Staunton, May 31 – The decline in the population of Orenburg Oblast which is located between Bashkortostan and Kazakhstan has reopened the question of the possible unification of that oblast to Bashkortostan, something that would give the peoples of the Middle Volga (Idel-Ural) a border with a foreign state and make it easier for them to pursue independence.
According to the Free Idel Ural movement, “the smaller the population in the Orenburg region and in particular its Gaysky and Kuvandyksky districts, the easier it will be to solve the issue of the Bashkir-Kazakh border” given that it is always easier to shift borders where there are few people involved (facebook.com/Free.IdelUral/).
One of the reasons that the population of Orenburg Oblast has declined is that the region is depressed. Another is that Moscow more than a decade ago changed rules about the purchase of land in rural areas so that smallholders could not move into many areas. That was intended among other things to restrict Bashkirs expanding their presence in this bridge area.
The possibility that such tactics have failed and that the decline in the Russian population in this corridor area will ring alarm bells in Moscow because were there to be movement on this issue, the entire Middle Volga would be in play in ways that it has not since the 1920s (jamestown.org/program/the-orenburg-corridor-and-the-future-of-the-middle-volga/ and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/11/orenburg-corridor-threatens-russia-more.html).
Moscow is likely to dig in its heels not only against any border changes in the Orenburg corridor area but also and quite possibly as a result of fears about these consequences against border changes elsewhere, thus putting paid to Putin’s amalgamation program and hopes for a gubernization of Russia (jamestown.org/program/preliminary-russian-census-results-highlight-emerging-bottlenecks/).