Friday, August 20, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Kadyrov’s Initiative Represents a Challenge to Russia’s Existing Federal System, Experts Say

Paul Goble

Staunton, August 20 –Ramzan Kadyrov’s suggestion that the leaders of Russia’s non-Russian republics should no longer be called presidents and that he would not be averse to being called an imam has sparked debate, with most but far from all republic heads supporting the former on the assumption that that is what the Kremlin wants and opposing the latter.
But Vyacheslav Danilov of the “Svobodny mir” portal suggest that a focus on either aspect of the Chechen leader’s proposal misses the point, and they argue that Kadyrov has lodged a far greater challenge to Moscow, the current territorial division of the country, and the relations between the center and the periphery (
Indeed, he suggests, Kadyrov is presenting himself as an extremely radical critic of the existing system of administrative-territorial administration in Russia,” someone who is prepared to cast doubt on the administrative-territorial system” and the way in which Moscow cooperates with the regions and the rsegions cooperate with each other.
What he is calling for, the “Svobodny mir” commentator says, is “the rationalization of the regional policy of Russia” in order to ensure “the equality of the regions” and the development of “precise and clear criteria of the inter-relationships of the regions and the Center,” qualities that the current Russian Federation clearly lacks.
“Try to justify rationally the system of the administrative-territorial divisions of Russia and to explain why some subjects of the federation are republics and others are oblasts? Why such improbable subjects of the federation as Moscow and Petersburg exist? Why the city called Petersburg is situated in Leningrad oblast? And where is Leningrad?”
But it is obvious that “the problem here is not in place names.” And consequently, Kadyrov’s “gesture” is “a symptom of a [dawning] re-division of the country,” one that would redefine both borders and the power relations of those at the center and in the regions and thereby leave Russia a very different country than it is today.
At present, Danilov continues, Russia’s federal divisions are “a reflection of the system of the statuses of local vassals, not only regional but also branch” and combined to “form a federation of completely different states. Some vassals are subordinate to one duke, others to a second, a third group to a third, and perhaps at the same time also to the first.”
As a result, there exist within Russian, several dozen “intersecting or not intersecting one with another ‘Russias,’” which have a variety of “verticals and all kinds of diagonals of power.” And that in turn, Danilov argues, has “created a nightmare situation” where “at one and the same time” there is “too much power” and “too little.”
Kadyrov’s proposal in fact raises all these issues and thus, again according to this portal, “is undoubtedly the strongest” initiative he has made up to now and the one that represents the greatest challenge not only to Moscow but to the way things are done elsewhere in the Russian Federation.
Danilov does not mention it, but there is another consequence of the very challenges it refers to. Over time, both Moscow and many in Russia’s non-Russian republics are going to recognize what is going on and find more reasons to delay or block what appears to be Kadyrov’s intention.
That may not be obvious to those who are tracking only expressions of support or opposition to the re-titling of republic leaders, but ever more commentators especially outside of Moscow are focusing on precisely the possibility that the acceptance of Kadyrov’s proposal will ultimately entail a great deal more change.
In today’s “Nastoyashcheye vremya,” a Daghestani weekly, Mair Pashayev says he supports the idea of calling the head of the republic something other than president, but he suspects that Kadyrov’s proposals will have more far-reaching effects both within his republic and more generally (
This “re-branding,” he suggests, could lead “the first person of the republic to swallow up the position of the head of government,” something that would lead to the rule of a single individual there. And a decision to change the title of the chief executive could have other consequences as well.
According to Pashayev, if Moscow is going to rename the office of the republic head, then “why not use the occasion and rename the republic as well?” In Daghestan, there are so many “concrete” figures, he notes, that perhaps it is now time to call that North Caucasian are “the Concrete Republic” and its head, “the servant of the people of the Concrete Republic.”

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