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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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9. Conclusion and outlook

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9.  Conclusion and outlook

9.1  Key findings

It remains to summarize the main findings of the book. There are two key contributions we attempted to make. The first was to highlight the importance and the variation of informal institutions in governing the relations between center and the regions in Russia. While the literature has previously acknowledge that informal center-periphery relations play an important role in this country, our book has systematically traced the development of informal institutions and power relations an demonstrated that by taking them into account one occasionally has to change the general perception of the Russian federalism: what appears to be a ‘centralized’ or a ‘decentralized’ federation on paper turns out to be governed by entirely different logic in terms of how power relations look like and the system really works. We have also shown that the informal institutions themselves can include multiple layers, partly contradicting each other. The Putin era provides an excellent example of this complexity: it combines a de-jure federal state (which, however, is based on a rather centralistic model of federalism, as opposed to some other federal countries); a de-facto system of gubernatorial appointments placing regional governors and elites under full control of Moscow; and – at a deeper level – a system of informal coalitions of regional bureaucrats and of ‘regional corporations’ escaping the formal control for the purpose of rent-seeking (and imitating compliance with the federal objectives).

More importantly, our book attempted a...

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