwind with a double effort after the events in Ukraine. As part of this project there was even coined a Siberian language, created Siberian Wikipedia. In it Siberians appeared not just as residents inhabiting this vast territory, but as a separate nation.
In August last year in Novosibirsk they planned a 'March for the federalisation of Siberia.' It was initiated by well-known artist Artyom Loskutov. During a preliminary report on the planned march Roskomnadzor issued a warning to 17 Russian media outlets. Four of the organisers of the march were detained, and the action itself that was to be held under the slogan 'Stop feeding Moscow!' did not take place.
'Stop feeding Moscow!'
Among the maps of some foreign countries there is a futuristic map of Russia. The country is divided into several states. There are Far Eastern Republic, the Republic of East Siberia, Ural and West Siberian Republic. On the map, there are several independent Caucasian republics, as well as an independent Tatarstan - curved comma in the heart of Moscow State.
Of course, this map is a figment of imagination of foreign authors. But is the potential dismemberment of Russia really so far from the truth?
According to prominent human rights activist Aleksandr Podrabinek, in Russia there has been created several pockets of separatism. Natural fireplace, for example, is the Kaliningrad region, a Russian enclave, which is surrounded by Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea. In the early 1990s, there was created a Baltic regional party. It was, of course, banned, but the idea remained. Last spring, three young men hang on the building of the Kaliningrad FSB the flag of Germany. At the same time in the Internet there was announced a campaign for the accession of the region to Lithuania. Separatist tendencies are not limited to this: 60 per cent of the region's population have passports for foreign travel, and a quarter of the population has Schengen multi-visas. Local youth is leaving to study at the universities of neighbouring countries, acquires property and residence permits there. Europe is near, while Russia is far away.
One of the main reasons for separatist tendencies, according to Podrabinek, is inequitable distribution of income and the use of economic resources of regions by the federal centre. It is no accident that the slogan 'Stop feeding Moscow!' is so popular. Having enormous natural wealth the Urals, Siberia and Yakutia feel left out, getting from Moscow only a small part of what they earn.
Texas and California dream of freedom
Picky reader will ask: aren't similar trends gaining momentum in Western Europe or the United States? Quite true. The Catalans are also very unhappy with the fact that they pay Madrid a disproportionate tax. The same can be said about the mind-set in Texas or California. US researchers say that now in the US there are at least 10 strong separatist movements, which are scattered throughout the country. To become independent want Southern and Northern California, New York City, Texas, Vermont and Louisiana, the territory of Western Kansas, South Florida, Eastern Washington, Arizona and others. These are the ones that have already undertaken surveys on the issue of secession.
'The wave of the current separatist aspirations is the largest after the Civil War,' recognises Professor at the University of Maryland Francis Lee. 'It is primarily due to the deep division between the urban population and the rural population. This separation takes place on such sensitive issues as education, large-scale health care reform of Obama, immigrant rights, arms control, abortion and others. It is not surprising that the conservative inhabitants of 'heartland,' mostly white, majority of whom support the Republicans, more than others tend to the isolation. And almost everywhere it has to do with the present composition of the leaders of the White House.'
However, in Spain, Scotland and the United States separatist sentiments are developing on legal grounds and in the presence of a strong economy and high quality of life. You cannot say the same about Russia, which is experiencing the most serious post-independence economic crisis.
In the US, the desire for independence is above all what sociologists call 'state of mind.' They understand that in the event of secession the new territories will need to create a new tax code, sync with the federal authorities the parameters of education and health care, form their own armed forces, sign trade agreements.
But above all, according to the White House, granting independence to one state will cause a chain reaction. In Washington, for example, they reacted sarcastically to the petition on the independence of Texas.
'As Texas becomes independent, be sure of this, cities Austin and El Paso will sure to secede from the new state,' said on the website of the US President.
In Russia, behind separatist movements lies primarily the thrust to uncontrollably manage resources and fill their pockets without regard to the federal centre. Although, as the examples of the recently arrested head of the Komi Republic Vyacheslav Gaizer or Sakhalin Governor Aleksandr Khoroshavin show, they are not really stopped by Moscow's control.
In the context of political instability, economic crisis and social decline, many regions could try to become independent, or find a happy haven in neighbouring countries, whether it is Poland, Germany or China. Are greedy and insatiable separatists to blame? The blame above all is on the federal centre, which is unable to provide at least relative social equality, stability and decent wages and pensions. Instead, it pays money to foreign dreamers and political marginals to once again express their hatred of America. But with such actions it only begets more 'vampires' at home.
So why does Moscow need to step once more on the rake of separatism? Once, great reformer Mikhail Gorbachev allied himself with the Nagorno-Karabakh separatists. They were followed by eruption of separatist pockets all over the Soviet Union, including Russia. Boris Yeltsin had to admonish local separatists with his famous slogan: 'Take sovereignty as much as you can swallow...'
It might be that the present Kremlin allies of separatism will have to admonish its own citizens. Or in the Kremlin they believe that the fire of separatism could only flare up in the US? Even if it ever happens, certainly the fire will spread to the Russian expanses. Such is the nature of the attraction of separatism.