Russian Politics and Law, July 2011 Table of Contents

Volume 49 Number 4 / July-August 2011 of Russian Politics and Law is now available on the M.E. Sharpe web site at

This issue contains:

Local and Regional Politics in Russia: Editor’s Introduction p.3
Dmitry Gorenburg
Russian Federalism as a “Dormant” Institution
Andrei Zakharov
Unattainable Symmetry: On the Results of the “Amalgamation” of Regions of the Russian Federation? p.18
Aleksandr Kynev
Local Government in the Grip of the “Power Vertical” p.32
Vasilii Skalon and Maksim Rubchenko
Local Regimes in Large Russian Cities: Introduction to the Theme p.37
Vladimir Gelman and Sergei Ryzhenkov
State Power, Governance, and Local Regimes in Russia: A Framework for Analysis p.42
Vladimir Gelman
Local Regimes and the “Power Vertical” p.53
Sergei Ryzhenkov

Economic Actors and Local Regimes in Russia’s Large Cities  p.64
Olga Bychkova and Vladimir Gelman
Local Public Participation in Contemporary Russia  p.76
Elena Belokurova and Dmitrii Vorob’ev
Perm: A Local Regime in a Large Russian City  p.85
Nadezhda Borisova

Local and Regional Politics in Russia: Editor’s Introduction

Having examined the state and future of Russia’s political system on a national level in the last two issues of Russian Politics and Law, the current issue turns to subnational politics. There have been numerous studies in recent years of the decline of Russian federalism in the aftermath of the Putin regime’s centralization drive. Local politics has received less attention but has faced a similar dynamic. This issue examines subnational politics at both the regional and the local levels.

The first two articles discuss changes inRussia’s federal structure. In “Russian Federalism as a ‘Dormant’ Institution,” Andrei Zakharov addresses the question of what will happen toRussia’s federal structure. He argues that under Putin, federalist structures largely stopped functioning, leading to the establishment of a “federation without federalism”—that is, a de facto unitary state that maintains the outward appearance of a federation. At the same time, the government has not sought to abolish the federal structure de jure because it fears the reaction of the ethnic minorities that make up 20 percent of the country’s population. Zakharov argues that although federal institutions are currently dormant, they will inevitably awaken at some point in the future, leading to a new turn of the parade of sovereignty/freezing of federalism cycle that will continue until the Russian elite learns to play by the rules of real federalism.

Alexander Kynev’s article, “Unattainable Symmetry: On the Results of the ‘Amalgamation’ of Regions of the Russian Federation,” addresses some of the steps taken by the current regime to eliminate real federalism in Russia. Specifically, he focuses on efforts to simplify the federation by merging most autonomous districts (okrugi) with nearby provinces (oblasti) and territories (krai). Kynev argues that despite the effort, the result has been not simplification but rather the introduction of additional complexity. The five mergers have produced at least three scenarios for determining the status of the former autonomous districts. In addition, several districts were not merged, leaving the old order partially in place as well. He argues that Russian leaders should embrace the diversity of their country’s federal structures rather than trying to eliminate it, since efforts at simplification are utopian and hopeless.

The other articles in this issue focus on Moscow’s efforts to reform local government structures. “Local Government in the Grip of the ‘Power Vertical,’” by Maksim Rubchenko and Vasilii Skalon, looks at the impact of the introduction of appointed city managers as a replacement for elected mayors in many major Russian cities in recent years. They argue that the new system, which was introduced despite the opposition of these cities’ inhabitants, has deprived local government of its remaining independence. The official goal in enacting this change is to improve city management by disconnecting it from politics. However, it is likely to result in conflict among the manager, the regional governor, and the head of the city council. The authors argue that the only way to truly fix the system of local government is to increase the percentage of tax revenues that go directly to local authorities, so that they have the money to address problems with infrastructure and other local concerns.

The remaining six articles in this issue are the results of a research project on “Power and Administration in Russia’s Large Cities.” This project is introduced in Vladimir Gelman and Sergei Ryzhenkov’s article, “Local Regimes in the Large Cities of Russia: Introduction to the Theme.” The project seeks to answer two main questions: (1) what are the parameters and characteristics of local regimes in Russia’s large cities? and (2) how have the economic, political, and institutional changes of the 1990s and the 2000s affected the present and future functioning of these regimes?

In this article, they present the four key findings of their analysis: (1) local political regimes depend primarily on the city’s geography and economic structure and position in the country; (2) the characteristics of a local regime change primarily as a result of political and institutional changes at the national level; (3) formal rules of the game are a façade for informal mechanisms for harmonizing interests among key players; and (4) the future evolution of local political regimes will depend largely on political changes at the federal level. The next five articles elaborate on specific aspects of these findings.

Vladimir Gelman’s “State Power, Governance, and Local Regimes in Russia: A Framework for Analysis,” describes the project’s analytical framework. He develops a typology of Russian urban regimes and traces their emergence and evolution in the 1990s and the 2000s. The typology consists of status quo regimes that are focused on the distribution of resources, development regimes that are focused on economic growth, and progressive regimes that are focused on controlling growth and improving the environment. In Russia, all three types tend to coexist, with status quo regimes dominating in small and medium-sized cities, while large cities are often dominated by development regimes that have to deal with a progressive opposition.

In “Local Regimes and the ‘Power Vertical,’” Sergei Ryzhenkov analyzes the links between the functioning of local regimes and the power vertical established by the central government in Moscow. He describes the power vertical as a system of rent distribution that provides resources to local agents in exchange for their political support. In other words, Ryzhenkov is describing a classic clientelist system that serves as the main bulwark of the Russian authoritarian state. The establishment of the power vertical and its extension to the local level is designed to minimize the possibility of conflict at the local level. For the long term, Ryzhenkov argues thatMoscowis gradually replacing rent payments with opportunities for local elites to receive income from private business. Their ability to successfully manage this transition will have a significant effect on the state’s long-term stability.

In their article on “Economic Actors and Local Regimes inRussia’s Large Cities,” Olga Bychkova and Vladimir Gelman create a typology of four possible patterns of interaction between economic actors and local governments and then apply this typology to the cases of Perm and Cherepovets. The four types of interaction depend on whether the state and business are each strong or weak. The authors describe the four types of state–business interaction and show how differences in these factors affect economic and political relations in specific cases. They argue that structural characteristics of local political regimes affect political relations in cities much more than political opportunities or the specific actions of local elites.

Elena Belokurova and Dmitrii Vorob’ev shift the focus from elites and state structure to the role in governance of public participation, and specifically of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). In “Local Public Participation in Contemporary Russia,” they show that protests occur primarily in places that lack any effective mechanisms for public participation in policy formation, resulting in the adoption by local regimes of decisions that violate the rights and interests of particular social groups. They show that while NGOs play a role in local governance, they are fairly weak when compared to political elites and other state actors.

Finally, Nadezhda Borisova’s article (“Perm: A Local Regime in a Large Russian City”) analyzes the emergence and evolution of a pluralistic local regime in Perm in relation to developments at the regional and national levels, tracing its evolution from the 1990s to the present day. Borisova argues that the Perm example reinforces the project’s findings that the evolution of local regimes depends primarily on their structural characteristics, while changes in the regime occur primarily as a result of political and institutional changes on the national level. As a result, the future of local political regimes in Perm and throughout Russia is likely to depend on how political elites in Moscow choose to modify the current power vertical regime.

Given this prediction, and the high likelihood that change in the Russian political system will occur only gradually, it seems likely that the last decade’s trend toward the reduction of pluralism at the local and regional levels will continue for the next decade. The result will be an even greater divergence between local elites and the rest of the population residing inRussia’s cities and provinces.

Russian Politics and Law, March 2010 Table of Contents

Volume 48 Number 2 / March-April 2010

Dmitry Gorenburg: The Structure of Regional Politics in Russia: Editor’s Introduction p. 3

Vladimir Gelman: The Dynamics of Subnational Authoritarianism (Russia in Comparative Perspective) p. 7

Rostislav F. Turovskii: Regional Political Regimes in Russia: Toward a Methodology of Analysis p. 27

Maksim Vas’kov: The Upper Echelon of the Russian North Caucasus: Regionally Specific Political and Sociocultural Characteristics p. 50

Galina Zvereva: What Will “We” Be Called Now?: Formulas of Collective Self-Identification in Contemporary Russia p. 68

The Structure of Regional Politics in Russia

This issue of Russian Politics and Law continues some themes that we introduced in previous issues. The bulk of the articles begin where the previous issue on center–periphery relations left off, focusing on the periphery side of that equation to analyze how politics is conducted in Russia’s regions under the current centralizing regime. This is an issue that has not received adequate attention in the literature, which has traditionally focused either exclusively on central politics or at most on relations between the center and the regions. Most Russian studies of regional politics have been purely empirical efforts to describe key political events in a particular region. The strength of this set of articles is the authors’ explicit focus on comparative and theoretically based analysis.

In “The Dynamics of Subnational Authoritarianism (Russia in Comparative Perspective),” Vladimir Gelman places Russian regional politics in a comparative perspective. He begins by establishing a typology of subnational authoritarian regimes, based on a review of cases from around the world. This typology is based on two key variables—the extent to which nationwide parties and the centralized state apparatus have influence at the regional and local levels. Variation in these two factors produces three potential kinds of subnational authoritarianism. If the central state is strong, the result is labeled centralized subnational authoritarianism of either the bureaucratic (weak party influence) or party (strong party influence) varieties. If the central state is weak but parties are influential, the combination leads to decentralized subnational authoritarianism. If neither is strong, then subnational authoritarianism cannot develop.

In the second part of his article, Gelman applies this typology to the Russian case, arguing that over the last two decades Russia has swung from centralized party subnational authoritarianism to decentralized subnational authoritarianism and back again. The initial decentralization occurred as the result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, which weakened the central government and led to the transfer of various state powers to the regions. Gelman argues that the recentralization that occurred in the last decade was the result of a combination of the 1998 financial crisis, which demonstrated the need for Russia’s economic reintegration; the participation of most local elites on the losing side in the 1999 Duma elections, which weakened their political standing vis-à-vis the center; and the economic growth that took place during Putin’s presidency, which encouraged national corporations to push for the reduction of entry barriers to local markets. Gelman sees the newly reestablished centralized subnational authoritarianism as a fairly durable phenomenon that will break down only in the event of a nationwide democratization.

Rostislav Turovskii’s article, “Regional Political Regimes in Russia: Toward a Methodology of Analysis,” further develops the theoretical bases for a characterization of the political regimes found in Russia’s regions. Whereas Gelman situates his typology in Western literature on subnational political regimes, Turovskii begins with a review of previous Russian work on this subject. He then proposes his own three-dimensional model for the characterization of such regimes. The first dimension measures the regime’s formal institutional design and specifically whether the regime’s power structure is monopolistic or oligopolistic in character. The focus here is on formal institutional factors that determine the autonomy of regional leaders in relation to both federal representatives in the region and other local power centers.

The second dimension reflects the actual extent of regional leaders’ autonomy from the center, which in present-day Russia is at a relatively low level and does not vary much. The final dimension involves the regime’s level of democracy or authoritarianism. This involves an assessment of the extent to which opposition forces are able to influence regional politics and includes both open opponents of the regime and internal opposition within the governing elite. In conclusion, Turovskii argues that examining Russian regions according to these three dimensions is the best method for analyzing political life in Russia’s regions. He also makes a case for moving beyond rational choice approaches to the study of regional politics, arguing for the importance of institutional and ideological factors in determining political outcomes at the local level.

In “The Upper Echelon of the Russian North Caucasus: Regionally Specific Political and Sociocultural Characteristics,” an article written especially for this journal, Maksim Vas’kov takes a very different approach to studying regional governance. This article is an exercise in inductive reasoning, where the author uses the cases of the North Caucasus republics to examine the political and societal factors that push local leaders into certain governing strategies. He finds certain commonalities across the region, including that the combination of political influence and economic control ensures the preservation of members of the political elite in power. He finds that local elites largely lack adequate mechanisms to regulate conflicts both among rival factions within the elite and between the elite and its political opponents. This factor increases the regional leaders’ dependence on Moscow, with external arbitration often seen as the only way to solve disputes and prevent conflicts from becoming violent.

Vas’kov also finds a number of differences among the regional governors that affect how they govern, including their social background, extent of political experience in the Soviet and Yeltsin periods, generation to which they belong, and connection to regional political life prior to their appointment to the top position. These variables affect both the amount of political capital possessed by these leaders and the style with which they govern. Some try to balance among rival local clans, while others give all significant positions to members of one clan (usually their own). Some govern using the methods they learned in Soviet party schools, while others seek to adapt the methods they learned in running successful business enterprises prior to their entry into politics.

Overall, all three articles show the importance of combining the insight of theoretical thinking with a deep knowledge of empirical processes in the regions being studied.

Our final article, by Galina Zvereva, returns to the theme of one of our issues from 2009 on whether Russia can be considered a nation-state. In that issue, we presented four different views of how the ethnic and civic conceptions of Russia may be combined. In “What Will ‘We’ Be Called Now? Formulas of Collective Self-Identification in Contemporary Russia, Zvereva connects this intellectual debate to similar processes occurring in the political sphere. She discusses the trajectory of conceptions of the Russian nation in official government and ruling party documents from the early 1990s to the present day. She shows how efforts to create a multiethnic Russian national identity were balanced even within the ruling elite by opposing efforts to establish the Russian (russkii) ethnic group as the basis of Russian (rossiiskii) national identity. She concludes with a discussion of signs that the debate is gradually leading Russia’s leaders to a conception of national identity that in many ways resembles the Soviet conception of a Soviet multinational people (mnogonatsional’nyi sovetskii narod).