We examine transfers from Russia’s federal government to the regions during the two recent economic crises. We show that while federal transfers in 2009 were large and targeted poorer regions, the 2014–2015 transfers were much smaller and not targeted. This policy shift was accompanied by a relatively greater decline in own revenues in the poorer regions and their worse economic performance overall. As a result, interregional budget expenditure inequality in Russia was significantly higher in 2014–2015 than it had been for years. This is important because regional budgets are responsible for a large share of investments, housing, education and healthcare.
The paper reviews the problem of Russian regions inequality and the mechanisms for its solving. To use only the minimum level of fiscal capacity as the main calculated indicator of the intergovernmental transfers is not effective. In the article there are suggestions for improving the system of intergovernmental relations and the perspectives to use the Investment Fund for smoothing regional disparities.