By Vladimir Gendlin
DOMODEDOVO – I first met with the leaders of this town’s independence movement in a small Azeri cafe.
Domodedovo is barely a town, really, more like just a street; and when I arrived, there was a Muscovite photographer obviously on the same story. We were waiting for the members of the independence movement led by human rights lawyer Evgenii Arkhipov.
The group wants the town of Domodedovo, which includes Moscow’s Domodedovo airport — the largest airport in Russia — to secede, and form the Russian Democratic Republic. The story about the national independence of Domodedovo sounds like a joke. But the best jokes come from the most tragic material, and this story says much about shifting power in modern Russia.
When the leaders of the movement finally arrived, we left the cafe and headed to an empty playground, where Valeri Tsatuyov, one of the group’s leaders, pulled the new country’s flag out of the trunk of his Toyota 4×4. The flag is red and black, with a white symbol in the middle. The symbol was used by Russian princes during their wars against the Mongols.
Arkhipov explained that the airport would not be nationalized by the new country, but instead would pay taxes, “for the benefit of all the citizens of the Republic!”
I asked how many people had already voted for the new country. “There are fifty people in the leadership group,” said Arkhipov. “And we have already gathered around 500 signatures. But when we started collecting signatures, it turned out that everyone supported us right away. So we stopped, because there’s no sense in continuing. Our activists have more important things to do.”