Kremlin authorities are still baffled by an apparent Internet prank on October 7th which declared Astrakhan Oblast was declaring independence from the Russian Federation as the “Lower Volga People’s Republic.”
|Astrakhan is thought of as the southernmost extent of ethnic-Russian settlement|
and is in an historically and ethnically volatile neighborhood.
The name of the Lower Volga People’s Republic republic echoes those of the two Kremlin-backed rebel governments which unilaterally seceded from Ukraine earlier this year after the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea: the Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic. (Three other declared republics, the Kharkov People’s Republic in Ukraine’s northeast and so-called people’s republics in Odessa and Transcarpathia oblasts in western Ukraine, were never backed by any “facts on the ground” in the form of physical secession.) These “people’s republics” have less to do with actual state socialism or the rights of workers, as their names suggest, and more to do with recalling the symbols of a lost past when Ukraine was ruled from Moscow. In fact, they are run by undemocratic paramilitary juntas, with strings probably pulled from the Kremlin.
|Aleksandr Zhilkin, Astrakhan’s governor, was not amused.|
|Coat-of-arms of the erstwhile Kuban People’s Republic|
|The autonomy activist Darya Polyudova is being held by the F.S.B. on separatism charges.|
|Some Cossack hosts formed brief-lived republics during the Russian Civil War|
(shown here in relation to Astrakhan).
|Current flag of Astrakhan Oblast|
[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar. (That is shorter than the previous working title.) The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon. Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even though you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this special announcement for more information on the book.]