Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 93

The newspaper Segodnya today published what it said were sections from the final draft of the Greff center’s “Program of priority measures (2000-2004) for realizing the Russian Federation’s development strategy through 2010.” The document will be presented to representatives of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank on May 15. The program deals with the entire spectrum of policy, from reforming the state apparatus to modernizing the economy to social policy.

According to Segodnya, the program includes a proposal to create, over the next three months, new “territorial organs of power” and to appoint “representatives of the president according to the principle of federal districts basically not coinciding with the administrative-territorial division of the country.” This would appear to be something similar to the system of “gubernias” headed by “general-governors” which existed in Russia in the 18th and 19th centuries. There has been speculation in the media that the Kremlin might reinstitute something along the lines of this Tsarist-era system (see the Monitor, March 14, May 5). Segodnya also claimed the Kremlin plans to choose the representatives of these new territorial districts from the ranks of the Federal Security Service (FSB). In addition, the program proposes setting up a “National Guard of the Russian Federation,” which will be directly subordinated to the president and, in Segodnya’s view, is likely to be under the command of the new districts’ presidential representatives. The authors of the program, however, note that the creation of this new armed force could elicit a negative reaction from the Interior Ministry.

All of the measures cited above are likely to meet resistance from the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament which consists of regional leaders. This perhaps explains why the Greff program proposes that governors should no longer become Federation Council members automatically, and that Federation Council members should be chosen in separate elections (Segodnya, May 11). According to other recent reports, the Kremlin is considering exploiting a loophole in the Russian constitution to ensure that governors do not automatically become Federation Council members. Russia’s constitution says that two “representatives” of each region’s legislature and executive will sit in the Federation Council, without specifically mentioning governors or legislative assembly heads (see the Monitor, May 5).

Whatever the case, the material published by Segodnya suggests that the Kremlin plans in earnest to reform the country’s federal relations in a way that significantly weakens the power of the regions. This dovetails with the thrust of another putative leaked official document, which outlined Kremlin plans to give itself virtually authoritarian powers and to give the FSB and other special services a special role in its activities (see the Monitor, May 5).

Segodnya was clearly negative about the Greff center’s proposals concerning the regions. “Whether this is all good or bad is not the question,” Segodnya wrote. “The question is, what kind of state are we building: unitary or federative? If it’s unitary, then it’s necessary to re-write the entire Constitution and return to the practice of raikoms-obkoms [regional and oblast Communist Party committees under the Soviet system], calling them, if you like, provincial governorships, [or] representatives, if you like, [or] ‘khokimiyati’, like in Central Asia. If its federative, then why these [new] representatives and National Guard?” (Segodnya, May 11).