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April 5, 2005
Putin To Redraw Russian Map To Consolidate Power

The Guardian (UK) reports today that Vladimir Putin's chief of staff has proposed the redrawing of Russia's map to eliminate the existing regions in place of larger and less numerous "super-regions". Such a move would reduce the number of regional governors from 89 to significantly fewer, supposedly to retain Russia's "territorial integrity":

President Vladimir Putin's chief of staff warned yesterday that Russia could break up into several different countries and proposed the creation of "super-regions" to be headed by Kremlin appointees.

Dmitri Medvedev said in a rare interview that, unless the political and business elites work together, "Russia could disappear as a united country".

The warning over Russia's territorial integrity was interpreted by analysts as an attempt to shore up support within Russia's elite for the Putin administration as a battle rages over who will head the Kremlin after Mr Putin's second term ends in 2008.

Mr Medvedev told the magazine Expert: "Empires disappeared from maps when elites lost the ideas that united them and entered into mortal combat. The disintegration of the Soviet Union would look like a party in a nursery school."

He said the Kremlin was considering a plan under which Russia's 89 regions may be merged into several "super-regions". He said this could be "a way of developing the federation within the existing constitution".

Putin has already worried Western observers by changing regional governors from popularly-elected officials to political appointments of the presidency. Putin apparently feels that eighty-nine governors still represents too many people with too much autonomy and wants to reduce the number, as well as push the Russian voters farther from the center of power. Such a move would also likely transform the nature of the regions, culturally and politically. If the Kremlin redraws the regions, expect to see it done in a manner that supports Putin and his entourage.

Putin's second term comes to an end in 2008, plenty of time for him to continue consolidating his power base and eventually overwhelm the Duma. His cronies want him to run for a third term, either as President or more likely as Prime Minister after transforming Russia into a parliamentary republic. If Putin can gerrymander the regions and rely on a small cadre of regional governors to carry his water politically, the second option could keep Putin in power for years to come.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 5, 2005 6:26 AM

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