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- Chapter 3. MARGINALITY AT WORK: PATTERNS OF INTERLACING
1.4. Contrasting Combinations
It is interesting that geo-cultural images and strategies may interfuse not only with their analogs along the lines elucidated above, but are also interrelated with contrasting images and strategies, those located at the opposite sides of their corresponding spectrums. These complex intercommunications result from an exogenous nature of geo-cultural discourses, since their unfolding is unfeasible without strong impact from the part of adjacent discourses571.
Among the spatial intermixtures one may discover rather simple – though not very much important for this study - combinations of Heartland and Periphery, as well as Heartland and Province. This is the case of those inland territories that may be simultaneously qualified as culturally distinct (Province) and/or politically subordinated to the federal authorities (Periphery). More interesting, in my opinion, are two interconnections involving Capital. Thus, Capital may interflow with Rimland/Borderland, as evidenced by the example of St.Petersburg with its reputation of “ex-centric capital”, one which is both “central” and “edgy”.
Not less worthy of attention is a discursive conflation of Capital and Province. Provincial discourse, as I have noted at some earlier juncture, may modify ideational constructs in such a way that leaves sufficient room for reproducing some traits of centrality in the provincial terrains. Thus, Russian geographer Ivan Mitin calls a small city of Olonets not only “the capital of Southern Karelia” but, in a wider sense, a “provincial capital”, or “a capital-in-province”. Belomorsk, in the same vein, is called by him “the Northern capital of Karelia”572.
Yet the most indicative linkage of this sort may be found in the proliferation of the so called “secondary capitals” that reflects a tendency of many of Russia’s largest cities to reserve their own spatial niches in their capacity as “sub-centers”. The “secondary capitals” bobs up as a product of provincial/non-central discourses merged with the longing for centrality. The main cities of Russia’s domestic republics may officially promote themselves as “capitals” (like, for example, deeply peripheral Petrozavodsk). By and large, Russian version of the “secondary capital” resonates with the French concept of “metropole regionale”. Yet in Russia the entire idea is loaded with greater dynamics, since there are quite a number of projects aimed at transferring certain political and administrative functions from Moscow to other large cities eager to develop their “strategies of centrality”. One of most debated in 2004 was a proposal of Duma’s member Valerii Gal’chenko to “disperse” the basic political institutions (the government, the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Federal Assembly, and the Central Bank) to such cities as Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, etc. In the meantime, there is a grass-roots activism in favour of implementing the strategies of “secondary capital-ness”, especially in the cities like St.Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod that appear to have asserted themselves, metaphorically speaking, as the second and the third “capitals of Russia”. Some politicians (like Liudmila Narusova) prefer to negatively label these endeavors “capital-mania” or even “epidemics of capital cities’ proliferation”573. Of course, in each individual case the reasons behind these bids for centrality are different, to include search for an idea that would be politically consolidating and appealing to different social groups, a desperate need to get additional funds from budgetary sources and investments from the private capital, a desire to distinguish the region from the bulk of its neighbors, or merely political ambitions of local elites. It is indicative that politically the “regional capitals” in their relations with neighboring territories tend to imitate and reproduce the highly centralized model implemented by Moscow in its relations with the rest of Russia (the pumping out of resources from “non-central” areas and, as a result, the growing polarization of wealth distribution)574. Regional capitals turned themselves into duplicates of the federal center, that ones operating in the way Moscow deals with themselves.
Two main conclusions may be drawn from this section. For the first, Russia appears to develop its system of governance incorporating multiple centralities to potentially challenge the political predominance of Moscow. The proliferation of various “strategies of centrality” might eventually entail a number of consequences for Russia as a whole, including the de-concentration of financial flows, the growing mobility of resources within the country, and the formation of a number of new “growth poles”.
Secondly, the majority of manifestations of the “alternative centrality” discourse, including the idea of “secondary capitals”, stand out within the discursive field of the strategies pertaining to modernist territoriality. This is so because the contest of signification it is embedded in is chiefly about redefinition of centrality as a hierarchical power hub.
Chapter 2. INTRODUCING AN OUTSIDE SUBJECT: THE EMERGENCE OF DISCOURSES OF “IN-BETWEEN” TRANS-TERRITORIALITY
The distinctions between diverse patterns of spatial representations sketched earlier make sense within purely domestic context. The introduction of an external subject (or subjects) significantly complicates the entire picture of spatial discourses and makes it much more multiplex.
At least two new concepts have to be introduced at this point, both being related with the appearance of an outside pole of gravitation. These are secession and marginality.
Secession discourse (mainly pertaining to St. Petersburg's and Kaliningrad’s separatists) is based on a set of identity-related assumptions. The political philosophy of secession is grounded in the principle of self-sufficiency («St. Petersburg is the whole Universe where one can find everything») while all federal institutions are treated as being «occupational» and «anti-popular». Secessionists negate geopolitical determinants (like war with the Taliban or the issue of the Kuril Islands) and opt for more accentuated geo-economic orientations, and therefore they oppose Russia’s war in Chechnya and Russia’s reunification with Belarus. They wish to conclude a special «divorce» treaty with Russia and to institute regional citizenship, and advocate the transformation from federation to confederation as a step towards the further decentralization of Russia and the emancipation of its constituent territories. For borders territories, secession may become a tool for blackmailing the center. The discourse of secession, on the one hand, repudiates the domestic center (Moscow), and on the other hand, welcomes the involvement of the outside center (i.e. Brussels).
Despite rather modest political off-springs (vitalized, in particular, by “The Movement for St.Petersburg’s Autonomy” and the Kaliningrad-based Baltic Republican Party that advocate the estrangement of these two regions from Russia), the secessionist discourse is in one form or another part of Russian political debates. Many Russian analysts deem that Russia is going through a period of “self-decomposition”, assuming that in case of radical opening of the borders the majority of Russian regions would in one way or another have fused with the neighboring countries575. Predictions of demise of Russia and a comeback of medieval compartmentalization are not rare among Russian commentators576. Paradoxically, some forms of secession discourse are promoted by partisans of Russian geopolitical grandeur (it was Alexander Dugin, a leading theorist of Russia’s geopolitics, who advocated the handover of the KO to Germany).
The concept of marginality as developed by Noel Parker focuses on the questions the trans-border relations raise for the understanding of political space in general and the construction of Europe in particular. Conceptually, peripheries are presented as underdeveloped, inconveniently positioned, exposed to external dangers, and subordinated territories. Alternatively, margins as rather autonomous spaces are existentially able to develop the strategies of their own. Marginality, in Parker’s vision, is equated with new opportunities and openings for regional actors. Thus, territories located at the intersection of different polities and identities (“cross-roads actors”) are capable of comprehending how to make better use of their marginality resources through inclusive cooperation with adjacent territories. Margins are important components of different policy constellations because they usually have a room to maneuver and a meaningful degree of freedom in exploiting their location. Politically, margins are reluctant to accept that the center speaks for them; moreover, they may define the nature of the core itself577. A marginal territory may enjoy greater freedom because the mere possibility that it might exist outside the center’s sphere of influence is an argument to be exploited. Tensions between centers and margins are inevitable, but what is most important is that marginal position might turn into advantage through a variety of ways, including rent-seeking, charging the center in return for remaining inside, and so on. Due to external connections (“vaccination from the outside”578), margins try to insure against political abatements and falling-off of economic conjuncture in their own countries. Margins always have a choice to make, and centers are not rare to compete with each other to gain their loyalties. The discursive strategy of marginality, ideally, envisions not only comparable but also compatible powers of both center involved, and even a certain division of roles between them.
The “stories of marginality” are premised upon the conceptualization of a region’s location at the interface of two competing cultures and political entities. The search for positive «in-between» solutions is underway as an intrinsic part of a set of “marginality strategies” that some of the border regions endeavor to implement. A strategy of marginality implies going beyond the over-dependence on the centers, and contains a great deal of border-breaking potential.
The concept of margins may serve a good theoretical platform to study the trans-national roles played by non-central actors, since in order to qualify for a “margin”, a region has to exist in two-way relations with at least two centers. It is a zone of “binary identification” that might lead to either “double belongingness” (exemplified in the concept of “overlapping near abroads” in the EU – Russian neighborhood) or “double non-belongingness” (a situation that not only envisages maneuvering of margins between the two centers and finding a balance between them, but also leaves an ample room for margins’ autonomy and subjectivity)579.
The story of marginality is a part of post-structuralist and – to a certain extent anti-Wallersteinian – set of conceptualizations of territoriality. Being on the margin underwrites some specific potential of having an impact upon neighboring areas. Tensions between center and margins are inevitable, but what is most important is that a marginal position might turn into an advantage in a variety of ways. A territory premised on marginality may enjoy greater freedom because of the mere possibility that it might exist outside of the centers’ spheres of influence.
My assumption is that a strategy of marginality becomes conceivable whenever a region starts to treat the outside world as a source of opportunities instead of being fearful or suspicious of its neighbours. In particular, Kaliningrad’s prospective in-between position implies that it wishes to present itself as “an European region of Russia”, presuming that it can’t be separated from the EU.
Chapter 3. MARGINALITY AT WORK: PATTERNS OF INTERLACING
In this chapter I shall chart the possible ways of utilizing the discourse of marginality - as interlocked with other discourses - for the purposes of studying the border-related spatial strategies.
The discourses on marginality are differently shaped. An interesting manifestation of the variety of marginalities could be found in a series of anniversaries, celebrated recently and/or to be celebrated soon. The 300 years of St.Petersburg were jubilated as a holiday of imperial Russia (while exactly the same anniversary of Petrozavodsk was almost ignored on a nation-wide level). On the contrary, the festivities honoring 1100th anniversary of Pskov were about jubilating Russia’s provinciality and maintaining this region’s cultural peculiarity vis-à-vis the rest of Russia, including St.Petersburg. As for forthcoming 750th anniversary of Koenigsberg/Kaliningrad, the fact that certain policy makers in the presidential administration were rather skeptical about the idea of decently celebrating this event, proves that politically Moscow still has some problems with tackling the historical heritage of this renamed city. The attempts of restoring the historical name of Kaliningrad were blamed as «a betrayal» by many of patriotically-minded pundits. A number of conciliatory yet nevertheless clumsy proposals were announced like “Kantograd” or even “Putingrad”. What came out of this discourse is an awkward and somehow ironic celebration of «750 years of the city of Kaliningrad». Having approved this formula, Kremlin not only has obviously put itself in a self-defeating position, but, what is even more important, has lost a chance to offer - through recovering and jubilating the historical name of the city – a new compromise-ridden mixture of different conceptualizations of Russia's relations with Europe. Indeed, a semiotic comeback of Koenigsberg might have been differently yet potentially quite positively interpreted by both «Westernizers» (presumably aspiring for a new impulse for Russian – EU relationship) and «Slavophiles» (who might eventually concede that having a city with the German name as a part of Russia is a good remembrance of the old days of Russian/Soviet military glory).