Staunton, July 15 – Ten years after Vladimir Putin’s first effort at regional amalgamation ended after having reduced the number of federal subjects from 89 to 83 by folding in the so-called “matryoshka” non-Russian districts into surrounding and predominantly ethnic Russian regions, officials both in Moscow and the regions are once again talking about amalgamation.
For the OnKavkaz portal, Magomet Shamkhalov and Leyla Aliyeva note that both the Federation Council’s Strategy for Spatial Development and discussions in the ministry of economic development at the end of last year stress the need for more regional amalgamation ( ).
They suggest that Moscow sees the regions of Siberia, the Far East and Central Russia as being the first candidates for such a process, and then they provide a listing of proposals now out there about amalgamation:
· Folding in the Jewish Autonomous District into the Amur Oblast, a continuation of the earlier amalgamation effort and one being pushed by Vasily Orlov, currently governor of the predominantly Slavic Amur Oblast.
· Uniting Smolensk, Bryansk, Kaluga and Orlov oblasts into a super region in Central Russia, an idea pushed by Federation Council speaker Valentina Matviyenko
· Forming a single Altay subject by combining the Altai Republic and the Altai kray.
· Combining city and oblast into a single unit in both Moscow and St. Petersburg, an idea that has the support of both local and federal officials.
There has also been talk about combining some portions of the Middle Volga, the two journalists say, perhaps putting all the Finno-Ugric republics in one federal subject and the Turkic republics in another. But such ideas do not appear to have much support but do have significant opposition.
“As far as the republics of the North Caucasus are concerned, the journalists say, “various possibilities including the unification of the Adygey Republic with the surrounding Krasnodar Kray, folding in Karachayevo-Cherkessia into Stavropol Kray, and also putting Adygeya, Kabardino-Bakaria and Karachayevo-Cherkessia into one large region have been discussed.”
Other possibilities that have been raised are the reunification of Chechnya and Ingushetia and doing away with the republics altogether. But on republic has remained untouched by this, at least in public; and that is Daghestan, which is the most ethnically diverse and complicated of them all.
Shamkhalov and Aliyeva note that many in Moscow favor combining the republics and regions without an adequate understanding of the difficulties involved, but they report as well that all the specialists on the North Caucasus with whom they spoke were unanimously opposed to such changes and warned of dangers ahead if Moscow goes ahead anyway.
Asamat Mintsayev, vice president of the All-Russian Inter-Ethnic Union of Youth, says he “does not consider this idea a good one,” all the more so because “there is no need for it. Khadzhimurad Sagitov, editor of Novoye delo, agrees, adding that he hasn’t heard of any serious proposals on this subject but “of course” would be against if they surface.
Political analyst David Gazayev says he is “categorically against” amalgamation in the North Caucasus because it would put “a delayed action bomb” under the area that would “sooner or later explode. Moreover, he warns, any amalgamation will lead to the loss of identity among numerically small peoples.”
Moreover, Gazayev continues, it will be opposed. He suggests that Moscow should learn a lesson from the anger about its plans to drop the requirement for study of the titular languages of the non-Russian republics while continuing to require study in Russian. Reaction to amalgamation, he suggests, would be even stronger.
Khadzhimurad Khakuashev, head of the Council of the Social Organization “The Republic is a Common Task,” says he regrets that Moscow is even thinking about taking this step because it highlights the center’s failure to see the ethnic multiplicity of the country as giving it “thousands of possibilities.” Instead, Moscow views it as a threat.
An Ingush expert who spoke only on condition of anonymity says that “for Ingushetia, the scenario of unification with neighboring Chechnya would mean the end of the still not fully formed Ingush sovereignty and of the formation of a statist Ingushe political consciousness.” According to him, “all of Ingushetia would stand up as one against this step.”
As the first president of Ingushetia, Ruslan Aushev, once remarked, he concludes, “Yes, we and the Chechens are brothers. But in the Caucasus, it is appropriate that brothers, having grown up, separate and build their own separate houses.”