Scotland’s dabbling in secessionism has been closely watched in the ex-Soviet Union, the Shangri-La of separatism. From Transnistria to Karabakh to Crimea, all eyes have been on the UK recently, in hopes that the Scottish example would change hearts and minds about claims to independence.
In South Ossetia, approaching, on September 20, the 24th anniversary of declaring itself independent from Georgia, many were inspired by the “peaceful and civilized” conduct of the Brits. Abkhazia produced a video, in which a group of people unfurl a giant Scottish flag to the sound of Mel Gibson bellowing “Freedom!” in Braveheart.
Yet with Scotland’s September-18 vote to stay with the United Kingdom these public expressions of separatist-solidarity with Scotland have suddenly fallen silent. Only Nagorno Karabakh, which itself has seen a referendum proposed as part of the solution to its differences with Baku, issued a statement, observing that “regardless of the result,” the Scottish referendum had shown that letting people decide their own fate is “the norm in a democratic society.”
Countries like Azerbaijan and Georgia with separatism problems also had watched the vote with concern and tried to underscore the difference of their situations, marked by military conflict and the disenfranchisement of populations forced to flee the breakaway territories. Although neither government issued an official statement, on social media, the vote for the UK was seen as an indirect confirmation of local arguments for unity.
For Moscow, now busy expanding its portfolio of sponsored breakaway territories, the Scottish vote earlier had been seen as an exoneration of its support for separatism in its neighborhood. Russian Senator Igor Morozov was positive that the outcome of the poll would herald a new “world order,” reported Vestnik Kavkaza news service.
“We know that there is a global struggle between two directions: the principle of territorial integrity and nations’ rights to self-determination, so today’s referendum in Scotland will become an impulse to changing the world order altogether,” he reasoned.
But that order did not change. Russia, which had betted on a yes-vote, did not let the opportunity slip to offer some recommendations, however. Its four observers claimed the vote “did not meet international standards,” The Guardian reported. For one, the site for the vote-count was “too big."
In Ukraine, the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic cut to the chase — falsification explained the vote for the UK, Interfax reported.
At this rate, despite Morozov’s predictions, the battle of principles -- self-determination (Russian-assisted or otherwise) against territorial integrity -- looks set to stick around for some time to come.