Staunton, September 20 – In Soviet times, Moscow used a combination of force – the GULAG and the assignment of university graduates to particular locations – and massive subsidies to relocate massive numbers of Russians northward and eastward. Since the end of Soviet times, both of these levers have disappeared.
As a result, internal migration in Russia has shifted, with people moving south and west, exactly the opposite of what Moscow needs if it is to develop the Russian North and the Russian Far East as it wants or even be certain that it has enough people there to project power and defend against the moves of other countries.
In recent years, the Kremlin has sought to promote migration to the Far East with its “free hectare program,” but that much ballyhooed effort has not been very successful (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/02/far-eastern-hectare-program-enriching.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/07/russian-far-east-rapidly-losing.html).
Most recently, the Putin leadership has sought to promote the movement of population to the Far North both to support Russia’s role in the Northern Sea Route and to take advantage of access to natural resources on land as well as on the Arctic seabed that global warming is opening up.
Three weeks ago, Putin’s package of “’Arctic’ laws” went into effect, but as Regnum commentator Vladimir Stanulevich points out, the shortcomings of those measures and thus the likelihood that they will fall short of Kremlin claims is already very much in evidence (iarex.ru/articles/77569.html).
He cites two examples of these problems. The First Mining Company and the Ustryan Timber Processing Company face problems. The first is registered elsewhere and is prohibited by those locations from changing its headquarters as the new “’Arctic’” laws would require. And the second works both in the Arctic and outside and thus doesn’t qualify for the subsidies and tax breaks.
As things stand now, Stanulevich says, small and medium-sized firms might be able to benefit from the new laws if they could get the capital necessary to expand in the North; but large companies like these two won’t – and it is precisely they that the Kremlin if it remains true to its usual course is counting on.
The laws can and should be changed so that this bottleneck is cleared up, but unless and until that happens, the new laws are not going to lead to the economic development of the region or to the shift in population northward as well as eastward that Moscow has quite rightly defined as a priority.