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Leading Russia: Putin in PerspectiveEssays in Honour of Archie Brown$

Alex Pravda

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199276141

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2006

DOI: 10.1093/0199276145.001.0001

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Putin's Reform of the Russian Federation Putin's Reform of the Russian Federation Neil Melvin

Putin's Reform of the Russian Federation Putin's Reform of the Russian Federation Neil Melvin

(p.203) 11 Putin's Reform of the Russian Federation Neil Melvin
Leading Russia: Putin in Perspective

Neil Melvin

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Putin’s reform of the Russian Federation can be viewed as both promoting and restricting democracy. While moves to challenge the democracy of Russia’s regions can be seen as a positive step, considerable doubts remain about whether the reforms involved gains in terms of democracy and effectiveness. Beyond increased stability, there is little evidence that the regional reforms fundamentally altered the networks of political and economic relationships that underpinned regional activism and the non-democratic regimes of many regions in the 1990s.

Keywords:   Vladimir Putin, Russian Federation, federal reform, Russia, democracy


The emergence of Vladimir Putin as president of the Russian Federation and the subsequent consolidation of Putin's position at the pinnacle of the Russian political order has been accompanied by a lively debate about the nature of the contemporary Russian polity. While there is a broad consensus that a significant change in the political life of the country has taken place under Putin, there is still a lack of agreement on how best to comprehend the nature and long‐term significance of this change. Crucially, it remains unclear whether Russia under Putin should be viewed as a country that has turned its back completely on democratization. The uncertainty about the nature of the political system is reflected in accounts that highlight the mixed and contradictory elements of Putin's Russia. Writers have, thus, classified the Russian Federation as, inter alia, a ‘hybrid’ or ‘managed’ democracy, or even as being characterized by ‘competitive authoritarianism’.1

Upon assuming the presidency in 2000, Putin launched a far‐reaching process of reform in federal relations. The priority that the president attached to the issue of altering the centre–regional relationship suggests that these reforms should be viewed as a main pillar of Putin's broader agenda of change for the Russian Federation. A close analysis of the nature and direction of federal reform in Russia therefore offers an opportunity to examine an issue at the heart of Putin's effort to shape Russia's future, and thereby to gain an insight into the processes of political change under way in the country. Analysis of the evolving relationship between the centre and the regions under Putin is also important because the transformation of the monolithic Soviet‐era territorial system into a federal style arrangement, with regions gaining significant autonomy from Moscow, was seen by many as one of the central elements of the process of political change that (p.204) emerged in the Russian Federation following independence. The institutionalization of bargaining between the federal centre and the regions on a host of issues, based upon a recognition—at least implicitly—by both sides of competing interests and differing conceptions of the good, suggested a fundamental change in the nature of decision‐making in Russia. Further, devolution of authorities to the regions, it was argued, provided a check on the ability of the centre to exercise power as it had during the Soviet era. Taken together, these two developments suggested that the ‘federalization’ of Russia constituted a vital element of the broader process of democratization.

At the same time, many viewed the transfer of authorities to the regions with some concern. The particular focus for attention was how to ensure national‐territorial integrity in the context of a devolving post‐Soviet system. A number of observers viewed with alarm the claims for autonomy made by regions, and especially by republics; they feared these developments might lead to secession and even to the disintegration of Russia.2 At the heart of such concern lies the political significance of ethnicity in the Russian Federation. The relationship of the so‐called ethnic republics with the rest of the country has been a particularly difficult one. Chechnya has proved critical in this respect.

Establishing an acceptable mechanism for redistributing wealth between rich and poor regions, and determining Moscow's role in this process, has also been a divisive issue. Such economic questions acquired extra significance in the context of the privatization policies of the 1990s. These provided new opportunities for individual and collective enrichment at the regional level, using local resources and property.3

The challenge that faced the post‐Yeltsin leadership was, thus, to prevent territorial disintegration, promote national cohesion, and encourage economic development without sacrificing democratization. Putin's answer to this challenge was to launch, early in his presidency, a reform in federal relations designed to promote a recentralization of authority. The reform faced little effective opposition and Putin was able to claim the restructuring of federal relations as one of the principal achievements of his first term.4

While Putin was keen to trumpet the success of his federal reform programme, the changes in centre–regional relations raise important questions about the nature of Russia's political system and the future direction of the country. Despite (p.205) the president's public justification for the federal reforms in terms of strengthening the rule of law and promoting political accountability, the main outcome of the changes introduced by Putin has been to enhance central control and to establish greater hierarchy within the federal system. In this way, reform has struck directly at key elements viewed as fundamental to the promotion of democratization in the country.

Putin's measures to alter federal relations have sought to challenge the asymmetry at the heart of Russia's federative system, and to rein in the regional elites from the ethnic republics. Not only have Putin's reforms undercut the autonomy of the regions while claiming to champion ‘harmonization’ and ‘equalization’, but the president has also sought to weaken the link between territory, ethnicity, and political power in Russia. This has shifted concern about the sovereignty and autonomy of federal units to one focusing on the problem of state capacity.5

The origins of this wide‐ranging reform of federal relations can be traced to the late Soviet era. While Putin has spearheaded federal reform, the political momentum driving that process reflects a broad‐based and deep‐seated reaction to the rise of regional power and of minority ethno‐nationalism in the late 1980s and 1990s. The re‐election of President Putin by an overwhelming majority increases the likelihood of further initiatives being taken to consolidate the centralized and hierarchical system. Putin's announcement in September 2004 of a set of fundamental political reforms, notably the initiative to eliminate the direct election of regional leaders, casts considerable doubt on the prospects for federal democracy in Russia. Steps to downgrade further the political power of ethnic minorities, with the possibility of more radical measures to undercut the institutionalized position of ‘leading’ minorities, would probably meet greater resistance than that encountered by earlier reforms. Extending and consolidating centralized control, without provoking a re‐emergence of ethno‐political tensions in the country or undermining economic modernization, is likely to be one of the main challenges for Putin during his second term.

Federation, Reform, and Democracy

Some observers have suggested that the federal reforms introduced under Putin have served—intentionally or unintentionally—to roll back both democracy and (p.206) federalism and produced an ‘accelerated counter‐revolution’.6 The reforms have recast centre–regional relations in a negative way—indeed, they have ‘torn apart’ the federal system. From this perspective, Putin's vision of future federal relations—with its stress on ‘vertically integrated executive power’ and the ‘dictatorship of law’—coupled with structural and fiscal reforms of centre–regional relations, and a growing arbitrary interference in regional affairs, appear to support the view of federal reform as a core component of a wider push to establish a guided democracy.7 The construction of a monocentric model of power in a territorial sense is seen as a part of the broader vision of a strong state where the influence of social actors other than the authorities—particularly, the influence of the economic and regional elites—is virtually eliminated.

The relationship between democratization and the reform of centre–regional relations is complicated by the mixed record of the Russian regions in the promotion of democratization.8 Indeed, before the Putin reforms it was possible to argue that the federal centre was in many respects more democratic and pluralistic than most of the eighty‐nine federal subjects.9 Moves to strengthen the central state need not, therefore, necessarily represent a backward step in terms of democratization.10

Indeed, some authors have suggested that the federal reforms introduced by Putin have been beneficial to democratization and stability at the regional level. In this view, reform of federal–regional relations lies at the heart of an effort to strengthen the rule of law and to establish a functioning federal system. To achieve this, it is necessary to restrain regional arbitrary rule. The measures taken by Putin, notably legal harmonization, have forced regions, and particularly the republics, to become more democratic by weakening their executive power.11

(p.207) Centre–Regional Relations in Russia

Under Soviet rule, Russia's regions had almost no autonomy.12 During the Gorbachev era, the breakdown of traditional political and economic arrangements created new possibilities for the regions. Encouraged to seek more autonomy by Boris Yeltsin, and propelled by the rise of nationalist sentiment—notably in the ethnic republics of Tatarstan, Chechnya‐Ingushetia, and Bashkortostan—regions began to play a more assertive role in the political life of the country.13

As a result, at independence the Russian Federation inherited the Soviet‐era territorial structure but a very different situation in terms of relations between the centre and regions.14 Although, to a considerable extent, the rise of regionalism originated in the late Soviet period, the debilitating character it assumed in the 1990s was greatly enhanced by the Yeltsin era's bargaining style approach to regional issues. Under Yeltsin, there was a further increase in regionalism, leading in some cases to the emergence of what one author termed ‘regional warlordism’.15

The treaty‐based principle for specifying authority relations between the central government and the regions, adopted by Yeltsin to counter centrifugal forces, was based initially on a universal approach to the regions. Comprehensive agreements regulated the relations between the centre and all regions. This approach was enshrined in the Treaty of the Federation, signed on 31 March 1992, and the 1993 constitution. The year 1994 saw the emergence of a new approach based on a series of bilateral treaties negotiated between the federal centre and individual subjects of the Federation. The system of bilateral treaties gave the president the opportunity to deepen his personalistic ties and, thereby, to consolidate his position in a time of weakly institutionalized politics. It has also been suggested that the treaties provided a pragmatic means to manage potential secession movements in Russia—notably in the ethnic republics—by allowing Moscow to negotiate accords based on the particular interests of each republic or region.16 Eventually, nearly fifty agreements were signed, the most (p.208) comprehensive being those for Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. Some observers have suggested that these agreements were less about minority rights and ethnic sovereignty than about the distribution of resources.17

While the bilateral treaties have been seen as an attempt to mitigate conflict, this set of agreements created an institutional and legal ambiguity at the heart of federal relations.18 As a result of the treaty‐based approach, federal relations were founded on a contractual rather than a constitutional basis. This approach also contributed to a steady fading of the centre's ability to shape events at the regional level and, in the late 1990s, facilitated the emergence of regional leaders as powerful national actors.

The federal centre was weakened by the economic crisis of 1998, and the regional authorities filled the vacuum according to their own priorities. Regional leaders developed a set of initiatives to counter the financial crisis. At the heart of these responses was a move to strengthen horizontal political ties amongst regions to confront a weakened centre. These initiatives also served to strengthen the sense amongst sections of the regional elite that by uniting they could play a key role in shaping the post‐Yeltsin transition of power.19 The growing self‐confidence of the regional leaders in the late 1990s prompted the creation of the Fatherland–All Russia Party (Otechestvo–Vsya Rossiya)—which united Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov's Fatherland Party and the All Russia Movement of regional leaders, headed by President Mintimer Shaimiev of Tatarstan—to contest the 1999 State Duma elections. The party quickly became known as ‘the governors' party’ and in the summer of 1999 public opinion polls suggested that it would achieve an overwhelming victory in the elections. Fatherland–All Russia's candidate for president, Yevgeny Primakov, was widely seen as Yeltsin's most likely successor. The growing role of the regional elite led some to fear for the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.

Putin's Rise and the First Wave of Federal Reform

The victory of Putin in the presidential elections of March 2000 represented a significant turning point in relations between the federal centre and Russia's regions. The emergence of Putin marked a defeat for the ambitions of leading regional leaders to propel Primakov to the presidency. Further, the new president was able, on the strength of his first round electoral victory, to reach a political deal (p.209) with the Communists in the Duma and on the back of the second Chechen war (launched by Putin when he was prime minister), to move on to the offensive.

Under the slogan ‘dictatorship of law’, Putin launched a series of initiatives designed to fashion a rigid ‘hierarchy of power’ between the different levels of government.20 To achieve this aim, the president introduced a reform programme initially composed of six principal elements: reform of the system of presidential plenipotentiaries; the establishment of seven federal districts; reform of the Federation Council; strengthening the mechanism of federal intervention; legal harmonization; and changes in fiscal federalism.21

One of the main challenges faced by Moscow in asserting control over the regions was to find a mechanism to ensure regional compliance with the centre's instructions. As early as August 1991, Yeltsin recognized this problem when he established the post of presidential representative in each of the subjects of the Federation. But the presidential representatives proved to be ineffective. Most regional leaders were able to dominate the political and economic life of their region, and the presidential representatives were forced to depend on the goodwill of the regional executives. In 1997, realizing the difficulties that faced the presidential representatives, Yeltsin sought to strengthen their role by giving them increased responsibility for federal agencies at the regional level. This initiative proved ineffective and regional leaders continued to view Moscow as weak, and the presidential representatives as largely irrelevant.

President Putin sought to change this situation by a radical reform consisting of two interlocking elements. Unable to engage easily in a territorial reorganization of the Federation because of the legal and political difficulties involved in amending the constitution, in May 2000 the new president decided to reduce the number of presidential plenipotentiaries to seven and to place each of them in charge of one of the newly established federal districts (okruga). The seven new federal districts were based on existing military administrative districts and so simply overlay groups of federal subjects. The envoys were granted considerable, though ill‐defined, responsibilities to oversee the federal agencies in the regions under their control and also to monitor the implementation of federal laws. At the same time, the Ministry of Nationalities and Regional Affairs—which had played an important role in federal relations—was emasculated. Following the creation of the federal regions, the branches of key federal agencies (notably the Prosecutors Office, the Federal Security Service, the Ministry of Interior, and the Tax Inspectorate) were themselves reorganized around these federal districts in order to minimize their dependence on the regional elite.

To complement and strengthen the structural reforms noted earlier, Putin introduced two measures designed to enhance the ability of the federal centre to (p.210) shape developments at the regional level. The first was legislation to allow the centre to take action against regional executives and legislatures judged to be in violation of the federal constitution. The Federation Council initially vetoed the bill, but the Duma overrode the veto on 19 July 2000. Putin's second measure was a drive to ensure consistency or ‘harmonization’ between federal and regional legislation. This move reflected the view that greater legal uniformity was fundamental to any attempt to remove the unequal distribution of privileges enjoyed by regions.

Potentially, the most important element of the initial set of Putin's reforms lay in the area of fiscal federalism. During the 1990s, the wealthier regions had succeeded in retaining a significant percentage of their income. This reduced Moscow's role as the final decision‐maker in terms of wealth distribution and investment across the country and led to imbalances between the so‐called ‘donor’ and ‘recipient’ regions. In the first years of the Putin presidency, local offices of the federal tax collection service were finally opened in all regions and republics. At the same time, a reform of the tax code ensured that governors could retain only 30 per cent of the consolidated regional budget, whereas they had previously retained 60–70 per cent. Through this measure, Moscow gained control of most of the wealth of the few donor regions. Additionally, regions were prohibited from securing international loans without federal approval. Tighter fiscal monitoring by the federal audit chamber and measures to prevent regions servicing their budgets through commercial banks further curtailed the financial autonomy of the provinces.22

The first group of reforms introduced by Putin was critical in altering the nature of centre–regional relations. When Putin took office, the alliance of powerful regional leaders that had coalesced behind the Fatherland–All Russia party appeared set to challenge the position of the federal centre and to act as the kingmaker in the Russian presidential campaign. Once elected president, Putin's priority was to break the power of the regional elite at the national level.

The creation of the Federation Council by Yeltsin underscored the importance that he attributed to Russia's regional leaders, and the reliance he placed upon them. Putin introduced a new law that brought to an end the practice of ex officio membership for regional executive and legislative heads in the Federation Council. Instead, the two branches of regional government were each permitted to send a representative to the new Federation Council.23 The removal of the governors (p.211) and presidents from the Council and their replacement with regionally appointed senators was designed to deprive regional leaders of a channel through which to exercise influence in Moscow and also to remove the immunity that they had previously enjoyed as deputies. While the bill initially faced some opposition in the Federation Council, objections were overridden by the Duma with little difficulty. The new membership of the Council was complete by January 2002.

Structural reforms to remove the regional elite from the federal level were combined with measures to reassert the federal government's capacity to control patronage and legal administration at the regional level. The grouping of the eighty‐nine federal subjects into seven federal districts, each led by a plenipotentiary directly responsible to the president, allowed the centre to bear down on the regions in three ways: to bring regional legislation into line with federal laws; to re‐establish central control over federal institutions at the regional level; and to impose tighter control over regional budgets. Despite the success of Putin's reforms in curbing the regional elite and aspirations to sovereignty in some of the republics, it quickly became apparent that these initiatives would not achieve all of the president's goals. As a result, Putin launched a second wave of reforms.

The Second Wave of Federal Reform

In his State of the Nation speech on 18 April 2002, half-way through his first term in office and two years after the initial regional reforms, President Putin assessed the restructuring of regional power and outlined the way forward. Satisfied that ‘the organizational work’ for establishing the seven federal districts had been accomplished, Putin urged the decentralization of further federal functions to the district level. He indicated that activities such as financial monitoring and personnel matters needed to be moved ‘closer to the regions’.

During his speech, Putin also clearly signalled the end of the era of the bilateral treaties between Moscow and the regions that had been at the heart of Yeltsin's regional policies. Putin indicated that while the existence of such agreements was constitutional, they had led to ‘an inequality between subjects of the Federation’ and, therefore, an inequality between citizens. At the same time, he emphasized the need to delineate more clearly the distribution of power between federal, regional, and local level in order to ‘raise the effectiveness of state policy and stabilize inter‐budgetary relations’. Putin's proposal to strengthen local government was presented as an opportunity both to increase the public's control over local political activities and to improve the crucial connection between electors and the federal authorities.24

(p.212) Putin's speech outlined, in preliminary form, the two principal conclusions of a report that was being prepared by Dmitry Kozak, deputy chief of the presidential staff, on further reform in federal relations.25 Kozak delivered his report on 1 June 2002. Following the Kozak Report, Putin submitted two pieces of draft legislation for the Duma's consideration in January 2003.26 The initial piece of legislation was designed to restrict the conclusion of contracts—bilateral treaties—between centre and regions to exceptional circumstances. In this way, the Kremlin was able to justify as a priority for the new government in Grozny the drafting of a power‐sharing treaty following the March 2003 referendum in Chechnya, while at the same time seeking to terminate all other bilateral treaties.27 The second measure concerned local government reform. The main thrust of the legislation was to create municipal districts headed by appointees of the regional leaders. Local government would have a more stable and predictable financial base and large municipalities would be much more dependent on the regions where they were located.

The final major regional reform initiative to emerge during Putin's first term was the initiation of a process of regional mergers. The creation of the seven federal districts in the first round of regional reform had circumvented the constitutional and political difficulties of instituting a fundamental process of territorial reorganization. But the large number of regions in Russia and the wide divergence in their population and resources was still seen as a problem by the Kremlin. In response to this, Moscow developed an approach based on a gradual and apparently ad hoc process of voluntary mergers between adjacent regions—permitted under the constitution—beginning with the autonomous districts.28

In a pilot for the merger process on 7 December 2003, voters in Komi‐Permyak Autonomous Okrug and Perm Oblast went to the polls in referendums on the unification of their two regions. The mergers received overwhelming approval. Following high‐speed passage of legislation through parliament, the president signed a law establishing Perm Kray on 26 March 2004. With ‘local’ initiatives to merge receiving strong backing from Putin, there was considerable speculation that other regions would soon follow this path.29

(p.213) At the beginning of 2004, Deputy Prime Minister Yakovlev indicated that the federal government planned to take its programme of regional consolidation further and switch to centralized planning for regional development—notably in the area of transport issues—on the basis of a ‘Spatial Development Concept’. He suggested that this change would mark a move away from the ‘patchwork quilt’ approach of economic planning and end the previous free‐for‐all in regional development.30 Speculation about Putin's plans was further heightened with the publication in June 2004, by the Council of Production Resources of the Russian Academy of Sciences, of a programme of regional amalgamations, according to which Russia would be divided into twenty‐eight administrative units, effectively eliminating the ethnic republics and territories.31

The second wave of federal reforms was designed to build on the initial steps taken by Putin. But this second wave marked a new phase of centre–regional relations, which sought to break with the Yeltsin‐era conception of federalism. Instead, a formal, legalistic interpretation of centre–regional relations was developed which minimized the role of inter‐ and intra‐governmental mediation and negotiation, and made federal relations a matter of ‘jurisdiction instead of recognition’.32

Ethnicity and Territory

Alongside these bold measures to restructure federal relations came more cautious moves to reshape the relationship between ethnicity, territory, and political power in the Russian Federation. In order to help counter the problems created by the asymmetry among federal subjects, notably the disproportional political power of the ethnic republics, the Russian authorities engaged in an incremental refashioning of nationalities policies. The most controversial and dramatic measure was Moscow's policy towards Chechnya, namely the launching of the second war there. The need to combat secession and to reassert the supremacy of federal law was among the leading public justifications for the war, and remains the main reason given for the moves to reintegrate the republic into the Russian Federation.33

(p.214) Putin has generally sought to downgrade ethnicity as a distinctive political factor in Moscow's policies across the Federation.34 Behind this change lies an effort to decouple territorial and ethnic identities and to move the basis of ethnic claims, at least partially, into the realm of minority rights.35 While the origins of this approach lay in the Yeltsin era, Putin sought to give initiatives in this direction renewed momentum.36 The Law on National Cultural Autonomy of 17 June 1996 took a decidedly ‘individualistic and associationist’ approach to ethnicity.37 In 2003 it was modified to fit in with Putin's vertikalizatsiya approach to federal issues, through amendments that produced a de facto nationalization of the national cultural centres—which ethnic communities had been permitted to establish as a result of the 1996 Law on Nation‐Cultural Autonomy—and a limitation on their self‐regulation.38 The Law on National Cultural centres has been accompanied by careful steps to embrace the rights of persons belonging to national minorities.39

At the same time, the Putin presidency has seen a growing stress on the ethnic Russian character of the Russian Federation.40 Reflecting these sentiments, chairman of the Duma Nationalities committee,Yevgeny Trofimov, spoke on 10 (p.215) February 2004 about his committee's work on a draft law ‘On the Russian people’. He noted that Russia's official National Policy Concept declares that inter‐ethnic relations would be largely defined by the Russian people, who are the foundation of Russian statehood.41 The ‘state forming’ role of the Russian population has been complemented by an increased emphasis on the relationship of Russian Orthodoxy to the state, including moves by the Ministry of Education to promote the idea of Orthodoxy as a part of schooling. Steps have also been taken under Putin to strengthen the position of the Russian language.42

The Impact of Putin's Federal Reforms

An extensive reform of centre–regional relations was clearly a priority for Putin during his first term as president. It is difficult to assess the effectiveness of reforms in centre–regional relations because what precisely Putin hoped to achieve remains unclear. Although a variety of motives for the reform have been advanced in public statements, the principal aim of the changes appears to have been twofold. The initial goal for reform was to weaken the power of the regional elite.43 The changes were also designed to establish direct presidential control over all the security structures and law enforcement agencies in the country and, thereby, create a system to bypass the presidential administration, headed for much of Putin's first term by Yeltsin‐era hold-over Alexander Voloshin. In this sense, developments in centre–regional relations mirrored the general shift under Putin towards a militarization and politicization of the state through personnel policy.44

The overriding motive for federal reform appears to have been a sense that the federal centre, or more particularly the president, needed to increase control in the face of political opposition, including the growing assertiveness of the regional elite. In this area Putin achieved considerable success. His strategy was twofold: to push for legislation to prevent regions acting unilaterally while simultaneously exerting indirect pressure on regional elections to ensure favourable outcomes for the Kremlin. As a result, in the course of the two years following Putin's election, the regional elite were swiftly removed from the Federation Council and, (p.216) subsequently, rarely acted as a cohesive political force. By the beginning of 2003, the ‘new’ Federation Council had become largely compliant with president's legislative agenda.45 At the end of Putin's first term, the influence and profile of the regional leaders had declined considerably from that of the late 1990s. Critically, by 2004, the regional elite were no longer in a position to play the role of kingmaker in the forthcoming presidential elections, as they had threatened to do in 2000. This marked a significant change from the Yeltsin era.

Along with constraining the regional elite at the federal level, Putin was able to re‐establish a significant degree of central political control across all the territories of the Russian Federation. The seven new federal districts provided the foundation for a reorganization of key law enforcement bodies, including the Ministry of the Interior, the procuracy, and the tax police. Through such measures, the Kremlin was able to wrench the appointment of regional police chiefs, and other federal positions, from the grasp of regional leaders. As a result, the system of rotating public civil servants, that had been standard Soviet practice, was largely restored. This posed a real challenge to the web of close ties between the regional administrations and the security forces, the courts, and business that had emerged in the 1990s.

The creation of the seven federal districts in May 2000 also laid the basis for a strengthening of the position of those in the security forces (siloviki) in the structures of federal management. Five of the first seven presidential representatives were former higher officials in the police or were military generals. There is also evidence that a considerable number of those employed by the presidential representatives came from the security and law and order branches of government.46 Putin's reforms seem to have succeeded in asserting increased control over the regional elite and in enhancing the position of the security services in the management of the Russian state. But it is far from clear that they were effective in terms of the official justifications for the reforms: to address discrepancies between federal and regional laws; to promote economic development in the federal districts; to improve coordination of the work of the federal agencies in each region; and to ensure a clear delineation of authorities between the different levels. Doubts remain, in particular, about the effectiveness in this respect of the federal districts and presidential envoys.47

(p.217) Analyses suggest that the envoys' initiatives met with varying degrees of success in each of the federal districts and in different spheres of policy within each district. Indeed, the achievements of each envoy depended to a large extent on the personality and skills of the individuals involved.48 The envoys developed a variety of ad hoc approaches to pursue the overarching goal of strengthening the vertical structure of authority. Despite such creativity, the key problems of implementing change in the federal districts and imposing Putin's ‘legal vertical’ continued to pose a real challenge.49

Considerable questions surrounded the success of legal harmonization. While the presidential plenipotentiaries reported a steady rise in the percentages of regional laws brought into line with federal ones, many of the laws abolished were anyhow redundant. While overt opposition to the legal harmonization drive was rare, especially in oblasts and krays, the regions proved far from passive.50 The republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, in the vanguard of regionalization from the late 1990s, put up the greatest initial resistance.51 By December 2003 Putin felt able to announce: ‘a permanently‐operating mechanism for bringing the regional laws into line with the federal laws has now been worked out in Russia’.52 Significantly, on 31 March 2004, the Tatarstan Supreme Court finally ruled as unconstitutional both the republic constitution's provisions establishing Tatarstan's sovereignty and the requirement for presidential candidates to speak both of the republic's state languages, Tatar and Russian. In early 2004, Sergey Kirienko, presidential representative for the Volga District, reported that the process of bringing regional laws in the district into line with federal legislation was virtually complete (though he did note that there were still around 3,000 ‘discrepancies’ in regional laws and 43,000 in municipal laws).53

Despite such changes in the environment of centre–regional relations, issues with the potential to inflame nationalistic feelings continued to haunt Moscow's relations with the republics—notably in the North Caucasus and the Urals.54 In (p.218) 2003, the federal centre's efforts to override Tatarstan's ambitions to introduce a Latin‐based alphabet led to tensions between Moscow and Kazan. Following the adoption of amendments to Russia's Law on Language, which struck directly as Tatarstan's legislation to introduce a Latin script for the republic, Putin was forced to announce the creation of a special commission to look into the matter as a means to calm rising passions. Despite the creation of the commission, the dispute continued to cloud Moscow's relationship with Tatarstan.55

In the summer of 2003, the Kremlin appeared to suffer a setback when the Russian Constitutional Court, following an application by Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, ruled that procurators did not have the right to file cases with courts of general jurisdiction questioning the constitutionality of regional constitutions and that judges in these cases did not have the right to rule on such matters.56 Following Putin's legal harmonization campaign, the general courts were used to overturn hundreds of provisions in regional constitutions and charters that did not conform to federal legislation. According to the new ruling only the Russian Constitutional Court could make such decisions, a factor likely to slow down the whole process of harmonization.57

Questions have also been raised about the ability of the centre, through the system of presidential representatives, to coordinate the activities of and appointment of personnel to the territorial organs of federal power. In early 2004 there were as many as 450,000 federal employees outside Moscow, usually working within regional branches of federal ministries. The envoys' efforts to monitor the territorial directorates created tension with high‐level federal executives in the Moscow ministries, which bore primary responsibility for the federal staff, but which were not directly accountable to the president as were the presidential representatives.58

An important rationale for the regional reforms was that the new arrangements would help to promote economic development. The creation of the new federal districts certainly provided a structural basis for initiatives in the economic area that exceeded the reach of individual regional leaders. The envoys were in a position to organize economic initiatives at both transregional and international level. At the same time, the Putin reforms weakened the economic institutions that regional leaders had established, notably the regional associations. The (p.219) federal districts were clearly designed to undercut the power of regional leaders, not to enhance it. Rather than building on existing economic linkages, Putin established seven districts that deliberately cut across regional associations among different districts.

A main element of Putin's regional reform drive was to delimit clearly the powers of federal and local authorities. Putin embraced local government reform at the beginning of his presidency. The final version of the reform, however, moved away from the initial promise of strengthening local democracy and extending the authorities of the local level politicians.59 As with so much of the Putin agenda for regional reform, the principal aim of the new measures appears to have been to enhance control rather than to establish a more effective or more democratic system. Overall, the legislation in this area has reflected a legal and technocratic vision of the role of local government coupled to a centralization of fiscal and institutional prerogatives. The federal government has gained additional authority vis‐à‐vis both the regional and the local levels through the reformed system of fiscal federalism and its enhanced institutional and legal control over the localities.

In the 1990s, the municipal level often posed the major challenge to regional leaders within their own regions. It was, therefore, striking that regional governors, alongside representatives from the presidential apparatus and the federal ministries, played a leading role in the elaboration of local government reform. While the main thrust of this reform was to curb regional powers, key provisions strengthened the regional leaders' ability to select and remove mayors and control municipal spending. In this way, the legislation made local executives more dependent on the regional government. The enhanced role of the regional elite vis‐à‐vis local government has been viewed as part of a trade‐off with the centre. The regional leaders accepted curtailment of their position at the federal level in return for a stronger role at regional level, thereby helping to enforce Putin's conception of the power vertical.60

The division of authorities between the centre and regions was not, however, settled by the new law on local government and the abolition of the bilateral treaties. On 1 June 2004, the State Council returned (for the third time) to the issue of the division of powers between centre and the regions—notably authorities of ‘joint jurisdiction’ outlined in the constitution—and put forward proposals for the transfer of five authorities to the regions. While Putin supported this initiative, he was careful to highlight that Moscow retained the right to ‘temporarily’ take back control if a region faltered in its responsibilities. In a move unwanted by the regions, Putin also sought to pass responsibility to the regions (p.220) for funding and implementing part of his unpopular initiative to replace social welfare benefits for pensioners and veterans with cash payments.61

Intervention and Elections

Federal intervention in elections formed an intrinsic part of Putin's efforts to alter centre–regional relations. At issue was Moscow's ability to determine who would lead the regions. Following his election, Putin was quick to introduce legislation that allowed for the dismissal of regional leaders but proved reluctant to use it to remove popularly elected local leaders.62 Even when the Kremlin was desperate to replace the widely discredited governor of Maritime Province, Evgeny Nazdratenko, Moscow opted to promote him upwards to a federal post rather than risk direct confrontation with an entrenched regional figure.63 Efforts by the Kremlin to engage more actively in shaping regional politics were also dealt a blow when in July 2002 it proved impossible— following a Russian Constitutional Court decision—to prevent the president of Tatarstan running for and winning a third term. Indeed, following the Court decision, Moscow was required to alter federal law to indicate that all terms served by the regional governors prior to the passage of the October 1999 federal law on the organization of regional government did not count towards the two‐term limit specified in the law. This allowed a group of powerful regional leaders to seek a third or even fourth term. Despite this setback, the Kremlin took a more active part in regional elections throughout Putin's first term.

During the first round of gubernatorial elections, in the winter of 2000, Moscow was unable to exert much influence on outcomes. Most analysts agreed that Kremlin candidates were successful in only four of the thirty‐two elections. Nevertheless, it was during this cycle of elections that the Kremlin showed a new assertiveness by intervening to prevent the incumbent governor of Kursk region, Alexander Rutskoy, from standing for re‐election.

Despite increased efforts by the presidential administration to shape regional elections between October 2000 and January 2002, the incumbency rate for regional governors and republican presidents remained high at 65.4 per cent.64 (p.221) By 2002, however, there were clear signs of the growing effectiveness of central interventions. The Kremlin succeeded in getting its gubernatorial candidates elected in eleven of the fifteen regional races, intervening particularly controversially to ensure the election of pro‐Kremlin figures in Ingushetia and Krasnoyarsk.65 During this period, there appears to have been a shift in the relative balance of power, with regional elections decided increasingly frequently by Kremlin influence in courtrooms and election commission headquarters. There was also a growth in the number of military and security figures taking charge of regions—with former generals taking office in Kaliningrad, Ulyanovsk, Voronezh, Smolensk, and Ingushetia.66

The fact that the Kremlin was able to displace regional executives in some republics—notably Komi, Sakha, and Ingushetia—suggested that the republics were losing their position as centres of regional resistance to Moscow. The republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan were seen as the last bastions of resistance to Putin's drive to impose control over the regions. There was a bruising struggle in the Bashkortostan presidential election of December 2003— including allegations of widespread fraud by the supporters of the incumbent—between the Kremlin backed challenger and Murtaza Rakhimov, the incumbent president. Eventually, the Kremlin agreed to drop its opposition to Rakhimov's re‐election after having inflicted on him the humiliation of a second round of voting, and following suggestions that Bashkortostan had, on the Kremlin's instructions, surrendered control over regional gas enterprises to Gazprom.

Towards the end of Putin's first term, the Kremlin seemed increasingly able to shape regional executive elections to suit its purposes. If, during the 1990s, incumbency was the most significant factor in electoral outcomes, by the end of Putin's first term support from the president had become the key factor for election. While some incumbents continued to be elected—notably a group of regional leaders entitled to run for a third term—their victories were made possible by the agreement of the Kremlin.67 These trends were confirmed in the contests held in March 2004 which saw incumbents generally succeed (Chita, Kaluga, and Voronezh) except where they were not supported by the Kremlin party, United Russia (Ryazan). At the same time, candidates supported by the Kremlin were not guaranteed success (Arkhangelsk, Ryazan), particularly if powerful national economic interests supported a challenger (Altay Kray).

(p.222) Concern about the limited ability of the presidential representatives to determine electoral contests at the regional level, particularly prompted by the failure of Moscow's candidate in the election in Altay Kray, led to a drive to further concentrate regional policy in the Kremlin—in the newly created regional development directorate—early in Putin's second term.68 Improvement in this area was considered especially important ahead of the planned elections in almost a third of Russia's regions in the autumn and winter of 2004–5.

Power and Democratization in Russia's Territorial Politics

The territorial politics of the Russian Federation are most often presented in zero‐sum terms, as a battle for power in which there are distinct winners and losers. In this view, Putin's reforms have clearly been designed to effect a transfer or reconcentration of power within the federal centre. There can be little doubt that in this sense Putin achieved a triumph during his first term. By the end of his initial four years in office, Putin's policies had largely ended the talk about the disintegration of the Federation. The political role of the regional elite at the national level had been curtailed and there was a move away from the personalistic, ad hoc, and imbalanced system of federal relations of the Yeltsin era. The federal centre was in a stronger position to influence developments in the regions, notably through the re‐establishment of central management over federal personnel at the regional level, and a reorganization of fiscal relations. The president could justifiably claim victory in the ‘war on governors’.

Despite concern about the aggressive reform agenda of the Kremlin and the growing role of military and security personnel in managing federal relations, there was little overt political conflict over the changes. Negotiation, coalition‐building, and consensus, rather than confrontation, characterized the reform process. Putin made concessions and worked to build partnerships; and he focused on key battles. Further, the whole process of federal reform was conducted within existing constitutional arrangements. Indeed, on many issues there seems to have been a willingness within some groups of the regional elite to go along with the reform process. The reforms therefore had bottom-up as well as top-down elements.

While some worried that Moscow was regaining power through the federal reforms, there was also a sense that these changes were promoting change at the regional level, particularly in the ethnic republics.69 Putin's reforms, especially (p.223) the legal harmonization campaign, were seen to have improved constitutional democracy in most regions across a range of issues, including the separation of executive, legislative, and judicial powers as well as election laws, minority rights, and the demand for constitutional law. Together, these changes were viewed as contributing to a ‘sunset of authoritarianism’ at the regional level.70

When one looks beyond the narrow concern of rebalancing elite relations across the Russian Federation, the nature of Putin's impact on centre–regional relations becomes more complex. There is even some doubt that Putin was able in his first term to disturb the network of collusive political and economic ties between regional leaders and local business that provided the foundation for much of the struggle between central and regional elites in the 1990s.71 Indeed, Putin may have offered the ‘wrong solution’ to the problem of regional resistance to his project of rebuilding the central authority of the Russian state.72 While the president sought to extend control over the regions, his method was to add an additional layer to an already bloated Russian bureaucracy. Further, reliance on the siloviki to manage territorial politics was an approach fraught with risk. Military and security personnel generally make poor politicians and are unlikely to produce effective government and dynamic economies.73

While Moscow sought to restrict the resources available to the regional elite through fiscal policies, such measures risked killing off innovation and dynamism at the regional level—apparent in some regions, such as Novgorod in the 1990s—for the sake of control.74 Towards the end of Putin's first term, Moscow seemed to be moving gradually against the business–politics nexus at the local level—notably in terms of the actions against Bashkortostan—but progress remained slow. What progress was achieved took place in a favourable economic environment; Russia was not challenged by the type of economic problems that promoted regionalism during the Yeltsin years. Faced with similar difficulties in the late 1990s, it is far (p.224) from certain that Putin's federal reforms would have been effective in restraining a revival of regional activism.

Despite his success in changing the balance of power between central and regional elites and his clear dominance of Russian politics as he faced re‐election in 2004, Putin remained, in important respects, reliant on the regional elite. The multi-dimensional aspect of power relations between centre and regions was most apparent in electoral politics. Although by 2004 the regional elite's direct influence on federal politics had declined, they were still looked upon as crucial players in the federal electoral process. The president continued to rely upon the regional elite to secure the votes necessary to elect the pro‐Kremlin party, United Russia, to the State Duma in December 2003.75 Regional leaders also proved vital for Putin in ensuring an overwhelming victory in the presidential elections of March 2004.76

Despite Putin's general success in reshaping centre–regional relations during his first term in office, some important constraints remained. The president was unable to push ahead with a full‐scale reconcentration of political power in Moscow. Instead, he had to pursue policies designed to bring about a gradual shift in relations between central and regional elites and to effect a long‐term restructuring of the Federation. Putin was unable to institute a radical overhaul of the regional leadership, and had instead to use incentives and leverage to remove unwanted regional leaders and to rein in those who caused irritation. As a result, regional elections became the principal battleground between the centre and the regional elite. In this way, powerful regional leaders such as President Shaimiev of Tatarstan, Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, President Rakhimov of Bashkortostan, as well as a significant group of long‐serving regional leaders such as the governors of Omsk, Khabarovsk, and Sverdlovsk regions and the president of Kalmykia, remained in place. And despite the federal district system, they insisted on a direct relationship to Moscow unmediated by the president's envoys.77 Nor were regions entirely passive in respect to the central agenda for reform. While they did not mount a direct resistance, guerilla‐type opposition was notable in many regions, notably in key republics. The harmonization of Russia's laws was always just over the horizon but never seemed to arrive. Regions also adapted to the new environment and changed tactics in dealing with Moscow.78

(p.225) Putin and the Future of the Federation

The picture that emerges of regional reform is therefore a complex one. Following the Yeltsin years, there was clearly a need to introduce measures to establish a single centre of clear authority in order to take responsibility for ensuring effective state administration, establishing the rule of law, and determining the distribution of functions among the various levels of government. By the end of Putin's first term, regional leaders, at least at the federal level, were weaker than they had been under Yeltsin. But the power relationships underpinning the territorial politics of Russia proved to be multifaceted, extending beyond simple elite relations. The success of Putin's attack on the regional elite should not be confused with a destruction of Russia's federal politics.79

As with many other elements of Putin's Russia, an assessment of the federal reforms suggests paradoxical findings; the reforms can be read as both promoting and restricting democracy.80 While moves to challenge the ‘guided democracy’ of many of Russia's regions have been viewed as a positive step, considerable doubts remain about whether the reforms involved gains in terms of democracy and effectiveness.81 Beyond increased stability, there is little evidence that the regional reforms fundamentally altered the networks of political and economic relationships that underpinned the regional activism and the non‐democratic regimes of so many regions in the 1990s.

Putin's reform agenda seems to have been primarily an ad hoc reaction to the political threat of the regional elite and a response to the opacity of federal relations under Yeltsin, rather than an effort to forge an effective, stable, and integrated federal system. The enormous cost in human suffering and economic damage of Moscow's policies towards Chechnya present a particularly chilling aspect of Putin's efforts to tame regional opposition. The contradiction between the ‘political regularization’ policy in Chechnya, based on a power‐sharing treaty, and Putin's policies for the reintegration of the rest of Russia within the ‘power vertical’ was not lost in the other republics.82 The ultimate failure to pacify Chechnya, even through military means, also cast a long shadow over Moscow's relations with rest of the country.

The gradualist approach that Putin adopted to reform of the federal system meant that the impact of his reforms was cumulative. A number of the reform (p.226) initiatives will not be fully implemented until well into Putin's second term. As a result, considerable questions remain about the ultimate end point of federal reforms.

Despite the considerable success that Putin achieved in restraining the regional elite, the fact that the president was forced to rely upon them for electoral purposes indicates that the president will have to continue to approach regional leaders with some caution. The failure of the Putin reforms to address fully the core of regional power—the relationship between regional‐level political figures and local business interests—also suggests that more radical measures, such as the amalgamation regions or moves to appoint regional leaders, may face serious opposition from regional bosses.

Additional steps to centralize control in Russia will bring other risks. Further measures to weaken local autonomy and to dilute the political significance of ethnicity, particularly the link to territory, would raise questions about the ability of the reformed system of territorial management to accommodate the ethnic, religious, and regional diversity of the Russian Federation. Such steps would be especially difficult without the compliance of the regional elite. For this reason, Putin may aim to foster the consolidation of an integrated ruling elite across Russia, including key regional allies, rather than risk confrontation.83 Putin's proposal in September 2004 to eliminate the direct election of the executive‐branch heads in each region and instead to grant to the president the authority to nominate regional leaders may provide a means to begin to establish such an elite.84 The fact that over fifty regional leaders were due to step down during the president's second term considerably strengthened Putin's hand in seeking to advance a further concentration of power in the Kremlin.85 Under Putin's proposed new arrangements, incumbents would be eligible for reappointment by the president.

Following the Yeltsin years, there was clearly a need to introduce measures to establish a single centre of authority to take responsibility for ensuring effective state administration, establishing the rule of law, and determining the distribution of functions among the various levels of government. However, the steps taken by Putin to meet these challenges raise serious questions about the future democratic (p.227) character of Russia's territorial political system. The consolidation of a federal democracy is unlikely in the context of policies based on extending central control through federal political arrangements. Additional steps to centralize control will bring accompanying risks. Measures to weaken further local autonomy and the political significance of ethnicity would raise questions about the ability of the reformed system to accommodate the ethnic, religious, and regional diversity of the Russian Federation.

Putin's agenda of reform for Russia will also be compromised if modernization is sacrificed for centralization. It will be difficult to promote an economic revival across a country the size of Russia based upon a further tightening of control and reliance on the security services and agencies of law and order. But making economic and political space available at the regional level risks encouraging the reappearance of autonomous regional activity at odds with Putin's vision of the Russian state. Finding the balance between these elements will be one of the central tasks for Putin during his second term as president. (p.228)


(1)  Timothy J. Colton and Michael McFaul, ‘Russian Democracy under Putin’, Problems of Post‐Communism, 50/4 (July/August 2003), 12–21; Archie Brown, ‘From Democratization to “Guided Democracy” ’, Journal of Democracy, 12/4 (October 2001), 35–41; Harley Balzer, ‘Managed Pluralism: Vladimir Putin's Emerging Regime’, Post‐Soviet Affairs, 3 (July–September 2003), 189–227.

(2)  For reference to the English language literature on the possibility of the collapse of the Russian Federation, see Henry E. Hale and Rein Taagepera, ‘Russia: Consolidation or Collapse?’, Europe–Asia Studies, 54/7 (2002), 1101–25, n. 4, p. 1101.

(3)  Gordon M. Hahn, ‘The Impact of Putin's Federative Reforms on Democratization in Russia’, Post‐Soviet Affairs, 19/2 (2003), 114–53.

(4)  In his annual address to the Federal Assembly on 16 May 2003, President Putin noted that the country's unity had been re‐established de facto and de jure, and that state power had been strengthened. The federal authorities were, as a result, now closer to the regions. Putin argued that re‐establishing a common legal space throughout the country had made it possible to begin active work on the division of power between the federal and regional authorities. He noted that work had begun on making the regional power system more effective and better financed. The totally unacceptable situation that he saw in certain Russian territories that had put themselves beyond federal jurisdiction was at an end. Putin added that all regions of the country should now recognize the supremacy of the Russian constitution and federal laws and the obligation to pay taxes into the national treasury. In this context, he suggested that the process of integrating the Chechen republic into the country's political and legal space had begun.

(5)  David Cashaback, ‘Risky Strategies? Putin's Federal Reforms and the Accommodation of Difference in Russia’, Journal of Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe, 3 (2003) (www.ecmi.de).

(6)  Cameron Ross, ‘Putin's Federal Reforms and the Consolidation of Defederalism in Russia: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back!’, Communist and Post‐Communist Studies, 36 (2003), 29–47.

(7)  Aleksandr Tsipko, ‘Putin Rebuilds a Unitary State in Russia’, The Jamestown Foundation: Prism, 6/11 (28 November 2000).

(8)  The Council of Europe has noted the difficulties that faced national minorities in Russia's regions, notably Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities: Opinion on the Russian Federation (13 September 2002), para. 48.

(9)  Indeed, some authors have noted that the measures introduced by the federal authorities to curb political opposition and critical media made them more like the ‘guided’ or ‘manipulated’ democracy that emerged in the republics and regions much earlier. Archie Brown, ‘From Democratization to “Guided Democracy” ’, Journal of Democracy, 12/4 (October 2001), 40. See also Vladimir Gel'man, Sergei Ryzhenkov, and Michael Brie, Making and Breaking Democratic Transitions: The Comparative Politics of Russia's Regions (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003).

(10)  Archie Brown, ‘Evaluating Russia's Democratization’ in Archie Brown (ed.), Contemporary Russian Politics: A Reader (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 565.

(11)  Hahn (n. 3), 114–53.

(12)  In the final decades of the Soviet order, the Brezhnev era policy of stability of cadres did lead to the emergence of some strong regional leaders, but they remained tightly subordinated to Moscow. Vladimir Shlapentokh, Roman Levita, and Mikhail Loiberg, From Submission to Rebellion: The Provinces Versus the Centre in Russia (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1997), chs. 3–6.

(13)  Shlapentokh et al., ibid., chs. 7–8.

(14)  At the pinnacle of the asymmetrical Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic were sixteen Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics (ASSRs). Below the republics were forty‐nine oblasts and six krais (plus the two special status cities of Moscow and Leningrad); while lowest in the system were the five autonomous oblasts and ten autonomous okrugs (which were located within the borders of the autonomous republics and oblasts and krais).

(15)  Peter Kirkow, Russia's Provinces: Authoritarian Transformation versus Local Autonomy? (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1998), 139.

(16)  James Hughes ‘Managing Secession Potential in the Russian Federation’ in James Hughes and Gwendolyn Sasse (eds.), Regions in Conflict: Ethnicity and Territory in the Former Soviet Union (London: Frank Cass, 2001), 36–68; and Graham Smith, ‘Russia, Multiculturalism and Federal Justice’, Europe–Asia Studies, 50/8 (1998), 1393–411.

(17)  Daniel Treisman ‘The Politics of Soft Credit in Post‐Soviet Russia’ Europe–Asia Studies, 47/6 (1995), 949–76.

(18)  Jeffrey Kahn, Federalism, Democracy and Rule of Law in Russia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).

(19)  Lynn D. Nelson and Irina Y. Kuzes, ‘Political and Economic Co‐ordination in Russia's Federal District Reform: A Study of Four Regions’, Europe–Asia Studies, 55/4 (2003), 507–20.

(20)  Vladimir Putin, television address to the citizens of Russia on 17 May 2000, Rossiiskaya gazeta, 19 May 2000.

(21)  Matthew Hyde, ‘Putin's Federal Reform and Their Implications for Presidential Power in Russia’, Europe–Asia Studies, 53/5 (2001), 719–43; and Ross (n. 6), 29–47.

(22)  In June 2004, Moscow won an important victory when the Constitutional Court upheld as constitutional the provisions of the Budget Code of 2000 that prohibited regions from holding their budgets in commercial banks. Instead, all budget accounts must be serviced through accounts of the federal or regional treasures in the Central Bank. The Code had been challenged by St Petersburg, Krasnoyarsk Krai, and Khakassia.

(23)  The State Council, composed of eight regional leaders on a rotating basis, was established by President Putin on 1 September 2000 to assuage the regional elite about their loss of high‐level political access following their removal from the Federation Council.

(24)  Tomila Lankina, ‘Federal, Regional Interests Shape Local Reforms’, Russian Regional Report, 8/18 (29 September 2003).

(25)  In the middle of 2001, Putin instructed Kozak to head a special commission to recommend additional structural changes in federal–regional relations designed to establish ‘a single legal space for Russia’. The commission had two principal tasks: to delimit clearly the functions between the federal, regional, and municipal levels of government, and to reform the existing local government system. Nelson and Kuzes (n. 19).

(26)  Indira Kvyatovskaya and Alexander Sadchikov, ‘Regional and local government face changes in relations with Moscow’, www.wps.ru/e_index.html (9 January 2003).

(27)  Liz Fuller, ‘Has Moscow Put Power‐Sharing Treaty with Chechnya on Hold?’, RFE/RL Newsline 8/15, Part I (26 January 2004).

(28)  Vladimir Kovalev, ‘What's Behind Russia's Urge to Merge?’ RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly, 4/2 (16 January 2004).

(29)  ‘Putin Proposes Merger of Regions on the Fast Track…As Cheliabinsk Politicians Discuss Merger with Sverdlovsk, Kurgan Oblasts’, RFE/RL Newsline, 8/34, Part I (23 February 2004).

(30)  ‘Russia Cannot Live by the “Patchwork Quilt Principle”: Federal State Planning is Vital’. Interview with Vladimir Yakovlev, www.wps.ru/e_index.html (15 January 2004).

(31)  See http://www.nasledie.ru/oboz/01_04/1_07.htm for an interview with the authors of the report. Also http://www.aif.ru/online/aif/1232/02_06?print.

(32)  Cashaback (n. 5), 3.

(33)  Matthew Evangelista, The Chechen Wars: Will Russia Go the Way of the Soviet Union? (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2003).

(34)  This has also involved a downgrading of institutions with specific responsibilities for nationalities questions. The Ministry of Nationalities, Federal Affairs, and Migration Policy was replaced with a Minister for Nationalities Policy in December 2001 and this post was swallowed by the Ministry of Culture and Mass Communications as a result of the Putin Government reshuffle of March 2004. In September, however, a Ministry of Regional Development was established in response to the lack of knowledge in the government about inter‐ethnic processes which became apparent, especially with respect to the North Caucasus during the events of the Beslan school siege.

(35)  Cholaev notes comments by the Minister of Nationalities, Vladimir Zorin, that ‘as far as possible, we will gradually move, so to speak, from an ethnic‐administrative subdivision of the country to a non‐territorial model. What this means is that if you are a Tatar, you should have the right to lead a full national‐cultural life anywhere in Russia, not just in Tatarstan.’ Zaindi Cholaev, ‘A New Nationality Policy or a Setback for Russia’, The Jamestown Foundation: Russia and Eurasian Review, 2/2 (January 2003).

(36)  The framework for this approach was outlined already in 1996 in Russia's State Concept on Nationalities Policy (Kontseptsiya gosudarstvennoi natsional'noi politiki Rossiiskoi Federatsii).

(37)  Bill Bowring, ‘Austro‐Marxism's Last Laugh? The Struggle for Recognition of National‐Cultural Autonomy for Rossians and Russians’, Europe‐Asia Studies, 54/2 (2002), 231.

(38)  The draft On Amendments to Federal Law on National‐Cultural Autonomy (NCA) was introduced by the Government of the Russian Federation and passed by the Duma in the first reading on 27 June 2001, with the law signed into force by President Putin on 10 November 2003. A challenge to the restrictive provisions in the amended law regarding the number of national‐cultural associations that could be registered in a region in the Constitutional Court was defeated in March 2004.

(39)  The Russian Federation has ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCPNM) of the Council of Europe and submitted an initial State Report to the Advisory Committee of FCPNM. See Advisory Committee on the FCPNM: Opinion on the Russian Federation and Kommentarii Pravitelst'stva Rossiiskoi Federatsii k mneniyu Konsul'tativnogo Komiteta po vypolneniyu Ramochnoi konventsii o zashchite natsional'nykh men'shinstv v Rossiiskoi Federatsii. http://www.coe.int/T/e/human_rights/Minorities.

(40)  The ‘unifying role of the ethnic Russian people on the territory of Russia’ and their ‘historic role in the formation of the Russian State’ was already highlighted in the Concept of State Nationalities Policy of 1996.

(41)  ‘Duma Committee Drafts a Law…That Puts a Premium on Ethnicity’, RFE/RL Newsline, 8/27, Part I (11 February 2004).

(42)  The Ministry of Education adopted in 2001 the Russian Language Federal Target Oriented Programme 2002–2005, which contains as its objective ‘reinforcing the role of the Russian language in education’. http://www.ed.gov.ru/ntp/fp/rus_lang.

(43)  Nikolai Petrov, ‘Federal Reform, Two and a Half Years On’, Jamestown Foundation: Russia and Eurasia Review, 2/1 (January 2003).

(44)  Olga Kryshtanovskaya and Stephen White, ‘Putin's Militocracy’ Post‐Soviet Affairs, 19/4 (October–December 2003), 289–306.

(45)  Danielle Lussier, ‘Putin Continues Extending Vertical Power’, Russian Regional Report, 8/3 (2003).

(46)  Kryshtanovskaya and White (n. 44), 300. The findings of Kryshtanovskaya and White have, however, been challenged, notably regarding the role of former military and intelligence officials entering the ranks of the regional leadership, by research conducted by the Institute for Situational Analysis and New Technologies. Ekaterina Dobrynina, ‘Chuzhie zdes' ne khodyat: Mify i pravda o rossiiskoi regional'noi elite’, Rossiiskaya gazeta (17 March 2004).

(47)  Peter Reddaway and Robert Orttung (eds.), The Dynamics of Russian Politics: Putin's Reform of Federal Regional Relations, vol. 1 (Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004), 277–301.

(48)  Nelson and Kuzes (n. 19), 507–20; Reddaway and Orttung (n. 47).

(49)  Nelson and Kuzes (n. 19), 517.

(50)  Ross (n. 6), 43.

(51)  In December 2001, 72 per cent of Bashkortostan's laws were reported still to violate federal norms, a figure higher than in May 2000.

(52)  ‘Putin says federal laws holding sway again in Russia’, Interfax, 9 December 2003.

(53)  ‘Putin says regions happy to bring their laws into line with federal ones’, ITAR/TASS, 29 January 2004.

(54)  Several authors have noted the increased prospects for instability in Dagestan as a result of the republic having to abandon its consociational political arrangements, which provided for guaranteed representation for most of the republic's ethnic groups, in order to comply with federal law. Edward W. Walker, Russia's Soft Underbelly: The Stability of Instability in Dagestan (Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Program for Post‐Soviet Studies Working Paper Series, Winter 1999–2000), and Robert Bruce Ware and Enver Kisriev, ‘Russian Recentralization Arrives in the Republic of Dagestan: Implications for Institutional Integrity and Political Stability’, East European Constitutional Review, 10/1, Winter 2001, http://www.law.nyu.edu/eecr/vol10num1/index.html. The Kremlin's intervention in Ingushetia to ensure the removal of Ruslan Aushev as president, and his replacement with a pro‐Kremlin Murat Zyazikov, has been identified as a key factor in the destabilization of the republic. Jeremy Bransten, ‘Is a Chechnya‐Style Conflict Brewing in Ingushetia?’, RFE/RL Feature Article, 12 July 2004.

(55)  ‘Tatar Constitutional Court Enters Fray over Cyrillic Alphabet’, RFE/RL Newsline, 27 December 2003. ‘Tatarstan Court Asks Russian Constitutional Court to Rule on Latin Script’, ITAR/TASS, 3 March 2004.

(56)  At the same time, on 31 March 2004, the Tatarstan Constitutional Court ruled in favour of a complaint brought by the Russian Deputy Prosecutor‐General against the 2002 Constitution of Tatarstan, thereby striking down the provision requiring that the president speak the Tatar language and removing the word ‘sovereignty’ from the constitution. Tatar‐Inform News Agency, Kazan, 31 March 2004.

(57)  ‘Bashkortostan, Tatarstan Weaken Putin's Reforms’, Russian Regional Report, 8/13 (23 July 2003).

(58)  Nelson and Kuzes (n. 19), 507–20.

(59)  The new law on local government, approved by the State Duma on 16 September 2003, was scheduled to take effect from 1 January 2006.

(60)  Tomila Lankina, ‘Managing the grassroots: Putin's reform of local government’, Russian and Eurasian Review: The Jamestown Monitor, 2/9 (29 April 2003), 6–9.

(61)  Caroline McGregor, ‘Regions in for a Dose of Kremlin Reform’, Moscow Times, 2 June 2004.

(62)  On the eve of Putin's second term, however, there were several cases of ‘bottom up’ moves to challenge regional leaders through the courts—including in Tver, Kamchatka, Ivanovo, and Saratov oblasts. Julie Corwin, ‘Russian Prosecutors Take on Governors’, RFE/RL Newsline, 8/95 (20 May 2004).

(63)  At the end of 2003, the government was reported to be studying the possibility of simplifying the procedure for dismissing governors. ‘Putin Expresses Openness to Improving Law on Ousting Governors’, RFE/RL Newsline, 7/214, Part I (12 November 2003).

(64)  Kathryn Stoner‐Weiss, ‘Soviet Solutions to Post‐Soviet Problems: Has Vladimir Putin Really Strengthened the Federal Centre?’, PONARS Policy Memo 283 (October 2002).

(65)  Pro‐Kremlin candidates were elected in Krasnoyarsk, Buryatia, Smolensk, Ingushetia, Penza, Lipetsk, Tuva, North Ossetia, Kabardino‐Balkaria, Dagestan, and Sakha. The Kremlin lost only in Kalmykia and Gorno Altay. Neutral results were achieved in Karelia and Adegey.

(66)  Nikolai Petrov, ‘Regional Elections under Putin and Prospects for Russian Electoral Democracy’, PONARS Policy Memo 287 (February 2003).

(67)  On 5 September 2003, Rossiiskaya gazeta lamented the lack of alternatives in the forthcoming gubernatorial elections to the long‐standing incumbents of Sverdlovsk, Omsk, and Novgorod because they controlled opposition in their regions. All three incumbents subsequently won re‐election.

(68)  Dmitry Balburov, ‘Regional Leaders Can be Removed’, Russkii Fokus, 19 (31 May 2004); and Kira Latukhina and Natalia Melikova, ‘The Kremlin Compiles Lists of Good and Bad Regional Leaders’, Nezavisimaya gazeta, 13 July 2004.

(69)  Hahn (n. 3), 117.

(70)  Hahn, ibid. 125.

(71)  Bartosz Cichocki, ‘Does Putin Really control Russia?’, CSIS Prospectus, 3/1 (Spring 2002); and Robert W. Orttung, ‘Business and State in the Russian Regions’, PONARS Policy Memo 35 (November 2003). For a discussion of the emergence of these relations in industrial regions during the 1990s, see Kathryn Stoner‐Weiss, Local Heroes: The Political Economy of Russian Regional Governance (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002).

(72)  Stoner‐Weiss (n. 64).

(73)  Brian D. Taylor, ‘Strong Men, Weak State: Power Ministry Officials and the Federal Districts’, PONARS Policy Memo 284 (October 2002). In March 2004, President Putin dismissed his representative for the Southern Federal District, Viktor Kazantsev, and replaced him with the former Mayor of St Petersburg, Vladimir Yakovlev. Kazantsev was the only one of the presidential representatives to be replaced ahead of the president's second term. Kazantsev, a former general, was removed, reportedly, because the president wanted greater attention to economic issues by his representative in the south. Kommersant, 18 March 2004.

(74)  Nicolai Petro, ‘Regional Democratization in Russia: Some Lessons from Novgorod’, in Cameron Ross (ed.), Regional Politics in Russia (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), 120–34.

(75)  In this respect, the integration of a significant number of regional leaders into the United Russia party lists for the Duma elections was notable, as was the role of the regional elite in shaping the outcomes of contests in the single mandate races of regional elite. Robert Orttung, ‘Are all Politics Local? The Decisive Role of the District Races in the 2003 Duma Ballot’, Kennan Institute, 15 December 2003.

(76)  The important role of the regional elite was apparent in the presidential elections of 2004, when regional leaders were instrumental in ‘getting the vote out’ for Putin. The power of the regional leaders was reflected in the wide variation of support for Putin, from 98.18 per cent in Ingushetia as well as over 90 per cent in many other regions (notably the North Caucasus), to 54.82 per cent in Belgorod. ‘Huge Support for Putin’, RFE/RL Analytical Reports: Russian Political Weekly, 26 March 2004.

(77)  Nelson and Kuzes (n. 19), 517.

(78)  ‘Shaimiev, Rakhimov drop threats of conflict’, East‐West Institute Russian Regional Report, 7/9 (6 March 2002).

(79)  Further, beyond the elite‐level conflict, Mitchneck and her colleagues found that rather than confrontation there was evidence of considerable ties—indeed partnerships—between federal officials and regional policy-makers. Beth Mitchneck, Steven L. Solnick, and Kathryn Stoner‐Weiss, ‘Democratization Challenged: The Role of the Regional Elites’, in Blair Ruble, Jodi Koehn, and Nancy E. Popson, (eds.), Fragmented Space in the Russian Federation (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Centre Press, 2001), 129.

(80)  Ross (n. 6), 44.

(81)  Reddaway and Orttung (n. 47), 278.

(82)  Gordon M. Hahn, ‘The Chechnya–Tatarstan Connection’, Carnegie Center Moscow (21 June 2004). http://www.carnegie.ru/en/pubs/media/70664.htm.

(83)  One observer has suggested that Putin enjoys a differentiated relationship to regional leaders: regional leaders on especially good terms with Putin; regional leaders with whom Putin maintains friendly relations but with reservations; and regional leaders whom Putin dislikes and avoids. A. A. Mukhin, Piterskoe okruzhenie prezidenta (Moscow: Tsentr politicheskoi informatsii, 2003), 17–25.

(84)  Seizing the opportunity for introducing sweeping political changes presented by the Beslan school siege and other terrorist attacks, Putin announced on 13 September 2004 a set of reforms which in normal circumstances would have proved highly controversial. The reforms included a proposal for the abolition of the direct election of regional executives. In place of elections, Putin advocated the introduction of a law to grant the president the right to nominate regional heads. The president's nominees would be subject to approval by regional legislatures. ‘Vystuplenie na rasshirennom zasedanii Pravitel'stva s uchastiem glav subektov Rossiiskoi Federatsii’, www.kremlin.ru

(85)  Nikolai Petrov, ‘Constitution is A‐Changing’, Moscow Times, 29 March 2004.