Staunton, Nov. 2 – Given how many unsettling provisions the public power law contains with regard to administrative arrangements in the regions, it is surprising that one move that the Kremlin might have been expected to make, given Vladimir Putin’s past policies, was to use the measure to kill off the so-called “matryoshka” regions.
That term refers to federal subjects that are entirely surrounded by other federal subjects. A decade ago, Putin sought to combine these smaller units with the larger and typically Russian-dominated ones, and his officials have repeatedly talked about completing this process of amalgamation.
But resistance by non-Russian units was and remains strong, as displayed most recently in Arkhangelsk Oblast but also in Stavropol Kray. The public power law which seeks to homogenize arrangements across the country seemed like a perfect opportunity to complete this process.
Some Duma deputies even suggested this possibility, but apparently concerns about the reaction of people and officials in the non-Russian areas made this a bridge too far in the Kremlin’s view, and the regime’s point man in the Duma has now signaled that the matryoshka arrangements will continue (tass.ru/politika/12824647 and znak.com/2021-11-02/krasheninnikov_soglasilsya_sohranit_regiony_matreshki_i_programmu_sotrudnichestvo).
That gives the non-Russian federal subjects and the supporters of the remaining remnants of federalism in Russia a rare victory – but an important one in that it makes it unlikely the Kremlin will return to this issue anytime soon, thus freezing existing arrangements in this area even as many provisions that had been the case across the country are dismantled.