Staunton, December 15 – Russia beyond Moscow’s ring road is an enormous different and varied place, one often treated in terms not of its full diversity but only in response to the coverage of events in the central media and one that has sparked a variety of aspirations for greater attention to regional rights than many in Moscow seem aware of.
This week has brought two remarkable articles which help shed light both on the unexpected nature of the diversity of the regions of Russia and on the issues confronting those who seek greater rights for the regions and the revival of one or another kind of federalism as a means not only of holding the country together but ensuring a transition to democracy.
The first is offered by Svetlana Saltanova of Moscow’s Higher School of Economics who provides a listing, as the website of that institution often does about a variety of issues, of five “scientific facts” about Russian regions that scholars there and elsewhere have established (iq.hse.ru/news/198621013.html
· Residents of different regions have different fears: People in Altay Kray are most frightened of ecological threats, while fear of poverty dominates those living Krasnodar kray and Khakasia. Siberians also fear “the arbitrariness of officials and law enforcement agencies, crime, loneliness and being abandoned” (iq.hse.ru/news/177663748.html).
· Foreign corporations routinely “sort” Russia’s regions, building factories and plans overwhelmingly in only a few federal subjects and ignoring all the others. In short, it is not just the central Russian government that is ignoring most of them (iq.hse.ru/news/190842257.html).
· Labor productivity varies by a factor of six among the regions, with 10 to 14 subjects being much more productive than the remaining ones and these differences in turn help to explain differences in per capita incomes, especially in regions whose economies are not based on extractive industries (iq.hse.ru/news/190842257.html).
· People in most regions are not committed to the maintenance of the existing ethno-territorial division of the country. Instead, they remain attached to earlier and even ancient ethnic and political borders (iq.hse.ru/news/177665034.html).
The second, a listing of seven questions that many regionalist activists and movements have not yet focused on, is offered by Yegor Yershov, a Russian blogger who identifies himself as “only a Russian democratic nationalist” rather than as a committed regionalist (rufabula.com/author/egor-ershoff/1444