Boris Yeltsin’s former power base, Sverdlovsk Oblast, is set to become the first Russian region to sign the kind of treaty with the federal center that has been pioneered by Tatarstan and other Russian republics. This is part of the ongoing attempt to rebuild the Russian Federation, step-by-step, from the bottom up. According to the Russian constitution, Russia’s 21 republics and 68 krais and oblasts are supposedly equal, but in reality the republics enjoy many privileges that the regions do not. Sverdlovsk is leading the fight by the regions to win the same privileges. On November 11, Sverdlovsk and the federal center signed the first agreement on the demarcation of powers. This first document, which deals mainly with international and local economic relations, gives Sverdlovsk the right to set up economic missions abroad, sign trade agreements with foreign states, and have a say in federal decisions affecting its economic interests. The agreement will come into force when it is signed by President Boris Yeltsin and the Sverdlovsk Oblast governor, Eduard Rossel. The Sverdlovsk Oblast is a major industrial area and center of military production, but it is also rich in hard currency-earning raw materials, including copper, semi-precious stones, nickel, and timber. In 1993, the region’s desire for autonomy prompted a campaign, led by Rossel, for the establishment of a "Urals Republic" centered on Sverdlovsk. At that time, Yeltsin responded by disbanding the would-be republic and sacking Rossel, but his leadership seems now to understand that centrifugal tendencies will continue unless Moscow accommodates regional aspirations for autonomy. (11)
Latvian-Lithuanian Diplomatic Polemics.