Staunton, May 18 – Twelve activists are calling for a referendum that would reverse the 2005 amalgamation of the Dolgan-Nenets Autonomous District and Krasnoyarsk Kray and restore Dolgan-Nenets as an autonomous district. They say they have been driven to take that step because of the precipitous decline in the standard of living of Northern peoples there.
Stella Kokh, one of the 12, tells Kommersant that as a result of the amalgamation, a large share of government structures was shifted out of the Dolgan-Nenets region to Krasnoyarsk and Norilsk. As a result, unemployment among the indigenous peoples has soared despite Putin’s promises to the contrary (kommersant.ru/doc/3299346 and nazaccent.ru/content/24103-zhiteli-tajmyrskogo-dolgano-neneckogo-okruga-zahoteli-otdelitsya.html).
Another activist, Gennady Shchukin, a representative of the Association of Indigenous Numerically Small Peoples of the Taymyr, says that the kray officials don’t understand the nature of life in the Taymyr. They fly over the region in helicopters and think that “we have trolleybuses and trains” even though reindeer herding is the basis of the economy.
The kray government is slated to take up the question of registering the initiative group today. The leaders of the group expect to be turned down, but regardless of whether they are, they insist, “they will continue the struggle.” The peoples of the North are slow to anger, they say; but now that they are, there is no turning back.
The Taymyr Dolgano-Nenets District was created in 2005 out of the former Dolgano-Nenets Autonomous District when it was folded into Krasnoyarsk kray as part of Vladimir Putin’s now-stalled regional amalgamation effort. Just under 30 percent of its population consists of people of the indigenous nationalities of the North.
Kray officials and some Moscow experts say that the Dolgano-Nenets cause has no future because the area has insufficient resources. LDPR deputy Aleksandr Gliskov of the Krasnoyarsk legislative assembly says that the region would only suffer not only economically but socially and politically with the return of “feudal” overlords.
Natalya Zubarevich, the head of the Moscow Independent Institute of Social Policy, agrees and that there is no possibility of turning back the clock even though “all former autonomies are dissatisfied with the unification” that Kremlin mandated. Some lost jobs, and all saw their overall economic situation decline despite the center’s promises.
Nonetheless, many who live in these places are angry and want to see a change regardless of what Moscow says. Moreover, it is not just non-Russian entities that are unhappy with their inclusion in one or another predominantly Russian oblast or kray. Some Russian towns are as well, and they are demanding that they be shifted from one oblast to another. (On this, see echo.msk.ru/blog/currenttime/1981244-echo/, currenttime.tv/a/28482344.html and newsland.com/community/4765/content/uralskii-separatizm-biriuzovgo-tsveta/5828107.)
Even if none of these efforts succeed, they are certain to add a new element to Russian political life, simultaneously highlighting the ways in which Moscow has typically treated non-Russians as chess pieces it can move about at will and also, and perhaps more immediately significant, the failure of Vladimir Putin to understand the dangers amalgamation entails.
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