As one newspaper noted today, the idea of doing away with Russia’s regional divisions was first floated several years back by ultra-nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who called for redividing the country into a smaller number of geographically larger “gubernias.” Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov floated a modified version of this idea last year, which called for replacing the regions with eight to ten large and economically independent territories (Vremya MN, February 23).
Ironically, Primakov’s desire to strengthen the “vertical system of authority” between the center and the regions is also a direct echo of Anatoly Chubais in the fall of 1996, when Chubais was Kremlin chief-of-staff. At that time, the Kremlin had to organize a series of gubernatorial elections to comply with the constitution: Regional leaders who came to power prior to December 1993, when the Russian Federation constitution was adopted, had been picked by President Boris Yeltsin, and the constitution requires that they be elected in a popular vote. Thus, while the Kremlin had to face a new crop of governors with enhanced legitimacy, the presidential apparatus, under Chubais’ guidance, did everything it could–from legal “reforms” to using financial levers–to bring the regional heads in line. For this, Chubais received kudos from unlikely quarters: Even Aleksei Podberyozkin–an adviser to Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov who heads the “Spiritual Heritage” movement and is a leading “pragmatist” among the anti-Yeltsin opposition–gave a thumbs up to Chubais’ attempts to bring the regions in line. Chubais’ campaign, however, ultimately foundered after he failed to engineer the removal of an archenemy–Primorsky Krai Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko. Whether Primakov will have more success in subordinating the regions remains to be seen.
THIRD GOVERNORS’ ELECTORAL BLOC RUMORED TO IN THE OFFING.