Krasnodar Krai

   An administrative province of the Russian Federation. Krasnodar is a southern borderland for Russia proper, occupying the northwestern corner of the Caucasian Isthmus and washed by the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. It is unofficially referred to as the Kuban, a historical appellation stemming from the territory’s principal river, which divides the krai into two parts. The northern zone, called the Kuban-Azov lowlands, is part of the Pontic Steppe; the area possesses a continental climate. The southern or seaward part is historically known as Circassia, a mountainous zone with a Mediterranean climate.
   Due to its mild climate, the region attracts a large number of Russian pensioners, many of them former military, thus giving the region a politically conservative character. It is also a major holiday destination thanks to its beaches, mineral springs, and resorts. In the west, Krasnodar is separated from Crimea by the Strait of Kerch by less than 10 kilometers. In the south, it borders Abkhazia, a breakaway republic of Georgia. In the west, the province is bordered by Rostov, Stavropol, and Karachay-Cherkessiya. The Republic of Adygeya, formerly an autonomous oblast of Krasnodar, is completely enclosed within the krai. A part of the Southern Federal District and the North Caucasus Economic Region, Krasnodar Krai has an area of 76,000 square kilometers.
   The region has a population of 5.1 million, making it the thirdlargest region in the Russian Federation (preceded only by Moscow and the Moscow Oblast). The region was once predominantly inhabited by Adyghe (also known as Circassians), Greeks, and Armenians. However, after Russian conquest in the 19th century, many Adyghe quit the region for the Ottoman Empire while a massive influx of settlers flocked to the region from central Russia and Ukraine. Cossacks, in particular, established a strong presence around the Kuban basin. During the Soviet period, further Slavic settlements occurred, establishing Russian demographic dominance in the territory. Today, ethnic Russians account for 86 percent of the population (roughly a quarter of those consider themselves to be Cossacks, which has been officially delimited as a distinct “people” but not a “nationality”). Armenians are the next-largest group at 5.4 percent, followed by Ukrainians (2.6 percent), Greeks (0.5 percent), and Tatars (0.5 percent). Overall, some 30 ethnic minorities registered populations of more than 2,000 persons each, making Krasnodar one of Russia’s most ethnically diverse regions.
   Unlike most nonrepublican regions, the population is almost evenly divided between rural and urban settlements. Villages (stanitsy) are often characterized by the dominance of an ethnic group or a historical Cossack affiliation. In addition to the regional capital, Krasnodar, the region also includes the important cities of Novorossiysk and Sochi; the former is Russia’s principal Black Sea port and the latter is one Russia’s premier resort towns and the site of the 2014 Winter Olympiad.
   The regional economy is driven by chernozem-based agriculture in the north, producing grains, sugar beets, rice, tobacco, and tea. Other industries include food processing, metalworking, construction materials, and power generation. Petroleum extraction, refineries, and hydrocarbon transit, as well as banking and tourism, are also important to the regional economy.
   Immigration is a highly politicized issue in the krai; the resettlement of the Meskhetian Turks in the region in the late 1980s and, more recently, the influx of Armenians fleeing a 1988 earthquake and the Nagorno-Karabakh War (1988–1994) and other refugees from conflicts in the North Caucasus has stimulated fear among the Russian population of a demographic shift favoring “non-Slavs.” The situation has been especially acute among the Cossack population. As the historic site of the Kuban Host, Krasnodar has served as the epicenter of the neo-Cossack revival in post-Soviet Russia. In fact, Krasnodar is viewed by many in the country as the “ethnic homeland” of the Cossacks, who are in turn viewed as an informal titular nationality in the krai.
   Since 1989, a number of Cossack political organizations have flourished, ultimately being consolidated in the mid-1990s under the banner of university professor Vladimir Gromov’s Kuban Cossack Host (KKV). Over time, an unofficial policy developed in which the ataman of the KKV (and its predecessor, the Kuban Cossack Rada) serves as a de facto deputy governor of the province. Cossacks have formed volunteer policing units to defend Kubantsy (indigenous, i.e., pre-1980s residents of the Kuban) from criminality typically associated with “foreigners”; as a result, these groups have frequently been linked by the Russian media to intimidation and violence against immigrants and ethnic minorities. Cossack organizations, which view Cossack paramilitary units as a “state within a state,” have created Cossack secondary schools and cadet academies, and lobbied for greater levels of self-government within the krai.
   Krasnodar was a Communist stronghold throughout the first half of the 1990s; during the constitutional crisis of 1993, the local leadership took a decidedly anti-Yeltsin position despite the fact that the regional governor, Nikolay Yegorov, was a Yeltsin supporter. In 1996, the last leader of the Krasnodar Soviet, Nikolay Kondratenko, was elected governor on an antireform platform. Under perestroika, Kondratenko had vociferously denounced the “Gorbachev-YeltsinMasonic-Zionist” plot to bring down the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR); upon entering his new office, he drew international condemnation for making anti-Semitic remarks and stirring up xenophobia against Meskhetian Turks and other non-Slavic minorities. In 2000, he was defeated by Aleksandr Tkachev, who despite his opposition to Vladimir Putin’s land reform policies has maintained his position as regional governor, being reappointed in 2007. Tkachev has continued Kondratenko’s anti-immigrant policies (particularly the prevention of land sales to Armenians and other “nonindigenous” residents) and has implemented stringent border control measures. Tkachev has also complicated Russo-Ukrainian relations by constructing a dike in the Kerch Strait in 2003, which was viewed by Kiev as an attempt to annex Tuzla Island.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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