There are 21 republics in the Russian Federation. How do they work, how do they differ

The Republic of the Russian Federation accounts for about 30%. its entire surface. They have their own constitutions, official languages, flags and national anthems. What distinguishes them from oblasts, countries, separate cities and other federal entities, of which there are more than 80 in the Russian Federation?

  • The degree of dependence of the republics on the central government varies. For many of them, subsidies from the Russian budget are crucial, others are limited by a specific method of distributing funds
  • The financial revenues of each federal district are channeled to the center and then distributed on a discretionary basis, depending on various, often secret, factors. The system serves the Kremlin more than the republics
  • For people in poor republics, joining the army is often the only way to advance socially.
  • People talk about Chechnya now mainly because of Kadyrov. Younger netizens may associate Dagestan with Hasbulla, the popular 91cm TikToker. In Yakutia, after 1991, “ethnic enthusiasm” began to be cultivated, in which schools and universities began to teach the religion of Ajya deities and shamanism
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The administrative division of the Russian Federation is complicated. Besides the 46 administrative oblasts run by governors, federal entities also include countries (nine in total), separate cities (three, including occupied Sevastopol), oblasts and autonomous districts, and republics.

Particular attention is paid here to the republics, of which there are 21 (without the Crimea occupied since 2014). Together they occupy about 30 percent. Russia area. The largest is Yakutia, the eastern part of Siberia (No. 14 on the map), which is the largest territorial unit in the world in terms of area (it has an area of ​​more than 3 million square kilometers, i.e. about 10 times more than Poland). The smallest republic is Adygeya (No. 1 on the map) – its area is only 7.8 thousand. km², which is more or less the same as Wodzisław or Kostrzyn.


Map of the Russian Federation with 21 republics and Crimea

Photo: Wikimedia (Graphics by Kudzu1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)

From Kaliningrad to Chukotka

The Russian Federation is extremely large, stretching 8,850 km from Kaliningrad to Chukotka, which is practically in contact with Alaska. Many ethnic and religious groups live within these borders, so it is practically impossible to build a completely uniform national identity (this has been proven, for example, by the collapse of the USSR). Unlike the autonomous oblasts, the republics of the Russian Federation have their own flags, anthems and have the right to establish their own state languages ​​to be used on an equal footing with Russian. The Constitution of the Russian Federation also guarantees them the possibility of having their own constitution and legislation.

How much will Russia give?

According to Jadwiga Rogoży of the Center for Oriental Studies, author of the study “Federation without Federalism” (2014 – ed), the center’s control over the regions is so great that “it contradicts the formally existing federal system in Russia”. The degree of dependence of the republics on the central authority of the Russian Federation is not uniform, but many of them are highly dependent on subsidies from the central budget. Indeed, the financial revenues of each federal district are channeled to the center and then distributed on a discretionary basis, depending on various, often secret, factors. It is a system that serves the Kremlin more than the republics. The less wealthy and geographically less located republics have to fight for the sympathy of the Kremlin authorities, often submissively paying subsidies. For their part, the regions which have their own resources and could better manage their budgets are limited by this policy, which prevents them from developing independently and investing freely.

Scarcity and limited opportunities for social advancement are the direct reasons why men from less situated republics willingly join the army. The salary of a private soldier is several times higher than the average salary he can receive for work in his region – so it is not surprising that the statistics showing that the Russian victims of the war in Ukraine are largely residents of the republics, incl. Buryatia, Dagestan and Tuva. According to the Russian expert, Paweł Luzin, up to a quarter of all Russian war victims could come from these regions (the expert made this statement at the beginning of April – editor’s note). The same expert also pointed out that soldiers from the eastern republics are more likely to be sent on missions that carry a higher risk of death because average Russians care less about their death. In a similar case, the crimes they commit can be easily defeated by propaganda as bestiality that would not have been perpetrated by soldiers from Moscow or St. Petersburg – an example here is the soldiers from the city of 10,000 residents of Kniazie-Wolkonskoye in Khabarovsk Krai, which occupied Bucha and is accused of rape and mass murder.

The problem with Kadyrov

These are, of course, some simplifications, as no relationship between the republic and the center can be accurately described in one sentence. An example is Chechnya, whose official leader since 2007 is Ramzan Kadyrov, a politician who describes himself as Putin’s loyal soldier. It is a dictator known as a traitor, openly collaborating with Russia, who provoked two wars in the republic and practically razed Grozny to the ground. However, Kadyrov is not completely submissive and pursues a policy of derusification and Islamization in the republic (about 95% of the inhabitants are Muslims), and he is also respected in his own way for the distribution of subsidies from the federal budget, thanks to whom, among other things, the aforementioned capital was rebuilt. The growing independence of Chechnya raises questions about the evolution of these relations in the years to come. Currently, the Kadyrovtsy (of course on the side of Russia) and the Chechens are fighting in the war in Ukraine, who oppose his dictatorship and stand on the side of Ukraine.

The center of Grozny, the city was rebuilt after the war

The center of Grozny, the city was rebuilt after the war

Photo: Oleg Nikishine/Epsilon/Getty Images

Akhmad Kadyrov Mosque in Grozny

Akhmad Kadyrov Mosque in Grozny

Photo: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images/Getty Images

The country of Hasbulla and the champion of MMA

Another republic whose budget depends largely on Kremlin subsidies is Dagestan, located on the Caspian Sea. Dagestan has made its way into the European media in recent years mainly thanks to the successes of Makhachkala’s Khabib Nurmagomedov, a multiple UFC champion and one of the greatest legends in mixed martial arts. Younger netizens, on the other hand, may associate Dagestan with Hasbulla, the popular 91cm TikToker (pictured below, the two men in a cage at the UFC gala).

Khabib Nurmagomedov and Hasbulla together in the octagon

Khabib Nurmagomedov and Hasbulla together in the octagon

Photo: Getty Images / Chris Unger / Contributor

Dagestan is a republic whose problem, in addition to high unemployment, corruption and nepotism, is also multi-ethnicity. Dagestan is inhabited by more than 36 ethnic groups, the most numerous of which are Avars, Dargians, Lezgins and Laks – in total there are more than 3 million people in Dagestan, and the population density is about two times lower than that of Poland.

Dagestan is home to over 36 ethnic groups

Dagestan is home to over 36 ethnic groups

Photo: Giovanni Mereghetti/UCG/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Shamanism Lessons

Yakutia is the largest and extremely interesting geographically diverse republic – its inhabitants, however, prefer the name Sakha. The republic is located in three time zones, and the annual temperature range here reaches 100 degrees Celsius. In December, the average temperature in the capital, Yakutsk, is -35 degrees Celsius, but sometimes it drops below -50 degrees Celsius.

Yakutsk in winter / photo: Svetlana Pavlova \ TASS via Getty Images

Yakutsk in winter / photo: Svetlana Pavlova \ TASS via Getty Images

Photo: Svetlana Pavlova\TASS/Getty Images

Sacha is geographically part of Siberia, where shamanism is still popular in the religious sphere, understood more as a guide for souls than as charlatanism. After 1991, when the native of Sakha Mikhail Nikolaev first became president of the republic, “ethnic enthusiasm” began to be cultivated, in which schools and universities began to teach the religion of Ajya deities and shamanism. Previously, the inhabitants of the republic were harassed for using a language other than Russian. “Today Yakutsk is Yakutsk, but in the past we were afraid to speak our own language (…). If there were teenagers (white people) at the bus stop, I always managed to last place.” an interview with “Newsweek”.

Norilsk is the northernmost city in Russia

Norilsk is the northernmost city in Russia

Photo: Kirill Kukhmar\TASS/Getty Images

Tatarstan

In the aforementioned OSW report, Tatarstan was defined as the region which, before the 1990s, enjoyed the greatest autonomy, and then turned into an enclave of authoritarianism. Tatarstan is one of the donor regions, that is, those that provide budget revenue (apart from Tatarstan, they also include Moscow, St. Petersburg, Leningrad, Sakhalin and Tyumen regions). The Tatars make up more than 50 percent. population of the republic, and the dominant religions are Orthodoxy and Sunni Islam.

An important figure in the history of the republic is President Mintimier Szajmijew, who ruled from 1991 to 2010, which secured considerable autonomy for Tatarstan within the Russian Federation. sovereign state status associated with Russia. It was not until 2000 that Tatarstan officially became part of Russia, but the republic continues to fight for its traditions and language, calling for it to be taught in schools as the language of ‘State. Vladimir Putin disagreed with this, as he believed that it should only be an optional language and Russians living in the republic should not be forced to learn Tatar.

Kul Sharif Mosque in the Kremlin of Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan

Kul Sharif Mosque in the Kremlin of Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan

Photo: Getty Images

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