Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 140

Vladimir Shumeiko, the influential speaker of Russia’s Federation Council, has joined forces with the leaders of some of Russia’s largest regions to create a new political movement. Other leaders of the new movement, which is to be entitled "Russian Reforms–A New Course," include the governors of the Sverdlovsk, Kaliningrad, Tyumen and Khabarovsk Oblasts, all of whom are members of the Federation Council. All these regions are seeking some kind of special relationship with the federal center: Sverdlovsk is set to become the first of Russia’s krais and oblasts to sign a power-sharing treaty with the center modelled on those pioneered by Russia’s ethnically-based republics. Kaliningrad, the strategically placed exclave on theBaltic, may well be next in line to sign such a treaty. Tyumen, which is Russia’s largest oil- and natural gas-producing region, is engaged in a tug-of-war with two nominally ethnic autonomies on its territory over control of the oil and gas reserves and needs Moscow’s support to maintain overall control. Khabarovsk in the Far East has been demanding greater financial autonomy from the center. All except Tyumen have strong links with the military-industrial complex. In addition, Kaliningrad is Russia’s most militarized region, with a large concentration of military bases.

Another common feature is the fact that all these regions have an economic profile which is a product of the old Soviet system with its high military priorities and dependence on raw-material production and export. Their leaders, who represent the traditional local elites, have sought to obtain the maximum economic benefits for themselves from the post-communist climate of nomenklatura privatizaton but have generally been reluctant to embrace thorough-going economic reform. That is to say, they have tended to resist the kind of privatization that would allow investment by outsiders–whether foreign or Russian.

The agenda of the new movement seems to reflect these preoccupations. It includes an assertion of the economic autonomy of the regions from the federal center–what Rossel calls "genuine federalism." At the same time, it stresses that "the current reform needs to be adjusted." It calls for stronger state intervention to control what are seen as the undesirable side-effects of the free market, especially in the social sphere. It also calls for priority to "all-round integration with the CIS countries, strengthening of Russia’s positions as a great power, and support for the armed forces and the defense complex." The call for stronger state intervention is apparently meant to imply that the state at the regional level should be free to intervene more in the economy. Weight is added to this interpretation by the fact that the movement’s founder-members include Vladimir Polevanov, who headed Russia’s State Property Committee for a brief period last year until it became clear that his views of privatization were considerably more restrictive than those of his then boss, first deputy premier Anatoly Chubais. (9)

Tighter Currency Controls Ordered.