Matvienko’s Regional Amalgamation Plan Would Destabilize Russia
April 25 – Valentina Matvienko, Federation Council speaker, says that it is
unacceptable that 70 federal subjects receive subsidies from Moscow while 10
provide two-thirds of the government’s income and is calling for a redrawing of
borders so that the new larger and thus less numerous federal subjects will be
able to meet their own responsibilities.
plan is a major departure from the regional amalgamation project Vladimir Putin
launched in his first term. That simply folded in six smaller non-Russian
administrative districts into the surrounding and predominantly ethnic Russian
subjects, reducing the number of federal subjects from 89 to 83.
many non-Russians were unhappy with Putin’s program either because they were
directly affected or feared they would be in the future, that program did not
carry with it the potential to destabilize the entire country. Matvienko’s plan
is likely to have exactly that outcome.
are three reasons for that harsh conclusion:
·First, her plan
would mean that the remaining subjects would be, as she says she intends, more
vital and capable of performing their tasks, something that would allow them to
challenge Moscow in ways that dependent regions can’t.
·Second, it would
deprive many political figures of their position and, given the centrality of
administrative-territorial divisions in Russian political life, many existing
regions of their access to such things as federal airports.
·And third, it
would quite possibly dramatically reduce the number of federal subjects, and
experience shows that countries with smaller number of federal units are more
likely to disintegrate than those with a larger number.
and others as well are likely to become apparent and may mean that Matvienko’s
plan – and calling it a plan given her lack of specifics may be too much – is likely
to be stillborn – except for one possibility: Putin might use it to restart his
own amalgamation campaign.
Moscow’s NTV, Matvienko observed that “there are subjects of the federation
which are precisely not independently vital for objective reasons and not
because there have bad governors.” And she suggested these subjects should be
joined together with others which have better “economic, investment and other
That would allow
the new larger regions to “raise the quality of life of people” in ways that
the existing impoverished regions cannot, the Federation Council speaker said.
Matvienko, now is the time to carry out such reforms because “the political and
social situation in the country is stable.” How long it would remain so even in
her terms remains to be seen especially if she or others begin to try to give
this idea real content and specify as she did not what federal subjects will
survive and what ones will not.