Komi Republic

   An ethnic republic of the Russian Federation. The Komi Republic covers part of the Russian Plain in extreme northeastern Europe. Established as the Komi-Zyrian Autonomous Oblast in 1929, the region was transferred to the Northern Territory before being reassigned as its own Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) in 1936. In 1990, republican leaders declared Komi sovereignty before settling on existence as a republic of the Russian Federation in 1992.
   Encompassing a portion of the Arctic Circle, the republic is bordered by Nenetsiya, Yamaliya, Khantiya-Mansiya, Perm Krai, and the oblasts of Sverdlovsk, Kirov, and Archangel. During the Soviet era, the region served as a major site of the Arctic gulag; as such, most of the region’s northern cities are former prison encampments. Komi is part of the Northwestern Federal District and the Northern Economic Region. The regional capital is Syktyvkar, a riparian city of 230,000. Much of the region is forested; however, much of the northern reaches of the region is permanently frozen wooded tundra.
   Komi also has significant reserves of hydrocarbons, gold, diamonds, and other minerals. The regional economy is dependent on energy production, specifically the coal fields of the Pechora basin and oil and natural gas extraction in the Timan-Pechora basin. Komi is an important supplier of energy to St. Petersburg, and has export relationships with 40 foreign countries. Forestry also accounts for an important portion of the regional economy; however, a significant portion of the region’s forests are protected as they generate much of the oxygen supply of the European continent. UNESCO has designated the Pechora-Ilych Preserve and the Yugyd Va National Park, the largest remaining tract of virgin forest in Europe, as a World Cultural and Natural Heritage site.
   The republic has a land area of 415,900 square kilometers and a population of slightly more than 1 million. The republic’s titular nationality, the Komi, make up a quarter of its population; ethnic Russians comprise 60 percent, while Ukrainians are 6 percent. Support for separatism is low among the Russians (less than 25 percent), while about one-third of the republic’s Komi favor independence. During the 1990s, the head of the republic, Yury Spiridonov, established semi-authoritarian rule in the region, expanding his power and gaining substantive autonomy from Moscow with a 1996 powersharing agreement. Under his watch, a disastrous oil spill made international headlines, only after his administration tried to silence local media and downplay the severity of the event. In 2001, Komi was forced to repudiate its declaration of sovereignty after a federal court ruling found that a significant portion of its laws contravened the Russian Constitution. Later that year, Spiridonov, a member of the pro-government Our HomeRussia party, was defeated by a former physics teacher, Vladimir Torpolov.
   Supported by the liberal Yabloko party, Torpolov won 40 percent of the vote; he was one of only a few candidates to unseat an incumbent in the last years of popularly elected regional governors. As an ethnic Komi, Torpolov’s ethnicity played a role in victory against Spiridonov, an ethnic Russian. Torpolov was reappointed by Vladimir Putin in 2005. In 2007, the region was removed from the list of federal subjects receiving subsidies from Moscow, a signal of the economic well-being of the republic. Under both the Spiridonov and Torpolov administrations, Komi demonstrated a tendency to favor deals with fellow Finno-Ugric partners, specifically Finland and Hungary.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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