Russian's Out-There Vision of the Six Republics of America Is Under the Microscope

By Joel Garreau
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 3, 2009

For seriously predicting that the United States will break into six parts in June or July of 2010, Igor Panarin has suddenly become a Russian state-media celebrity. Hardly a day goes by without another interview or two for the KGB-trained, Kremlin-backed senior analyst. The clamor in Russia for his ideas is growing, he says.

Panarin's disintegration divination comes complete with a map. In it, Alaska goes to Russia. Hawaii goes to Japan or China. "The California Republic" -- the West from Utah and Arizona to the Pacific -- goes to China. "The Texas Republic" -- the South from New Mexico to Florida -- goes to Mexico. "Atlantic America" -- the Northeast from Tennessee and South Carolina up to Maine -- joins the European Union. And "The Central North-American Republic" -- the Plains from Ohio to Montana -- goes to Canada.

Few Americans paid any attention to his novel views until this week, when the Wall Street Journal trumpeted them on Page 1. Within hours, the U.S. media began the counterattack.

This is preposterous, Time magazine said in a blog.

"The man knows nothing at all about American regional differences," wrote Justin Fox, Time's business and economics columnist. South Carolina is like Massachusetts? Tennessee will join with France? Idaho will find something to love about California? Wyoming will snuggle up to Ottawa? Alabama will happily report to Mexico City? "Yeah, right!" Fox wrote. "Has this man ever been to the United States? Has he never even heard of 'The Nine Nations of North America'? . . . Igor, do your homework!"

Ahem, yes, that 1981 "Nine Nations" book I myself wrote. Well, I was young. I needed the money.

The regional bloggers who find it useful to view the continent functioning as if it were nine separate economies or distinct cultures that pay little regard to state or national boundaries have been loudly a-chirp about Panarin for a while.

Their complaints are similar to Time's. They're not so concerned about some Russkie anticipating American disunion, devolution, revolution, fratricide and overthrow of the government. What the hey, we celebrate those every Fourth of July. Never uncommon in North America is the geopolitical urge to take a walk for a pack of cigarettes. At any given time, there are as many as a dozen secession movements ongoing. The one getting the most press currently is the Second Vermont Republic.

Such unhappy places usually want to secede because they are marginal, cheated, powerless, sparsely populated areas neglected by the big urban centers that control powerful states. The reason their secession movements are thoroughly ignored is that they are marginal, cheated, powerless, sparsely populated areas neglected by the big urban centers that control powerful states.

The regionalists' problem with Panarin is that he couldn't be more clueless about where the real fault lines of culture and values are.

Las Vegas beats with the same heart as Portland, Ore.? Detroit is the soul mate of Bozeman, Mont.?

Good Lord, Richmond is the same place as Fairfax?

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