Staunton, July 21 – Russians have long described the regions beyond the ring road of Moscow as “the provinces,” but generally officials have avoided doing so because of the connotation of the term. Now, however, reflecting the further re-traditionalization of Russia under Vladimir Putin, some officials are openly referring to federal subjects as “provinces.”
This has happened, historian Georgy Kulakov says, in the course of discussions about how to carve up the Russian Far East. Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin suggested that that Far East should be divided into two enormous parts, “the Pacific ocean” and the “Northern” regions (region.expert/provinces/).
Following that proposal, Aleksey Chekunkov, minister for Far Eastern and Arctic development, suggested instead that the region be redivided into four “provinces” – the Trans-Baikal, the Border Area, the Islands and the North, explicitly using the term “province” but suggesting he wasn’t talking about “administrative” divisions but economic ones.
Kulakov points out that such redrawing of the map might be more convenient for Moscow, but he notes that none of these Moscow officials has ever dreamed of consulting with the people in these areas about how they would like to be organized and represented. They are after all only “provinces” of the center.
This incautious use of a term that many find insulting will echo through the entire Russian Federation and make it clear to everyone there that the country is sadly misnamed. It isn’t a federation of equal participants but an empire with a metropolitan center that controls to one degree or another “the provinces” it has gathered around it.