The dynamics of subnational authoritarianism: (Russia in comparative perspective)
In the 1990s, sub-national authoritarian regimes – local-based monopolies of ruling elites – emerged in many of Russia’s regions and cities against the background of spontaneous decentralization of government and competitive electoral politics. In the 2000s, the decline of political competition and recentralization of the Russian state led to incorporation of sub-national authoritarian regimes under federal control and cooptation of local-based actors into the dominant party, United Russia. This paper is devoted to a comparative analysis of sub-national authoritarianism in Russia in light of the experience of local political machines in other countries, ranging from US cities from the 1870s-1930s to Southern Italy from the 1950s-1980s. Unlike the American political machines, which were demolished from below as a by-product of modernization processes, Russia’s sub-national authoritarian regimes were integrated from above into the nation-wide authoritarianism. One might expect further stagnation of sub-national authoritarian regimes in Russia until major regime changes will occur on the national level.