Staunton, September 16 – As part of his push to reduce the number of federal subjects in the Russian Federation by amalgamating smaller non-Russian districts with larger and predominantly ethnic Russian regions, Vladimir Putin orchestrated a referendum to unite Dolgan-Nenetsk Autonomous Region and the Evenk Autonomous Region with Krasnoyarsk Krai.
But the forced marriage of the three, achieved largely as a result of promises by Moscow and Krasnoyarsk that the numerically small nationalities of these regions would be taken care of, has not worked well, with few of those Russian promises in fact kept and many of the numerically small non-Russians suffering from their loss of status.
Those difficulties, which they may seem small given that Dolgan-Nenetsk had only 40,000 people and Evenkia only 18,000, have cast a long shadow and slowed or even stopped one of Putin’s signature plans, the elimination within Russia of all non-Russian republics, including large ones like Tatarstan.
The difficulties that arise when such amalgamation projects are attempted were very much on public view yesterday at a meeting of deputies from these two downgraded areas help in Krasnoyarsk.
Among the problems the deputies raised were the departure of representatives of federal agencies from these regions, something that prevents residents from getting the aid they need if, as is the case for many, they cannot afford to travel the often enormous distances from what is now northern Krasnoyarsk Krai to the republic capital.
Gennady Shchukin, the president of a group that represents the numerically small nationalities of the Russian North, said that the status of the downgraded regions needed to be raised in order to resolve some of the problems which their residents now face as a result of the amalgamation effort.
He told the meeting about a member of the Nganasan people who had to sell his deer, on whom he relies for much of his livelihood, in order to raise enough money to buy medicine in town. This situation arose, Shchukin said, because there are no drug stores in the tundra now and because there are no officials to help such people get the assistance they need.
Participants at the meeting drafted proposals for new regional legislation that would boost the status of the two regions, steps that would largely but not completely reverse the results of the 2005 referendum on the ground even if Putin and his supporters will still be able to claim that that vote reduced the number of federal subjects by two.