Staunton, March 14 – Suggestions that Vladimir Putin may restart his amalgamation campaign to reduce the number of federal subjects by combining smaller non-Russian areas with larger ethnic Russian ones (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/03/will-jewish-ao-be-absorbed-by.html) is leading some to examine what happened when he managed to do that earlier.
What such examinations show is that this action did little to improve the situation of either the place that was absorbed or the place that did the absorbing, that many of the promises officials made to gain approval of these changes haven’t been kept, and that the absorbing region hasn’t even bothered to adopt legislation needed to make the combination work.
In an article entitled “A Disputed Union,” Anatoly Kvasov, a journalist for the EastRussia.ru portal, says that “the unification of Chita Oblast and Agin-Buryat AO” into the TransBaikal Kray 12 years ago “has not achieved many of the promises” its backers made (eastrussia.ru/material/spornyy-soyuz-kak-izmenilos-zabaykale-za-12-let-sushchestvovaniya/).
Prior to their unification, Moscow considered uniting other pairs of subjects – Adygeya and Krasnodar Kray and the Altay with the Altay Republic – but there was so much opposition that the central government turned to Chita Oblast and the Agin-Buryat AO as something less than its first choice.
Putin’s decision to go ahead was not met with enthusiasm by Buryatia which hoped to reclaim the district for itself or with more than pro forma backing by the population of the Agin-Buryat AO who were promised a lot and in fact had no choice but to go along. And the first years were bumpy (windowoneurasia.blogspot.com/2009/06/window-on-eurasia-putin-policies.html).
But in the last decade except for the occasional article in the Buryat Republic media, the situation in the former Agin-Buryat AO has been largely ignored. It is so small – 7500 square kilometers and 75,000 people – and so far away that it has only rarely even been mentioned in the central Russian media.
Now, with talk of amalgamations returning, it is getting more attention. Former officials say that the people there are disappointed because the social and economic situation did not become better as they were promises, and in places in the new kray, the situation “deteriorated, especially for the Agin district.”
Chita rarely focuses on its concerns and the region has not flourished by languished as a backwater, local experts say. Still worse, they have no firm legal foundation for doing anything about it: the law that the new kray was supposed to pass about the district has not been taken up even though the union is now 12 years old.