From Submission to Rebellion: The Provinces Versus the Center in Russia

By Vladimir Shlapentokh; Roman Levita et al. | Go to book overview

10
THE CENTER AND REGIONS IN POLITICAL STRUGGLE

Two specific developments in the Soviet Union after 1987, and particularly after 1991, enormously stimulated regionalization: (1) the decline of the center's power, and (2) the democratization of society. Both of these political factors made the relationship between the center and regions radically different as compared with both Communist and prerevolutionary Russia. It is impossible to exclude the possibility, at least for the time being, that Russia might revert to an authoritarian or even a totalitarian state; in any case, however, the center will never again be able to control the Russian provinces as it did for five hundred years.

To a greater or lesser degree, all political actors in Russia had realized by the mid-1990s that the confrontation with regions, even if it could be worked out in some cases, would not continue in post-Communist Russia. Thus, the best policy had to be pursuing further cooperation between the central and local elite. Otherwise, the chances for chaos or the temporary victory of Russian extremists would be quite high.1 At the same time, all of the actors were also aware that this cooperation would be intertwined with temporary conflicts of various degrees of intensity. In addition, they realized that Russia faced various alternatives in forming the relationship between the center and the periphery in the future.


Explaining the Center's Weakness

The chief cause of the growth in regional powers in post-Communist Russia is the center's political weakness.2 The center is unable to sustain its historical control over the periphery. There are several causes for the center's contemporary weakness in post-Communist Russia.

First, the center no longer controls the most powerful networks of the three major institutions of coercion: (1) the party, (2) the KGB, and (3) the army. These institutions made it possible for the center to impose its will on the

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