№ 1, 2019
The article attempts to identify the attitude to the reform of the administrative-territorial division that took place in Russia in the mid-2000s in the affected regions and to trace the reasons for why people perceive the reform in one way or the other. The empirical data for the study come from a series of in-depth interviews with the representatives of the regional government, local government and civil society obtained in the administrative centers of the territories that lost their autonomy as well as the regions that they were united with.
The study revealed that the reform had not only official goals, such as reducing economic inequality and increasing the efficiency of public administration, but also unofficial goals. The federal center pursued strengthening of centripetal forces within the Russian federalism, while regional elites desired an increase in the regionals budgets and improvement of the status of their regions. As the reform progressed, official goals increasingly gave way to unofficial ones, which led to the suspension of the reform. The regions that obtained new territories advantageously increased their weight in the structure of the Russian federalism and gained complete control over the financial flows and the executive power in the districts, but the price to pay was a compensatory redistribution of budget funds. The territories that were joined to the regions benefited from the implementation of a number of infrastructure projects, the increase in the funds allocated to support the national culture, and the access to krai/oblast programs, but they lost out in terms of their status and having a direct link to Moscow.
The study showed that psychological factor plays the key role in the per- ception of the reform. Regardless of the real consequences of the unification for a particular territory, those who have obtained a higher status support the reform, while those who lost their status opposed it. The main reasons for the negative assessment of the reform are the following: (1) the lack of a common institutional model for integration; (2) high expectations; (3) the absence of a clearly defined goal of unification; (4) the status and political-cultural “aberration” that made people blame the reform for their own problems, even those that had nothing to do with the reform.
Main Page ~ Authors ~ Oskolkov Petr