Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Kremlin Creates Opening for Combining Arkhangelsk Oblast and Nenets AO, Stanulevich Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 19 – With the appointment of Aleksandr Tsybulsky as governor of Arkhangelsk Oblast, Moscow has opened the door to uniting that federal subject with the Nenets Autonomous Oblast given that the new man in Arkhangelsk had been serving as head of the Nenets AO, according to Vladimir Stanulevich.

            Because of that experience, the Arctic correspondent for the Regnum news agency says, Tsybulsky is “the only one of the Arkhangelsk governors since the times of Pavel Balakshin who could with minimal problems carry out a Kremlin decision to unite” the two federal subjects (regnum.ru/news/polit/2922697.html).

            He knows the lay of the land in both places, Stanulevich says; and consequently, a decision to combine the two would not face the resistance in the Nenets AO that would confront almost anyone else.  And at present, for three reasons, amalgamating these two regions is “much more necessary than it might appear.”

            First, the journalist says, forestry, the chief Arkhangelsk monoculture “is becoming an ever more unpredictable business.” To keep it going, the oblast needs money for new roads to gain access to the remaining forests, and that must come either from Moscow or from the oil and gas rich Nenets AO, something that could happen with amalgamation.

            Second, Arkhangelsk has not played the role in the Arctic that Moscow hoped for, taking a back seat to the Nenets AO and Murmansk. By combining the two federal subjects, it would be able to assume the role that many had counted on it to play was Moscow moves to develop the Arctic region.

            And third, “the unification and strengthening of Arkhangelsk Oblast is needed by the country” in order to prevent it from becoming “the weak link” on the Northern Sea Route. As “a homogeneous ethnic Russian” area, the oblast needs to be strengthened economically and politically to block foreign influences on the Finno-Ugric peoples of the region.

            According to Stanulevich, “the strengthening of Arkhangelsk Oblast completely corresponds to the idea of “the Foundations of State Policy in the Arctic.” But folding the Nenets AO into it faces problems because people there believe the combination would lead to a decline in their incomes and a transfer of wealth from the AO to the expanded oblast.

            It is necessary if this move goes forward, the journalist says, to “preserve the balance between the interests of the oblast’s forestry workers and the oil men working in the Nenets AO.  That is something Tsybulsky is fully equipped to do; and his appointment thus moves the amalgamation out of the realm of “the fantastic” into the very real indeed.

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