Staunton,November 5 – Yesterday, Vladimir Putin signed a decree shifting the BuryatRepublic and the Transbaikal Kray from the Siberian Federal District to the FarEastern FD, a superficially small administrative change that in fact is creatingwhole new classes of winners and losers in the Russian Federation east of the Urals.
Thedecree (publication.pravo.gov.ru/Document/View/0001201811040002)appears to have been in the works for several months and may have been part ofPutin’s appointment of Aleksandr Osipov as governor of the Transbaikal inOctober. In any case, he greeted the decision (stoletie.ru/lenta/zabajkalje_i_buratija_voshli_v_sostav_dalnevostochnogo_okruga_745.htm).
He suggested that “now the kray willreceive more subsidies for air travel” and also more investments for new jobs, aview Buryatia head Aleksey Tsydenov shared. The latter added that it will alsomean that those families who have a third child will now get government aid,something that has not been true in the Siberian FD.
Duma officials also welcomed themove for similar reasons, but at least one deputy, Nikolay Nikolayev, who headsthe natural resources committee, worried the change might harm efforts to saveLake Baikal, a view echoed by Russian environmental activists (sibreal.org/a/29583419.html).
The Russian expert community andcommentariat also saw the move creating new winners and losers. Among thelosers will be the Siberian FD which will now have less power and get even lessattention, even as the Far Eastern FD gets more of both, given Putin’scommitment to the development of the latter region.
Some in Moscow, including SergeyRayevsky of the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service, suggested thatthe move in fact was all about strengthening Russia’s position on the PacificRim; but Sergey Markov, a political analyst, disagreed, saying it was all about“logistics” and Moscow’s own interests in that regard (kp.ru/daily/26903/3948878/).
Commentators inIrkutsk, on the other hand, are very upset by the move, seeing it asundermining their efforts to promote a greater Baikal region, on the assumptionthat they will get less money and less support for the development of Irkutskas a regional center for Siberia as a whole (babr24.com/bur/?IDE=182654).
One of their number, Andrey Svetlov,argued that the transfer of the two federal subjects will make things “stillworse” for Siberia; and another, Leonid Fedorov, said it was “the funeral of ‘theBaikal region’” and a political defeat for officials there who will become lessimportant than they were (babr24.com/irk/?IDE=182670).
But moregenerally, Putin’s action suggests that the Kremlin leader has no intention ofdoing away with the federal districts anytime soon. He may shift some subjects fromone to another but won’t touch that basic arrangement. And it shows he is quiteprepared to change this kind of border and so may be ready to change otherborders regional and republic as well.