Friday, October 5, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Administrative Borders inside Russian Federation Create Problems for Residents

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 5 – Since the end of the USSR, many analysts have focused on how administrative borders when transformed into international ones have created problems for those who live alongside them. But they have ignored the way in which administrative borders within the Russian Federation and any change in them create problems as well.

            In most cases, these problems involve little more than confusion in the minds of the population about which officials they must appeal to, but particularly when borders – oblast, municipal or other – are changed or when it involves local officials in negotiations with Moscow bureaucracies, the situation has the potential to become more problematic.

            Writing on the “Krestyanskiye vedomosti” portal today, Anatoly Yershov, a Nizhny Novgorod journalist, suggests that a regional law passed by his oblast’s legislative assembly concerning border changes within that region and between it and Vladimir call attention to those risks (

            The regional legistive at, he said, might seem simply a “routine” action, “but in fact over the course of a lengthy period it has complicated the vital interests of the local population” which lives in several settlements whose territory is divided by the administrative line between Nizhny Novgorod and Vladimir oblasts.

            One of several such settlements, Yershov continues, is Tsentralny, a place where most of the people live in Nizhny Novgorod oblast but whose essential services technically belong to the Gorovetky municipal district of Vladimir oblast “where are situated military units of the Russian Federation Military of Defense.”

            N. Perkaleva, the deputy head of the department of  the Nizhny Novgorod government office for legal affairs, told the “Krestyanskiye vedomosti” journalist that “this problem arose many years ago when on the territories of these two neighboring oblasts were transferred lands for military units and military settlements.”

            Over the last several decades, she continued, “much has changed: the military settlements have been broken up and combined with local settlements and villages [and] certain military units shifted their baing or were transferred to other territories entirely.” But to date, local legislators have not managed to bring the borders into line with the realities on the ground.

            “Of course,” Yershov observes, the residents do receive “from the local power that be the entire range of social services, but not infrequently create a certain confusion for local residents,” who do not know where to turn to get a particular service.  And that in turn means that “administrative barriers up to do mean many serious difficulties” for them.

            And the journalist somewhat humorously that what is taking place on the border between two oblasts in the Russian Federation “recalls an old foreign film in which the action is entirely connected with the fact that the border between France and Italy passes directly through a particular house.”

            If the Nizhny Novogorod legislators give final approval to the border law, that will only be the first step, the journalist ponts out, because under Russian law “borders between subjects of the Russian Federation can be changed [only] on the basis of joint agreement.” Consequently, for thngs to be resolved, Vladimir oblast must adopt a corresponding law.

            This requirement means that bring precision to borders between “two neighboring [and predominantly ethnic Russian] oblasts is far from simple and requires a long period of time,” a situation that is even more complicated when the neighboring federal subjects are dominated by different ethnic groups (On that see today’s report in

            Similar border problems exist within oblasts as well, Yershov points out.  Not long ago, he reports, the authorities in the city of Nizhny Novgorod found their ability to build new housing checkmated by the existence of old administrative lines drawn by the defense ministry in Soviet times.

            Now the military facilities those lines were drawn to support are gone, and the land is in fact vacant. But that has not eased the situation. And Yershov notes that “negotiations” between the military authorities in Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod about this “have been going on during the course of the last year and a half” with no resolution in sight.

            In rural parts of the oblast, the journalist notes, the issue of return of territories given over to the military but now vacant is much worse: There are many more such locations, and Moscow has shown little willingness to redraw the borders for the benefit of the local authorities and the local population.

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