Russian Politics and Society

By Richard Sakwa | Go to book overview

9Federalism and the state

A multitude is strong while it holds together, but so soon as each of those who compose it begins to think of his own private danger, it becomes weak and contemptible.

(Niccolo Machiavelli) 1

The Russian Empire grew through a process of overland expansion: rather like the United States, it occupied territories across a vast continental mass, a type of colonisation that is largely irreversible. The emergence of these two continental states overshadowed the traditional nation-state and each, as De Tocqueville foresaw, seemed 'called by some secret design of Providence one day to hold in its hands the destinies of half the world'. 2 The major difference, however, between the two is that whereas the United States some 200 years ago devised an effective political system and a sturdy relationship between individual states and the federal authorities, Russia is still in the process of building a viable relationship between the centre and the regions. Although the 1993 constitution establishes the framework of Russian federalism, its ambiguous formulations and provision for further laws de-limiting powers between the centre and the regions stimulated a repeated although more muted version of the 'war of the laws' that had brought down the USSR.


Ethno-federalism and its legacy

The concept of path dependency argues that earlier institutional choices foreclose options later. This is nowhere more true than in the area of Russia's federal relations. The Soviet state had been federal-unitary; federal in form, but in effect unitary. The heart of the old state system, the CPSU, had never pretended to be federal and instead had been a centralised body governed by its Central Committee and Politburo in Moscow. The fourteen republican Party organisations had been no more than a single unit governed by the principles of democratic centralism. Within Russia only certain autonomous areas populated by national minorities were the subjects of ethno-federalism, whereas regions populated by the titular nationality (Russians) were part of the unitary and centralised state. Russia was bequeathed a complex ethno-federal system in which its eighty-nine regions were divided into a number of status groups, each jealously defended by its local elites.

-203-

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Russian Politics and Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures ix
  • Tables x
  • Preface to the Third Edition xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Note on Style, Spelling and Transliteration xiv
  • Glossary of Acronyms, Acrostics and Terms xv
  • Part I - The Fall of Communism and the Rebirth of Russia 1
  • 1: Soviet Communism and Its Dissolution 3
  • 2: The Disintegration of the Ussr 27
  • Part II - Political Institutions and Processes 43
  • 3: The New Constitutional Order 45
  • 4: Law and Society 72
  • 5: The Executive 98
  • 6: The Legislature 125
  • 7: Electoral Politics 140
  • 8: Party Development 172
  • Part III - Federalism, Regionalism and Nationalism 201
  • 9: Federalism and the State 203
  • 10: Regional and Local Politics 224
  • 11: National Identity and State-Building 254
  • Part IV - Economy and Society 277
  • 12: Marketising the Economy 279
  • 13: Society and Social Movements 305
  • 14: Cultural Transformation 331
  • Part V - Foreign Policies 347
  • 15: Foreign Policy 349
  • 16: Commonwealth, Community and Fragmentation 375
  • 17: Defence and Security Policy 396
  • Part VI - Dilemmas of Democratisation 423
  • 18: Problems of Transition 425
  • 19: Pluralism, Elites, Regime and Leadership 445
  • 20: Democracy in Russia 463
  • Notes 475
  • Select Bibliography 524
  • Index 527
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