The article describes the current model of intergovernmental relations in Russia and explains how it was formed in the 2000s, as well as demonstrating its effects in one sphere of public administration, namely education. Based on theoretical perspectives on the expected and unexpected effects of decentralization, authoritarian politicians’ motives and central governments’ strategies aimed at overcoming the principal-agency problem, the author hypothesizes that decentralization realized under the conditions of an authoritarian government in geographically, ethnically and economically complex societies produces a kind of trap: concentration on administrative decentralization intensifies the principal-agency problem while the authoritarian rulers’ interests limit the potential for employing effective means to overcome it.
Although many scholars have analyzed the role played by the siloviki in Russian politics, they usually focus on the presence of siloviki in the federal elite or the pressure they exerted on business. In this article, we use new data on the appointments of regional governors and the heads of regional departments of the Federal Security Service (ufsb), as well as data on regional economic growth from 2005 to 2017, to examine how decisions by the Kremlin with respect to the appointment of key regional siloviki have affected economic development in Russian regions. We find that regions where the governor-siloviki relationship has been stable over time also display higher rates of growth. We then investigate whether regional fsb heads are specifically appointed to start investigations on regional governors, but do not find a statistically significant relationship. Finally, we show how a number of newly appointed political heavyweights among Russia’s governor corps have been given their “own” silovik to support them in their region.
The article analyses how the electoral policy of the Russian state predetermined the results of the 2016 State Duma elections. The factors leading to this predictability aredescribed in detail. These were a combination of the introduction of a mixed electoral system, with the party of power winning in more than 90% of majoritarian districts in regional elections; gerrymandering during the establishment of electoral districts; changes to the system by which voters outside the borders of the Russian Federation were allocated to electoral districts; the change of election date (moving it to September) and the consequent reduced turnout in the cities more prone to protest votes; “rigged campaigns” and the systemic opposition’s unreadiness for serious disputation; new bans and restrictions on political competition, resulting parties and candidates capable of genuinely opposing the regime being denied access to the elections; a push among protest voters to boycott the election, de facto supported by the regime’s campaign managers; and weak campaigns by the democratic parties.
The transition in Russia to a partially market-driven economy has failed to produce sustained and broad-based economic growth. The gains of economic growth are concentrated at the top of the income distribution, leaving a sizable part of the population trapped in conditions of low incomes. While abject poverty has largely been eliminated, around 40% of the population struggle to purchase more than basic consumer necessities. Spending on food occupies nearly half of household budgets for the lowest income decile. State social spending, which constitutes an increasing share of total income, is relatively non-progressive. Most is not means-based, but preserves the categorical benefits structure of the Soviet era. A combination of the bureaucratic-authoritarian institutional framework for decision-making and the strongly rent-based relationship between economic and political elites, severely limits policy options.
The article uses statistical data and all-Russian sociological surveys conducted in 2003–2013 to analyze changes in poverty in Russian society.1 It is shown that, on the one hand, the scope of poverty in Russia decreased before the ongoing economic crisis started in 2014; on the other hand, those who remained poor have become the base for the formation of a “new periphery” which is significantly different from the rest of the population. The “new periphery” formation zone in 2013 covered about 30% of the population, and this group consisted of the poor identified using both absolute and relative approaches to poverty that complement rather than duplicate each other in conditions of Russian social reality. Factors that account for becoming part of the “new periphery” are analyzed, the key one being the position on the labor market; its qualitative features are demonstrated, including living standards of its representatives, and the population’s perceptions of the causes of poverty are described.
Today state-building processes go on in many parts of the world. In this article I look at Russia’s political development through the prism of state-building, with a focus on Putin’s state-building strategy and the factors that have made its realization possible. I argue that throughout the duration of his reign Putin distinguished himself as a vigorous and effective state-builder with a clearly defined state-building strategy. The paper examines his three-staged strategy: the weakening of Yeltsin’s “ruling coalition” and the accumulation of resources; administrative reforms and policy changes; nation-building.
By exploring the changes among online elites who have constructed the Internet, this article traces the unique history of the Russian Internet (RuNet). Illustrating how changes in online elites can be associated with changes in the socio-political role of the online space in general, it concludes that, although the Internet is of global nature, its space is constructed on the level of nation, culture and language. To show this, the article presents five stages in the development of RuNet, suggesting that the change in the stages is associated with the relationship of power between, first, actors (users, developers, the government, etc.) that construct Internet space and, second, alternative elites that emerge online and the traditional elites that seek to take the online space under their control by making their imaginary dominate.
To punish Russia for the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, the United States and the European Union introduced a set of economic sanctions against Russian state companies and individuals closely affiliated with the Kremlin. The goal of this article is to look at the sanctions in relation to the process of the current consolidation of media assets and revenues in the hands of Russia’s biggest media empires, most of whom are close to the Kremlin. It questions whether the sanctions achieved the intended goal of undermining economic stability inside Russia or if, rather, they benefitted major state-aligned media corporations.The main conclusion drawn from the study is that the international sanctions have radically changed the structure of Russia’s media in a manner contrary to their intention. The sanctions unwittingly favored the biggest players to the detriment of the smaller, protecting state-aligned media and their financial incomes. In the climate of sanctions, media tycoons close to the Kremlin used their lobbying capacity in parliament to acquire advantages, primarily in terms of advertisement. Thus, smaller competitors were pushed out of the market and their shares were redistributed among a few major stakeholders.
This study investigates the institutional influence on Russia’s regional voter turnout and establishes differences between federal and regional voter participation. Given the regional turnout in the 2011-2016 national and regional elections, the authors test the hypothesis that Russia’s turnout largely hinges on institutional rather than socio-economic factors. For deeper analysis of electoral behavior, the researchers consider a range of institutional aspects applicable to the country’s regional peculiarities. Such an empirical approach demonstrates that different types of elections are conditioned by different indicators and metrics. Consequently, the analysis proves the relevance of institutional factors to voter turnout.
Strong institutions and good governance are instrumental for success in the global economy. While the quality of national governance has positive effect on a country’s economic performance, it is not a necessary condition. Poor governance can be offset with the country’s comparative advantages; however, such advantages are likely to be geographically concentrated. We argue that in present-day Russia weak institutions and low quality of national governance make most regions unable to compete in the global economy.
The paper investigates the link between the sub-national variation of political regimes in a (at the federal level) non-democratic country and the appointments of federal officials in the sub-national provinces. In particular, we look at the appointment of the chief federal inspectors to the regions in Putin’s Russia in 2000–2012. Our main research question is whether appointment patterns can be explained by top-down concerns of the central government willing to keep control over the most unruly regions or by bottom-up self-selection of bureaucrats belonging to influential groups into more attractive positions more suitable for rent-seeking. The advantage of our case is that data we have at hand allow us to distinguish these two logics. Our results indicate that for the Russian chief federal inspectors in 2000–2012 bottom-up self-selection appears to be the more plausible explanation of the link between sub-national political regimes and appointment patterns.
Within the period of 1993–2014 Russia experienced four major electoral reforms: in 1993, 2002, 2005 and 2014. One further attempt to change the Russian electoral system, initiated by President Yeltsin in 1994–95, was unsuccessful. We suggest that the successes as well as the failures of the electoral reforms in Russia can be explained with the same reasons as in other countries regardless of their political regime. In our view, electoral reforms within any political system are rooted in the specific arrangement of the veto players within the system and their political preferences. This paper demonstrates that major electoral reforms were successfully implemented in cases when the executive branch headed by the Russian president, striving for maximum control over the legislative process, was interested in such implementation and there were no other veto players able to block passage of the law.
There is a striking opposition within the current discourse on Russia’s position in the world. On the one hand, there are well-known arguments about Russia’s “weak hand” (relatively small and stagnating economy, vulnerability to sanctions, technological backwardness, deteriorating demography, corruption, bad institutions, etc.). On the other hand, Russia is accused of “global revisionism”, attempts to reshape and undermine the liberal world order, and Western democracy itself. There seems to be a paradox: Russia with a perceived decline of major resources of national power, exercises dramatically increased international influence. This paradox of power and/or influence is further explored. This paper introduces a new complex Index of national power. On the basis of ratings of countries authors compare the dynamics of distribution of power in the world with a focus on Russia’s national power in world politics since 1995. The analysis brings evidence that the cumulative resources of Russia’s power in international affairs did not increase during the last two decades. However, Russia’s influence in world politics has significantly increased as demonstrated by assertive foreign policy in different parts of the world and its perception by the international political community and the public. Russia remains a major power in today’s world, although some of its power resources are stagnating or decreasing in comparison to the US and rising China. To compensate for weaknesses Russia is using both traditional and nontraditional capabilities of international influence.