Volgograd Forum, August 1, 2002


In spite of the dead season we managed to organize an interesting forum on July 16. The speaker was Mr. Igor Voronin, the Mayor of Volzhski, elected to this post only last year. He marked with his address to the Forum his Five Hundred Days in Office.
Mr. Voronin is 39. Before being elected as Mayor he was director of a medium-size factory in Volzhski. He was the first ever Volzhski Mayor to address the FSF.
Mr Voronin spoke on an important issue, which concerns the Russian public nowadays. While building the so-called "power vertical", i.e. centralizing power around himself, President Putin has deprived many provincial governors of their powers, leaving them with less rights to collect taxes, to influence the appointment of officials in the police, judiciary and state-owned mass media. 
The governors who had to accept his terms, though grudgingly, now demand that they gain the same kind of power over mayors in their provinces (Oblasts). Some of them even propose that mayors should not be elected but appointed by the governors. They also want to limit municipalities' rights to get their share of taxes but want to distribute all the money themselves, thus increasing the dependence of mayors on them.
Mr. Voronin spoke cautiously, trying not to spoil his relations with the Volgograd Oblast Governor Nikolai Maksyuta. He said he supported President Putin's plan to centralize power in the country because heads of some Russian regions became sort of independent lords in their provinces, which, in his opinion, could lead to the disintegration of Russia. At the same time he spoke against projects to put an end to appointment of city officials by elections saying it would mean an end of self-government in Russian cities. He also spoke a great deal on problems concerning budget formulation in Russia.
In the next few days there was an extensive media coverage of the event because it was just the theme, which is being discussed in many corners of Russia now. And Mr. Voronin's opinion was important because he is Mayor of a Russian city with the population of 300,000.

Alexander Yevreinov
Director, Volgograd Free Speech Forum


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