Local Self-Government in Contemporary Russia
This article focuses on the evolution of local self-government in Russia over the past three decades. Built on the ideas of James Scott regarding the good intentions of the state, it provides not only a general description of the changes, but also reconstructs the logic of legislators. The central government in post-Soviet Russia has distanced itself from local self-government as much as possible by turning municipalities into a firewall of sorts against citizens seeking social guarantees. That explains why in the 1990s through the early 2000s, local self-government was fairly independent and diverse. The history of the transformation of local self-government in Russia in the last 20 years can be described as attempts by the central government to bring order and social justice (as interpreted by the rent-oriented part of the country’s population) to municipalities. It acted under the pressure of mainly negative information about the state of local self-government from people and regional authorities and the gradual transformation of the structure of settlements. This has resulted in the unification and de facto nationalization of local self-government (in the near future, formal nationalization is also expected). Centralization of local self-government (i.e., its integration into the unitary system of state power) separated local authorities from the local population and made local socioeconomic processes less transparent for municipal administrators.