Degtyarov First of New Generation of Regional Leaders in Putin System, Ivanov Says

Far Eastern Russia and Environs, with Khabarovsk Pinpointed, adapted from image at cdc.gov

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, Aug. 2 , 2020)

Despite the travails of his first days in office, Mikhail Degtyarov, Moscow’s appointee as new head of Khabarovsk Kray, represents the harbinger of a new generation of regional leaders, one very different than their predecessors and likely to have unexpected consequences for both Moscow and the regions, Andrey Ivanov says.

The Svobodnaya pressa commentator says that since 1991, “each decade has been characterized by its own distinctive type of regional leaders, reflecting both the situation in the regions and Moscow’s aspirations to retake control over the entire country (svpressa.ru/politic/article/272408/).

In the 1990s, regional leaders emerged from among Soviet economic managers and some of them, like Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, Tatarstan President Mintimir Shaymiyev, and Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel became what was known as “heavyweights” not because they wanted separatism but because they wanted control over their own regions.

Given the chaos in the country, their success in that regard was important both for the regions and for Moscow, Ivanov continues. But in the first decade of the 2000s, the situation had changed. The political skills such people brought to the table were no longer needed, and Moscow replaced them with “governors general” obedient to the center.

Since 2010, those often still-powerful figures have been replaced by a generation known as “the technocrats,” men who had not distinguished themselves by anything and seemed inonditions haven’t, and “it isn’t surprising that in certain regions, people began to vote for representatives of opposition parties who do not agree with the Kremlin” and even take to the streets as they have in Khabarovsk and other cities. Sergey Furgal epitomized this revolt by the population against Moscow’s diktat.

Khabarovsk residents rejected the argument that only the party of power could maintain stability and guarantee growth given that as far as they could see United Russia and its Moscow representatives could do neither. As a result, they were prepared to take the risk of voting for someone else.

The Kremlin not surprisingly was not prepared to tolerate such disobedience and removed Furgal, but it quickly saw that it couldn’t simply replace him with some interchangeable United Russia man from somewhere else. Consequently, it decided to plunk for someone from Furgal’s party but not a local.

The population of Khabarovsk doesn’t appear to be prepared to accept this, but Degtyarov who is a politician represents an effort by the Kremlin to find a way out of the current impasse, giving the Moscow opposition its day in the sun in order to avoid allowing the people to choose their own rulers.

That is unlikely to please everyone in Khabarovsk or elsewhere, but the Kremlin has made its choice; and it is likely to try to impose it elsewhere even in the face of increasing popular opposition not so much to this or that party but to Moscow as such, a challenge that Putin clearly feels he has no choice but to suppress.

Degtyarov represents his effort to calm the situation without using force that might create martyrs or making too obvious concession that might spark new protests elsewhere. The Kremlin leader is thus acting in a new way, trying to pass through the Scylla of the one and Charybdis of the other.

[article also appeared at: windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/08/degtyarov-first-of-new-generation-of.html]