Staunton, January 21 – Vladimir Putin’s decision to disband the Ministry for the North Caucasus, an institution he set up in 2014, appeared to open the way not only for even greater central control over that region but also for the elimination in the near term of the other regional ministry, the Ministry for the Development of the Arctic and Russian Far East.
But at least one expert who is close to the situation suggests that the Caucasus ministry was never close to the region and that its demise may have a different set of consequences than might appear at first blush to be likely. In fact, Olga Timofeyeva, the deputy speaker of the Russian Duma, implies that things could work out differently.
She says that the ministry fulfilled the tasks Moscow assigned it at the time of its creation and that now, a new system of financing and launching national projects means that the time for such ministries has passed. But at the same time, she says, the regional ministry wasn’t really “regional” (capost.media/news/policy/ministerstva-po-delam-severnogo-kavkaza-bolshe-net/).
That is because both the men who headed it, Lev Kuznetsov and Sergey Chebotaryev, not only were “not people from this macro-region” but also led the ministry from Moscow “and therefore did not understand the specifics of the Caucasus. These people sat 1500 to 2000 kilometers from the regions and tried to solve the problems of the North Caucasus republics.”
That shortcoming almost certainly had nothing to do with Putin’s decision, and it is entirely possible that the new bureaucratic arrangement he has established – the North Caucasus ministry is to be absorbed into the Ministry for Regional Development – may make the situation even worse for the regions.
But it is also possible that the regional development ministry which has offices around the Russian Federation may be more attentive to local people. And if that happens, the demise of the North Caucasians’ “own” ministry could ultimately work to their benefit.