Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 55

The argument between Krasnoyarsk Krai and the Taimyr (Dolgan-Nenetsk) Autonomous District has entered a new and sharper stage. The krai and the autonomous district are fighting over which of them should control the territory on which stands Norilsk Nickel, the largest industrial center in the Russian Arctic. On March 14, a session of the Norilsk municipal council confirmed the results of a poll in which 106,850 inhabitants of Norilsk (89 percent of the city’s voters) were asked how they felt about returning Norilsk from the supervision of the krai to that of the Autonomous District. No fewer than 99.2 percent of those questioned supported the idea of resubordinating Norilsk to the Autonomous District, while only 0.8 percent voted against (Pravda, March 14).

The conflict arises out of the Russian Federation’s peculiar territorial setup. The constitution states that all of Russia’s eighty-nine “federal subjects” are equal in rights, yet at the same time permits the existence of one supposedly equal federal subject inside the territory of another. This is the situation where Krasnoyarsk Krai and the Taimyr Autonomous District are concerned. The autonomous district, while supposedly equal to the krai, is also considered part of the krai. This creates constant friction over the distribution of power between the leaders of the district and the krai authorities. At the heart of the conflict is the city of Norilsk. It lies on the territory of Taimyr but is at the same time directly subordinated to Krasnoyarsk, to which it pays taxes (see the Monitor, February 12).

The latest poll, conducted during the first ten days of this month, was organized by the district leadership. Because they did not observe all the formalities necessary for carrying out a proper election campaign, it is impossible to assess the reliability of the poll’s results: Their value is above all propagandistic. One can nonetheless be sure that the poll results will be exploited for all they are worth by Taimyr in its battle to wrest control of Norilsk from the krai (Sobkor.ru, March 15).

Their arguments will cut no ice in Krasnoyarsk. Norilsk provides too much revenue for the krai budget, which would otherwise face financial collapse. Even before the poll results were published, the Krasnoyarsk Krai legislative assembly gave its approval to a treaty “On interbudgetary relations between Krasnoyarsk Krai and the Taimyr Autonomous District.” An amendment was added to the treaty affirming the krai’s unquestioned ownership of Norilsk (Volgainform.ru, March 11). Meanwhile, Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed has dismissed the poll as illegal and says he will challenge it in court (Lenta.ru, March 15)