Staunton, November 8 – Immediately afterVladimir Putin signed the decree shifting the Buryat Republic from the SiberianFederal District to the Far Eastern ones, Buryats launched a petition onChange.org to reverse that decision. The appeal is directed in the firstinstance not to Putin but to the Russian Constitutional Court.
The authors of the appeal say thatBuryatia stands to lose many things if the shift stands, including having topay higher energy costs and being at risk of seeing some of their territorytransferred to the control of foreigners, a euphemistic way of saying, to theChinese (baikal-daily.ru/news/15/340881/).
More than a thousand people have signedthe petition so far and left comments like “This was like lightning from aclear sky! Why do they decide everything for us? When not unite all of Siberiainto one district?” “There is not a single positive aspect in this unification,”and “I am for the preservation of Siberian waters, land and forests.”
The petition says it is clear whyMoscow has taken this decision: It views the territory of the Far Eastern FD as“less valuable” than that of the Siberian one because the former does notcontain oil, gas and other natural resources that can be exported for thecenter’s benefit. That means any objections by the population in the FarEastern FD will be more easily ignored.
Now, unless Putin’s order isreversed, the Buryats say, they will be ignored by the central Russiangovernment even more often than they have been before, putting the republic andits people at risk.
Whileit might be tempting to dismiss this petition as the work of a few cranks, thatwould be a mistake. One indication that it isn’t is that officials in Buryatiahave launched a broad effort to sell Putin’s order, something they would likelynot have felt compelled to do if the transfer was genuinely popular (babr24.com/bur/?IDE=182760).
Butboth the petition and this official effort provide evidence of something else: peoplein Russia’s regions and republics view the federal districts as important totheir well-being. If they did not think the FDs mattered, they wouldn’t be fightingover which Moscow has made them a part of.