Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Non-Russian Regions Suffering from Putin’s Amalgamation Plan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 25 – Even as Russian officials once again have begun talking about re-starting Vladimir Putin’s push for regional amalgamation, representatives of two non-Russian areas which were absorbed into a larger one are saying that Moscow’s promises that they would be better off as a result are empty.

            Instead, representatives of Taymyr and Evenkia in the Krasnoyarsk legislative assembly said last week that their populations were suffering as a result of their amalgamation into the larger and predominantly ethnic Russian kray in 2007 as many opponents of that move said at the time (ng.ru/regions/2013-06-24/6_krasnoyarsk.html).

            The Tymyr and Evenk deputies said that in “the inter-season” between when the rivers are navigable and when they freeze and become ice roads, most goods have to be shipped north by plane, leading to unconscionable price rises, with milk costing 200 rubles (6.40 US dollars) a liter, putting such daily necessities beyond the reach of local people.

            Prior to their amalgamation with Krasnoyarsk, the two then-federal subjects had a special agreement with Moscow that was intended to keep the prices down.  It did not always work as intended, but Russian officials pushing for the amalgamation of these two northern territories said during the referendum campaign that they would follow its provisions and keep prices low.

            Not only have they not done so, the deputies say, but they have suggested that the 2003 agreement between the two and Moscow no longer has any force because it was signed when they were federal subjects, a status they no longer have.

            Anatoly Amosov, an Evenk deputy, told “Nezavisimaya gazeta” that “prices in the North are a political question that touches on the result of unification.” Whenever Krasnoyarsk officials come to the Taymyr or Evenkia, he said, the issue comes up because their populations are suffering as a result.

            The deputies from the two northern regions have called for the creation of a special working group to control prices, a group that Amosov said should include parliamentarians, kray officials and representatives of public organizations.

            According to the Moscow paper, “discussions about the astronomical prices in the former okrugs have become yet another manifestation of the dissatisfaction of the Notherns with the social-economic consequences of the unification of the okrugs and the kray which certain experts prefer to call ‘the swallowing’” of the former by the latter.

            Residents of the two former okrugs routinely complain about the results of amalgamation and say they would like to see it reversed. (See ng.ru/regions/2012-05-30/5_separatizm.html.) In addition to the price hikes, they point to the fact that they have to fly enormous distances in order to get the necessary documents from kray officials.

            Political scientist Sergey Komaritsyn suggested that the problems the residents of these two northern regions are “systemic,” arguing that “in the conditions of the Far North, market laws do not work.” For the people there to survive, the government must introduce correctives including subsidies.

            Until that happens, he said, dissatisfaction is likely to grow.  “The strategic mistake of the kray authorities is that they have treated Taymyr and Evenkia are being treated like any other districts.” That needs to change given their special needs, and he suggested that it would not be a bad idea for the kray to create the post of deputy governor for northern affairs.

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