Regional Elites and Moscow
Accessing the degree to wgich regional elites influence Center's decisions is challeging given the non-transparent and informal nature of this relationship. Still, the information reviewed suggests something more complicated than the common image of an ever more centralized and hierarchical "vertical of power".
Analysis of the evolving role regional elites play in different aspects of Russian political regime functioning
Russian regions exhibit wide diversity in institutional arrangements, not only due to varying natural conditions and economic development, but also due to the different political strategies pursued by their governors. Governors have wide discretion over the kinds of relationships they establish with local economic and social elites in the pursuit of nationally established goals. Some regional regimes are more pluralistic, others more authoritarian. Strategies for social and economic development vary as well. Some governors cooperate with local business associations and firms to induce investment and to overcome collective dilemmas such as those associated with skill formation. Characteristically, it is state actors who usually take the initiative in shaping state–society relations.
A political scientist examines how regional elites shape the electoral fortunes of Russia’s hegemonic party, United Russia (UR). Using original data on regional legislative elections from 2003 to 2011, we show that UR performs better in those regions where regional governors control strong political machines. Russia’s leadership undercut its own electoral strategy by replacing popular elected governors with colorless bureaucrats who struggled to mobilize votes on behalf of United Russia. This is one of the reasons for United Russia’s poor performance in recent elections.
On the basis of in-depth case studies of four Russian regions, Kirov and Voronezh oblasts and Krasnoyarsk and Perm' krais, the trade-offs among social and economic policy at the regional level in Russia are examined. All four regional governments seek to develop entrepreneurship while preserving social welfare obligations and improving compensation in the public sector. Richer regions have a greater ability to reconcile social commitments with the promotion of business. Regions differ in their development strategies, some placing greater emphasis on indigenous business development and others seeking to attract federal or foreign investment. Governors have considerable discretion in choosing their strategy so long as they meet basic performance demands set by the federal government such as ensuring good results for the United Russia party. In all four regions, governments consult actively with local business associations whereas organized labor is weak. However, the absence of effective institutions to enforce commitments undertaken by government and its social partners undermines regional capacity to use social policy as a basis for long-term economic development.
Through case studies of four Russian regions, we examine the trade-offs between social and economic policy at the regional level. All four regions studied seek to stimulate entrepreneurship while preserving or expanding social welfare coverage. Regions differ in development strategies, some placing greater emphasis on indigenous business development and others seeking to attract outside investment. Variation in levels of democracy are unrelated to policy choices. All four regional governments consult actively with local business associations while organised labour is weak. The absence of effective institutions to enforce commitments undermines regional capacity to make social policy an instrument for long-term development.
In early 2010 Russia once again entered a turbulent period. From the system of property distribution, to structure of the political elites and relations between the Center and the regions - various spheres of Russian life are in a state of flux. Two major factors are driving this change: oil prices which are unlikely to grow the way they did in the 2000s and the rapidly deteriorating efficiency of governance. Relations between federal and regional elites, as well as public activism, are derived from these two factors and play an important role of their own. Will change take an evolutionary path or is Russia facing another revolution? The book offers a view of the Russian future until 2025 based on thematic scenarios created by an international team of Russia scholars whose expertise range from politics and economics to demographics and foreign policy.