Staunton, October 18 – Igor Barinov, the head of the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs, has proposed uniting all institutions responsible for ethnic relations into a single institution at the regional level and placing it under the vice governors there, an exploitation of Putin’s “optimization” effort that could lead to a single nationalities ministry in Moscow.
In comments to “Vedomisti,” Barinov argued that he believes such an approach would be more effective, especially since his agency has found that “in the regions there is no single approach to the selection of those officials responsible for inter-ethnic relations” (vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2015/10/14/612734-upravlenie-otnosheniyami-unifitsiruyut).
The official noted that “often” the leaders of religious confessions and ethnic groups “do not know whom to turn to for the resolution of their problems.” If they could be confident that the number two official in the regions was, they would have more confidence that their problems would be examined and solved.
Unifying all the functions dealing with nationalities and religions under a single official in each region, of course, would save money as well. But it would likely also set the stage for demands that Moscow create a single ministry responsible for all these issues as well, something that Putin has resisted since disbanding the nationalities ministry in his first term.
The reason for that is simple: if some an agency is given enough power to be effective, it will be a threat to others; but if it isn’t, it will by default be ineffective. Barinov is now obviously caught in that trap, and he is using Putin’s plans to “optimize” the number of bureaucracies to push for unity in his area of responsibility as well.