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Марийский государственный университет
Опорный вуз Марий ЭлУчастник программы "Приоритет 2030"

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Separatism versus Federalism: a Spanish precedent. A discussion at the 60th meeting of the political science club "Socrates"

16.03.2022

The topic of Catalan separatism in the agenda of the meetings of the political science club "Socrates" did not arise by chance. Certain circumstances contributed to this. Firstly, politics, especially international politics, is characterized by centrifugal and centripetal tendencies, i.e. the processes of integration and disintegration, which in competition with each other are trying to dominate the human community.

Therefore, close observation of these trends, their assessment and determination of cause-and-effect relationships is the prerogative of international political science. Secondly, this topic is close for some students of the International Relations training course in a purely geographical sense, since for several years in a row some international students have been studying and are studying at the University of Santander in Spain.

Opening the meeting, the moderator, candidate of Political Sciences and Associate Professor of the Department of Intercultural Communication Evgeniy Suslov, noted that the origins of Catalan separatism date back to the era of the Reconquista, when the Muslim Moors began to seize the Iberian Peninsula, and two years later Barcelona fell under their onslaught - the current capital of Catalonia, which was founded in the third century BC.. Later, the Moors were ousted from Catalonia, which made it possible to establish a Spanish brand on its territory — a union of nine counties, the largest of which was Barcelona. The emergence of the Catalan language was the result of the powerful influence of Spanish and French. The history of relations between Spain and Catalonia has known many twists and turns, which included the long administration of the caliphs and emirs from Grenada and Cordoba, and a military victory in 988, which, according to modern Catalan separatists, was the year of the emergence of Catalonia. Catalonia also knew dynastic marriages, which led it to the Kingdom of Aragon. At a later time, Catalonia had its own class representative body — the Cortes, and a century later — the Generalitat, a body of representative power. As part of Aragon, the ethnic culture of the Catalans was formed, the first literary works were written in Catalan, and the word "Catalonia" itself appeared. In other words, the desire for sovereignty, which is often transformed into outright separatism, accompanied Spain throughout its historical past.

The expert at the Socrates meeting was Rodion Chuzaev, Director of the Institute of National Culture and Intercultural Communications, Candidate of Historical Sciences, and associate professor, who, first of all, emphasized the existence of such advantages in the federal form of the state as the possibility of resolving conflicts and contradictions between constitutional partners in an open public form, and not in the "shadow" of centralized bureaucratic institutions. In addition, federalism is a powerful means of preserving small communities, "protecting" the minority from the "tyranny of the majority" and thus being one of the hypostases of pluralism. Despite these obvious advantages, federalism is constantly being tested for strength. Spain is no exception in this sense. The initiators of such sentiments, as a rule, are representatives of the elite, who are not satisfied with their status, and here the thesis about the economic self-sufficiency of the region becomes the most tested, because something similar happened in Catalonia. Moreover, centrifugal tendencies, as noted, have deep historical roots.
The expert noted that the next round of tension in Catalonia, which spread to almost the whole of Spain, happened after the referendum on October 1, 2017. The country has changed the Prime Minister and the ruling party. Moreover, the very structure of the distribution of power has become completely different. Bipartisanship was replaced by a multiparty system, in which representatives of regional forces played a decisive role, which meant that the separatists' capabilities only intensified.

The declaration of independence on October 27 led to the introduction of direct rule in the region, the benefit of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 prudently introduced such an opportunity. Local authorities were dissolved, and half of the Catalan government was in the dock. The head of the region, Carles Puigdemont, disappeared in Belgium. There he tried to get the EU to participate in the conflict, but European countries said that the whole situation was solely an internal matter of Spain. There was a feeling that Mariano Rajoy emerged victorious — constitutional order has been restored in the region, legal proceedings are being conducted against the instigators. However, as time has shown, this victory for him and his party turned out to be Pyrrhic.

Concluding his speech, Rodion Chuzaev drew the audience's attention to the fact that studying the Catalan precedent is important in order to understand Russian realities, since in the early nineties Russia also did not escape separatist sentiments. However, by the resolute efforts of President Vladimir Putin, the sovereignization of the country was stopped, which was facilitated by the process of bringing constitutional acts of the constituent entities of the Federation into line with the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

Clarifying the current situation in Catalonia, Candidate of Political Sciences and Associate Professor of the Department of Intercultural Communication Alexey Fominykh noted that despite the riots after the referendum in Catalonia, demonstrators dissatisfied with the actions of the Spanish authorities showed a careful attitude to the cultural heritage of the country, as they were concerned about the problem of the country's tourist attractiveness. Yes, there were multimillion-dollar marches, but there were no terrorist acts or other acts of vandalism. At the same time, the Catalans, being fierce supporters of leaving Spain, do not want to distance themselves from the European Union. In turn, the EU insistently reminds the separatists that after leaving Spain, they would have to go through the complicated procedure of joining it again.

A successful addition to the report of Rodion Chuzav was the speech of the 4th-year international student Sergey Svechnikov, who studied at the University of Santander for six months in 2021. According to S. Svechnikov, important factors in the creation of a federal state are such natural barriers as mountain ranges, water obstacles, which in ancient times were divided by tribes and nationalities, forced because of this to build different life prospects. Sergey Svechnikov focused on a question: what can federalism lead to? In his opinion, on the one hand, this can lead to national integration, on the other - to interethnic conflicts. The idea of national pride and the desire for national identity have lived in the people for a long time. When students studied in Spain, they were told that the national identity of Europeans began to prevail over ethnic identity. In other words, the Spaniards no longer say that they are Spaniards, but the French, that they are French. They consider themselves, first of all, Europeans. And now this supranational identity is gaining momentum and will determine the future of Europe.

Students asked difficult questions. The most active were 4th-year international students Alexey Nikitin and 2nd-year Mikhail Pivovarov. Through the efforts of the teachers present, it was possible to find worthy answers that respond to the anger of the day.

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