Russian Authoritarian Federalism in Time of War
The capacity of the Russian leadership during the large-scale war will largely depend on the stability of center-regional relations. If Moscow begins to lose political and economic control over the regions, its ability to continue the war will be limited – far more than current or new Western sanctions might. So far, Russia demonstrates significant degree of resilience regarding center-regional relations. The current Russian authoritarian “federalism” relations serves the interest of Moscow and, no less important, regional governors. The war did create incentives for the model of the center-regional relations to be reformed by the Center or challenged by the regions. Instead, the regional governors actively implement “patriotic agenda”. In the regime of Putin’s personalized rule the governors heavily rely on Putin for their political survival. Lacking their own legitimacy, governors tend to follow Moscow’s directives, thus maintaining the stability of the existing regime. Perhaps most significantly, without competitive elections, incumbent governors have little incentive to advocate for greater autonomy or prioritize their regions’ interests over those of the central government.
Professor Irina Busygina is a Research Fellow at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. She also teaches a course “Russia and the European Union” at the Harriman Institute of Columbia University. Till 2022 she worked as Professor of Comparative Politics at the Department of Political Science and International Relations (Higher School of Economics at Saint Petersburg, Russia) and headed the Center for Comparative Governance Studies. Her research interests include comparative federalism and decentralization, Russian domestic and foreign policy, Russia-EU relations. Her latest publications include “Center-regional relations in Russia”. In: Routledge Handbook of Russian Politics and Society. Ed. by Graeme Gill. UK: Routledge, 2023; “Ready to Protest? Explaining Protest Potential in Russian Regional Capitals.” Regional and Federal Studies published online January 2023; “Pandemic Decentralization: COVID-19 and Principal–Agent Relations in Russia.” Problems of Post-Communism, Published online: 14 Sep 2022; “Russia – EU Relations and the Common Neighborhood: Coercion versus Authority”, UK: Routledge, 2018. Her most recent book is “Non-Democratic Federalism and Decentralization in Post-Soviet States” (together with Mikhail Filippov, forthcoming in Routledge in 2023).
This event is supported by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Image: Mzajac, Ltbubbas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons