In recent years, the Moscow region has experienced an enlargement of truly Stalinist proportions. As after the Great Patriotic War collective farms were enlarged in the USSR, so under Vorobyov in the Moscow region municipalities are enlarged. Such a trick allowed Soviet managers to draw beautiful reports. And what did the Vorobyov-style enlargement lead to in the Moscow Region?
There has never been anything like this in any subject of Russia. Over the past eight years, the Moscow Region has completely changed the map of its administrative division. Initially, it had 36 municipal districts and the same number of urban districts. By 2020, there are no districts left at all, and there are 64 urban districts. But that’s not all: urban districts continue to be merged for the sake of enlargement. There is no clear explanation from the authorities on this matter, which is why a variety of versions are circulating on Internet forums. Someone writes that the new system will make it possible to build high-rise “human settlements” in the former villages – all the fuss, they say, was started in the interests of developers. Others see politics in what is happening: they say that the regional authorities are harassing as a class of local deputies who had close contact with the population. So who is right? And what could the regional authorities actually achieve?
Savings on officials
Governor Andrei Vorobyov himself explained the desire to carry out administrative reform by the need to reduce the number of officials. Did it succeed? Let’s look at the numbers. Andrey Vorobyov became the governor of the Moscow region in September 2013. According to the results of that year, Rosstat recorded the following indicator in the Moscow region: there were 83.6 officials of the state and municipal levels per 10 thousand people. The very next year, this figure rose to 119.4. In 2014, the reform of the administrative division of the Moscow region was launched. And the number of officials began to gradually decrease: in 2020, Rosstat recorded an indicator of 108.4 officials per 10,000 people. But, apparently, in six years, the growth that was observed in 2014 alone was still not compensated. So was the game worth the candle? Yes, in the vast majority of regions the number of officials per capita increased in those years. But in some subjects of the Russian Federation, it has decreased, as, for example, in the Perm Territory and the Vologda Oblast. And these regions did not start such large-scale and costly reforms!
And here’s another moment. In recent years, in all regions of Russia, more and more state and municipal services are provided to citizens through the MFC. The MFC network in the Moscow region has, according to information from unofficial information services, several hundred offices. These units usually have the status of municipal government institutions (MKU). And their staff does not automatically receive the status of municipal employees, that is, one of the employees can be an official, and someone is not. But in any case, the salary of this army of clerks is paid by the budget.
How much does the maintenance of the MFC cost the Moscow Region? This information is not advertised. True, there is an order of the federal Ministry of Finance, which obliges the MKU to publish annual reports on their websites. But in the regions it is often ignored. So we were unable to find fresh information on the sites of the Moscow Region MFCs. Unless the report for 2017 was lying around on the page of the Lyubertsy MFC. From it you can find out that the number of employees there is 229.5 people, whatever that means, and the average salary is 50,781 rubles (this is for 2017). The budget financing of the center at that time amounted to more than 170 million rubles.
If we multiply these figures by the total number of MFCs and their employees, then the amounts will be astronomical. So the thesis about reducing the number of officials and saving on their salaries looks very unconvincing. To clarify the information, the editors sent a request to the Governor of the Moscow Region. At the time of going to print, no response had been received.
Pushing out activists
Now let’s turn to politics. The liquidated municipal districts were distinguished by the fact that the management system in them was “multi-storey”. Not only did the district itself have a head and an assembly of deputies, the rural and urban settlements included in it also had the same bodies. And everyone had to negotiate. Everything is simpler in the urban district – one head, one meeting of deputies. At the same time, in fact, the suburban urban districts now include several cities and the villages surrounding them.
A very painful issue is the enlargement of schools. Rural schools are “assigned” to urban ones with the expectation that the road for a student is no more than 20 (!) Kilometers
The process was painful for the local population from the very beginning. Residents of small towns and villages that have been merged with larger centers even went to rallies. As, for example, happened in Kratovo in 2019. As a result, the famous elite holiday village nevertheless became part of the district with the center in Ramenskoye. At the same time, to perform the functions of a municipality in the field of housing and communal services, landscaping, roads, culture, sports, etc. MKU was created (not to be confused with the MFC!). Feel the difference? Previously, people came with questions and suggestions to the head and deputies, whom they themselves elected, and now they come to a hired manager sent from above, that is, to the director of the MKU.
Moreover, if active local residents used to be able to run for deputies, now they only have to join the ranks of bloggers. Another thing is that they can easily find reasons to criticize Governor Andrei Vorobyov.
A very painful issue is the enlargement of schools. Rural schools are “assigned” to urban schools so that the road for a student is no more than 20 (!) Kilometers. According to the calculations of the regional authorities, each student will be cheaper for the budget, and the average performance according to the USE results will increase.
The situation is similar with other social institutions – houses of culture, hospitals, maternity hospitals. The transformations also affected state structures, such as courts. Right now, the decision to liquidate the Zvenigorod city court is going through the State Duma (as the law requires), since Zvenigorod became part of the Odintsovo city district.
It is not difficult to predict that such a policy will lead to the extinction of villages or their transformation into holiday villages. Maybe this is what is calculated in the interests of developers? In this vein, the story of Barvikha, which has long been chosen by the builders of VIP-dachas, is indicative. Sensing something was wrong, local deputies in 2018 voted against joining the Odintsovo city district. Citizens directly spoke out against it at public hearings. But this disagreement was simply ignored. Previously, Barvikha was considered a wealthy village, but now it has been equalized in budget spending with less fortunate neighbors.
However, when villages were attached to big cities, this could somehow be understood. But when urban districts began to unite among themselves, the situation began to look absurd. The Kolomna district was merged with the Ozyory district. And then three entities were united at once – Krasnoarmeysk, Pushkinsky and Ivanteevsky districts. It seems that there was no clear plan from the beginning, the control system is being rebuilt on the go. The editors still expect to receive information about the meaning of the changes from Governor Andrei Vorobyov.
By the way
The enlargement of the districts near Moscow can also be imagined as the result of a struggle between informal bureaucratic clans. Strong groups spread their influence to neighboring areas and formalize it through administrative-territorial division. By some coincidence, “unsinkable” officials who have successfully survived corruption scandals sometimes come to the leadership of new large districts. For example:
The Pushkin District was headed by Maxim Krasnotsvetov, whose name appeared in the scandal with the Reutov Heating Networks (where municipal property was taken into private hands).
The enlarged district of Khimki is controlled by Dmitry Voloshin. He is associated with a clan of immigrants from the Ukrainian Donbass, in which an important role may belong to the co-owners of Sheremetyevo Airport Alexander Skorobogatko and Alexander Ponomarenko. Last year, Voloshin’s former deputy Yury Vaulin was detained on suspicion of land fraud. And ill-wishers tried to convict Voloshin himself of possessing a Ukrainian passport, but the story quickly died out.
The Odintsovo district, which includes the “golden” lands along the Rublevo-Uspenskoye highway, went to Andrei Ivanov, who is credited with family ties with businessman Gavrila Yushvaev. “In 1989, after serving nine years for robbery, he founded, together with David Yakobashvili, the Trinity car dealership, which sold American cars, and later the Metelitsa casino on Novy Arbat,” Forbes describes Yushvaev’s success story. Yushvaev, according to the magazine, in 2013 invested $300 million in the construction of the Oko skyscraper complex in Moscow City.