Elite Transformation in the Saratov Region
One of the key issues of Russian transformation is the reconfiguration of relations between the center and the provinces. Perestroika and the subsequent political changes in post-Soviet Russia have affected the capacity to govern at every level, giving rise to a strong sense of local independence and a variety of attempts to find a "special path" of development in the regions. New regional and local opportunity structures for subnational political actors have emerged, and central agencies have subsequently lost control over the country's development.
Since 1992, transformation has shifted considerably from the central authorities to the regions. To a surprising degree, the regions have adapted the reforms to meet their specific needs and conditions. 1
Hence, focusing on regional distinctions of the Russian transformation not only assures an empirically based description of the various facets of post-Soviet development but presents an opportunity to expose the variety of strategic options available for political actors within a given national context. If regime transformation in Russia is indeed strongly marked by "objective" economic, social, and political conditions that determine the "path dependence" of societal change, then the regional variations bear out the thesis of micro-oriented approaches to transformation processes: Objective factors, as Adam Przeworski emphasizes, "constitute, at most, constraints to that which is possible under a concrete historical situation but do not determine the outcome of such situations."2
This essay is the result of a case study in a Russian region directed by a research strategy focusing on political actors and their strategic behavior. Within the scope of "objective" conditions and nationally bounded patterns or traditions of political culture, regional actors and