Business News Russia - Page 22

Russia

22

of service in Armed Forces; the government plans to increase the proportion of contract servicemen to 70% by 2010. Defense expenditure has quadrupled over the past six years. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates, official government military spending for 2008 was $58 billion, the fifth largest in the world, though various sources, including US intelligence, and the International Institute for Strategic Studies, have estimated Russia’s military expenditures to be considerably higher. Currently, the military is undergoing a major equipment upgrade worth about $200 billion between 2006 and 2015. Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov supervises the major reforms aimed to transform a mass mobilization army into a smaller force of contract soldiers.

Subdivisions

The Russian Federation comprises 83 federal subjects. These subjects have equal representation—two delegates each—in the Federation Council. However, they differ in the degree of autonomy they enjoy.

* 46 oblasts (provinces): most common type of federal subjects, with federally appointed governor and locally elected legislature.

* 21 republics: nominally autonomous; each has its own constitution, president, and parliament. Republics are allowed to establish their own official language alongside Russian but are represented by the federal government in international affairs. Republics are meant to be home to specific ethnic minorities.

* 9 krais (territories): essentially the same as oblasts. The "territory" designation is historic, originally given to frontier regions and later also to administrative divisions that comprised autonomous okrugs or autonomous oblasts.

* 4 autonomous okrugs (autonomous districts): originally autonomous entities within oblasts and krais created for ethnic minorities, their status was elevated to that of federal subjects in the 1990s. With the exception of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, all autonomous okrugs are still administratively subordinated to a krai or an oblast of which they are a part.

Cathrine II the Great ruled Russia during the Age of Enlightenment. A portrait by Dmitry Levitzky.