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Federal Regression and the Authoritarian Turn in Russia

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Part of the Federalism and Internal Conflicts book series (FEINCO)

Abstract

The Russian case reveals how federal institutions have emerged and regressed in the past three decades. The chapter first investigates processes of federalization after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Then it discusses core elements of recentralization in the Putin era, showing that corresponding processes went hand in hand with the authoritarian closure of the regime. In that, the Russian case corroborates recent doubts of comparative research on federalism, whether federalization is basically conducive to democratization. Reconsidering theories of federalism, the chapter argues that federal structures meet basic interests of authoritarian incumbents, as multilevel architectures allow to shift the blame to sub-federal territories, to test the loyalty of political elites and to multiply opportunities for co-opting loyal politicians.

Keywords

  • Federalism
  • Recentralization
  • Authoritarianism
  • Russia
  • Constitutional reforms

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-93669-3_4
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Notes

  1. 1.

    More than 190 ethnic groups are registered in Russia today. Most ethnic republics accommodate majorities of ethnic Russians. Among those providing a strong share of the titular nations are Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Tuva, Chuvashia, or Tatarstan. The titular nations are privileged with respect to elite selection and quotas and are often granted special linguistic and cultural rights. Legal acts must also be published in the language of the titular nations.

  2. 2.

    In the 1990s, some nascent structures of horizontal, inter-regional cooperation, such as Bol’shaya Volga or Chernozeml’ye, had emerged.

  3. 3.

    Together with the president, the Federation Council vetoed an additional 11% of bills (113) in 1996-1999, but just 1% (10) in 1999-2003. In the last two convocations of the State Duma, there were no cases of collective bill rejections.

  4. 4.

    A considerable share of regional constitutions and statutes, legislative and executive orders violated federal laws or even invalidated the federal constitution (Sakwa, 2000, 16-17; Hyde, 2001, 731; Ross, 2003, 41). The evaluations range from about a quarter to 70% of regional legislative acts, which deviated from federal laws.

  5. 5.

    For example, in the Northern Caucasus, Aleksandr Khloponin ensured that both the president’s and the federal government’s policies were implemented (2010-2014). His colleague Yuri Trutnev has occupied the corresponding positions in Russia’s Far East since 2013.

  6. 6.

    Perm oblast’ and Komi-Permyak autonomous okrug merged into Perm krai in 2005; Krasnoyarsk krai, Evenki autonomous okrug and Taimyr (Dolgan-Nenets) autonomous okrug merged into already existing Krasnoyarsk krai in 2007; Kamchatka oblast’ and Koryak autonomous okrug merged into Kamchatka krai in 2007; Irkutsk oblast’ and Ust-Orda Buryat autonomous okrug merged into already existing Irkutsk oblast’ in 2008; Chita oblast’ and Agin-Buryat autonomous okrug merged into Zabaykalsky krai in 2008.

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Klimovich, S., Kropp, S. (2022). Federal Regression and the Authoritarian Turn in Russia. In: Keil, S., Kropp, S. (eds) Emerging Federal Structures in the Post-Cold War Era. Federalism and Internal Conflicts. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-93669-3_4

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