Saturday, September 1, 2018

Moscow’s Plan to Divide Russia into 14 Economic Regions Acts as If Markets Don’t Exist and isn’t about Economics Anyway, Garifullin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 31 – In Soviet times, Moscow divided up the USSR into economic regions at various points, something that could be said to make some sense when there is a planned socialist economy. But now, the government is calling for dividing up Russia into 14 economic regions without acknowledging the existence of markets, Ilnar Garifullin says.

            The plan, outlined in a 114-page draft decision on spatial development of the country (, virtually ignores the transformation of the Russian  economy over the last 27 years, the historian says (

            Over the course of that period, Garifullin says, “in place of the planned-administative economy has arisen a market economy with all ensuring consequences, the chief of which is that the economic development of a territory is defined by market processes and the movement of capital and not by the order of the state.”

            “How in such a situation the state can directly regulate economic development of this or that territory is a question without an answer.”

            Despite the plan’s claims to be based on existing “socio-economic ties” in the regions, Garifullin continues, a glance at the lines it draws shows this is not the case and that the proposed divisions are being imposed much as Stalin did when with the stroke of a pen he drew the borders of the national republics – but even he had more logic on his side than this plan does.

            Commenting on the latest plan, some experts are “carefully” suggesting that the new division is designed to set the stage for the elimination of national republics and oblasts and their replacement by gubernias.  If they read the entire document, however, they would see that there is no reason to be cautious about making such suggestions.

            The document shows that Moscow wants to equalize the situation throughout the country and eliminate the current division between donor and recipient regions.  Moreover, it shows that the center plans to have these economic regions rather than the existing federal subjects make decisions on things like the number of schools and social infrastructure more generally.

            That will take away what remains of federalism.  And if that is not enough, point seven of the document speaks only of protecting “the rights of indigenous numerically small peoples” but not of the rights of those which now have national republics.  They will be stripped of their last powers and so will be vestigial until they are eliminated altogether.

            “The practice of enlargement and ‘optimization’ is extremely popular with the Russian bureaucratic machine” which always talks about improving the lives of people and reducing the size of the bureaucracy but acts to do just the reverse, Garifullin continues. And that has real consequences for most of Russia.

            “This means the further dying out of villages and small cities and the expansion of ‘new Moscow’ in which, according to the calculations of analysts, if the current trends continue, 20 years from now a quarter of the population of the country will live.”

            And it means something else as well: the equalization of conditions everywhere else, a situation that history shows in the case of Russia means that all will live poorly rather than some having a chance for a better life.

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