Russia’s newly appointed First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov–former governor of Leningrad Oblast, who last week was given responsibility for regional policy–says he supports the idea of merging Russia’s eighty-nine republics and regions into larger units to make them less unwieldy (Russian agencies, September 21). Last week, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov said he also favored the idea, but that it was too controversial to be carried out at present (see the Monitor, September 20). Gustov said Leningrad Oblast and the city of St. Petersburg could set an example by being the first to merge. Such plans for these two regions, which enjoy equal status under Russia’s 1993 constitution, were shelved after elections brought new leaders to power in each in 1996. Gustov suggested the merger should take place gradually, beginning with unification of the transport network. He said that both regions would have to keep their respective legislatures initially, but that the two could be combined to form a bicameral parliament to act on behalf of both regions (Russian agencies, September 21). Gustov’s proposal will be highly controversial and is likely to provoke a sharp response, especially from Russia’s ethnically based republics.
JAPANESE-RUSSIAN RELATIONS STAY ON TRACK.