Federation without federalism. Relations between Moscow and the regions
The regions of the Russian Federation are immensely diverse economically and geographically as well as when it comes to their national identity, civic awareness and political activity. We are in fact dealing with a ‘multi-speed Russia’: along with the post-industrial regions with their higher living standards and a need for pluralism in politics, there are poverty-stricken, inertial regions, dependent on subsidies from the centre.
As a result of the policy of centralisation pursued by the Kremlin since 2000, the autonomy of the regions has been reduced fundamentally. This has affected the performance of the regional elites and made it difficult for the regions to use their natural advantages (such as resources or location) to their benefit. One of the effects of this policy has been the constantly decreasing number of the donor regions. The current model promotes the role of the region as a passive supplicant, for whom it is easier to seek support from the central government, offering loyalty in exchange, than to implement complex systemic reforms that would contribute to long-term development. Moscow’s control (political, economic and administrative) over the regions is currently so thorough that it contradicts the formally existing federal form of government in Russia.