Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Moscow’s Plan to Monitor Ethnic Relations in Regions Useless or Even Harmful, Governors and Experts Say

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 16 – The Russian Ministry for Regional Development is working on a plan to assess the heads of the country’s federal subjects by monitoring the state of inter-ethnic relations in their regions and republics, a program that many governors and experts say is unnecessary, meaningless or even harmful.

            An article in today’s “Izvestiya” reports that the ministry wants to use polls to determine how many residents inn a particular place consider themselves “’Rossiyane’” (the preferred and non-ethnic form of Russianness), how they feel about members of other ethnic groups, and how many “rate positively” inter-ethnic relations there (izvestia.ru/news/548598).

            Not surprisingly, officials told the Moscow daily that they want to devote “particular attention” to regions and republics in the North Caucasus, including Ingushetia, Daghestan, Chechnya, Stavropol kray, and Krasnodar kray, places where ethnic conflicts have spilled over into violence in recent years.

            The officials with whom “Izvestiya” spoke did not say how they would use this data but expressed the hope that collecting it would allow for comparisons between those federal subjects with a largely uniform ethnic composition and those with a more mixed one, comparisons that could prompt changes in the borders of one or the other.

            “Not all heads of regions” and not all experts on regional affairs “see the sense” of such monitoring, the Moscow daily says, with some of them openly opposed to this latest idea.  Oleg Bogomolov, the governor of Kurgan oblast, noted that he had his own system of monitoring and didn’t see what Moscow’s would add.

            Anatoly Artamonov, the head of Kaluga oblast, was more critical. He suggested that giving additional attention to inter-ethnic problems would “only worsen the situation.”  The more one talks about these things, he said, the more they will be found or created.

            “We do not conduct special monitoring on this theme,” Artamonov said, “although we meetin constantly with representatives of the various communities. Besides, we have attached to the governor’s office a council which itself support peace and friendship among the peoples” of the oblast.

            Oleg Betin, the head of Tambov oblast, added that because 96 percent of the population of his region consists of ethnic Russians, carrying out such investigations is “meaningless.”  We have a few Ukrainians,” but not many others, and there is no reason for monitoring ethnic relations there.

            The expert community is similarly divided.  Rostislav Turovsky, vice president of the Moscow Center for Political Technologies, argues that “resolving national problems” in overwhelming ethnic Russia areas “often is no easier than in multi-national ones” because of the impact of migrant workers.

            But Aleksey Titkov, a Moscow political scientist, said that monitoring all these things anywhere “will not improve the situation” because the governors will “simply understand” that their careers depend on the numbers Moscow cares about and ensure through falsification rather than a change in policy that those numbers help rather than hurt them.

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