Southern Siberian Region Can’t Afford an Acceptable Standard of Living

Southern Siberian Region Can’t Afford an Acceptable Standard of Living


The Republic of Tuva, a remote constituent region of Russia in southern Siberia where much of the population engages in nomadic cattle raising, has taken the last place in the new ranking of the quality of life in Russian regions complied by RIA Novosti news agency. Experts are confident that this is another wake-up call for its governor, Sholban Kara-ool.

RIAN's popularity rating assesses the most favorable conditions for people. Last year, Moscow City, St. Petersburg and the Moscow region took the first three places. Siberian regions cannot boast of top places. The Krasnoyarsk territory has risen from the 45th to the 38th place. The republic of Khakassia got the 57th place, the Irkutsk region was at the 63rd position, the republic Buryatia – at the 77th, and the Trans-Baikal territory -- on the 82nd. Tuva was on 85th place at the very bottom of the list.

In a discourse regarding the region of Tuva, it is traditionally accepted to use the epithets as "complex" and "special." Tuva is truly an ethnic republic, unlike, for example, the neighboring Khakassia. About 80% of the population in Tuva is ethnic Tuvinian, which is a Siberian Turkic ethnos, while in Khakassia, only about 12% of the population are Khakass.

Tuva is also a remote border region where access from the rest of the country is rather impeded. Tuva is a subsidized region. According to statistics, last year the average monthly income per capita there was only 16,400 rubles ($224.) At the end of January, the official unemployment rate reached 4.8% of the economically active population.

Tuva has a traditionally high crime rate, including the most serious offenses. For example, at the end of February, a brutal murder committed 11 years ago was resolved. It involved the former chief of criminal investigation department in the city of Kyzyl. The investigation found that he and his subordinate were interrogating a suspect in their office. After a verbal altercation, the police took the young man away to the plains, killed him and burned his body. This case is a graphic example of the morals that are rife in the region.

Theoretically, Tuva could become a developed industrial region. It has a wealth of mineral deposits, including rare earth metals and the Ulug-Khem coal basin with reserves of 14 bln tonnes of coal. However, their development is hindered by the absence of a railroad.

In recent years, the republic was in the spotlight several times because of major scandals. For example, it has failed the program of resettlement of residents from dilapidated housing. In March last year, reports said that the Chinese company Lunsin (owned by Zijin Mining Group) which is developing the Kyzyl-Tashtyg polymetallic deposit, underpaid about 700 mln rubles ($9,564,380) to the budget of Tuva. At said in an article at the time, the company was unreasonably granted a zero profit tax rate. It was done with the knowledge of the regional department of the Federal Tax Service. The former head of the department is under investigation -- however, with regard to another case. Chances are high-rank officials of the government of Tuva also were aware of it. But they were not mentioned in the criminal case. Moreover, a year has passed but there are no special details about it.

Since 2007, Tuva has been led by Sholban Kara-ool. In 2021, a new election for the chairman of the republic will be held. Will Kara-ool hold his job until that time? Sholban Kara-ool justifies the “prosperous” position of Tuva by objective factors: poor development of the area, low density of population and the already mentioned absence of railway. “Market reforms have increased the gap in socio-economic development, living standards and quality of life,” Kara-ool said. “Fortunately, the Russian government has a clear understanding that standard approaches are not applicable to Tuva.”

The understanding of this kind exists, indeed. In particular, there is a special political situation in the republic, and it is not easy to replace the chairman of Tuva with a stroke of the pen. Even if he has made numerous slips.

First of all, the system of power in Tuva hinges on a clan system. Party affiliation is nothing more than legit front for it. For example, the LDPR is on the rise in Tuva. In fact, it represents the clan of Sherig-ool Oorzhak, the former chair of Tuva. The appointment of Kara-ool to this position was a compromise arranged by various parties.

Over time, Kara-ool also ceased to be such a “compromise figure.” “It is hard to say that he is doing well. The poverty level is high. Besides, there is quite a serious opposition in the republic,” said Krasnoyarsk political scientist Alexander Cherniavsky.

According Boris Myshlyavtsev, Tuva political technologist and ethnologist, the current leadership of the Tuva Republic brought discredit on itself long ago. “According to my data, the positive attitude towards Vladimir Putin is sharply decreasing. “Putin is imposing Kara-ool on us,” said Myshlyavtsev. “Under his leadership, we have become the poorest region of Russia. Therefore, he is also responsible for our poverty.”

In Tuva, the population is ethno-culturally divided into several groups. The most numerous are Western, or Chemchik Tuvinians. The second group is the Tuvinians of central Tuva, most exposed to Russian and partly Chinese influences. The Tuvan reindeer herders Toji is the third special group. There is also an isolated group of Kungurtuk Tuvans. And finally, the southern Tuvinians, who have the closest ties with Mongolia.

The task of the "ideal" authorities in Tuva would be to give consideration to the interests of all these groups. This historical background must be taken into account by the federal authorities when making managerial decisions related to the republic.”

Interestingly, according to Myshlyavtsev, Sherig-ool Oorzhak, the first chairman of the republic in modern history, represented western Tuva. Whereas Kara-ool comes from the central part of the region.

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