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Vadim Shtepa

Tallinn, Estonia
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About Vadim
Vadim Shtepa is the editor-in-chief of Region.Expert (www.region.expert), the only independent media outlet on Russian regionalism and federalism. He graduated from the Faculty of Journalism of Moscow State University (1992) and Moscow School of Political Studies (2012). He is also an alumnus of the Research Course on American Federalism (University of Missouri, St. Louis, USA, 2013). Mr. Shtepa is the author of three books on the history and philosophy of Russian regionalism, as well as a regular columnist for regional projects of the Russian service of Radio Liberty (Sever.Realii and Sibir.Realii). Since 2015, he has been living in Estonia due to persecution in Russia for his political views.
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Feature Stories Content Writing Risk Analysis
Politics Current Affairs Research

Putin’s Political Machinations Delegitimize Russian Presidential Elections

05 Mar 2024  |  Jamestown
Russia's upcoming presidential elections are expected to result in the reelection of Vladimir Putin, amidst actions by the Kremlin to suppress opposition candidates through signature collection prevention, registration refusal, and even political assassinations. Independent candidates like Ekaterina Duntsova and Boris Nadezhdin faced obstacles from the Central Election Commission and the Russian Supreme Court, preventing their participation. The article argues that the West should not recognize the legitimacy of Putin's presidency, drawing parallels to the non-recognition of Belarusian dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The murder of opposition leader Alexei Navalny is highlighted as evidence of Putin's systematic policy of eliminating democratic competitors, with calls from Navalny's wife and Mikhail Khodorkovsky to delegitimize Putin's regime. The article suggests that non-recognition could aid Ukrainian resistance and potentially lead to Putin losing internal legitimacy in Russia.

Putin’s Private Empire

18 Jul 2023  |  jamestown.org
Post-Soviet Russia has evolved into a 'private state' where private interests often outweigh state interests, a situation that has worsened during Vladimir Putin's era. The adoption of the law on 'state-private partnership' in 2015 has legitimized corruption by not clearly defining the interactions between government officials and businesspeople. Yevgeny Prigozhin, a key figure in this system, has benefited greatly through his company Concord and the Wagner Group, a private military company. Despite internal conflicts and a failed mutiny by Prigozhin, Putin's management model remains unchanged, with his close associates holding power above official state structures. The article suggests that overcoming 'Putinism' requires dismantling this 'private empire' to prioritize public interests and economic freedom over the militaristic ambitions of an unelected elite.

The Failure of the Wagner Group's Mutiny: A Lesson in Ignoring Regional Dynamics

29 Jun 2023  |  Jamestown
The article discusses the failed mutiny by Yevgeny Prigozhin's Wagner Group, highlighting the group's neglect of regional issues as a key factor in its rapid failure. The Wagner Group's takeover of Rostov-on-Don, a city with strong regionalist sentiments, was initially successful, but their lack of engagement with local populations and failure to establish a regional foothold led to their downfall. The article compares this to other paramilitary units like the Russian Volunteer Corps and Freedom of Russia Legion, which also ignore regional dynamics. The piece draws parallels with the Russian Civil War, where the White Army's defeat was partly due to ignoring regionalism. The article suggests that anti-Kremlin efforts that fail to address regional issues are unlikely to succeed, as they do not offer a compelling alternative to the centralist policies of Moscow.

Collapse of the Russian Empire’s Main Historical Pillar?

10 Apr 2023  |  Jamestown
In early April 2023, several Russian regions bordering Ukraine canceled their Victory Day military parades due to security concerns, reflecting the precarious situation amid Ukraine's counteroffensive. The Kremlin's ongoing military operation in Ukraine has led to increased defensive measures across Russia, with even cities far from the frontlines canceling events. The cancellation of the 'Immortal Regiment' procession, a key element of Kremlin propaganda, highlights the regime's fear of public dissent. The article critiques the Putin regime's reliance on Soviet-era symbols and narratives to maintain ideological unity and imperial ambitions, contrasting it with historical shifts in the significance of Victory Day under different Soviet and Russian leaders.

Russia Is a Failed Federation

05 Apr 2023  |  Washington Examiner
The article discusses the erosion of federalism in Russia under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, who has centralized power and undermined the autonomy of Russia's regions. It traces the history of Russian federalism from the 1917 Constituent Assembly to the present day, highlighting the failure to establish a true federation post-Soviet Union and the continuation of centralization policies from Boris Yeltsin to Putin. The author notes the paradox of Chechnya's partial autonomy and criticizes the Kremlin's suppression of regional self-determination and political opposition. The article also contrasts Russian federalism with that of the United States, pointing out the hypocrisy of Russian officials criticizing U.S. democracy. The author, Vadim Shtepa, is the editor-in-chief of Region.Expert, an independent webzine that publishes from Estonia due to Russian censorship.

Empire as Catastrophe: A Philosophical Reevaluation of the Russian State

03 Apr 2023  |  jamestown.org
Russian-speaking intellectuals are reflecting deeply on Russia's war against Ukraine, leading to a philosophical reevaluation of the Russian state. Mikhail Epstein and Nikolai Plotnikov have published works analyzing the situation, with Plotnikov's collection featuring 16 authors. The authors argue that the war represents a civilizational catastrophe for Russia, with a history of imperial tendencies and a lack of reckoning with past evils contributing to the current situation. The collection calls for the dismantling of historical and political myths that justify military aggression and imperial arrogance, suggesting that demythologization of Russian consciousness could prevent future imperial catastrophes.

The Depopulation of Russian Border Towns Accelerates in the Baltic Sea Region

21 Mar 2023  |  jamestown.org
Russian border towns in the Baltic Sea region are experiencing accelerated depopulation due to historical territorial changes and economic centralization. The Soviet Union's annexation of territories from Finland, Estonia, and Latvia, followed by demographic replacements, set the stage for current migration trends. Post-Soviet Russia's economic focus on major cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg has drawn populations away from smaller towns, which now suffer from poverty and lack of development. The closure of borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia's war against Ukraine has further diminished local economies reliant on border trade. As a result, residents are moving to larger cities or abroad, with some politicians in Finland, Estonia, and Latvia discussing the reclamation of annexed territories based on 1920 treaties.

The Contours of the “New Multipolar World”

27 Aug 2021  |  ICDS
The article discusses Russia's support for the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which marks a departure from its official doctrine of backing only legitimate governments. The author compares the US withdrawal from Afghanistan to the Vietnam War, noting the emergence of a coalition comprising Islamic fundamentalists, Russia, and China against the West. China's economic interests in Afghanistan and Russia's political motives are highlighted, including the Kremlin's desire to direct Afghan refugees towards Europe and its refusal to host them in Central Asia. The article also touches on Russia's historical ban on the Taliban and its recent engagement with the group. The author suggests that while Moscow views the Taliban's rise as a blow to the West, it could backfire by inspiring separatist movements within Russia and destabilizing the region.

The Kremlin “Tsar” Proposes to Live in the Past

16 Jul 2021  |  ICDS
The article discusses Russian President Vladimir Putin's view of Russia and Ukraine as a unified ethno-religious community, which is reflected in his recent article 'On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.' The author criticizes Putin's imperial mentality, which ignores modern international law and citizenship in favor of ethnic history. The article argues that Putin's perspective is dangerous for Russia's neighbors and could lead to conflicts. It also points out that Putin's policies aim to restore the Russian Empire, and his accusations against post-Soviet countries of being under Western control are unfounded. The author warns that Putin's denial of the sovereignty of post-Soviet states and his desire to revise borders could have serious repercussions, potentially even inviting territorial claims from countries like China.

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