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Consequences of Informal Autonomy

The Case of Russian Federalism

Alexander Libman

The book is the first to provide a systematic overview of the interplay of formal and informal institutions as elements of the Russian federalism from the early 1990s to the mid-2010s. It discusses the crucial role of informal power structures and practices in the relations between the center and the regions in Russia, which survived the centralization policy of the Putin government. Using econometric large-N analysis and a set of novel quantitative indicators, the book shows that persistence of informal autonomy in Russia has mostly harmful consequences for the political development of the regions, contributing to the consolidation and strengthening of sub-national autocracies.
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6. The Putin era: Quantifying informal decentralization


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6.  The Putin era: Quantifying informal decentralization

6.1  Proxies of informal devolution

Unlike the Yeltsin era, when the informal decentralization was in many cases directly observable and attracted substantial public attention, the informal decentralization of the first Putin era (until the appointments of the governors were introduced and the center managed to replace the most influential regional leaders) was more subtle. Direct statements of disapproval of the federal policy or calls for greater autonomy became almost impossible. There have been some individual incidents of regional governors expressing limited criticism of the federal administration,66 but they remained rare. The regional governments were unable to directly violate the federal law (although in some extremely powerful regions violations seem to persist – thus, after the forced resignation of Luzhkov, there were claims that at least some of the legal acts of the City of Moscow at that moment contradicted the federal law). Power-sharing agreements were abolished, and new agreements were signed only with a handful of regions. Thus, as we have already described in the Chapter 3, the regional elites now had to rely on more subtle tools of control, especially associated with the control over the regional economy. It also means that in the empirical analysis we cannot use the indicators we have applied in the previous two Chapters of the book. Therefore in what follows we ← 115 | 116 → introduce a different set of variables, which may be better applicable for the period we...

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