What is the New Russian Federalism?
in CONTEMPORARY RUSSIAN POLITICS: A READER, pp. 374-83, Archie Brown ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001
10 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2017
Date Written: 2001
With the sudden rise of Vladimir Putin, Russian federalism made another volte-face. The ambiguous enforceability of Yeltsin's bilateral treaties with the Russian Federation’s non-Russian ethnic republics (formerly ASSRs) - never ratified by legislatures - was made clear by Putin's disregard for executive promises that no longer suited his interests. One of Putin's first presidential decrees, signed days after his inauguration, divided Russia into seven federal districts, each encompassing several republics, oblasts, and okrugs, and each headed by a presidential enforcer tasked to maintain the supremacy of federal law. Lists were rumoured to circulate in the Kremlin of regional leaders to be brought to heel. Putin described his project as the 'dictatorship of law.'
What forces have influenced such sea-changes in Russian federal politics? How might political scientists approach the dynamic of centre-periphery relations in a post-Soviet, and now a post-Yeltsin, Russia? Examination of the conceptual and political struggles to define Russian federalism provides insights into the path of Russian federal development and Russia's difficult democratic transition.
Keywords: Russian federalism, post-Soviet Russia – legal reforms, Vladimir Putin, Boris Yeltsin, Dictatorship of Law, bilateral treaties, presidential decrees
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