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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Nationalities Minister to 'Coordinate' Ethnic Policy

A government official known for his expertise in mediating between different ethnic groups was appointed to a newly created ministerial post Thursday with a vague mandate for "coordinating" state policy on ethnic minorities.

Vladimir Zorin was appointed to the position by a decree President Vladimir Putin signed before leaving for his trip to Greece. It comes two months after the president disbanded the Nationalities and Migration Ministry and distributed its functions among three other agencies -- the Interior, Foreign and Economic Development and Trade ministries.

Zorin, who has served since last year as deputy to Sergei Kiriyenko, the presidential envoy in the Volga Federal District, was on a trip to the United States and could not be reached for comment. The Cabinet's press service said it did not have information on the new minister's powers or the size of his staff. Zorin will not head a separate ministry, and it seems he will be working with a small staff with few concrete powers.

Putin set up the new post on Oct. 17 to "strengthen coordination among federal executive bodies in implementing nationalities policy." At the time, Kasyanov said the new minister would be in charge of "inter-ethnic relations, as well as issues related to autonomous regions, religious confessions and liaisons with public organizations." These functions coincide with Zorin's mandate in the Volga district -- Russia's most diverse in terms of nationality and religion.

Zorin, 52, began his career in Uzbekistan and gained prominence during the first Chechen war when he served as a high-level federal representative there and worked to negotiate a peaceful solution to the 1994-96 conflict. Later, he authored a book on the conflict. In 1995, he entered the State Duma from the Our Home is Russia party; later, he joined the pro-Kremlin Unity party. Zorin has taught history and economics and has reportedly written fairy tales, which were published under a pseudonym. He is a father of four.