Friday, January 7, 2022

Putin’s Removal of Regions from Far North Sparks Opposition and is Reversed the Next Day

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 17 – In Soviet times, the state encouraged people to move to the northern portions of the country by offering them higher wages, longer vacations and an earlier retirement age than it extended to those living elsewhere in the USSR. Since 1991, such arrangements have been reduced and, in some cases, eliminated.

            As a result, the outflow of workers and their families from the North and other parts of the Russian Federation with extreme weather conditions has accelerated. But despite the Kremlin’s commitment to expand the population there, it has been unable to maintain the earlier arrangements because companies don’t want to assume the costs of northern “benefits.”

            Faced with this situation and worried that some workers in the North were now making less money than their counterparts in more temperate locations in Russia, the Constitutional Court in 2017 ordered that companies pay workers in the North what they are suppose to get under the old rules.

            The companies responded by firing large numbers of workers so that they would not have to do so. Now, Moscow has tried a new strategy to gut the benefits packages people in the North are supposed to get: Vladimir Putin dropped a large number of regions from the Far North, but protests were so immediate that the next day the Russian government reversed course.

            As of 2022, Putin decreed the Komi and Buryat republics, the Komi-Permyak Autonomous District, Perm Kray and a number of regions would no longer be considered part of the North and workers there would not be entitled to the benefits Russian law since the 1960s had mandated (

            Protests were immediate and sharp, not only by workers in these regions but by officials concerned that what Putin had done would compromise Moscow’s ability to develop the North in the ways that the Kremlin leader had mandated. And 24 hours after he issued the order, the economic development ministry announced it was preparing a new decree.

            Pay and benefits in the North have fallen relative to those in the central part of Russia, and even this reversal will not do much to reverse that trend or reverse the outflow of population from the North which is already calling into question Moscow’s ability to meet the targets that Putin has set.

            But perhaps more important, this case highlights what appears to be the increasing confusion and lack of coordination with the power vertical. And it shows as well that Putin may give an order but that is far from the end of the story as even his decisions can be reversed when the population or other groups within the elite weigh in.  

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