Navalny’s Vision of Federalization Close to That of ‘Typical Muscovite Imperialist,’ Miftakhov Says

Russia Regions Map

(Paul Goble – Window On Eurasia – Staunton, Jan. 10, 2021)

Opposition leader Aleksey Navalny promise to do many good things if he comes to power, but a closer examination of his promises shows that they are more populist slogans than a carefully considered political program, Denar Miftakhov says. And nowhere is that more the case than on issues of federalism.

In his recent interview, Navalny said that he is “against the current concentration of power in the hands of the federal center,” something many in the regions and republics will see as a major reason to support him, the founder of the Kerpe Yuly movement in Tatarstan says (

But unfortunately, Navalny’s comments show that he “views federalization” in almost exactly the same way that “the typical Muscovite imperialist does.” That is, he wants to transfer power to the municipalities not the federal subjects and thus “in essence has proposed destroying the regions as subjects of the federation.”

If Navalny were to become president, Miftakhov says, he would in fact remove the city of Kazan from the jurisdiction of Tatarstan and subordinate it instead to federal laws. “But this would not be a federation.” Instead, it appears the opposition politician “wants to construct a harsher imperial vertical” and “bury any hopes for the decentralization of the country.”

The opposition politician suggests that such arrangements are necessary to prevent the regions from evolving in a separatist direction and to allow him should be become president to modernize the country and fight corruption. But his program would in fact work against both of these goals by allowing Moscow to be more corrupt and the regions less capable of fighting it.

Navalny’s interviewer, Sergey Guriyev, is an Ossetian; and so he asked the opposition figure for his response to suggests that he Navalny is guilty of sexism and ethnic nationalism. Navalny responded by saying he hadn’t been accused of nationalism “for a long long time.” But that isn’t true: he continues to draw criticism for his remarks about non-Russians.

At least Navalny did say that he opposes discrimination on an ethnic basis, favors the right of people to choose the language their children will study it, and does not want to insist that individuals give up their ethnic self-identification in favor of a civic Russian. But he treats all these questions as only about individuals rather than about structures like republics.

According to the Tatar activist, the proper goal should not be the creation of a single “political nation” for the country as a whole but rather its establishment with each federal subject whose people will be able to decide how best to maintain their existing identities or acquire others broader or narrower than the current ones.

Miftakhov concludes that “Navalny is a battering ram who may be able to come to power but who is not capable of building ‘the beautiful Russia of the future’” he so often talks about and that many hope for. He simply hasn’t shown that he understands the nature of the country he wants to run or has developed programs that not only appeal but work.

That means that if he does come to power, his policies are likely to be developed by those around him, including many who already occupy high posts in Moscow. Consequently, he says, “I consider Navalny a dangerous and treacherous politician.” But given how few real Russian politicians there are, even those in the opposition who disagree with him must work with him.

At least, that must guide their relations with him until the current regime is removed.

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