One of the most important symbols of the non-Russian republics, their own distinctive flags, is now under attack, so far only in Mari El but supposedly there on orders from Moscow, a report that if true suggests that what has occurred in that Middle Volga republic will soon take place elsewhere.
Since 1991, the flags of the Russian Federation and of the Republic of Mari El have flown in front of schools there, but now, only the Russian flag is displayed.
The anonymous author of this report says that Larisa Revutskaya, the republic education minister who arrived last year from Saratov, directed that the Mari El flag no longer be raised in front of schools and that her action was taking place on orders from Moscow.
Some in Mari El believe that they became the first target of this new Moscow move. But most see this action as one directed at the non-Russians as such and thus something likely to trigger new tensions.
Just how important the republic flag is to the Maris and how angry they are about this Moscow decision is reflected in the enormous number of commentators who chose to respond to this report and to say that it opens the door to a new wave of conflict between Moscow and that Finno-Ugric republic.
Staunton, May 20
Source: Window on Eurasia
Illustrative photo, not from Mari El