Staunton, August 31 – Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev professed shock to learn that 2700 schools in rural Russia don’t have indoor toilets; but he shouldn’t have been, Natalya Zubarevich says, because under Putin, Muscovites, although forming less than 10 percent of the Russian population, get two-thirds of all government funds for social improvements.
Not surprisingly, this outrages many outside of Moscow because they cannot afford even a small fraction of what the capital’s residents now expect as their due, the specialist on regional development says (newizv.ru/interview/30-08-2017/natalya-zubarevich-moskva-nikak-ne-mozhet-byt-primerom-dlya-regionov-e0ac081d-13d9-48e9-8f6b-7ebe72a6f71a
Even in Imperial Russia, things were concentrated in the capital city, Zubarevich continues; but there was an important difference. The wealth of that country was generated by agriculture which by its nature was more decentralized than wealth now from the extraction and sale of oil and gas, the only things Russia is competitive in internationally.
One reason that the authorities are spending so much money on renovations in Moscow is the power of the construction industry, she continues. That industry, despite its power, has taken a huge hit in the last 18 months. It saw its production fall by 14 percent in 2016 and by 40 percent in the first half of this year alone.
Obviously, the powers that be have to take that sector’s needs into consideration; but for the country as a whole, things can get better if and only if there is serious decentralization of power and decision making. That won’t be achieved by moving the capital as the case of Kazakhstan shows. Indeed, shifting the capital could end by making things more centralized.
“The capital functions of Moscow will be reduced only when the super-centralizstion of the system of administration is reduced,” she says. Perhaps what is needed is to have many capitals, “an aluminum capital, a metallurgical capital,” and so on, although that isn’t enough for modernization.
Repression won’t solve Russia’s problems as the situation in China shows; only decentralization of power can do that. But moving in that direction will be hard given Russia’s traditions and its paternalistic belief that the center knows best and should be able to impose its will everywhere on all things.
Despite that and despite the existence of paternalistic attitudes even among Muscovites, the portion of the population most educated and most aware of the problems Russia faces and thus the part the Kremlin is careful to take the best care of lest if face massive protests, Zubarevich argues, the trend toward modernization via decentralization is “unstoppable.”
There will be periods of retreat as well as progress, and it will remain true that “in Russia, one must life a long time in order to see changes; but they will occur! [Indeed,] the entire 21st century in Russia will be seriously turbulent.” It won’t be “stable,” despite what some imagine, “but the vector of modernization” away from centralization will win out in the end.