Vienna, October 24 – The establishment this week of a permanent representation of the Republic of Ingushetia in Sverdlovsk oblast in order to oversee a program of resettling Ingush workers there calls attention to a broader phenomenon: Russia’s non-Russian republics are setting up such offices now not only in Moscow but in many other regions and republics.
Such institutions, which have their roots in Soviet times, have both practical and symbolic importance. On the one hand, the “permanent representations” of Soviet republics in Moscow lobbied on behalf of their governments, assisted travelers and students, and ensured communication between the center and the periphery.
And on the other, because of their quasi-diplomatic functions, they symbolized the self-standing nature of the republics on whose behalf they worked, a symbolism that was given real content when following the collapse of the Soviet Union, these institutions were transformed into the embassies of the new independent states.
(One republic where these institutions may be assuming such symbolic importance is Chechnya. Its permanent representatives increasingly act like ambassadors – see http://www.islamnn.ru/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=4488 – and President Ramzan Kadyrov has called for opening Chechen offices in Europe and the Middle East.)
It is unclear whether the representations of the non-Russian republics within the Russian Federation now have acquired such symbolic value, but their functioning, not only in Moscow but especially in other cities, including the capitals of federal districts and key federation subjects like St. Petersburg, is helping to create a new horizontal network among the republics.
Although an increasing number of these offices maintain their own websites – see, for example, tatmsk.tatar.ru for the Tatarstan office in Moscow, www.vatandash.ru for the Bashkortostan office in St. Petersburg, and www.sakha-dfo.ru for the Sakha representation in Khabarovsk – most operate below the radar screen of the Moscow media.
(The most detailed account of the history and functions of a non-Russian republic permanent representation in Moscow is available at the website of the Tatarstan office at
tatmsk.tatar.ru/rus/about.htm. Among its current responsibility, that office maintains ties with the Union of Muftis of Russia.)
That lack of media attention makes any reporting on such institutions and especially their establishment particularly important. On Thursday, Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov had named his first “permrep” to Yekaterinburg (www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?DocsID=1259918 and www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/161016/).
The newest representative of Ingushetia will be Abdul-Mutalib Bogatyrev, 55, who has lived in Sverdlovsk oblast since 1976. According to officials in Magas, Yekurov selected Bogatyrev on the basis of the recommendation of the powers that be in that oblast, including Governor Eduard Rossel.
Bogatyrev said his first task is to “work on the establishment of conditions for providing employment for those resettling from [Ingushetia] to the rural portions of Sverdlovsk oblast,” with the first tranche of such migrants to consist of 120 families. He added that Ingushetia plans to name representatives to Tyumen oblast and the Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous District.
Such offices and the people who staff them do not fall nearly either into the power vertical that Vladimir Putin has erected or the civil society that human rights activists and opposition figures would like to see created, but the horizontal ties they are promoting could help lay the foundation for a new kind of regional and even national politics there in the future.