Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 28

The go-getting governor of Saratov Oblast on the Volga says the power-sharing agreement his region signed with the federal center last year is already "too restrictive" and needs to be renegotiated. The Monitor’s correspondent in Saratov says Governor Dmitri Ayatskov has issued a public statement in which he says he wants to get federal government agreement that oblast residents should do their military service only inside the oblast. (Neighboring Tatarstan and Bashkortostan already enjoy this privilege.) Ayatskov is also threatening to declare a moratorium on repaying the oblast’s old debts which, he says, are obstructing the region’s economic development. He says that the present system of taxation gives unfair privileges to Russia’s ethnically based republics while putting an unfair burden on the ethnically neutral krais and oblasts.

Ayatskov is far from the only Russian governor to complain of unfair treatment. The speaker of the Federation Council, Yegor Stroyev, who is also governor of Orel Oblast, has repeatedly called for the cancellation of the power-sharing agreements signed by the federal center with some forty of Russia’s eighty constituent provinces and their replacement by a federal code that would put all republics, krais and oblasts on an equal footing.

An alarmist article in the latest issue of the newspaper Vek argues that Russia’s regions are increasingly taking the law into their own hands and that the Russian Federation is, as a result, threatened with disintegration. The Stavropol Krai administration has demanded the transfer of all armed forces in the territory to the jurisdiction of the regional Defense Council. The president of Ingushetia is threatening to defy the federal center and go ahead with a referendum on transferring the procuracy, Interior Ministry and judiciary to republic jurisdiction. Meanwhile, the example of Primorsky Krai’s Yevgeny Nazdratenko shows that the Kremlin is powerless to remove a rogue governor. It follows, Vek argues, that regional leaders will go on taking more and more power into their own hands until the Russian Federation falls apart. (Vek, No. 6, February 6)

Ayatskov’s call for a renegotiation of his region’s status can, however, be taken to imply the opposite. While it is clear that Ayatskov wants more autonomy for his region, he seems to be going about getting it in a legal and open manner. Because of the weakness of the federal center, Nazdratenko is able to enjoy his powers by default (Primorsky Krai has signed no power-sharing treaty with the center). Ayatskov, by contrast, wants his powers de jure. The very fact that he is proposing to renegotiate Saratov’s prerogatives, not grabbing powers as Nazdratenko has, suggests that the rule of law is being observed in at least some of Russia’s regions. In general, Russian devolution still has a long way to go before it will be possible to compare the Russian Federation to as decentralized a federation as, say, the Federal Republic of Germany.

New Tax Code Details Announced.