Friday, May 12, 2017

Moscow Urged to Make Far Eastern Federal District First Governorship General of a Renewed Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 12 – Since the 1930s, Moscow has governed the Russian Far East by subdividing it to reflect population changes and economic needs and to prevent the growth of regionalist attitudes. Vladimir Putin has changed directions and pushed for the amalgamation of small non-Russian federal subjects with larger and predominantly Russian ones.

            But the editors of the Russian nationalist portal in the Far East, Bereg Rus, argue that both domestic requirements and foreign policy challenges require that the Kremlin go further and transform the entire Far Eastern Federal District into a single administrative unit as the first governorship general of a renewed Russia (

            Such a step is necessary, the editors say, because the current leaderships of the smaller regions and republics in the Far Eastern District are not only too focused on economic issues to the exclusion of attention to foreign policy challenges and Russian national needs but also are too often in bed corruptly or not with trans-national corporations.

            Putin’s decision to fold the Koryak autonomous district into Kamchatka kray and the Agin autonomous district into a new Transbaikal kray based mostly on the former Irkutsk oblast have encouraged discussion about “the need for a review of a new system of the organization of administrative-territorial administration in the Far East,” Bereg Rus says.

            A good way forward, the editors say, would involve the transformation of the Far Eastern Federal District into a single federal subject with a capital either in Yakutsk or in an entirely new city on the border of Irkutsk oblast and Sakha. That would undercut criminal ties with foreign firms and open the way for the development of the Northern Sea Route.

            Such a territory, if organized as a new governship general, the editors continue, could become “a real and significant factor for the strengthening of the territorial integrity of Russia, the successful mastery of the Arctic and Siberian regions, and a guarantee of victory in a possible war” in the Pacific.

            Bereg Rus suggests that the best option for an administrative center of such a governorship general would be on the shores of the Lena River near Yakutsk or at the river port of Ust Kut near the mouth of that river.  Given how fast Moscow was able to develop the Russian Island off Vladivostok, building such a new city would seem a very reasonable step.

            Such a new “Arctic capital with the residence of the governor general of Eastern Siberia should be combined with the Western and Eastern portion of the country by a new railroad,” which along with the new structure would “strengthen our statehood and defense capability” at a time of serious challenges.

            By virtue of its boldness and its combination of concerns about economic development and national security undoubtedly will find some support in Moscow, especially among those who would like to take a step that suggests Putin is prepared to depart from past practices in order to promote the national interests he often talks about.

             But because such an entity would be so large and so rich and because it would recall the short-lived Far Eastern Republic of the early 1920s, it is certain to be opposed by others who would see it as a threat to Moscow’s control rather than a guarantee and even the harbinger of the disintegration of the Russian Federation.

             And it would also be opposed by those who would see it as yet another step toward an even more authoritarian and militarist Russia, one in which freedom and democracy would be even more sharply restricted than they are today, given that the creation of one governorship general could open the way for more.
            However, the fact that it is being promoted now and by a pro-Kremlin group in the Far East itself suggests how many problems have built up in that region and how shaky the current arrangements are, especially in the event either of a serious conflict on the Korean peninsula or a dramatic expansion of Northern Sea Route traffic.

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