Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Moscow Oblast Must Be Subdivided for Russian Federalism to Succeed, Khodakovsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 28 – That Moscow is an imperial metropolis, few would deny;and many who would like to see Russia become a genuine federation have speculated that this will only occur when the capital moves elsewhere and Moscow city becomes a region like all the others (cf. windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2013/08/window-on-eurasia-muscovy-must-become.html  and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/09/moscow-oblast-could-become-center-of.html).

            But in a new article on the Region.Expert portal, Moscow regionalist Gleb Khodakovsky argues that such “a Moscow Republic” could not arise by “a mechanical unification” of the city and the surrounding oblast because the interests of the people in various parts of such an entity are so different (region.expert/podmoskovye/).

                Instead, he says, the key to transforming Moscow from an obstacle to federalism into an engine for it is to be found in Moscow Oblast, which is generally referred to slightingly as Podmoskovye, a region with 7.5 million people who need to recover their own distinct identities rather than remain mired as subordinate to Moscow city. 

            That residents of Moscow Oblast think of themselves that way is “not surprising considering the centralist and even hyper-centralist administrative model which has been adopted in Russia,” Khodakovsky says. But unless it is broken there, it will be very difficult to break for the country as a whole, forcing a choice between the current system and disintegration.

             He argues that it is possible to solve this problem by dividing Moscow Oblast into several oblasts which will “in this case begin to acquire” their own identities and will be able “to recognize their own regional interests, ones that are not connected directly with Moscow” but rather with each other and other neighbors as well.

            He suggests that the existing oblast should be subdivided into three new ones: one centered in Sergiyev Posad and possibly bearing the name Zalesskaya Oblast which would ultimately draw in districts from other oblasts, a second based on Serpukhov and reflecting the ancient principality of Chernigov, and a third around Kolomna.

            Each of these by virtue of history and geography has a distinctive identity which can be recovered and expanded upon, the analyst says. There are other possibilities as well: Mozhaysk for example could become an oblast center but more likely would become part of an expanded Smolensk Oblast reflecting its historical past.

            Other “configurations” are possible, Khodakovsky says; but “what is necessary in principle is their being split out from Moscow oblast, thereby reducing the weight of Moscow in a future federation and opening the way for the people in this region to have “at a minimum” five historical regions rather than one Kremlin-imposed place.

            And that will have an even greater and more positive consequence: The rulers in Moscow treat Podmoskovye the way they want to treat the entire country. Without the existence of that entity, the other regions will have a greater chance to escape from that Procrustean bed and Moscow will have less ability to force them into it. 

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