Friday, July 7, 2023

Border Disputes Among Russia’s Federal Subjects Continue Long after Deadline for Resolving Them, Raising Questions about Future Referenda

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 4 – The Russian government set a January 1, 2021, deadline for the federal subjects of the Russian Federation to agree on their borders. Most of them have done so, but the talks continue, something highlighted by the agreement only this week between the Kirov Oblast and Tatarstan resolving their longstanding territorial disputes.

            The largest number of outstanding disputes is among the republics of the North Caucasus, but the Kirov-Tatar accord is a reminder that there are many others – and that work continues despite the long-passed deadlines ( and

            These disputes have both practical and political consequences. On the one hand, those living in disputed areas often do not know who will be responsible for them but see that the federal subjects rather than Moscow are the ones who will make the decisions about that, something that will make these units more important in their minds.

            And on the other, at a time when many are talking about referenda on the fate of these units when and if the Russian Federation disintegrates, the absence of agreed upon borders among them will represent yet another hurdle that will have to be overcome in order to know who can take part in this or that vote.

            As residents of the United States know all too well, those who can define the borders of congressional districts can often determine who will be elected. And so it seems likely that if borders are still an open question in various parts of the Russian Federation, that is likely to become a political topic that could open the way to serious disputes.

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