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Russia's Regionalization: The International Dimension *

Alexander A. Sergounin **

Copenhagen Peace Research Institute


Regionalization is a basic characteristic of post-Communist Russia. The Russian Federation is still evolving, but the important point is that the constituent parts of Russia now matter. Moscow still sets the general rules of the game and retains its control of the majority of the regions. But the underlying shift in power to the regions is clear.

There is a number of factors that have caused this dynamic process. Social science literature identifies the domestic sources of Russia's regionalization as follows: the weakness of the federal centre; the collapse of the old vertical structure of political control; decentralization as a result of democratization; the lack of proper legal basis for separation of powers between centre and regions; the economic challenges of a period of transition (economic crisis, disruption of economic ties between different regions, the tendency to self-reliance of the regions); the rise of regional elites; Russia's ethnic, religious, cultural and spatial diversity. These determinants are thoroughly examined in both Russian and Western scholarship (Senatova and Kasimov, 1994: 34-41; Borisov, 1995: 4-6; Gelman and Senatova, 1995: 211-223; Hanson, 1997: 39-52).

However, there is another group of sources - external determinants of regionalization. This issue has not been given due consideration, neither by the Russian nor by the international research community, in spite of its paramount significance.

As with any new development, a number of questions have been raised. Which factors are really important? What are the socio-economic and political implications of foreign influence for regional development? Will regionalization result in secessionism and disintegration of the country or contribute to further democratization of Russian society? Should Russia promote or prevent the regions' direct contacts with foreign powers?

This study addresses the above-mentioned important questions confronting contemporary Russian decision-makers and analysts. At the same time, it focuses on two major issues - external causes of Russia's regionalization and its implications for the country.

It is expedient to depart from setting up a conceptual framework for the study.

Analytical Approaches to Regionalization

Definitional ambiguity is a striking characteristic of the research literature dealing with the issue of regionalism. According to Neumann, three main approaches to definition of regions can be identified: First, social science literature is dominated by attempts to define regions in terms of common cultural traits. The cultural approach focuses on traits internal to a given area, and in this fashion ventures to draw up borders which may hedge off the region from contiguous but, presumably, culturally different areas.

Second, the main contending approach, which dominates the international relations literature, focuses on how great power rivalry within the framework of the international system incidentally gives rise to regions (or rather regional theatres). This geopolitical approach, then, views regions as externally constituted; the power projection of external great powers and local reactions to the ensuing pressure generate the regional dynamics.

A third - region-building - approach, which is popular among the postmodernists, asks not whether regions are constituted internally or externally, but focuses on the very process of constitution itself. By deconstructing a given region-building sequence, the approach is able to question phenomena that the two other approaches treat as givens. The region-building approach draws on the concept of nation building to show that the two other approaches are themselves partaking in the process of region-building (Neumann, 1992: 62).

The three approaches are complementary inasmuch as each of them privileges a discourse which lies at the heart of political science and international relations, i.e. discourses about order, power and morality (Linklater, 1990: 8-9).

There are a number of composite approaches to definition of regions and the sources of regionalization. Cantori and Spiegel's definition emphasizes geographic proximity, international interaction, common bonds (ethnic, linguistic, cultural, social and historical) and a sense of identity that is sometimes accentuated by the actions and attitudes of states external to the region (Cantori and Spiegel, 1970: 6-7). However, they admit that these criteria are not universal. Similarly, Bruce Russett's five criteria (social and cultural homogeneity, political attitudes or external behaviour, political institutions, economic interdependence and geographical proximity) also illustrate the ambiguity of region as an organizing concept (Russett, 1968: 317-352).

Based on the work of 22 scholars, Thompson's composite definition lists 21 commonly cited attributes which he condenses to a list of three necessary and sufficient conditions for defining a regional subsystem. These are: general geographic proximity, regularity and intensity of interactions, and shared perceptions of the regional subsystem as a distinctive theatre of operations. These three conditions overlap with those identified by Cantori and Spiegel, and Russett. However, as Katzenstein points out, these conditions contain some serious analytical ambiguities: 'general geographic proximity' is a stretchable term; 'particular degrees of regularity of interactions' are neither readily recognized nor easily coded; and the 'perceptual' dimension of regional systems is often in tension with the 'objective' facts of geography (Katzenstein, 1996: 129-130).

It seems that the debate on definitions is sometimes scholastic rather than heuristic. In reality, a scholar selects criteria for defining regions in accordance with his/her research objective. All above analytical approaches could be valuable depending on research purpose. In this study emphasis is made on external sources of Russia's regionalization. However, this does not imply that internal factors are neglected. On the contrary, this research acknowledges the priority of internal factors over external ones. But foreign influences are very important as well. They are of particular importance for contemporary Russia because of the growing openness of the country to interaction with the outside world.

In this study the 'region' is considered as a subject of the Russian Federation (region, province, autonomous republic) or as a totality of a number of subjects united by their geographic proximity, as well as by common historic, economic and cultural background (for example, the Volgo-Viatskii region, Urals, the Russian Far East, etc.). 'Regionalization' means the process of either emergence of new regions or further consolidation of existing regions within the country.

It is advisable to proceed with examination of major external factors that cause or affect the process of Russia's regionalization.

Global Developments

Many analysts emphasize that the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the Soviet Union have lessened the impact of global factors in world politics and have increased the weight of regional forces that had operated all along under the surface of superpower confrontation. Thus, international and national politics are increasingly shaped by regional, as well as sub-national and local, dynamics (Katzenstein, 1996: 123-159). German unification, for example, was a decisive determinant for the simultaneous move towards a deepening and widening of the European integration process. Territorial disputes, ethnic and religious conflicts as well as an arms race in the Asia-Pacific region shifted political focus from the U.S. military involvement to regional institutions and alliances. Russia is a part of this global dynamics. Regional political factors rather than Russia's great power ambitions drive the Russian project of reconstructing a sphere of influence in the 'near abroad'.

For many political scientists (especially for postmodernists), regionalization is a natural outcome of the crisis of the nation state. According to this point of view, there is a general tendency for the nation state to be weakened while the levels above and beneath it are strengthened (Camilleri and Falk, 1992: 220, 241; Makarychev, 1996: 82-91). James Rosenau called this phenomenon 'fragmegration' thus implying a complex nature of interaction of the two contrary processes - fragmentation and integration (Rosenau, 1990; 1992: 9-13).

There is a widespread assumption among European scholars that Europeanization and regionalization goes hand in hand. A number of regions was singled out: Alp/Adria, the Hexagonale, Mitteleuropa, the Euregio, the Regio Basiliensis, the Visegrad group, the Baltic/Nordic area, and so forth. There is also a high level of interest in the fate of the smaller state-less nations (sometimes named 'minorities' - or regions) in Western Europe (Corsica, Scotland, Catalonia, etc.). Wiberg and Wæver distinguish four main forces which lie behind the present general trend toward regionalism in Europe: security dynamics; the EC; Germany; and competition for growth among European regions (Wæver and Wiberg, 1995: 207-211).

It is obvious that some of these factors (such as NATO and EU enlargement, enhancing of trans-border co-operation, competition between the European countries for the Russian market and so on) influence developments of Russia's Western and North-Western regions. Many Western politicians and academics regard regionalization and trans-regional co-operation as the best way to tie up Russia into the international co-operation system, to assist its domestic reforms and to prevent the rise of anti-Democratic forces in the country. For example, as Dellenbrant and Olsson noted, "The mere fact that an increasingly intensive degree of interaction is now emerging between the western and eastern parts of the Barents region is contributing to a future "normalization" of the political and economic situation in Russia." (Dellenbrant and Olsson, 1994: 12)

A number of promising directions for regional co-operation has been offered: the Baltic Sea region, the Barents Sea region, the Black Sea area, and Asia-Pacific (Dellenbrant and Olsson, 1994: 11-12, 29-30; Jervell, 1992: 19-20; Kerr, 1996: 931-957; Wæver and Wiberg, 1995: 221-228). Some institutional support was provided: the Council of the Baltic Sea States, the Barents/Euro-Arctic Council, the Black Sea Economic Council, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum, etc.

Geopolitical Factors

The geographic position of a region, access to land and sea communications, abundance or lack of natural resources, climatic conditions, etc., are very important characteristics as well. These factors shape the region's economy, transportation system, trade, foreign policy orientations, relationship with the centre and so forth. The Russian Far East, for example, cannot ignore proximity of two regional powers such as China and Japan, which have a serious interest in exploitation of its natural resources, conquering its huge market and resolution of some bilateral problems inherited from the past. The Russian South has to deal with implications of the turbulent processes in the adjacent areas - North Caucasian and Transcaucasian regions.

The Russian North-West also exemplifies an importance of geopolitics. With the collapse of the USSR, Russia's access to the Baltic Sea was significantly reduced to the small areas around Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg. Russia lost approximately two-thirds of the former Soviet Baltic coastline. The total length of the outer boundary of the country's territorial waters is now only just over 200 km. What is also important Moscow has lost its strategic allies from the adjacent regions. As Baranovsky notes, the new geopolitical situation is psychologically traumatic for Russians: indeed, what Russia possesses now in the Baltic Sea area is only slightly more than it did in the time of Ivan the Terrible (Baranovsky, 1996: 168). In fact, Russia feels itself pushed several centuries back.

This feeling of increasing isolation from Europe was added by the expanding 'buffer zone' between Russia and Central and Western Europe as a result of the secession of Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine in 1991. Russia's access to the industrially developed European countries became more difficult than in the recent past. In fact, Russia now has a land frontier only with two North European countries - Finland and Norway - which are seen by the Russian political and business elites as 'lucrative pieces' to develop economic ties with the 'core' of Europe.

Paradoxically, the same geopolitical catastrophe which reduced Russia's influence in the Baltic Sea rim made the latter rather attractive for Moscow in terms of economic co-operation with Europe, and accelerated shaping of a new Russian Baltic region involved in intensive trans-regional co-operation with the neighbouring countries. Due to numerous barriers (social-economic and political instability, tariffs, the lack of co-ordination between custom services and border guards of different countries, organized crime, underdeveloped infrastructure, isolation from the European markets and others) Russia's CIS partners (Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine) are less preferable than other countries. The Visegrad countries (including Poland) and even the Baltic states look more promising because they are ahead of other post-socialist countries in conducting reforms; they are economically viable and potentially welcome to the European 'club'. For these reasons, the Baltic Sea countries might again assume the role of a Russia's 'window on Europe' which they have had since the time of Peter the Great.

This region is also an important transport junction by sea, land and air. As a result of Russia's loss of its main ports on the Black Sea (Odessa, Nikolayev, Sevastopol, Kerch, Sukhumi and Batumi) and on the Baltic (Klaipeda, Riga, Tallinn and Ventspils) which formerly connected Russia with the West, the role of the Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg harbours has become crucial. On the Baltic Sea, as much as 56 per cent of the former Soviet harbour capacity reverted to the possession of the new independent states. Russia's shortage of harbour capacity in the Baltic will be an acute problem for many years to come (Viitasalo and Österlund, 1996: 12, 23).

The new geopolitical situation influences greatly the development of land and sea transport infrastructure in the Russian North-West. Moscow is planning to develop the above-mentioned ports and land transport communications in North-West Russia. Russia announced in the early 1990's that it planned to construct new large-scale harbours close to St. Petersburg on the bays of Ust-Luga, Primorsk and Batareinaya by the year 2000 (Viitasalo and Österlund, 1996: 23-24). While the feasibility of the project should be estimated with caution (given the economic crisis in Russia), if this timetable does hold good, it will substantially increase the volume of Russian merchant shipping and lead to savings in the costs of transit traffic. There are also some plans to develop a direct transport line St. Petersburg-Baltiisk to supply raw materials and consumer goods to the Kaliningrad exclave.

As for land transport communications, Russia is going to develop, for example, a high-speed railway between Moscow, St. Petersburg and Murmansk (Nordic Council, 1992: 23-24). Moscow repeatedly offered the Balts and Poles to extend the proposed Via Baltica (high-speed motorway) to St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad. The Russian proposals, however, were rejected for various reasons (financial, environmental, political, etc.).

As mentioned, the new geopolitical situation in the Baltic Sea area has posed not only economic but also political, military and even psychological challenges to Russia. The Kaliningrad problem exemplifies such a combination of different factors. Since 1991 the Kaliningrad Region (Oblast) has become an exclave separated from Russia by Belarusian, Latvian and Lithuanian territories. The Region is fully dependent on external sources of raw materials, energy, fuel, foodstuff, etc. It can meet only 5-6 per cent of the local industry's needs with its own resources. The Region lost 300 billion roubles in 1994 and 440 billion roubles in the first half of 1995 because of the Lithuanian transit fees (Trynkov, 1996: 8). There is also a difference of opinion among Russian politicians and experts with regard to the future status and role of Kaliningrad. Some suggest its transformation into the Baltic 'Hong Kong', other propose to retain its status as Russia's main military outpost on the Baltic Sea (The Baltic Independent, 4-10 November 1994: 5; Szajkowski, 1993: 164; Trynkov, 1996: 1-4, 14-16). It appears that there is no simple solution for this geopolitical puzzle.

Strategic-Military Determinants

Military alliances, deployment and configuration of the foreign armed forces, military conflicts in the country's vicinity affect formation and development of the Russian border regions.

For instance, the Sino-Soviet confrontation of 1960-80s led to high militarization of the Russian Far East. However, with the beginning of Sino-Russian détente the region has lost its former military-strategic significance for Moscow. In addition to trade, Sino-Russian co-operation in a number of delicate and sensitive fields, such as arms and technology transfers, conversion, military training and research, intelligence, etc., assisted in developing an atmosphere of trust and mutual confidence in relations between the two countries. As the result of Sino-Russian détente, Russia's military presence in the region was significantly diminished. In 1986-96 the number of Russian divisions in the Far Eastern Strategic Theatre decreased from 57 to 23, the number of tanks fell from 14,900 to 10,068, the number of surface-to surface missiles decreased from 363 to 102, the number of attack helicopters fell from 1,000 to 310, the number of combat aircraft decreased from 1,125 to 425. The number of submarines in the Pacific Fleet fell from 109 (32 strategic and 77 tactical) to 45 (14 strategic and 31 tactical), the number of principal surface combatants decreased from 82 to 45 (International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1986: 45-46; 1996: 115, 118).

Furthermore, disappearance of the Chinese threat and reshaping of the military alliances in East Asia has resulted in increasing economic and decreasing strategic importance of the Far East for Russia. In turn, this pushed the central authorities to provide the local governments with more powers to develop more or less independent economic and cultural ties with the Asia-Pacific countries. According to the Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, Moscow strongly supports economic co-operation between the Russian Far East and the above-mentioned region (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 1996: pp. 35-39).

The strategic situation in Eastern Europe and the Baltic Sea rim also has important implications for the border Russian regions.

On the one hand, Russian military presence and activities in the area have been considerably reduced since 1991, motivated by both political and economic considerations. The Baltic Military District (MD) has been abolished. The Leningrad MD has been provided with a more defensive configuration. In 1990-96 the number of motor rifle divisions in the MD fell from 11 to 5, the number of tanks was reduced from 1200 to 870, and the numbers of artillery, multiple rocket launchers and mortars fell from 2140 to 1000. Over the same period the Kaliningrad Defence Area (KOR) reduced the number of its tank divisions from 2 to 1, the artillery division was transformed into three brigades, the airborne brigade was dismissed, the number of surface-to-surface missile brigades fell from 3 to 1, the number of artillery pieces was reduced from 677 to 426, and the number of combat aircraft fell from 155 to 28. Over the same period the Baltic Fleet reduced the number of its submarines from 42 (2 strategic and 40 tactical) to 6 tactical and the number of surface ships from 450 (39 principal combatants, 150 patrol and coastal combatants, 120 mine warfare, 21 amphibious and 120 support vessels) to 259 (31 principal combatants, 42 patrol and coastal combatants, 60 mine warfare, 8 amphibious and 118 support ships) (International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1990: 39-40; 1996: 114-115). Most of Russia's submarines and major surface vessels are no longer on the alert and are stationed in their bases. They often have no fuel to stay out at sea. At the same time the Russian Navy's operational capacity has been reduced. According to some reports, only 30 per cent of the Navy's needs for repairs and ship maintenance can be met (Dellenbrant and Olsson, 1994: 168). Military shipbuilding has been reduced or in some cases stopped.

On the other hand, a number of external pressures still make the region strategically important for Russia.

The Russian political and military leadership emphasizes the need to protect the most important industrial and administrative centres of North-West Russia, which have become more vulnerable since the emergence of independent states - the separation of Kaliningrad from Russia and the shift of the border close to St. Petersburg, Pskov and Novgorod. In his speech to the sailors of the Russian navy at Baltiisk in March 1993, the then Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev pointed out that Russia must hold on to its powerful position in the Baltic Sea area to be able to protect Kaliningrad from any territorial claims that might be advanced by the Germans or other 'right-wing' powers. He also announced that he was in favour of a continuous, effective Russian army presence in the Baltic area.

Northwest Russia is a region, which accommodated some troops withdrawn from former Warsaw Pact countries and Soviet republics. The same is true for the Russian Navy. The Baltic Sea Fleet faced the problem of redeployment of vessels and facilities from the Baltic states to the Kaliningrad ports and Kronstadt (near St. Petersburg). The role of the Baltiisk base (near Kaliningrad), which was estimated in 1993 to be used by 75 per cent of the surface interception vessels, 60 per cent of the anti-submarine vessels, 20 per cent of the minesweepers and all the landing craft, seems likely to increase still further (Viitasalo and Österlund, 1996: 33). The area also has a vital shipbuilding and repairs industry, and the Jantar shipyard in Kaliningrad, which builds the Udaloi and Neustrashimyi-class vessels, is of vital importance to the Baltic Fleet and to the Russian navy in general. In addition, the Kaliningrad area is located at the ice-free zone of the Baltic Sea while St. Petersburg area can be surrounded by ice for as long as 6 months in the year.

At the same time, St. Petersburg retains its leadership in military shipbuilding on the Baltic. Its shipyards build battle cruisers, anti-submarine destroyers, submarines of all classes (from strategic to tactical), etc. The vessels are produced not only for the Baltic Sea Fleet but also for the Northern Fleet and export purposes as well. For example, in October 1996, the nuclear-powered missile cruiser Peter the Great went on its first sea trial with a final destination to Severomorsk, home of the Northern Fleet (The Economist, 30 November 1996: 35). Kilo class diesel submarines have been exported to China by the St. Petersburg shipyards, since 1995 (Birzha, 14 April 1994: 3; Delo, 7-13 April 1995; Neva News, November 1996: 2; Pointer, October 1996: 1).

The Baltic Sea is still a field of NATO-Russian military confrontation. Compared to the Cold War era both sides have reduced their activities in the area but they are still fairly intensive. 'Submarine incidents' occur from time to time. Naval intelligence operations are sometimes even more active: NATO and Russia are still interested in each other's intentions. According to data, the naval activities in the Baltic Sea have significantly increased in connection with the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme. The number of NATO military aircraft revealed in the air defence zone of the Kaliningrad Special Defence District (KOR) has increased by 250 per cent during 1995 (Trynkov, 1996: 5). In turn, Russia pushed forward an idea of a CIS unified air defence system. An agreement 'On creation of a unified air defence system of CIS member states' was signed by the Commonwealth leaders on February 10, 1995 in Almaty (Rossiyskaia Gazeta, 25 February 1995: 5). It became effective first of all on the CIS western air border: on 1 April 1996, Russia and Belarus started joint patrolling on that border.

The KOR's strategic-military importance may even grow in view of NATO enlargement. According to some experts, should Poland join NATO further demilitarization of Kaliningrad will be inevitably stopped regardless Warsaw's promises not to deploy foreign troops and nuclear weapons on its territory. Should the Baltic states join NATO, re-militarization of the KOR, the Leningrad MD and Belarus is predicted (Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 11 April 1996; Trynkov, 1996: 3).

Some modest military build-up has taken place already. Russia expanded its naval facilities at Baltiisk to accommodate the warships withdrawn from the Baltic states, according to Admiral Vladimir G. Yegorov. The naval presence at Baltiisk has been expanded to include more conventional submarines and new barracks to house an 1100-strong maritime border guard unit (Jane's Defence Weekly, 13 March 1993: 14). In addition to a motor rifle division stationed in the KOR, one more was redeployed from ex-Czechoslovakia. In 1990-95 the number of tanks increased from 802 to 893 (850 in 1996), the number of armoured combat vehicles increased from 1081 to 1156 (925 in 1996), and the number of attack helicopters increased from 48 to 52 (International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1995: 105; 1996: 114).

By the mid-1990s the whole Northwest region is perceived by the Russian leadership mainly through the prism of strategic rather than economic or political interests. This created some tensions between the local elites oriented to trans-regional co-operation and the centre mostly concerned with strategic challenges.

Economic Considerations

Regionalization in Russia is accelerated by economic influence of the neighbouring countries. Given the current economic decline and disruption of inter-regional co-operation, for many border regions, collaboration with foreign partners offers better prospects than with other Russian regions.

Some Russian regions, such as Kaliningrad, St. Petersburg and Karelia, view economic co-operation with the Baltic Sea/Nordic countries as the best way to overcome the current crisis and build a viable economy. They look to some Baltic Sea/Nordic countries as possible sources of investment, advanced technology and training assistance and as promising trading partners. Geographically this area is closer to Russia than other Western countries.

According to some estimates, Russian trade through the Baltic ports will increase to 55.5 million tonnes by the year 2000 and to as much as 98.0 million tonnes in 2005 (it was only 39 million tonnes in 1992 and 46 million tonnes in 1993) (Viitasalo and Österlund, 1996: 23). According to the Finnish Ministry of Transport, as much as 10 million tonnes of Russian exports and imports could be transported via Finland in addition to the current 5 million tonnes. It is also stated in the ministry's report that competition between the harbours of Russia, the Baltic states and Finland will become fiercer (Viitasalo and Österlund, 1996: 24). In addition, there is overt competition between St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad for being leader of Russian merchant shipping on the Baltic Sea (Wellman, 1996: 176). On the other hand, if Moscow's political relations with the Balts improve, the focus of Russia's goods traffic will be on via the Baltic states. To meet this possibility, improvements in infrastructure are being already designed in the Baltic states, including the harbour of Muuga east of Tallinn in Estonia. If the costs of transporting goods via the Baltic states remain low, the pressures upon Russia to build new ports around St. Petersburg will be alleviated.

Russia's Baltic-oriented regions have persistently struggled for privileges in their foreign economic relations. For example, under some scenarios, the Kaliningrad region could become a West-East trading bridge, Russia's Hong Kong (Matochkin, 1995: 9). In November 1991, President Yeltsin issued a decree granting the city of Kaliningrad the status of a free economic zone (FEZ). Several hundred joint ventures have been registered (45 per cent of them with German companies), mostly small service operations (Matochkin, 1995: 11; Szajkowski, 1993: 164).

However, there was a difference of opinion between Moscow and the Kaliningrad local authorities on the status of the region and the prospects for its economic co-operation with foreign countries. The regional government has proposed to transform the FEZ into a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) provided with even more autonomy and privileges.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai has complained that foreign investors there get significant tax and other concessions while investing insignificant amounts of money. As of 1 September 1994, a total of 885 enterprises with foreign investments were registered in the Kaliningrad Region, 239 of them fully foreign-owned. Foreign investors accounted for less than $2 million (The Baltic Independent, 4-10 November 1994: 5). According to Shakhrai, the region is already being turned into a channel for export of raw materials, including strategic resources, and for the creeping expansion of foreign influence in the economic and ethnic spheres, with the prospect of the creation of a 'fourth independent Baltic state' (The Baltic Independent, 4-10 November 1994: 5). As a compromise Shakhrai proposed, instead of making the whole of the region a free economic zone, the creation of limited zones of free trade activity near ports and main roads in the region, stressing that 'we have again to declare clearly the priority of Russia's military-strategic interests in the Kaliningrad Oblast.' (The Baltic Independent, 4-10 November 1994: 1)

Under the pressure of the 'centralists', the federal authorities tried to tighten their control over the Kaliningrad Region. In May 1995 Yeltsin suddenly abolished the customs exemptions and this led to annulment of a large number of contracts. Moscow disavowed a trade agreement signed between Kaliningrad and Lithuania and control was retained over border and visa questions (Matochkin, 1995: 12-14; Joenniemi, 1996a: 19).

The regional leadership was able, however, to persuade the President to continue with the FEZ. On 18 May 1995, Yeltsin issued a decree, On Social and Economic Development of the Kaliningrad Region, providing the FEZ with broad powers in foreign economic policy, tax privileges and state support in protection of the region's producers, creating a ferry line between Kaliningrad and Vyborg and establishing a unified maritime administration of the Port of Kaliningrad (Shumeiko, 1995: 7).

In 1996, however, the power struggle between the centre and the region has continued. By the presidential decree the FEZ was transformed into a SEZ. On the one hand, the latter got back some customs privileges. On the other hand, the regional authorities lost part of their foreign policy powers. The centre took control over the defence industry, mineral resources, energy production, transport and mass media. Foreigners are not allowed to purchase land, but it can be leased for periods yet to be settled (Joenniemi, 1996a: 19). The outcome of this 'tug-of-war' remains unclear.

While the Northwest is interested in co-operation with Germany, Finland and the Scandinavian countries, the Russian Far East is mainly oriented towards China, Japan, South Korea and other Asia-Pacific countries. Cut off from the domestic Russian market, the Far East could trade with foreign countries. Today this is much more profitable than trading with partners at home. In 1994, the South Korean firm Yu Kong has promised to provide Kamchatka with every kind of fuel at an acceptable price. Canada offered the Far Easterners wheat that is twice as cheap as that from the Stavropol Province (Krai). The same year, the Chukchi Peninsula has bought foodstuff for the first time in the United States. Australia was ready to supply inexpensive high-quality coal, and Vietnam was positioned to sell oil to the Far East. In exchange, the Asia-Pacific countries were interested in timber, fish, ore, and other raw materials as well as some finished products (Matveyeva, 1994: 13). In 1992 the Russian Far East could survive in a 'foodstuff crisis' only due to the barter trade with China (Portiakov, 1996: 80).

Despite economic, infrastructure, and logistic problems, and a perceived lack of entrepreneurial drive on the part of Russians, the Russian Far East succeeded in establishing direct economic links with Asia-Pacific. By mid-1994, in the Maritime Province alone, more than 800 joint ventures were registered, with over $300 million of foreign funds invested. These changes are occurring despite the fact that special economic zones - which so far seem not to work in the Russian environment - have not been set up with the exception of Nakhodka (Ivanov, 1995: 107).

Exports from Russia's Far East are rising. In 1993, the area's estimated share of national exports doubled and export volume exceeded $2 billion. The region's total trade volume was $2.7 billion in 1992 and $3.2 billion in 1993. The region's trade surplus in 1994 exceeded $1 billion. Asia-Pacific countries account for about 80 per cent of this trade, with Japan being the leading market for traditional exports. As the transit role of Russia's Pacific coast expands, Russian ports are emerging as a base for re-export operations, particularly for trade with China and Korea. Four major sea ports (Vostochnii, Vladivostok, Nakhodka, and Vanino) handle the same volume of foreign cargo as the three largest ports in European Russia (St. Petersburg, Novorossiisk, and Murmansk). In 1992-1993, 46 per cent of all foreign cargo and 54 per cent of high-value cargo in containers was channelled through Russia's Pacific coast ports (Ivanov, 1995: 107).

A number of Russian and Chinese regions have developed very close economic relations. In fact, the southern part of the Russian Far East and China's Dongbei formed an interdependent and complimentary economic organism (Kerr, 1996: 934-939).

Creation of single trans-regional economic complexes with participation of Russia still remains a distant future. However, there are some Russian regions which already have such a potential: Kaliningrad, Karelia and St. Petersburg oriented to the Baltic Sea economic space; the Kola Peninsula and Russia's High North oriented to the Barents/Euro-Arctic region; the southern provinces of the Russian Far East oriented to China's Dongbei, and Sakhalin and the Kurils oriented to Japan.

Territorial And Ethnic Disputes

These factors can be a powerful incentive for regionalization in the border areas. As the nature of conflicts varies their implications are different in various parts of Russia. Three kinds of interaction between territorial disputes and regionalization can be distinguished.

In the first case, the interests of the centre and a local government coincide: they deny territorial claims of foreign powers as well as the very idea of secessionism. Since there is solidarity of the centre and a region, the process of regionalization develops in a quiet, evolutionary form. Regionalism becomes a response to foreign 'encroachments' and 'attempts'. The territorial disputes between Russia, Estonia and Latvia exemplify such a type of interaction.

Estonia points out that in accordance with the Tartu Treaty of 1920 approximately 2000 sq. km east of the Narva River and the Pechory (Petseri) district, part of the Pskov Region, should belong to Estonia. Estonia included reference to the Tartu Treaty in its 1992 Constitution. The Estonian authorities issued thousands of passports for the ethnic Estonians resident in the Pechory district. Russia suspected it of intending to create a 'critical mass' of Estonians in the district to lay the legal foundations for calling a referendum and subsequently annexing the territory. The Estonian border regulations are considered in Moscow to be unjust to Russians; maps have been issued which indicate some Russian territories as being under Estonian jurisdiction and Moscow has threatened Tallinn with retaliation. Russia has refused to discuss territorial issues with Estonia, officially declaring the principle of the status quo.

In summer 1994, following a presidential decree Russia began unilateral demarcation of the border in the Pechory district. 'This border was, is and will be Russian, and not a single inch of the land will be given to anyone,' President Yeltsin declared at the newly constructed border checkpoint on 23 November 1994. He said the border had to be made a 'reliable shield' against 'smugglers from the Baltics and foreign intelligence services' (The Baltic Independent, 25 November-1 December 1994: 1).

Estonia tried to raise the territorial issue in the OSCE but failed to attract any serious attention to the problem (The Baltic Independent, 19-25 August 1994: 2). As a result of Russia taking unilateral measures and lack of international support, the majority of the Estonian political parties began to be inclined to compromise with Russia over the border issue. At the end of 1994, Prime Minister Andres Tarand said that Estonia was prepared to make concessions on the border if Russia agreed to at least recognize the Tartu Treaty as the basis for relations between the two countries (The Baltic Independent, 9-15 December 1994: 3; 10-16 February 1995: 4). According to Aleksandr Udaltsov, head of the Baltic desk at the Russian Foreign Ministry, Russia is prepared to recognize the historical importance of the treaty, but that is all (The Baltic Independent, 10-16 February 1995: 4).

As the EU and NATO require of potential candidates for membership to resolve all border and national minorities problems Estonia, which is considered as a likely candidate for joining the EU by 2003, is eager to settle its territorial disputes with Moscow. By the end of 1996, Russia and Estonia almost reached a compromise on the border issues except for some technical details.

Latvia also has some territorial disputes with Russia. In January 1992 the Latvian Supreme Council adopted a resolution, On the Non-recognition of the Annexation of the Town of Abrene and Six Districts of Abrene by Russia in 1944 (Boundary Bulletin, no. 4, May-June 1992: 43). The Supreme Council confirmed its adherence to the borders established under the 1920 treaty with Russia (Boundary Bulletin, no. 4, May-June 1992: 43). However, at this time Riga has not made the claim officially and has not insisted on putting the issue on the Russian-Latvian negotiation agenda. Instead, in December 1994, Latvia and Russia signed four agreements to simplify border regulations (The Baltic Independent, 23 December 1994-5 January 1995: 4).

However, on 22 August 1996, the Latvian Parliament has adopted a Declaration on Occupation of Latvia that claimed officially the above territories. It has evoked a fierce reaction from Russia. During his visit to Pskov Region in September 1996, the Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that Latvia "will get nothing" and ordered the border guards to tighten control over the Russian-Latvian frontier. He also said that Russia would ask the Council of Europe to make a legal assessment of the Latvian declaration. Meantime the Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis disavowed territorial claims and stressed that the parliamentary declaration should be re-considered. The Russian-Latvian negotiations on the border issues, however, were stopped (Moskovskie Novosti, 29 September-6 October 1996).

In both cases the central government backed the local authorities and provided them with additional funds to demarcate the frontiers, construct checkpoints and develop the border guard and customs services. The local political elites used Estonian and Latvian 'threats' to generate nationalistic sentiments in the electorate in order to divert the latter from discussion of day-to-day needs and strengthen their positions. Moscow did not prevent the rise of nationalism in these regions because it did not fuel secessionism.

The second type of interaction between the territorial disputes and regionalization is that of conflicting interests of the centre and local authorities. Moscow strongly opposes any concessions to foreign powers and suspects the local elites of secessionism. The local authorities use foreign claims as a bargaining instrument in 'horse-trading' with the centre to gain more privileges and autonomy. Kaliningrad, Karelia and the Kuril Islands exemplify such a type of interaction.

The origins of the Kaliningrad issue lie in decisions taken after World War II. By decision of the Potsdam Peace Conference (1945) a part of former East Prussia, including its capital Königsberg, was given to Russia. In 1946 the Kaliningrad Region was formed as a part of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Ethnic Germans were moved away from this territory and the region was populated mainly by Russians who today make up 80 per cent of the inhabitants. The overall population of the region is now 900,000 civilians plus an unspecified number of military personnel and demobilized soldiers (estimates ranged from 60,000 to 400,000) (Jane's Intelligence Review, December 1994: 572-573; SIPRI, 1994: 177; Szajkowski, 1993: 163). Ten per cent of the population is Belarusian. According to some accounts, in 1994 approximately 17,000-18,000 Germans were resident in the Region, although their passports often state that they are Russian or Ukrainian (the official figure was 6000) (Jane's Intelligence Review, December 1994: 573).

A completely new situation has arisen following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Baltic states' achievement of independence, which separated the Kaliningrad Region from Russian territory. Some German politicians (and even some Russian leaders before the German unification) have considered the exclave as a possible place for the creation of a German autonomous area in Russia in order to prevent further German emigration from Russia (Blanc-Noel, 1992: 62-63; Szajkowski, 1993: 165). The present inhabitants of the region resist this, although they favour German assistance to the region and the development of a free economic zone. Some extremist groups in Germany claim the return of Königsberg to the 'Vaterland' (Calabuig, 1991). Although officially Bonn does not support these proposals they make Moscow nervous because the issue is very sensitive for Russians. A number of German organizations in Russia have proposed solutions to the Kaliningrad issue. Freiheit (Freedom) Society, an association which emerged in spring 1993 as a radical voice for the interests of Russian Germans, decided to press for the formation (between 1995 and 1997) of a sovereign Baltic German republic under Russian jurisdiction in the Kaliningrad Region. At the same time the society stated that 'it should not be ruled out that this territory will eventually again be incorporated into Germany' (Szajkowski, 1993: 118). The Society of Old Prussia, set up in 1990, and comprising activists of several nationalities including ethnic Germans, aims to restore the pre-Soviet traditions and in the long run achieve independence for the Region (Szajkowski, 1993: 393).

Interestingly, in contrast to Moscow, the Kaliningrad authorities are not afraid of a possible influx of German-Russians from the territory of the former Soviet Union. According to some experts, there is sufficient room for 100,000 Germans in Kaliningrad Region (Jane's Intelligence Review, December 1994: 573). However, Germany has refrained from highlighting Kaliningrad in its official assistance to ethnic Germans in Russia; this programme is restricted to selected regions, and Kaliningrad is not one of them.

The Western experts consider a number of theoretical (and often highly unrealistic) options with respect to Kaliningrad. Under one option it would become an autonomous republic within the Russian Federation. Another possibility is for it to serve as an entity with special links to a Baltic 'Euroregion' or a 'Hanseatic region'. Other options include partition, the establishment of a condominium by its two neighbouring states, Latvia and Poland, independence or reunification with Germany (Hoff and Timmermann, 1993: 37-43; Petersen and Petersen, 1993: 59-62; SIPRI, 1994: 178).

Moscow's policy is to stimulate economic and cultural contacts and tourism between Kaliningrad and Germany as well as with other countries of the Baltic Sea region, and at the same time to prevent a mass migration of Germans to the strategically important region. Moscow emphasizes the priority of its military-strategic interests in the region and denies any possibility of changing Kaliningrad's current political status (The Baltic Independent, 4-10 November 1994: 5; 18-24 November 1994: 1).

The Karelian issue is also old. It has as well an historical and as an ethnic background. The Karelians are a nation related to the Finns and constitutes only a small minority of 10 per cent of the population in their eponymous republic. Karelia developed as a part of Finland from the 14th century, Finland itself being first a part of Sweden and then of Russia. Shortly after it achieved independence, in 1918-20 Finland occupied a part of Karelia belonging to Soviet Russia. However, later Helsinki was forced to retreat and sign the Tartu Peace Treaty (of 14 October 1920) which legitimized the division of Karelia (Sukianen, 1948). The repressive national and agricultural policy of the Soviet authorities in Soviet Karelia led to a rebellion in 1921-22, supported by Finland and cruelly suppressed by the Red Army, as result of which many Karelians migrated to Finland. Under the Moscow Peace Treaty of 12 March 1940 which followed the Soviet-Finnish war of 1939-40, the rest of Karelia (including Vyborg) and the western and northern coasts of Lake Ladoga were transferred to the Soviet Union. The subsequent Soviet-Finnish agreements (the 1944 Moscow armistice and the 1947 Paris peace treaty) confirmed the status of Karelia as an autonomous republic of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) (Szajkowski, 1993: 41).

There has been much discussion on the Karelian question in Finland during the past few years. The collapse of the Soviet Union, the restoration of the independence of the Baltic countries and the negotiations between Japan and Russia concerning the return of the Kuril Islands to Japan served as an additional spur to the discussion. Finland has taken a rather negative attitude towards the idea of initiating official negotiations on the return of Karelia. In December 1991, the Finnish Government officially renounced all claims to Karelia (Szajkowski, 1993: 41) although some groups in Finland and the Karelian Association in the Karelian Autonomous Republic have continued to press both Helsinki and Moscow for Karelia to be returned to Finland.

It is impossible for Moscow even to recognize officially the existence of the question. Any negotiations on territorial problems with other countries could undermine Yeltsin's domestic political position, and the Russian leadership is cautious about generating a 'chain reaction' in the region. If Moscow recognizes the Karelia issue it could seem to lend legitimacy to other claims. During his official visit to Finland in July 1992 President Yeltsin made it clear that there was no such issue. Finland stated that at that point the question would not be raised but at the same time reminded President Yeltsin that the principles of the OSCE made it possible to change borders by peaceful means.

More recently the Russian leadership signalled that it is ready to make at least symbolic concessions on the Karelian issue even though any talks on border shifts have been avoided. In May 1994 Yeltsin for the first time acknowledged that the annexation of Finnish Karelia was an aggressive act of Stalin's policy (Joenniemi, 1996b: 11-12). The Russian Ambassador, Iurii Deriabin, stated that in reality the future position of Karelia called for discussion, but instead of changes to the border the aim should be to lower the level of border controls (Finnish Institute of International Affairs, 1992: 30-31). Russia prefers to develop direct ties between Finland and Karelia rather than to recognize the problem officially (Nordic Council, 1992: 43). Moscow hopes that trans-border co-operation will ease tensions and prevent any official claims in the future.

The Northern Territories dispute between Russia and Japan is a source of long-term instability in the Asia-Pacific region. Khrushchev promised to return two of the smaller Kuril Islands in exchange for a peace treaty in 1956 (Khrushchev Remembers, p. 89), but Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko reneged on the deal in 1960 as East-West tensions flared. Moscow denied the existence of the problem throughout the 1970's and 1980's.

The United States has firmly supported Japan's position on the territorial dispute. Washington encouraged both countries to continue their dialogue and to undertake such steps which could facilitate resolution of the dispute in the future (demilitarization of the disputed islands, liberalization of visa regime, promoting direct economic and cultural co-operation between territories and Japan, Japanese assistance to the islands, etc.) (Cossa, 1993: 67-69; Bellows, 1994: 50-51). Tokyo promised large-scale assistance for Russia in exchange for contested territories.

Since his coming into power Russian President Yeltsin has appeared to recognize the problem and to work out some framework for a future agreement. He has called for joint economic development of the region while setting aside sovereignty issues. He has admitted to some concessions in the future if Russian internal situation would permit it. In mid-1997 the two countries decided to freeze discussion of sovereignty issues and start intensive economic co-operation covering not only the Kuril Islands but also other areas of the Russian Far East.

Similar to the Kaliningrad and Karelian political elites the local elite does not favour transfer of the islands to Japan but uses Tokyo's territorial claims as an instrument of horse-trading with the centre to get additional federal funds and more freedom in foreign economic relations, liberalise the visa regime and so on.

Finally, there is one more conflict-type interaction between territorial disputes and regionalization. However, in this case the source of conflict is different. The clash is generated by the local government's discontent with the centre's compliance in territorial dispute with a foreign country. Regionalism becomes a response to Moscow's 'treacherous policy'. The conflict between some Far Eastern provinces and the centre on the demarcation of the Sino-Russian frontier is a typical example of such an interaction.

Under the 1991 Sino-Soviet Treaty, confirmed in 1994 and ratified by the Parliaments of both countries, the demarcation of 33 disputed border sections in the Russia's Amur Region and the Khabarovsk and Maritime Provinces should be resolved. Under the treaty, 70 hectares of ploughland near Lake Khanka, a newly built road and a power transmission line, have already been placed under Russia's jurisdiction. In return, the Chinese are to get 968 hectares in the Ussuriisk District and another 300 hectares on the Tuman River in the Khasan District. The latter is the key issue in the dispute between the Maritime administration and the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Historically, the land was Chinese, but under the 1860 Peking Agreement, it was given to Russia. Until 1913 the land belonged to the Russian Zarechensko-Podgornensky land community, after which it was leased to people living in China and Korea. In 1926 the lease expired, but the Chinese continued to cross the border and use the land. They still considered it Chinese land. The Japanese followed suit when they occupied the northern part of China in 1931, and this set off an armed conflict in October 1936. Big battles also erupted at Lake Khasan in 1938. The dispute along the Tuman River broke out again in the 1960s. The Chinese tried to infiltrate gradually into the area (Balburov, 1996: 4).

The disputed area is at the junction of the Chinese, Russian and North Korean borders. The Tuman River is 150 metres wide and runs into the Bay of Peter the Great. Its western bank belongs to China and its eastern bank to Russia. The bank line on the Chinese territory starts about 5 km from the seashore. If the territory is ceded to China, a channel could be dug and an ocean port built to rival the Russian ports of Vladivostok and Nakhodka. There are also some reports that China intends to build a naval base there. According to some Russian experts, the Chinese project on the Tuman River will be detrimental to the interests of the Maritime Province and Russia, not only because of the planned sea port and naval base but also because this project will inevitably cause the area to become yet another Free Trade Zone. Competition there will make Vladivostok and Nakhodka the biggest losers (Balburov, 1996: 4).

Maritime Province Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko was the first to protest against the ratification of the 1991 Sino-Soviet Treaty. In 1994 he threatened to resign if the Chinese received the disputed lands. However, after the President ordered the demarcation to proceed as quickly as possible, the rebellious Governor changed his mind and announced he would not resign. He was backed by the local Duma, which issued an appeal to the Council of the Russian Federation, saying that demarcation was inadmissible unless a national referendum was held.

In Khabarovsk, the local authorities have requested President Yeltsin not to cede 15 islets on the Amur River to the Chinese and the population has held small rallies and written appeals. Vitaly Poluianov, chieftain of the Ussuriisk Cossack Force declared that Moscow risked tensions in the area. He expects to enlist the support of all Cossack leaders in Russia and declared that the border should remain unchanged, otherwise they would reserve the right to take any actions, including extreme ones. Major-General Valery Rozov, head of the Russian demarcation group resigned from his post in a protest against 'selling out Russia' (Balburov, 1996: 4).

President Yeltsin, however, ignored the protests and proceeded with 'normalization' of Sino-Russian relations. In March 1996, on the eve of his visit to Beijing, Yeltsin suggested an agreement be reached with China on moving troops 100 km away from the frontier (Balburov, 1996: 4). Hardly noticed in Moscow it evoked a clamorous response in the Maritime and Khabarovsk Provinces. The main industrial centres and communication lines of the Far East are close to the border, while those of China are deep in the country. The Trans-Siberian Railway Line, which is of strategic importance to Russia, runs in some places merely five km from the border rivers of Ussuriisk and Amur. The distance between Khabarovsk, a big industrial centre, and the frontier is only seven km. Vladivostok, a major base for the Pacific Fleet, is only 70 km away. During Yeltsin's visit to China the Chinese delegation proposed moving its troops 200 km from the border, the Russian visitors, however, claimed that this would pose them 'technical' difficulties (Jane's Intelligence Review, June 1996: 280). At the same time, the two countries concluded an agreement on the scale and nature of military exercises in the border areas.

On 24 April 1997 Russia, China and three neighbouring CIS member-states have concluded a breakthrough border treaty aimed at reducing tensions along their common frontiers. The pact was signed in Moscow by the presidents of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. The treaty, which will run until 2020 following parliamentary notification by each of the signatory states, is primarily intended to control troop levels within a 100 km band on either side of an affected border (Izvestia, 15 April 1997; Rossiyskaya Gazeta, 25 April 1997: 3).

In the meantime, the conflict between Moscow and local authorities convinced the latter that the former would not protect their interests. On the contrary, the local leaders believe that the centre can easily sacrifice local interests in the name of grand policy.


Mass migration also affects socio-economic and political processes in the Russian regions. There are two main sources of migration from abroad: ethnic conflicts in Russia's vicinity and economic considerations.

The first type of migration influences mainly the southern regions and Moscow. For example, the North Caucasian economic region alone received about 40 per cent of 320,000 refugees in 1993. After the Chechnya war the number of refugees considerably increased: in 1995 alone 200,000 refugees left the breakaway republic (Vardanyan, 1995: 59). By the year 1995, Russia hosted about 2,000,000 refugees (Kutepova, 1993: 7; Vardanyan, 1995: 59). According to some prognoses, there could be about 400,000 refugees from Transcaucasus, 3,000,000 refugees from Central Asia and 400,000 refugees from the Baltic states. Up to 5,500,000 migrants can arrive in Russia in the foreseeable future (Vardanyan, 1995: 59).

There is a number of negative implications of such a migration. First of all, refugees are a heavy burden for the local budget and social infrastructure. Many refugees completely lost their property and sources of income. According to data, only one third of the refugees got their own apartments in Russia. 2 per cent of refugees lost everything, including documents. 7 per cent had to leave their home places without money (Voinova and Ushkalov, 1994: 45-46). The federal authorities are unable to cope with the problem due to the lack of finance. According to Tatiana Regent, Director of the Russian Migration Service, this agency needed two trillion roubles in 1994. However, the government authorized 545 billion roubles. In the end, the agency got only 293,4 billion roubles (Mezhdunarodnaia Zhizn, nos. 4-5, 1996: 72).

Second, migration complicates the situation on the labour market. Only about 60 per cent of refugees get a job when they move to another place (Voinova and Ushkalov, 1994: 45-46). In 1993, unemployment reached the level of 4-5 per cent in North Caucasus, the former prosperous region. Work time waste exceeded average Russian index by 17 per cent. Fluctuation of manpower was more than average index by 25 per cent in industry and 16,4 per cent in construction (Matytsina, 1993: 17).

Third, refugees have often formed a social basis for crime and have been involved into criminal groups (sometimes inter-regional groups). Migrants themselves were victims of criminal elements and corrupted officials (Grachev, 1996: 152-153).

Finally, migration increased inter-ethnic tension in a number of Russian regions. For example, there was a significant growth of tensions between the Ossetians and Ingushs, Ingushs and Cossacks, Kabardins and Balkars, Ingushs and Chechens, etc., since 1991. There were 27 lawsuits dealing with inter-ethnic conflicts in Checheno-Ingushetia in 1991 alone (Grachev, 1996: 154; Lunev, 1995: 104).

Russia's Far East and Moscow are the two main regions, which face the problem of migration driven by economic rationales. In 1993, the Russian Ministry of Interior has registered thousands of illegal immigrants in Moscow: 50,000 Chinese, 23,000 Indians, 15,000 Afghans, 10,000 Iranians and Iraqis. The Ministry was unable to count the Vietnamese and the Mongols who outnumbered illegal migrants from the above countries (Kutepova, 1993: 7).

Chinese immigrants are a matter of concern for the Russian Far Eastern provinces. According to some accounts, there are 2,000,000 Chinese in the Russian Federation (from 300,000 to 1,000,000 of them are in the Far East) (Portiakov, 1996: 83). The Chinese migrants were suspected in buying up real estate, vouchers and shares as well as being charged with a spread of organized crime. Many Russian experts were afraid of further Chinese mass migration because of overpopulation of the northern provinces of China. "All of us here fear the Chinese," said one Russian expert from the Maritime Province: "on one side of the border there is population of 2.5 million, and on the other there are 120 million who are beginning to feel they have too small an area to live in" (Balburov, 1996: 4).

However, other sources with a closer knowledge of the subject disagree with the existence of a 'Chinese threat'. According to official statistics, the daily number of Chinese visiting the Maritime Province fluctuated from 40,000 to 150,000 in 1993. On 29 January 1994 the Russian authorities established a visa regime for the Chinese. Over the period of 1994-95, 6003 illegal migrants were deported from the Maritime Province (this figure included not only Chinese citizens). The number of Chinese who became permanent residents in the Russian Far East is insignificant: 87 persons in the Amur Region and 170 in the Khabarovsk Province (Portiakov, 1996: 83). The number of Chinese contracted for the work in the Far Eastern provinces was quite modest as well: 10,000 workers in 1990 and 17,000-18,000 migrants in 1992-93. There were and 1,560 in Khabarovsk Province in 1993. Compared to the period prior to the year 1937, when the Chinese and Koreans were deported from the Russian Far East, the level of the Chinese migration is unimportant: these two ethnic groups comprised 20 per cent of the local population in the past and nobody was anxious about this (Portiakov, 1996: 83).

Contrary to the 'alarmists', some Russian experts consider a limited immigration of Chinese and Koreans could contribute to the positive development of the Russian Far East (Portiakov, 1996: 83). Migrants can compensate the lack of labour force and bring some investments to the troubled economy of the region.

Cultural And Religious Factors

These also play some role in Russia's regionalization. For example, there is some related (Finno-Ugrian) nations of the north. They hope that historic and cultural links with Finland and other Nordic countries assist them in restoration of their national identity and reforming local societies. There are some separatist voices among the northern nationalities (especially in Karelia) but most of them demand more autonomy and representation at the national and international level rather than tend to secession.

According to Eriksson, within the Euro-Arctic area the indigenous peoples, such as Sami for instance, are currently the only viable 'nations' (Erikson, 1994: 62). Even though there is no real Sami struggle for a sovereign state, the Sami sometimes speak of themselves as a nation and claim some rights similar to those of a state. A recent example of this was their demand for representation in the Foreign Ministers' Barents Council - i.e. for recognition as a nation comparable with nation-states - as well as representation in the Regional Council (Erikson, 1994: 62). However, they were able to obtain only representation in the inter-regional institutions.

The Russian leadership understands the need for co-operation between the related nations and favours the establishment of cultural ties between, for instance, Finns and Karelians, Mordva, Sami, Komi, Mansi and others (Nordic Council of Ministers Newsletter, no. 1, January 1993: 3; Osherenko and Young, 1989: 84-86). According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, almost 70 joint projects concerning the economy, industry, agriculture, culture, the problems of indigenous populations, tourism, and health care are conducting by the member-states of the Barents/Euro-Arctic Council (Matvienko, 1996: 91). At the same time, Moscow strongly opposes any nationalist or separatist tendencies in the regions.

Religious factors, such as Islam, influence regional developments in Russia as well. Their implications vary from region to region. In Chechnya, for example, the Islamic fundamentalism was a powerful incentive for secession. The Islamic fundamentalist organizations and foundations not only supported Dudaev and his followers spiritually but also provided them with money and weapons.

In Tatarstan, Islam is one of the tools of restoration of the national culture and identity rather than a source of separatism. According to many experts, there is no indication that Islamic extremism would be easily encouraged in Tatarstan. As one American analyst notes, "the role of Islam [in Tatarstan] today is to be compared with the role of the Catholic Church in the Polish movement for independence and the growing prominence of the Orthodox church in the culture of the re-emerging Russian nation, where it is seen as one of the legitimate components of a modern national secular culture." (Petersen, 1996: 137)

Islam serves as Tatarstan's additional channel for international co-operation. For example, during the opening in Naberezhnye Chelny, the 'heart of Tatar radicalism', of the largest mosque in Russia, in honour of the 1,100 anniversary of the adoption of Islam, Arabic and Islamic representatives held a two-day forum on 'Muslims and the New World Order - Our Reality and The Horizons of the Future in the Framework of Co-operation' (Petersen, 1996: 137).


The diffusion of power in Russia has important implications. Now critical decisions on reform are made at the regional level. Reform has progressed in regions where the governors are forward-looking and dynamic, and had setbacks where governors are conservative or corrupt. Regional leaders are increasingly active in foreign affairs. For example, governors in Russia's North West and Far East were engaged in a range of issues with the Baltic/Nordic and Asia-Pacific neighbours.

As with any transitional phenomena, foreign influence on Russia's regionalization has had a number of contradictory consequences. Many experts (especially Russian analysts) prefer to focus on the negative implications.

Some Russian regions play a 'foreign card' to exert a pressure upon the centre to get more autonomy and privileges. This leads to tensions and growth of mistrust in relations with Moscow. In turn, since 1993 the centre tries to reclaim some powers given to the regions in accordance with the Federative Treaty and the Constitution (especially in the field of external relations) (Gelman and Senatova, 1995: 212-217). As mentioned above, the President changed his mind several times as regards the status of the Kaliningrad Region. The Russian Parliament was even more centralist-minded than the President. In 1994, Yeltsin proposed the law 'On the special status of the Kaliningrad Region'. However, instead of approving the law, the State Duma renamed it to read 'On safeguarding the Russian Federation's sovereignty on the territory of the Kaliningrad Region' and buried it in the flow of other routine documents (Wellman, 1996: 176).

What is particularly disturbing for the centre are the secessionist aspirations in a number of regions supported by the foreign powers. For example, the idea of an independent Idel-Ural republic stemming from the times of the Civil War in Russia (1918) was very popular among the Muslim peoples of the Volga region in the mid-1990s. For instance, Kazan University History Dean Indus Tagirov argued in October 1993 that "the idea of the Idel-Ural has become a necessity now". Fanil Fajzullin, Dean of Humanities at Ufa State Aviation and Technical University, admitted that "if the dictatorship of Moscow persists with its demands for a unitary state, centrifugal forces may triumph and a new federation may be formed in the region of Idel-Ural and in the North Caucasus". The Head of the Bashkir Cultural Society, Robert Sultanov, was also willing to agree in October 1993 that "if the Russian Federation disintegrated" Bashkortostan, along with Tatarstan, "would become the subjects of a new confederation, while retaining their independence" (Petersen, 1996: 137).

The Far East, another Russian region with strong foreign orientations, repeatedly discussed plans of independent development. For example, in 1994 Viktor Ishayev, head of the administration of the Khabarovsk Province, said that the Russian government "has done all it could to sever the Far East from Russia." The workers of the Khrustalny tin-extracting company, who were not paid wages for several months, wrote in their declaration: "The government and the president don't pay any attention to our troubles. We have concluded that they have given up on us. Therefore we must also give them up and form our own republic with an independent government. There is no other way to survive." (Matveyeva, 1994: 13)

Secessionist movements can be found in Karelia, Kaliningrad, and North Caucasian autonomies as well. However, to date Chechnya is the only breakaway republic. Other potential candidates for secession do not claim independence officially or immediately. Two factors at least prevent the separatists from that: (1) the understanding that independence would lead to further deepening of the crisis rather than improving of the situation; and (2) as the Chechen example shows, Moscow does not rule out the use of military force to stop Russia's disintegration.

It should be also noted that foreign influences encouraged rather than generated separatism as such. For example, the Chechen leaders decided to part from the Russian Federation because of their own considerations while the Islamic support from the foreign countries assisted them in realization of their plans.

Along with negative implications, a number of positive dimensions of regionalization (including its 'foreign components') can be identified.

First of all, regionalization has brought to an end the odious system of the centre's total control of the periphery. Instead, the democratic system of horizontal connections (inter-regional co-operation) has emerged. A national discussion on separation of powers between the centre and the regions has been started. Some new principles of Russian federalism and regionalism have resulted from this debate. Somehow these concepts have been incorporated into the new Russian polity. Hence, regionalization became an important instrument to reform Russian society and the system of government.

Second, the diffusion of power in Russia helps check and balance central authority in foreign affairs. For example, Moscow's capability to use economic and military resources for an expansionist foreign policy has dramatically diminished. Furthermore, Moscow no longer can take decisions concerning the international status of the regions without at least consulting them. For example, with assistance of the Russian Foreign Ministry the local governments of Kaliningrad, Karelia and St. Petersburg has actively participated in negotiating and concluding a number of agreements on trans-regional co-operation with Finland and Poland. In 1991-95, the subjects of the Russian Federation have signed more than 300 agreements on trade, economic and humanitarian co-operation with foreign countries (Matvienko, 1996: 91-92). In turn, these developments necessitated the reorganization of the management system charged with international contacts of regions. In addition to autonomous republics which traditionally have their own foreign offices, the Russian Foreign Ministry has established its offices in many regions which are engaged in intensive international economic and cultural co-operation.

Third, regionalization and co-operation with foreign countries have helped the Russian regions to cope with the numerous problems of the transitional period as well as with the centre's inability to alleviate the burden of the reforms. For some regions, such as Kaliningrad, Karelia, the High North, and the Far East, economic, ecological and humanitarian co-operation with the neighbouring countries was crucial for surviving a period of severe socio-economic crisis.

Fourth, sometimes regionalization was an adequate solution to many problems in Russia's bilateral relations with the neighbouring countries. Kaliningrad's co-operation with Lithuania, Poland and Germany prevented the rise of territorial claims and lowered concerns about excessive militarization of the region. Co-operation between Finland and Karelia has improved overall Finno-Russian relations. Trans-regional co-operation between Sakhalin, the Kurils and Japan's northern provinces gave way to a quiet Russia-Japan dialogue on the disputable questions.

Finally, regionalization has furthered the opening up of Russia for international co-operation as well as the country's joining a worldwide process of intensive trans-regional co-operation. So, regionalization has a very important civilizatory function: it prevents Russia's marginalization or international isolation.


Five conclusions emerge from the above. First, despite the significant role of the external determinants they were not a crucial factor of Russia's regionalization. Domestic determinants have prevailed. However, the interplay of internal and external factors will remain an important determinant shaping Russia's regional structure.

Second, this study shows that many factors such as the process of global regionalization, geopolitical shifts, transborder economic co-operation, military-strategic determinants, ethno-territorial and religious conflicts, and cultural diversity are long-term rather than short-term developments. They will certainly serve as powerful incentives for the country's further regionalization in the years to come.

Third, regionalization (including that one caused by external factors) may have both positive and negative implications for the country's polity. The problem for Russian political leadership (both federal and regional) is how to harness the above dynamic processes in a way to make them work for democracy, not against it.

Fourth, regionalization became as well an instrument of Russia's search for a new national identity as an environment where this search is conducted. In this regard, it is important to re-define traditional concepts of national sovereignty and territoriality in accordance with contemporary realities. Otherwise, traditional thinking which is rather strong in the federal structures may lead to further - and more serious - clashes between the existing and emerging regions and the centre.

Fifth, it should be noted that not only the domestic environment should be taken into account: the nature and directions of Russia's regionalization depend greatly on the international environment as well. Hence, it is very important to provide Russia with positive external inputs, such as friendly and balanced policies of the neighbouring countries, Russia's active participation in various forms of trans-regional and trans-border co-operation, and its engagement in an intensive dialogue on regional issues with foreign policy makers and academics.


*: This study was supported by grants from the INTAS programme (1995-97) and the Copenhagen Peace Research Institute (1996-97). Back.

**: Guest Research Fellow, COPRI, Professor of Political Science, University of Nizhny Novgorod. Back.