Monday, January 23, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Komi-Permyaks, Victims of Putin’s Regional Amalgamation Plan, Want Autonomy Back

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 23 – Komi-Permyak activists are using the Internet to highlight the worsening situation in their region since it became the first small non-Russian federation subject to be combined with a larger and predominantly ethnic Russian one and to demand that Moscow restore their former status or allow them to become part of the ethnically-related Komi Republic.

            A group of Komi-Permyaks, who feel that they were mistled or even betrayed when Vladimir Putin orchestrated a referendum approving the elimination of their autonomy and status as a federal subject and inclusion in Perm kray in 2005, have launched a “Return Our Autonomy” page on Russia’s V kontakte” network (

            Those posting on this page say that their people have experienced a significant “deterioration in the standard of living” since they were “swallowed by Perm kray and argue that the only way forward for their Finno-Ugric nation is to leave that formation and either be restored as a separate federal subject of become part of the Komi Republic.

            The Soviet government formed the Komi-Permyak autonomous district in 1925, and after the USSR disintegrated, it became one of the federation subjects enumerated in the Russian Constitution. But in the name of administrative simplification, then President Vladimir Putin pushed through its amalgamation with Perm on December 1, 2005.

            The Komi-Permyaks and activists in several other Finno-Ugric nations in the Middle Volga have complained since that time that the assistance they were promised and the benefits they were told would flow from amalgamation have not happened and that the Komi-Permyaks are worse off than before. 

            But this is the first time that local activists have formed what could be described as a nascent movement to reverse the amalgamation, and it comes as things appear to be heating up among the population of the Finno-Ugric and ethnic Russian subjects in this part of the Russian Federation.

            Last week, Aleksandr Kalashniko, the head of the FSB administration in the Komi Republic, told the local paper, “Krasnoye znamya” that the most important task his officers now have is “blocking extremism and its most serious form, terrorism” among both Finno-Ugric and Russian populations (

            In addition to nationalists groups, Kalashnikov complained about the work of Golos and Memorial, two human rights groups that he said were “directed from abroad, often financed by foreign non-governmental foundations, and directed at the transformation of the political system in Russia,” including by the disruption of the upcoming presidential elections.

            One group the FSB officer did not mention but that seems likely to prove a greater threat to public order than these human rights organizations is the newly organized Russian nationalist “Ethnopolitical Union -- ‘Russians’” in Syktyvkar which promises to protect ethnic Russians from non-Russian oppression (

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