Staunton, June 20 – Local patriotism in the regions of the Russian Far East has always been strong. That is one of the reasons why Moscow up to now has not tried to combine its various components as part of Vladimir Putin’s regional amalgamation plans, political analyst Ildus Yarulin says. (fedpress.ru/article/2762552).
Such local feelings will make any administrative changes there difficult; but if Moscow pushes ahead anyway, there is a very real risk that local patriotism will be shifted to larger units and come to constitute a bigger threat to the center than such attitudes among peoples currently divided into smaller territorial units.
After all, as Moscow appears to have forgotten, Moscow in Stalin’s time carved up the Russian Far East in order to ensure its control of that distant area. Reversing the divisions set then almost certainly would reverse the narrower localism on display now and promote the rise of Siberian regionalism that Moscow has long fought.
Indeed, the way in which local patriotism within a single region can be the springboard for a broader kind of regionalism has already been on display in the Khabarovsk protests where supporters of Dmitry Furgal have raised the issue of a united Siberia. On that, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/07/protesters-in-khabarovsk-now-talking.html.
In a comment for the FedPress regional portal three days ago, Yarulin of the Far Eastern Federal University says that Moscow officials have been visiting the region with an eye to combining its current divisions into two larger units, one provisionally called “the littoral” federal subject and the second called “the northern” (fedpress.ru/article/2762552).
The first would include Primorsky Kray, Sakhalin and Kamchatka; the second would include all the northern regions and republics east of the Urals. According to the political scientist, the central government is ready to move in that direction as soon as the Duma elections are concluded. Doing so before them would disorder the existing election districts.
Not surprisingly, regionalists are watching all this with attention. Georgy Kulakov, a Far Eastern resident, says that Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin and Far Eastern Presidential Plenipotentiary Yury Trutnyev are working hand-in-glove to make these changes over the next three years (region.expert/far-east-division/).
According to Kulakov, the two plan to use the agglomeration as a step to amalgamation plan that appears to have taken hold in Moscow (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/06/neither-maris-nor-tatars-happy-about.html). They are certain to face resistance to these ideas in the Far East and so it is “an open question” whether this case succeed.
Paradoxically, Moscow may be better off if this plan fails because regional forces would only grow in strength if it does.