Saturday, July 4, 2020

Nenets Autonomous District Voted Against Amendments to Protest Moscow’s Amalgamation Plans

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 2 – The Nenets Autonomous District was the only federal subject whose voters cast a majority against Vladimir Putin’s constitutional amendments, with more than 55 percent voting no yesterday. They did so, officials and experts say, as a protest against Moscow’s plans to amalgamate their territory with Arkhangelsk Oblast (

            Perhaps significantly, the share of Nenets voters in the district’s capital Naryan-Mar who voted against the amendments was higher than for the federal subject as a whole, a sign that the political class there is possibly more opposed to amalgamation than the population at large (

This opposition in Nenets may slow even if it doesn’t stop the new round of regional amalgamations in which numerically smaller non-Russian republics and districts are folded into larger and predominantly ethnic Russian oblasts and krays. At the very least, it signals that Moscow will face more opposition if it goes forward.

Perhaps significantly, even Putin’s press spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, acknowledged that opposition to amalgamation likely was the factor behind what he called the protest vote there (

But he and other Moscow commentators stressed that the reported results show that voters in all other oblasts, krays, republics and districts gave majority support to the amendments. But there were significant variations.  (For a complete list ranked from loyalist Chechnya that reported more than 98 percent had voted in favor to Nenets, see

In general, predominantly ethnic Russian regions voted for the amendments more heavily than did non-Russian federal subjects with the exception of those noted for the slavish support of the center (Chechnya, Tyva and Russian-occupied Crimea). Variations appear to reflect local issues such or the actions of the KPRF which mobilized its supporters far more effectively in some regions east of the Urals than elsewhere (

The pattern reported thus almost certainly reflects both differences in the attitudes of people in different parts of Russia and differences in the actions of officials in seeking to ensure that the Kremlin got what it wanted, either by pushing pro-government voters to the polls or by falsifying the results in other ways.

A special subset of the voting concerns Russian citizens who live beyond the borders of the Russian Federation.  In many places, the share of those who took part in the referendum was very low; in places like Abkhazia where Russian influence is greatest, Moscow got the desired result; but in others like London and Prague, it lost by an overwhelming vote. (For a complete breakdown, see

The data also show that in countries where Russian residents of the capital and Russian residents living elsewhere voted separately, those in the capital, likely to be diplomats and other officials were more likely to vote for the amendments than those living elsewhere who often chose to vote against. 

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