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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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8. Appointed governors and persistence of informality


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8.  Appointed governors and persistence of informality

8.1  Informal coalitions

The key element of the mechanisms of informal autonomy we described while studying the Yeltsin and the first Putin eras was based on a clear distinction between the regional and the federal elites. Regional politicians struggled to obtain larger resources, either by violating federal law (in the 1990s) or by avoiding the excessive attention of the federal center (in the first decade of the 2000s). After the appointments of the governors were reinstated in 2004, the distinction between the federal and the regional elites started to disappear. While it persisted until 2009, when, as already described, the most powerful governors were removed from office, over time Putin managed to integrate the governors to even greater extent into his vertical – not merely as subordinate, but separate power centers, but as an integral part of the system. Governors of the early 2010s became, as we have argued in Chapter 3, merely another branch of the federal officials. However, our argument presented above suggested that even during this period informality in the center-periphery relations did not disappear, and therefore, informal autonomy remained an important phenomenon in Russia.

In addition to the general features of bureaucratic hierarchies we have presented already, the informal power relations in the Russian federalism persisted (and possibly became even stronger) due to the overall deinstitutionalization of the Russian politics (Petrov 2012). Putin’s regime invested substantial effort into removing all...

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