Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Koryaks Threaten to Secede from Kamchatka, Threatening Putin’s Amalgamation Plans

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 20 – At a time when Vladimir Putin is promoting the amalgamation of Arkhangelsk Oblast and Nenets Autonomous District, a project that already appears in trouble (, events in Kamchatka are making that and any other amalgamation project far less likely.

            The residents of what was once the Koryak Autonomous District have told the leaders of the Kamchatka Kray that if they try to fold in the district’s governing bodies into the kray territorial development ministry, they will seek a referendum to secede from the kray and restore their status as a federal subject (

            Kamchatka Oblast and the Koryak Autonomous District were amalgamated into Kamchatka Kray on the basis of an October 2005 referendum, which received overwhelming support in part because it promised the Koryaks that their district would remain “an administrative territorial unit with a special status.”

            But in the 15 years since then, the kray has done nothing to define what this special status consists of, something that has led the Koryaks, who number some 8,000 people and whose region include perhaps twice as many residents, to say that they consider themselves to have been misled since they haven’t been given the status they were promised.

            In the intervening years, the economy of the former Koryak AD has collapsed, unemployment has been rife, and outmigration particularly of the young has accelerated. But the last straw which prompted 200 Koryaks to write, sign and disseminate an open letter threatening secession was a new plan announced by the kray governor.

            Earlier this year, Vladimir Solodov announced that he wanted to save money by combining the Administration of the Koryak district with the kray’s own ministry for territorial development based not in Koryakia but instead far away in the kray capital. That has outraged the Koryaks.

            This “new hybrid monster, they write in their open letter, will only increase unemployment in the district and make it more difficult for the Koryaks to have their voices heard. They insist that the district must retain its Administration and the Administration must be in Palan which is in Koryakia.

            “We do not see any real help as a subject with special status,” the writers of the letter say. “On the contrary, the authorities of the region with all their powers are striving to eliminate any memory that in the north of Kamchatka exists the Koryak District which in December will mark its 90th anniversary.”

            And they add, “If the powers do not turn their face to us and continue to ignore our voices, we will be forced to initiate a referendum about withdrawing from the kray. Northerners are a restrained people. But when people cease to take them into consideration, they are ready for decisive actions.”

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