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ECPR 50th Anniversary Fund

Diversity and Asymmetry in the Federal Arrangement of Post-Soviet Russia

Political Economy
Qualitative Comparative Analysis
Domestic Politics
Ekaterina Paustyan
Central European University
Ekaterina Paustyan
Central European University

The dissolution of the Soviet Union marked a new stage in the development of center-regional relations in Russia. Along with economic and political transformations, the country went through the transition from a centralized to a decentralized state. The constituent units of the emerged federation displayed high diversity in terms their territory, population, resource abundance, economic and social development. Therefore, the Russian Federation has acquired many asymmetrical features. Does asymmetry mitigate or exacerbate diversity? This is the main question that the present paper aims to answer. It makes a distinction between de jure and de facto asymmetries and relies on the idea of bargaining. The paper presents two case studies. First is the case of de jure asymmetries which rose in Russia in the 1990s when the federal center signed bilateral treaties with 46 regions while the other 43 regions did not manage to negotiate a treaty. Therefore, the paper studies the factors which have accounted for the signing of a bilateral treaty with Moscow during between 1994 and 1998. Second is the case of de facto asymmetries which became observable in center-regional relations in Russia in the 2000s. The paper analyses gubernatorial reappointments in 2005-2012 when direct gubernatorial elections were abolished and the president appointed the governors. It concentrates on gubernatorial reappointments as the appointment procedure was introduced to create a mechanism for governors’ dismissal. Therefore, it investigates the factors of gubernatorial reappointment and dismissal. The case studies rely on a qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) which demonstrates that in both cases political and economic factors played a crucial role in bargaining with the center. Therefore, the paper argues that asymmetry is an inevitable feature of federal states where constituent units have different bargaining powers. Therefore, the diversity of regions’ bargaining power is the main driver of the asymmetrical federal arrangement in Russia.
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