Brian Whitmore

By Brian Whitmore, RFE\RL

Russia’s official name is now officially a fiction.

The Russian Federation has now completely ceased to be anything remotely resembling a federation.

When an agreement allowing Tatarstan limited autonomy, including control over its resources and budget and special status for the Tatar language, expired this week, it marked the final death of any pretense of federalism in Russia.

When Vladimir Putin came to power 17 years ago, some 46 regions had similar agreements with Moscow, and regional leaders across the country were elected rather than appointed.

But, one by one, they were brought tightly under the Kremlin’s control.

Tatarstan was the last holdout.

But even as Putin effectively abolished federalism in Russia, he continues to insist that he is a big fan of decentralizing and devolving power.

In fact, in recent years, Putin and other Russian officials have been quite fond of regional autonomy.

They profess to be staunch opponents of an overbearing federal government imposing its will on diverse regions.

They’ve been vocal advocates for the idea of protecting ethnic minorities.

And they’ve continuously expressed deep concern about the fate of minority languages.

Sure, Putin and his underlings remain big fans of federalism.

That is, of course, as long as they are talking about Ukraine.

By Brian Whitmore, RFE\RL