Who governs? Power in a local Russian community
This article presents the outcomes of a research project conducted in two small towns in the Perm region. The study of power in the two communities focused on two major themes: (1) the composition of influential actors and institutions and the power hierarchy; (2) relationships between them and coalition building. The discovered configuration of actors and relationships between them demonstrate, on the one hand, quite a lot in common with European and North American communities, on the other hand, a number of features that reflect the systemic and institutional properties of Russian politics and society. The social base of the local power structure is very narrow. The local elite composed of the heads of the executive, business leaders, and the most influential representatives of urban and district legislatures actually holds all the power in local community, having no serious opponents or a real alternative in the foreseeable future. This power structure is supported by informal institutions and personal relationships within the elite and between the elite and those who are forced to accept the existing system of relations; it allows them to successfully protect their personal and/or corporate interests. A wide range of opportunities to use official position and/or relationships with the public officials for personal enrichment stimulates the formation of various kinds of coalitions for the furtherment of personal interests of its members.