Siberia: bound to remain part of Russia

Asian parts of Russia have neither the geography, nor economy, nor population numbers to break lose from Russia

Siberia and the Far East were colonized by Russia at the same time as North America by the English and other Europeans. This makes many ask the question: is it possible that Siberia may break lose from Russia in the end, just like the United States won their independence from Britain?

The answer is: very unlikely. There are several reasons that tie the territories east of Urals to Russia proper.

Ethnicity

Siberia is ethnically dominated by Russians. Due to the Stalin-era migrations, purges and wars, the native population is substantially diluted by people from other parts of the Soviet Union.

As to the ethnic Russians there, the sense of local identity is not strong enough to form a shared sense of distinctive community as opposed to the European Russians.

Economy

Siberia has a distinct colonial character to its economy. It specializes on raw materials extracted at remote places. These spots of economic activity have harsh climate, few roads, little diversification. Most, or all of food, equipment and consumer goods are delivered there from the European part of Russia.

Geography

Siberia is sandwiched between the Russian heartland to the west and the Far East on the way to China and the Pacific Rim. No useful coastline and ports apart from some decrepit shallow-water pears up in the Arctic.

The calculus of their independence is unlikely to add up in economic terms the end. Whatever it saves of its riches by taking it from Moscow, it would have to spend on getting the wares out to the world market.

National psyche

Russia’s history over an entire millennium was predicated on a constant territorial expansion. This makes shrinking like the ones that happened in 1917 and 1991 a national tragedy to all Russians irrespective of ideology. “Separatism” is a dirty word, and anything that smacks of it, may bring you fines or a prison term for “extremism” under Russia’s law.

Any government in Moscow is going to fight against separation of eastern territories with all the nation got at disposal. Not least because the bulk of our profitable petroleum exports comes from Siberia and the Far East.

Defense

Sparse population + enormous territory + lopsided economy + disgruntled Russia as a neighbor would make an independent Siberia’s national defense nearly impossible. Independent Siberia would have to depend on Russia for its national security, and why would Russia want to provide it?

Below is a map that shows rate of ethnic Russians among the population around the country. Red means more the 80%, rose more than 50%. This ethnic distribution makes it problematic to separate even for ethnicities with the history of violent resistance to Russian colonization: Chukchas in north-east, Yakut in the center, and Turks along the southern rim.

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