Staunton, Oct. 7 – A draft bill establishing a common title for the heads of all federal subjects has attracted attention primarily because it would do away with the last president of a republic (in Tatarstan). But Valery Kaplenkov argues that it has more far-reaching consequences and will inoculate the country against separatism.
The bill, formally offered by Senator Andrey Klishas and Deputy Pavel Krashenninikov, in fact comes from the upper reaches of the Putin regime, something everyone understands and that virtually guarantees it will be passed, the Rex news agency commentator says (iarex.ru/articles/82801.html).
A common title for the heads of the federal subjects “undoubtedly will serve to strengthen the state unity of the country,” Kaplenkov argues. But the bill should be amended to establish a common name for republic legislative assemblies, a neutral term that doesn’t carry with it the ethnic connotations of “Duma” for non-Russians.
But the renaming of institutions must not stop there, he says. Instead, if the law is consistent, it will open the way to “a grandiose process for the regionalization of the country. The current subjects of the Russian Federation – republics and krays – will receive a single legal status and a single official name” – “regions.”
“The liquidation of national-territorial formations will lead to the equalization of the rights of peoples living in our state,” Kaplenkov insists. It isn’t so much that titular nations will lose status as will their ethnocratic elites; and it is important that all living in a region feel themselves first class citizens rather than second class ones.
Once all the subjects are named regions, it will be easier to amalgamate some of them and reduce their total number to 40 or 45, the commentator says. This can be done in stages and will ensure that the new regions will be named not for some ethnic group like the Tatars but for the cities around which they are centered like Kazan.
The North Caucasus presents some particular problems, but they are easily solved, Kaplenkov argues. There should be a single North Caucasus region with its center in Vladikavkaz, and within it, there should be six districts following the lines of the existing republics.
According to the commentator, if Vladimir Putin follows this path, he will have “a unique opportunity to transform Russia by means of liquidating the national-territorial structures imposed at one time by the Bolsheviks headed by Ulyanov-Lenin” and that have had such doleful consequences since.
Only Putin is in a position to do so; and if he does, most likely in the second half of the 2020s, he will have the chance to go down in history “not simply as the stateman who returned Crimea to Russia but as a Russian Bismarck or Richelieu.” That such a status would be something Putin would welcome goes without saying.