Staunton, Dec. 24 – The periodic comments of senior Russian officials that the number of federal subjects should be reduced by amalgamating smaller and predominantly non-Russian republics and districts with larger and predominantly ethnic Russian krays and oblasts shows that the Kremlin has not given up on this idea, Vitaly Ivanov says.
But the timetable for any such changes is becoming clear, the political scientist tells the Club of the Regions portal. No large entities will be touched until after the 2024 presidential election lest combining regions sparks anger that leads people to vote against Putin or his choice (club-rf.ru/detail/5989).
Even smaller non-Russian entities may be safe until after that time if the predominantly ethnic Russian regions are against the move as at least some of them are and have sufficient populations to potentially threaten a large no vote two years from now, Ivanov argues. Otherwise Moscow may go ahead sooner.
The most likely next step would involve the unification of Arkhangelsk Oblast and the Nenets Autonomous District, Ivanov says. But even here there could be problems, less in either of the two federal subjects that would be combined than if others elsewhere “extrapolate” what the Kremlin has done and spark protests.
Given the Kremlin’s current obsession with not rocking the boat, he continues, it will likely be reluctant to move even in this case where everything was already prepared but then postponed. And large and vote-rich places like Krasnoyarsk Kray and Tatarstan can relax: Moscow isn’t going to do anything with them in this regard anytime soon.
Moscow commentator Konstantin Kalachyov agrees, and he suggests that the desire of some in Moscow for amalgamation may turn to predominantly ethnic Russian regions in the central part of the country. After all, he asks how necessary is it for Kurgan Oblast to continue to exist? Even if Russians there complained, their numbers would be small.
But in general, he like Ivanov says that the federal center does not want to rock the boat now, especially given the popular anger about initiatives like the use of QR codes to combat the pandemic, something that Moscow pushed for but then had to back away from when large numbers of people protested.
And Moscow political scientist Rostislav Turovsky also takes this line. He says that two possible unifications that have been discussed are especially unlikely because of these fears in the elite. Those would involve the fusion of Moscow and Moscow oblast and St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast.
While such plans have many supporters, the Kremlin isn’t likely to pursue either lest it generate the kind of anger among the voters that it would have difficulty countering in the next round of voting. After 2024, all such concerns will vanish for a time, and amalgamation is likely to become one of the Kremlin’s central goals.
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