Residents of three Siberian regions voted overwhelmingly this weekend to merge into one super-region.
The new region, made up of Krasnoyarsk, Evenki and Taimyr, will be six times the population of Germany, but with a population of only three million.
Some 92 percent of voters in the Krasnoyarsk region, a vast territory with a population of some 2.9 million, 2,100 miles east of Moscow, voted in favor of reunification, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. The Taimyr region, with a population of 40,000, had about 70 percent in favor, and the Evenki region of 17,700 had 79 percent in favor.
I can understand why the Taimyr and Evenki regions voted in favour of the merger – they are poor compared to Krasnoyarsk, and reliant on state-handouts to balance their budgets. But why the people of Krasnoyarsk would show such overwhelming support for the merger is beyond me. Krasnoyarsk is far richer than the other two regions – it is a net-contributor to the Russian state government. Although greater central government investment has been offered, and there is certainly the prospect of increased profits from exploiting Taimyr and Evenki natural resources, if I were a resident of Krasnoyarsk, I’d be more worried that, in the long term, my money would be spent on supporting the Taimyr and Evenki, rather than the state governments.
The Guardian article that I’ve linked to does go on to hint at a ‘nationalist’ style motivation – both Evenki and Taimyr used to be part of Krasnoyarsk in Soviet times – but surely the prospect of reclaiming territory in this way can’t be enough to drag 2 million people out to vote in a referendum? Can it?