Staunton, October 14 – Russians living in Stavropol kray were not happy when their region was included in the North Caucasus Federal District when that administrative unit was reformed earlier this year, and this week, they have launched an online petition campaign in order to pressure Moscow to shift their land to the Southern Federal District.
Since being posted on the web four days ago, the 220-word appeal has attracted more than 6700 signatures, although a significant fraction of them are not of Stavropol residents but rather Muscovites or at least ethnic Russians from other parts of the Russian Federation (www.rus-obr.ru/days/8164).
According to the appeal, Stavropol residents have suffered in a variety of ways since their predominantly ethnic Russian region was combined with the North Caucasus in this way. The number of non-Russian migrants has increased as have violence – including three terrorist attacks – and crime in general (www.sborgolosov.ru/voiteview.php?voite=147).
In recent months, the appeal begins, “the worst fears of the residents of the kray” concerning the inclusion of Stavropol within the North Caucasus Federal District “have been confirmed.” And as a result, “many people [there now] view [Moscow’s decision to do so] as a territorial division” of Russian territory.
Because of the crime and terrorism that have occurred, the appeal says, Stavropol residents now have “a feeling of fear for their own lives and for the lives of their near ones.” Some who can have voted with their feet, leading to “a still greater outmigration of the ethnic Russian and Christian population from Stavropol kray.”
If that trend continues, the appeal goes on to say, it will “negatively affect the chances of our region to fulfill its main mission over the course of the last centuries to be an advanced post of Russia in the North Caucasus.” Consequently, they say, not only Stavropol residents but all ethnic Russians should sign the appeal and support this drive.
There are two major reasons why Moscow is unlikely to agree. On the one hand, the center included Stavropol kray inside the North Caucasus Federal District precisely in order to reduce the non-Russian share of that district’s population and to ensure the continuing presence of an ethnic Russian anchor population there.
Indeed, many expressed concerns at the time of the reformation of the North Caucasus district (it was part of the original map of federal districts but not set up until much later) that having only non-Russian units in the federal district would both make them more obstreperous and create larger administrative headaches for Moscow.
And on the other, if Moscow changed the borders of the North Caucasus Federal District in response to such an appeal, the center would face demands for changes elsewhere, not only in the existing borders of the eight federal districts but also and more explosively in the existing borders of many of the non-Russian republics across the country.
That would create administrative and political problems the center simply does not want to have or see any way to moderate should they begin. Consequently, and with the hope that the North Caucasus Federal District will allow the Sochi Olympics to take place where and when they are scheduled, Moscow almost certainly will reject this appeal.
But it is significant because now the challenge to Moscow’s arrangements is coming from the ethnic Russians on whom the center has always assumed it can rely rather than just from non-Russians the center has never fully trusted. And that makes this development explosive, just as a parallel one in the RSFSR 20 years ago did for the Soviet Union.