The regional machines created by the Russian governors in the mid-1990s turned out to be most effective in the ethnic republics. This phenomenon is supported by several facts, with the primary as follows: the density of the patronage networks among the rural ethnic minorities, and the economic heritage of the Soviet period and ethnical institutionalization. These factors allowed regional elites to integrate ethnic minorities into the clientelism structure to distribute symbolic and material benefits in exchange for their electoral support. However, at present, the federal authorities have considerably reduced the autonomy of the ethnic republics and deprived them of many ethnic preferences. Basing on the analysis of the electoral statistics from the Russian Presidential Election of 2018, this article researches the political consequences caused by the changed relationship between the center and the regions, as well as the changes in functioning of regional political machines in the circumstances where the governors’ institutional and resource autonomy has been reduced. The data analysis allowed for the discovery of the diversified electoral behavior of ethnic minorities in different republics. The reasons for the above diversification have been explained based on a comparative analysis of five case studies (the Republic of Bashkortostan, the Republic of Tatarstan, the Komi Republic, the Chuvash Republic, and the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)).
Control over the security services is a key ingredient of political survival in authoritarian regimes. This is particularly true during periods of leadership succession and high political uncertainty. In this paper, we compare the strategy used by Vladimir Putin towards the siloviki – the Russian security services – with that employed by Xi Jinping towards the Chinese security services. We find that in both countries, the security services have been significantly strengthened in recent years, while at the same time extensive anti-corruption campaigns have been used to eliminate key officials within the security structures. We argue that both developments can be seen as elements of a strategy to increase control over the public, while eliminating potential competition from regime insiders, in view of a deteriorating economic situation, and the constitutional (or quasi-constitutional) term limits faced by Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping in 2024 and 2022, respectively.
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.
The COVID-19 crisis has provided an opportunity to re-evaluate how the federal relations work in authoritarian Russia. In particular, the crisis has confirmed that the regional governors are an integral part of maintaining the stability of the nondemocratic regime. Since the whole system and thus, the political careers of the incumbent governors depend on Putin’s popularity, they are interested in maintaining it, even at the expense of their own popularity with the population. In Spring 2020 the regional governors have demonstrated both loyalty and willingness to shield Putin from political responsibility for unpopular measures associated with the epidemic.
This article examines the differences between Russian voting at federal elections and regional legislature elections, both combined and conducted independently. The authors analyse these differences, their character and their dynamics as an important characteristic of the nationalisation of the party system. They also test hypotheses about a higher level of oppositional voting and competitiveness in subnational elections, in accordance with the theory of second-order elections, as well as the strategic nature of voting at federal elections, by contrast with expressive voting during subnational campaigns. The empirical study is based on calculating the differences in votes for leading Russian parties at subnational elections and at federal elections (simultaneous, preceding and following) from 2003, when mandatory voting on party lists was widespread among the regions, to 2019. The level of competitiveness is measured in a similar way, by calculating the effective number of parties. The study indicates a low level of autonomy of regional party systems, in many ways caused by the fact that the law made it impossible to create regional parties, and then also by the 2005 ban on creation of regional blocs. The strong connection between federal and regional elections in Russia clearly underlines the fluid and asynchronic nature of its electoral dynamics, where subnational elections typically predetermine the results of the following federal campaigns. At the same time, the formal success of the nationalisation of the party system, achieved by increasing the homogeneity of voting at the 2016 and 2018 federal elections, is not reflected by the opposing process of desynchronisation between federal and regional elections after Putin’s third-term election. There is also a clear rise in the scale of the differences between the two. At the same time, the study demonstrates the potential presence in Russia of features common to subnational elections in many countries: their greater support for the opposition and presence of affective voting. However, there is a clear exception to this trend during the period of maximum mobilisation of the loyal electorate at the subnational elections immediately following the accession of Crimea in 2014–2015, and such tendencies are generally restrained by the conditions of electoral authoritarianism.
The research studies the features of coverage of the Syrian conflict by Russian media. In scientific discourse, there are a number of works studying the information support for the civil war in Syria, which is explained by its specificity – a multilateral, multi-level protracted conflict creates an opportunity for a varied interpretation of events and causal relationships. The way events in Syria are presented in various regions of Russia is of particular interest. In the course of this study, a database of media articles, both federal and regional (Dagestan, Tatarstan, Chechnya), was collected. The articles were then analyzed from the point of view of the prevailing semantic codes, which made it possible to identify how the Syrian conflict is framed, as well as the similarities and differences of different regions’ frames.
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.
Welfare reforms in contemporary Russia are based on partial redistribution of responsibilities and resources from the state to other actors, including private business and civil society. Reforms in old age pensions, housing and utilities, primary and secondary education have affected wide social groups and have triggered public debates and protests, reflected in the mass media. This article analyses how these reforms are portrayed in three Russian media outlets representing different political positions—Rossiiskaia gazeta (official government media outlet), Novaia gazeta (independent media outlet belonging to the liberal opposition), and Zavtra (patriotic media outlet belonging to the nationalist opposition). The two independent papers have divergent critical perspectives on reforms. These three Federation-wide newspapers represent the range of political positions that are articulated publicly on non-securitized issues in contemporary Russia.
Russia’s political system must be understood as inherently dynamic, with constant regime change being essential to how the regime operates and survives. This regime change does not proceed monotonically toward ever tighter authoritarianism, but can move in both liberal and repressive directions at different times. While on aggregate the trend has been to greater authoritarianism under Putin, certain liberalizing moves have also been important that are meaningful for how ordinary Russians and elites experience their own regime, and greater repressiveness is not foreordained. We document two forms of endemic regime dynamism in Russia, each involving contingent, improvisational efforts at short-term recalibration in response to crises that are both endogenous and exogenous to the regime: structural improvisation and ideational improvisation.
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.
This Special Issue is devoted to Russia’s welfare state during the years of economic stagnation that began in 2013. Twelve experts assess social conditions and reforms in poverty, labor market, pension, housing and education policies. They show that social mobility has stagnated in conditions of deep inequality and just-above-poverty incomes for many. Innovative labour market and anti-poverty policies are hampered by low productivity and wages, both features of an oligarchic economic model that blocks competition and development. Welfare commitments heavily burden the state budget, producing reforms that transfer costs to users. The authors find that popular protests have forced government to partially mitigate these reforms. Putin’s government appears trapped between oligarchic economic interests and popular expectations for welfare. The final article compares China’s comparatively successful welfare trajectories with those of Russia, and proposes an agenda for further research.
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.