Monday, June 14, 2021

Moscow to Use Agglomerations to Cut Number of Federal Subjects by More than Half by 2030, Source Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 12 – Facing resistance to any moves to combine federal subjects as it has done in the past, the Russian government plans to use “the soft mechanism” of agglomerations to reduce the number of them from more than 80 to 41, according to a Moscow source. This source says that work has already begun on eight of them.

            Yekaterina Lazareva of the URA news agency says “a source close to the government of Russia” has told her that according to a plan developed by Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusrullin, amalgamation will now take the form of creating “inter-regional agglomerations” as a step toward reducing the number of regions as such (

            Speaking at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Khusrullin argued that “the megalopolises must be developed in the first instance” because they are where growth is most possible. According to URA’s source, the first four agglomerations to be created will be Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan and Krasnodar.

            Moscow and Moscow Oblast will be combined, Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast will follow as will Tatarstan with parts of Mari El and Krasnodar Kray with the Adygey Republic. Those will become the models for others to be combined as this process unfolds over the next decade.

            According to Sergey Markelov of the Markkom Company, the process will work in the following way. With the formation of agglomerations, borders between the existing federal subjects will be reduced in importance to nothing and the federal subject heads of the part to be absorbed will ultimately lose power.

            He says that this process will be directed in the first instance to eliminating all the so-called “matryoshka” regions such as the Nenets AD within Arkhangelsk Oblast, the Yamalo-Nenets and Khanty-Mansiisk aD and Tyumen Oblast and Krasnodar Kray and the Republic of Adgeya.

            Khrusullin is part of a group of Russian officials linked to Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin who are lobbying for these changes. According to URA’s source, they have now won the debate and the process of amalgamation through agglomeration is going to take off, with other methods being discarded as politically problematic.

            The way forward is not going to be without controversy, Fyodor Biryukov of the Moscow Institute of Freedom and a Rodina Party leader. Agglomeration as a tactic is better than trying to combine federal subjects via referendum, but it is still going to harm many smaller places and smaller businesses and anger the population (

            Dmitry Galkin, editor of the 2000 newspaper, agrees. He suggests that with this program, “the government has found a means of satisfying the demands of corporations [for combining territories to ease their operations] without conducting referenda [which have proven a political problem.”

            This approach, he continues, “will allow for the necessary result to be obtained without making concessions or reaching agreements with regional elites and without taking into consideration the opinion of residents of those territories which will be joined together in the agglomerations.”

            The downsides are that small businesses will be overwhelmed and destroyed, given that their primary backers are the heads of existing federal subjects, and the economy will become even more dominated in the future than it is now by the largest corporations. Indeed, Galkin suggests, that may be the point of what is happening.

            Another downside, he continues, and it is one echoed by Yekaterina Shcherbakova of the Higher School of Economics, is that this program will lead to the further depopulation of rural areas and smaller cities as people move to agglomeration centers in order to find better-paying employment.

            In short, what Moscow appears set to do is to destroy the non-Russian republics and the weaker predominantly ethnic Russian oblasts and krays, further reduce the role of regional elites in the Russian political system, and reinforce the power of the central government and the large corporations which are its chief allies. 

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