Thursday, August 28, 2014

Boko Haram, Inspired by Rise of ISIS, Declares Caliphate in Captured Nigerian Towns

Almost certainly inspired by the success of the Islamic State (I.S., also known as ISIS or ISIL) in capturing and holding a huge swathe of Iraq and Syria and declaring it the kernel of an eventual global caliphate, the Nigerian Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram has shifted from hit-and-run mass killings and is now concentrating on holding territory and declaring an Islamic state.  This is a game-changer for Nigeria, Africa’s most populous and most combustively ethnically diverse country, and ushers in a new phase of what is clearly now a full-on sectarian civil war.

Boko Haram’s dune-buggy battalion
In a nearly hour-long video made available on August 24th (see image at the top of this article), Boko Haram’s apparent leader, Abubakar Shekau, speaking both Arabic and Hausa, declared that the recently captured town of Gwoza was now “made ... part of the Islamic caliphate.”  Last month, in a similar communiqué, Shekau had openly supported the I.S., whose leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had declared himself “caliph” and “leader of Muslims everywhere.”  But the new video did not explicitly call Gwoza part of a caliphate based in Mesopotamia.

Towns in Nigeria recently captured by Boko Haram are shown in red.
An unknown portion of rural areas between them is controlled by Boko Haram as well.
In addition to Gwoza, which is in the southern part of Borno State, in Nigeria’s predominantly-Muslim northern half, Boko Haram is also believed to hold territory elsewhere in Borno including the large town of Damboa; parts of Yobe State that include Buni Yadi; and, most recently captured, in the Madagali district of Adamawa State.  But getting accurate information is difficult; there had long been areas so consistently terrorized by Boko Haram that the Nigerian military had no effective presence there.

Abubakar Shekau
The 52-minute video also shows footage of the capture of a Nigerian military base, the seizure of a tank, and the mass execution of what appear to be about twenty civilians.

Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan: helpless
The following day, Boko Haram recaptured Gamboru–Ngala, a village cluster in Borno on the border with Cameroon—reportedly sending the local Nigerian military fleeing into Cameroon without even trying to put up a resistance—and within the past 24 hours (on August 27th), according to reports, the group was closing in on Gulak, the Madagali district capital, in the far north of Adamawa.  They are gradually building a cohesive territory, and the Nigerian state seems to lack either the resources or the political will to stop them.

Setting up an Islamic state has been tried before.  The Taliban called Afghanistan the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan during the years it ruled there, a name still used in pockets of territory it controls.  The Islamic Emirate of Somalia and the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan, in Pakistan, are names designating areas of those countries controlled by, respectively, al-Shabaab and various al-Qaeda and Taliban groups.  An “Emirate of Waqar,” declared by al-Qaeda in a town in Yemen, was recaptured by the Yemeni government in 2012.  The terrorist group Caucasus Emirate claims a state consisting of the Muslim areas in and near Russia’s North Caucasus mountains, but it does not administer any territory.

Closer to Nigeria, the al-Qaeda-linked groups Ansar al-Dine and MUJAO (Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa) controlled the northern two-thirds of Mali as an Islamic Republic of Azawad for about a year ending in early 2013 (see map above), when it was ousted by troops from France, Chad, and other countries.  It still controls small territories, and, although it piggy-backed its agenda onto the back of a separatist uprising by the Tuareg minority, its avowed aim was to turn all of Mali into an Islamic state.  Turning all of Nigeria into an Islamic emirate had been Boko Haram’s aim as well, and it had seemed absurd, since the country, which is about evenly divided between Christians and Muslims, is nearly entirely Christian in its southern half.  But the new territorial claims are more pragmatic and are clearly inspired by I.S., which began by capturing towns in the west and north of Syria, expanded into Fallujah, Iraq, earlier this year, and has recently spread its territory northward up against the autonomous Kurdistan Region.  I.S. never aimed to take all of Syria or Iraq; they are just taking as much as they can and running it like a state, and that seems to be Boko Haram’s plan as well.

Already a coalition and an international consensus is building to stop I.S. in its tracks, with even deadly enemies like the United States and Iran finding common cause on the issue.  Syria and Iraq, of course, are a vitally strategic area, both geopolitically and economically.  This is less true of the arid north of Nigeria.  So who will stop Boko Haram?

Worst-case scenario?
[You can read more about Boko Haram, Islamic State, and many other separatist and new-nation movements, both famous and obscure, in 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.  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 if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this interview for more information on the book.]

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ex-Premier Reveals Saskatchewan, in 1995, Mulled Secession on Its Own as Quebec Independence Vote Neared

Roy Romanow, the former New Democratic Party (N.D.P.) premier of Saskatchewan, confirmed this week that in 1995, as Quebec prepared to hold a referendum on independence from Canada, a secret cabinet “‘constitutional contingencies’ committee” met to plot possible moves in case the result was a “yes.”  One of those possibilities was for Saskatchewan to proceed with its own secession.  The committee’s existence had just been revealed in excerpts, in the Canadian news magazine Maclean’s, of a forthcoming book by the journalist Chantal Hébert titled The Morning After: The Quebec Referendum and the Day that Almost Was.

The committee included Romanow (pictured at the top of this article), two or three cabinet members, and his minister for intergovernmental affairs, Ed Tchorzewski.  “It would have been absolutely foolish to talk about it at the time,” Romanow told the Saskatoon Star–Phoenix this week, when asked about the need for secrecy at the time, adding, “You had to have the committee meeting in secret; otherwise, you’d have headlines [like], ‘Romanow considering pulling out.’  The key word is ‘contingency’—contingent on a successful vote for Quebec separation.  What were our options?”

In addition to secession, the secret committee mulled possibilities such as annexation by the United States—something also openly contemplated at the time in the Maritime Provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, which would have been cut off by a Quebec secession from the rest of Canada.  But Romanow says now that neither that nor independence were considered by the committee viable.  As he put it this week, “ The separation idea simply was not on. It would not make sense economically and socially,” he said.  “It would offend everything with respect to my personal history.  I didn’t go through patriation and the Night of the Long Knives and the Charlottetown accord for that—these are things I believe in passionately, so [secession] was simply not on.”

The flag of Saskatchewan
More likely, if the referendum had succeeded, would have been a strengthening of ties with British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, and the northern territories, Romanow said, mainly because the remaining parts of Canada would have to find new geopolitical orientations.  As the Star–Phoenix summarized this thinking, “If Quebec separated, Atlantic Canada would be ‘an island,’ Ontario would likely strengthen its ‘north–south’ economic partnerships, and the western provinces would be on their own.”  In the event, the secessionist cause lost by a handful of votes.

For the most part, Saskatchewan has been very nearly the least separatist among Canada’s Anglophone provinces.  Alberta is the most independent-minded, although their main separatist party, the Western Block Party (W.B.P.), hung up its hat (pictured above) earlier this year (as discussed at the time in this blog).

The 1995 referendum was a nail-biter for all Canadians.
[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  The book, which contains dozens of maps and over 500 flags, is now in the layout phase and should be on shelves, and available on Amazon, by early fall 2014.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even though you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook.]

Related articles from this blog:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Siskiyou, Modoc Counties to Deliver “Declarations of Withdrawal” from California within Days

Two counties are planning to send delegations to Sacramento, the state capital, on August 28th to submit formal “Declarations of Withdrawal” from the State of California.  The two, Siskiyou and Modoc, both of them northern inland counties bordering Oregon, are among the seven counties in the state’s north that have decided over the past few months, either through board-of-supervisors resolutions or through referenda this June or both, to secede and form a rural, conservative 51st state of the United States to be called the State of Jefferson.

The idea dates to an extended publicity stunt in the 1940s and has often aimed to include parts of southern Oregon as well, though Oregonian enthusiasm is in little evidence this time around.

Mark Baird, who heads the Jefferson Declaration Committee, stated when the planned declarations were announced on August 22nd, “This has been done before when Vermont split from New York, Kentucky formed from Virginia, Maine split from Massachusetts.  The process has precedent and forming a new state is not secession.  We are in the realm of possibility.  Our goal is to create a state where the citizens of Northern California are represented with a voice aligned with their values.  We see this re-set as a game-changer for economic growth, new business formation, job creation, improved education, a reduction in regulations, and decreased taxes. The time has come for 51.”

However, only the U.S. Congress is authorized to create new states.

[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  The book, which contains dozens of maps and over 500 flags, is now in the layout phase and should be on shelves, and available on Amazon, by early fall 2014.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even though you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook.]

Related: hear the author of this blog discuss the Cascadia independence movement in OregonWashington, and British Columbia in a recent interview for Seattle’s N.P.R. affiliate station KUOW-FM.  Click here to listen.

Related articles from this blog:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Diplomats Scramble to Keep Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict from Reigniting—but Why Is It Happening Now?

The so-called “frozen conflict” between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory may be thawing out in the post-Crimea world of Russian expansionism.  That would be bad news for the safety and stability of the rest of the Soviet successor states and for the Middle East as well.

The blurry, contested line between Armenian and Azeri areas was the first part of the wobbling Soviet Union to flare into war—as early as 1988, years before Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia became independent in 1991.  Some history: those three nations had established brief independence during the Russian Civil War that raged for years after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917.  When they were absorbed into the new Union of Soviet Socialist Republics by victorious Bolsheviks in the 1920s, guarantees were given to protect the rights of the ethnic Armenian minority in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of what was now the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic, and to resolve the border dispute eventually.  But that became moot as Josef Stalin exerted brutal central control over the entire U.S.S.R. and repressed national identities other than Russian.  For decades, it did not matter where the boundaries between republics and sub-republics and fictively labeled “autonomous regions” were if everyone’s lives were run directly from the Kremlin anyway.

But the 1980s saw a revival of Armenian aspirations to expand into Armenian-populated areas of Azerbaijan, and, not always even unconsciously, to exact vengeance on Turkic-speaking Azeris for the 1910s and 1920s genocide by Anatolian Turks in the “Western Armenia” region that was forcibly absorbed into the new Republic of Turkey.  A six-year war ended in 1994 with an Armenian victory, the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, mostly Azeris, and the establishment of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (N.K.R., a.k.a. Artsakh Republic), a supposedly independent Armenian puppet state carved out of western Azerbaijan.  The N.K.R. was ethnically cleansed of Azeris and Kurds, bankrolled by the fiercely nationalistic Armenian diaspora (especially in the United States), and backed both diplomatically, militarily, and financially by Armenia and, less directly, Russia.

Since 1994, peace talks have dragged on without result and a shaky cease-fire has held—just barely—on the border between the N.K.R. and Azerbaijan proper.  As long as things did not flare up again, it was a situation the international community could live with and mostly, it hoped, afford to ignore.  Till now.  So far in August, though the figures are disputed, twenty people have been killed along the cease-fire line, including young civilians, and including flare-ups along the tensest part of the shared border, that between Armenia and the Azeri exclave of Nakhchivan, wedged between Armenia, Iran, and Turkey—tensest because no one, no one, wants Armenia and Turkey to start shooting at each other.

Armenian-American demonstrators in Los Angeles with the Nagorno-Karabakh flag
On one level, none of this is unheard of: each year since 1994, dozens of incidents have occurred along the border, mostly snipers mistaking civilians for hostiles when they stray too close to the hot zone.  Each month, each country routinely issues a list of the other side’s supposed cease-fire violations.  But none of it has been game-changing.  What is different in the past three weeks has been the numbers: more deaths along the border than in the average year over the past decade of “peace.”  And the usual propaganda issuing from both Yerevan and Baku about these incidents is using more heated rhetoric than usual.  Ambassador James B. Warlick, Jr., the U.S. co-chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (O.S.C.E.) committee on Karabakh called the Minsk Group, went so far as to declare earlier this month, “Unfortunately, the armed conflicts in the region show that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not ‘frozen’ anymore.  You cannot explain to the family of an injured or a dead soldier that it is a frozen conflict.”  And John Heffern, the U.S. ambassador to Armenia, recorded a special video message to both sides in the conflict, urging peace.

An emergency meeting in Sochi, Russia, between Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, the Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev, and the Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan ended last week with nothing to show and the situation more tense than ever.  This week, on August 18th, the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey met in Nakhchivan, a meeting which mainly ended with Tbilisi and Ankara expressing determination to stay out of the Karabakh mess at all costs.  Meanwhile, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is activating its water-carriers in the U.S. Congress to escalate anti-Azerbaijan rhetoric—a losing battle in some ways, since the Armenian government has hitched its wagon to the isolated and despised Putin regime (see relevant articles from this blog here and here).

Presidents Aliyev and Sargsyan
Why now?  Surely it has much to do with the new cold war between Russia and the West.  Russia had always aligned itself far more with the Armenian side in the dispute.  Russia under Putin regards itself as a Christian country, and a large component of the conflict is sectarian: Armenians are mostly Christian, and Azeris, like most other Turkic-speaking peoples, Muslim.  Azerbaijan became a natural ally of Turkey, which is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a quixotically aspirant European Union (E.U.) member state, and a long-time enemy of Armenians.  And the puppet-state model used by Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh is identical to the approach used by Russia in the supposedly independent republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia carved out of Georgia, the partly-ethnic-Russian-populated Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (a.k.a. Transnistria) carved out of Moldova, and, before its annexation, the briefly “independent” Republic of Crimea within Ukraine.  The Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic in southeastern Ukraine, currently the scene of a war between Ukrainian and pro-Kremlin forces, are further examples.  After Crimea’s annexation, Abkhazia and South Ossetia began clamoring for annexation as well, and Transnistria and the N.K.R. began asking for, if not annexation by their sponsoring states (Russia and Armenia, respectively), at least the diplomatic recognition that Russia and a handful of toadying allies like Nicaragua and Venezuela grant to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  So the N.K.R. is getting restless.  Some there are confident they can win an endgame, like the one apparently playing out in Ukraine.

Expanding outward, Iran and Syria are also allies of Russia and Armenia, while the U.S., Israel, and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq are allied with Azerbaijan and Georgia.  So the seemingly imminent independence of Iraqi Kurdistan and eventual control of Syria by Western-leaning forces in that civil war are prospects that are making Russian and Armenian nationalists eager to make the N.K.R.’s status official.  What we are seeing could be engineered provocations by the Armenian side—or by the Azeri side, though they are less motivated to unfreeze the conflict.

Or are they?  Some Armenian observers have a different fear.  They see Russia’s diplomatic isolation and the international sanctions against it as motivating factors behind a new initiative by Putin to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in Azerbaijan’s favor, as a way of making nice with the West.  In this view, Putin encouraged Aliyev to shatter the cease-fire so Putin could play peace-maker and put Armenia in its place.  Like many paranoid nationalist theories, this one is full of holes.  For one thing: why would the international community care so much about what happens way over in the South Caucasus that it would forgive Putin for stoking conflict in Ukraine that directly threatens to embroil all of Europe and destabilize the global international order?  And why would Putin shrink the territory where he exerts influence?  The Armenian theory holds that it is part of a longer game by Putin to bully Azerbaijan into joining the new Eurasian Union trade bloc (also containing Belarus and Kazakhstan) into which Putin has already bullied Armenia into joining.  To sum up: Armenian nationalists, by allying themselves with Russia, have painted themselves into a corner and now feel that the whole world opposes them.  It sort of does, actually, and the Armenian government sort of asked for it.  That kind of feeling of ethnonational grievance and persecution is a dangerous cocktail: it makes leaders take military risks (think Adolf Hitler or Putin).

As an observent reader pointed out, Iceland, despite being blue in this map, is not actually in the E.U.  See comments below.
With war already engulfing all of Syria, all of Iraq, and half of Ukraine, both Armenia and Azerbaijan would do well to dial back the rhetoric, lower their weapons a bit, and let this conflict freeze over again.  No good can come of a thaw.

[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  The book, which contains dozens of maps and over 500 flags, is now in the layout phase and should be on shelves, and available on Amazon, by early fall 2014.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even though you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook.]

Looking for a scary Halloween costume?
How about “Naughty” Armenian Ultranationalist?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Autonomy Activism Spreads from Siberia to Krasnodar, Kaliningrad, Yekaterinburg on Day of Action as Kremlin Cracks Down

Kaliningrad autonomists displaying Prussian flags in defiance of Moscow
Is Russia experiencing a second wave of anti-Moscow uprisings, after the initial, post-Communist uprisings that ended so bloodily in the Chechen Wars?

As reported earlier this month in this blog, bohemian ethnic-Russian activists in Siberia were planning a march for greater autonomy (not independence) for August 17th.  The day arrived yesterday, but, according to Western media, authorities quickly shut down a protest of about 40 people in Novosibirsk, Russia’s third-largest city and Siberia’s notional capital.  At least nine people were arrested, including an organizer, Konstantin Yeremenko, and some alleged to be resisting arrest.  Another organizer, Alexei Baranov, found a severed sheep’s head left on the doorstep of his home in Novosibirsk on the day of the march.  In Siberia’s second-largest city, Omsk, police closed a central square before any demonstration could begin.

One activist wearing a “Stop Feeding Moscow!” t-shirt
was hauled off by police (as posted on Twitter).
The Novosibirsk mayoral office had denied the marchers a permit, “in order,” supposedly, “to ensure the inviolability of the constitutional order, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Russian Federation.”  The planned march had been officially called the “March for the Inviolability of the Constitutional Order,” in order to call attention to the fact that autonomy is guaranteed in the Russian constitution.  But the authorities seem so ingrained in their doublethink that they weren’t even embarrassed by the contradiction.  Authorities also banned a planned march by a radical Communist fringe group called the National–Bolshevik Platform, which also advocates looser federalism and was trying to piggy-back its other ideological causes onto the original autonomy movement.  The Kremlin also threatened to ban the B.B.C., which had broken the story on the Siberian movement a few weeks ago.

Siberia is merely those parts of Russia which are in Asia, i.e. east of the Ural Mountains.  It is not a political entity in its own right, but the new wave of activists is calling for a Republic of Siberia within the Russian Federation.  The federation’s 83 constituent parts (85 if you accept this year’s annexation of Crimea) include 22 republics, most named for a particular ethnic minority.  They have varying degrees of autonomy, but mostly very little.

But the regional-autonomy idea is spreading to other ethnic-Russian regions—making this, incidentally, a fairly separate phenomenon from the mostly ethnic and sectarian movements for autonomy and independence such as those in the North Caucasus, Tatarstan, or even those large parts of Siberia away from the cities, where tribal cultures predominate.

A similar march was also being planned for the same weekend in Yekaterinburg, capital of Sverdlovsk Oblast (province).  That choice of location is highly symbolic.  Yekaterinburg was named for Empress Catherine, wife of Peter the Great, but was called Sverdlovsk during the Communist era, named for Yakov Sverdlov, a Russian Jewish Bolshevik party leader.  In 1918, Yekaterinburg was where Czar Nicholas’s family was cornered and executed by Bolsheviks amid the Russian Revolution.  And in 1993, two years after the Soviet Union imploded, the ethnic-German governor of Sverdlovsk Oblast (the oblast kept its Soviet name, while the city reverted to its imperial label) declared it an autonomous Urals Republic in federation with Russia itself.  Neighboring oblasts considered joining too, such as the vast Tyumen Oblast, which stretches from the Kazakhstan desert to the Arctic Ocean and is over a half-million square miles.  But President Boris Yeltsin, a Sverdlovsk Oblast native, shut the self-declared republic down after ten days.  Three other oblasts—Tomsk, Irkutsk, and Amur—also attempted, and failed, to set up republics around the same time.  Feliks Rivkin, one of the current Sverdlovsk autonomist leaders, says that he is merely trying to get the Kremlin to live up to provisions for autonomy in the federal constitution—a document which has been put through the shredder since Vladimir Putin took office.

Yekaterinburg, 1918
Also planned for August 17th was a march in Krasnodar, capital of Krasnodar Krai, between the Black Sea and the North Caucasus.  Using the same federalist slogan Siberian activists use—“Stop Feeding Moscow!”—the Krasnodar autonomists are calling for the reestablishment of a Kuban Republic.  Historical resonances abound here as well.  During the Russian Civil War that followed the 1917 revolution, Cossacks loyal to the Mensheviks—the “White” army opposed to the “Red” Bolsheviks—established several short-lived republics in southwestern Russia, including the Don Republic, the Terek Republic, and, in an area roughly corresponding to today’s Krasnodar Krai, the Kuban People’s Republic.  And Krasnodar Krai includes the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, which hosted this year’s Winter Olympics and was the focus of so much anger from the region’s native Circassians (discussed at the time in this blog in articles here, here, here, and here).

Locations of Cossack republics and other short-lived entities
during the Russian Civil War.  (The approximate area of the
Terek Republic is shown in green and white stripes.)
It is not known if Cossacks are involved in the current movement there, but a year ago, during the inception of Ukraine’s Euro-Maidan movement that led to the current Russian–Ukrainian war (let’s just stop beating around the bush and call it that, okay?), Kuban Cossacks in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, called for the annexation of the area they (the Cossacks) were still calling the Kuban Republic.  Mostly, this was a rhetorical move in response to the suggestion by the neo-fascist Russian nationalist firebrand Vladimir Zhirinovsky that Russia annex up to a third of Ukraine’s territory (a policy which was crazy then but which Putin is now apparently pursuing).  In any case, at least some westward-leaning Cossacks clearly regard the Kuban, a.k.a. Krasnodar, region as their homeland.

The coat-of-arms of the Kuban People’s Republic.
(Is this just the greatest coat-of-arms ever?  I think it might be.)
Meanwhile, in Kaliningrad Oblast, an exclave wedged between Lithuania and Poland on the Baltic Sea and cut off from the rest of Russia, there are stirrings of autonomy as well.  This territory was part of Germany’s region of Pomerania, before it was given to Russia after the Second World War—and renamed for Mikhail Kalinin, a Bolshevik politician.  Though the oblast is now overwhelmingly ethnic-Russian—Germans were relocated from there at war’s end—there has been a steady stream of Volga Germans (ethnic kin of the Sverdlovsk governor Eduard Rossel, referred to above) settling there since the fall of Communism.  Kaliningraders tend to prefer their capital’s former name, Königsberg, and over 60% of them have foreign passports.  Many of them feel more Western European than Russian, and they like to wave Prussian flags.  A popular affectionate name for this wedge of land is Yantarny Krai (Янтарный край), or the Amber Country.  Vladimir Titov, a Moscow-based expert, calls Kaliningrad “the single place in Russia where at present regionalism as a political direction has real prospects.”

It has been difficult to find news on how things played out on the day of action in Kaliningrad, Krasnodar, and Yekaterinburg.  In all three cities, marches and demonstrations were banned but organizers said they would go ahead and march anyway.  I will be keeping readers informed of further developments.

Kaliningrad’s occasionally pro-independence and thus banned Baltic Republican Party
uses a Russian tricolor overlaid with the emblem of NATO—heresy in Putin’s Russia—
for their proposed “Baltic Republic.”

[You can read more about Siberia, Kaliningrad, Sverdlovsk, and many other sovereignty and independence movements both famous and obscure in 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.  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 if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this interview for more information on the book.]

Thanks to Jeff Groton for alerting me to some of the sources used for this article.

Cossacks patrolling the Winter Olympics this year in Sochi,
to be part of a proposed revived Kuban Republic.
Related articles from this blog:

“Meanwhile, at the Other End of the Empire ... Putin Scrambles to Squash Siberian Autonomy Movement” (Aug. 2014)
“Kremlin Hand behind Alaska Annexation Petition on White House Website?” (April 2014)
“‘Separatism’ Added to List of Things Russians Aren’t Allowed to Talk about” (Nov. 2013)
“Putin Wants to Revive Stalin’s Old ‘Jewish Region’ in Siberia; Israel Not Amused” (Aug. 2013)
“Will Siberia Become the 51st State—or Maybe 51 through 77?” (Jan. 2012)

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