Federal subjects

   Russia is a federation that consists of 83 subjects, down from 89 subjects during the 1990s. These entities possess equal federal rights within the Federation Council (upper house of the Russian parliament), having two seats each. However, they differ in the degree of autonomy they command. The highest level of autonomy is possessed by the republics, followed by autonomous okrugs, which, while federal subjects in their own right, are at the same time considered to be administrative divisions of other federal subjects (excepting the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug). Each subject of the federation belongs to one of the following categories: ethnic republic, oblast, krai, autonomous oblast, autonomous okrug, or federal city. The convoluted system is both a legacy of the Soviet Union’s nationalities policy, which stressed the maintenance of ethnic homelands for its various nationalities, as well as the weakness of the Yeltsin administration in dealing with challenges from the periphery. Ethnic republics are nominally autonomous, with a constitution, president (or chairman), and parliament. While the federal government officially represents these states in international affairs, many conduct economic and commercial relations directly with foreign countries. The republics are, in most cases, eponymously named after their titular majority (or minority), for whom the republic exists as an ethnic homeland. The republics of the Russian Federation—listed in order of population from largest to smallest—are as follows: Bashkortostan; Tatarstan; Dagestan; Udmurtiya; Chuvashiya; Chechnya; Komi; Buryatiya; Sakha (Yakutiya); Kabardino-Balkariya; Mordoviya; Mari El; Kareliya; North Ossetiya-Alaniya; Khakasiya; Ingushetiya; Adygeya; Karachay-Cherkessiya; Tuva (Tyva); Kalmykiya; and Altay (Gorno-Altay).
   Being the most common administrative category, there are 46 oblasts (regions), with federally appointed governors and locally elected legislatures; they do not possess a (non-Russian) titular majority. These take the name of the largest city in the oblast and its administrative center (with the exceptions of the Leningrad Oblast, which maintains the Soviet name for St. Petersburg, and Sverdlovsk, which has seen its capital’s name revert to Yekaterinburg). The oblasts are: Amur; Arkhangelsk; Astrakhan; Belgorod; Bryansk; Chelyabinsk; Irkutsk; Ivanovo; Kaliningrad; Kaluga; Kemerovo; Kirov; Kostroma; Kurgan; Kursk; Leningrad; Lipetsk; Magadan; Moscow; Murmansk; Nizhny Novgorod; Novgorod; Novosibirsk; Omsk; Orenburg; Oryol; Penza; Pskov; Rostov; Ryazan; Sakhalin; Samara; Saratov; Smolensk; Sverdlovsk; Tambov; Tomsk; Tula; Tver; Tyumen; Ulyanovsk; Vladimir; Volgograd; Vologda; Voronezh; and Yaroslavl.
   Russia has nine krais (provinces), differentiated from oblasts in that they were once considered frontier zones; they are as follows: Altay; Kamchatka; Khabarovsk; Krasnodar; Krasnoyarsk; Perm; Primorsky; Stavropol; and Zabaykalsky (formerly Chita Oblast). There is one autonomous oblast: the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (also known as Birobijan). There are four autonomous okrugs, each with a predominant ethnic minority. Autonomous okrugs possess more autonomy than oblasts but less than republics; they are: Chukotka; Khantiya-Mansiya; Nenetsiya; and Yamaliya. Last, there are two federal cities that function as separate regions: Moscow and St. Petersburg.
   During the 1990s, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov publicly declared his desire to see the administrative structure of the Russian Federation simplified, with a decrease in the number (and autonomy) of its federal subjects. Due to the weakness of Boris Yeltsin during his second term, this did not come to pass. Upon entering office, Vladimir Putin made reform of the asymmetrical federal system a tenet of his presidency. In 2000, he instituted a system of “super-regions” consisting of seven federal districts. In each, Putin appointed a plenipotentiary representative to serve as an overseer of national security issues, as well as the economic, social, and political well-being of the constituent subject; the presidential envoys were also charged with ensuring that regional laws adhered to those of the federation, somewhat reducing the disparities in Russia’s asymmetrical federal system.
   However, it was not until after the Beslan attacks of 2004 that Putin enjoyed the popular support to institute wide-ranging changes in the federal system. In creating what has been termed a vertical of power, Putin pushed through referendums that have begun to reduce the number of subjects, while simultaneously allowing him (and his successors) to appoint regional governors. In 2005, the Perm Oblast and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug were united to form the Perm Krai. In 2007, Krasnoyarsk Krai absorbed two autonomous oblasts, Evenkiya and Taymyriya; also that year, the Kamchatka Oblast and Koryak Autonomous Okrug (Koryakiya) were merged to form the Kamchatka Krai. In 2008, the Ust-Orda Buryat Autonomous Okrug became part of the Irkutsk Oblast, while the Chita Oblast and AginBuryat Autonomous Okrug were combined as the Zabaykalsky Krai. A number of other proposed mergers have been raised but have yet to be approved at the federal or local level.
   See also Politics.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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