Staunton, August 26 – The Russian government has approved spending 6.8 billion rubles (230 million US dollars) over the next seven years on programs to “strengthen the unity of the nation,” 80 percent less than the regional affairs ministry had sought but a figure that reflects government-wide cutbacks because of declines in revenue, according to today’s “Gazeta.”
Yesterday, the Ministry for Regional Affairs posted on the government’s website the final version of the federal program “Strengthening the Unity of the [Non-Ethnic] Russian Nation and the Ethno-Cultural Development of the Peoples of Russia” for 2014-2020 as signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (http://government.ru/docs/4022).
In today’s “Gazeta,” Zhanna Ulyanova provides a detailed discussion of what she describes as the government’s decision to “economize on ‘the strengthening of the unity of the nation’” and on preliminary reaction to this decision in an area President Vladimir Putin had declared a priority (gazeta.ru/politics/2013/08/25_a_5605565.shtml).
Officials and experts sought to put the best face on the situation. Vladimir Zorin, who helped write the state’s nationality policy strategy last year, said that the government had never had a program like this before, although the regional affairs ministry had been calling for one at least since 2005.
And Igor Yurgens, head of the Moscow Institute of Contemporary Development, told “Gazeta” that if the government is cutting back on arms purchases for the military, then “naturally one can expect the sequestering” of money for other programs, including those involving nationality policy.
Putin had made nationality policy one of the central themes of his election campaign in 2012. Experts and officials prepared a state nationality policy strategy concept paper last fall, and in December, Putin signed off on it, declaring that “the strengthening of the unity of the [non-ethnic] Russian nation’” should be its focus.
But despite these promises, the government has not been able to come up with the money. Zorin noted that Moscow had spent almost nothing on such programs in 2010 and 2011, and now the government has reduced the amount still further. Just how far is clear by comparing the final figures with those the regional affairs ministry had sought.
In February 2013, the ministry had made two proposals, one calling for 125 billion rubles (4 billion US dollars) to be spent through 2018 on promoting tolerance and a second calling for 37 billion (1.2 billion US dollars) to be spent for the same thing but only through 2017. Neither has been accepted.
Discussions within the government over the last six months have cut the amount to be spent in this area by 80 percent, Ulyanova says, to levels that officials in the North Caucasus and others who work in this area say are “insufficient” and far smaller than needed to achieve the desired ends, especially since the program as adopted did not eliminate any tasks.
As a result, much less money will be spread over the same tasks, a large number of which may suffer as a result.