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Russia’s Systemic Transformation: Trajectories and Dynamics?

Graeme P. Herd

August 1999

Copenhagen Peace Research Institute


Draft— not for citation without the author’s permission

Authors Note:

My thanks to COPRI for inviting me to apply for a Visiting Research Fellowship (1 July-13 August 1999) in order to complete this Working Paper. I am also grateful to Pertti Joenniemi and Lyndelle Fairlie for their valuable comments and constructive criticism of a draft of this paper. All errors and shortcomings remain my own. I strongly encourage criticism and constructive feedback; ‘strength through suffering’!



This paper will explore the process of unstable and unpredictable transformation that defines Russia at the end of the 20th Century. It argues that ad hoc, temporary arrangements designed to counter the immediate impact of the August 1998 crisis appear to be leading to a fragmentation and a regrouping of Federal power within a far weaker and more decentralized system of confederal governance. This process is not driven by central and regional elite’s following some hidden blueprint for strategic renewal but rather it unfolds by default through reaction and counteraction, it is governed by ‘creeping autonomy’, contingency and uncertainty, rather than design.

The trajectory of such a drift contains the clear and already apparent potential to create a strong confederal system of governance. This paper concludes by suggesting that a strong confederal system underpinned and legitimised by constitutional reform will create greater stability within Russia. Alternatively, the continuation of governance under the present outdated and largely ignored Federal constitution promotes a mechanism of internal Federal destruction, with the potential to create a collapsed state. The resultant stresses and power clashes are symptomatic of an inherent tension between an emergent de facto confederal reality and a de jure Federal ideal. Cumulatively, the consequences of this internal dynamic suggest that a weakening Federal system may give way, under the weight of its internal contradictions, to a confederal system of governance.



‘Becoming the largest banana republic without bananas is an unenviable future.’
Sergey Stepashin, Interfax news agency, Moscow, 5 August 1999



How stable is the Russian Federal system of government, whose guiding principles, power relationships, competencies and prerogatives were outlined in the December 1993 Russian Federal Constitution? In what direction is the Russian Federal system moving; what is the trajectory of Russian Federal evolution? Is, for example, the Russian Federation consolidating and strengthening around existing principles of Federal governance? Or should we argue that August 1998 acted as a major catalyst in Russian Federal governance, adding fuel to the motor of power devolution and political decentralisation, resulting in the formation of a much weaker Federal system characterised by the consequent diminution in the effectiveness of Federal power structures? Or could it be argued that key dynamics that now dominate Federal politics within Russia have the unintended potential to create an effective Russian confederal system with the strength to contain and manage failed or collapsed regions? (See Fig. 1: Possible Paths of Systemic Transformation ).

1. Debating Russian Regionalism:

The Russian Federation emerged as the legal Successor State to the USSR. 1   It consists of eighty-nine constituent parts that are variously designated republics, territories, regions, autonomous regions and cities of federal importance (Moscow and St. Petersburg). A post-Soviet democratic Constitution was adopted in December 1993, following Yeltsin’s recourse to violence to resolve the executive-legislative stand-off during the October 1993 ‘Events’. An asymmetric federation has emerged, in which the centre-periphery and executive-legislative tensions that characterised the turbulence of 1992-1994 were largely contained. The Chechen War (December 1994 – November 1996) was notable as an exception to the general pattern of negotiated settlements between the centre and periphery. The Tatarstan Treaty (March 1994) is more usually cited as a ‘model’ for managed centre-periphery relations, but it is no means unique; the federal centre has so far initiated over forty treaties with the constituent parts of the federation.

If we examine Yeltsin’s second term presidency, from June 1996 through to August 1998, two notable features are at once apparent. There has been the accumulation of executive presidential power at the centre at the expense of the legislature and, at the same time, an uneasy balance of power has been struck between a strong executive and resurgent elite’s in the periphery. These processes do not in themselves necessitate a disintegration of federal power and the ability of federal structures to maintain and sustain a functioning federation. They have, however, provided the template upon which the centres ability to exert control and influence over the periphery was greatly exacerbated following the August ‘Meltdown’.

How can we define the central characteristics of regional autonomy from 1996 through to the eve of the ‘August Meltdown’? The consolidation of constitutional-political autonomy within constituent parts of the federation and the regionalisation of federal military structures has served to illustrate the diminution of federal power within the periphery. The replacement of state owned financial-industrial assets by private oligarchic control and the creation of independent communication and informational networks have marginalised the federal presence within the periphery. Moreover, the birth of regional foreign economic policy initiatives has further buttressed autonomy within the periphery.

Governors have created power bases that are buttressed by local constitutions that in some cases contradict the constitution of the Russian Federation. These constitutional arrangements have allowed heads of the constituent units to dominate local self-government (municipal councils) and act arbitrarily within their Region, Republic or Territory with recourse to almost unlimited power. They habitually ignore federal legislation and so act unconstitutionally. For example, in 1998 Tatarstan’s State Council passed a law on citizenship that contradicts Russian Federal law – a resident of Tatarstan can hold Tatarstani citizenship without keeping Russian citizenship. Paradoxically, however, whilst some constituent parts promote illegitimate constitutions, their governors can bask in the light of democratic legitimacy. Between 1996 and 1998 the previous system of presidential appointees was replaced by governors who were elected representatives.

Even before the August 1998 meltdown, it was apparent that federal military structures were being regionalised. As the federal budget has proved unable to pay for basic provisions such as food, accommodation and energy, federal troops located in the regions have become dependent upon the regions in which they are located to survive. The quality of their existence is linked to the strength of the regional governors’ support for military units based on their territories or republics. 2   Thus, the reality of defence cuts and budget mismanagement or outright corruption means that regional governors keen to maintain stability in their provinces provide the necessary provisions gratis. The first notable example of this process occurred in 1997 in the Russian Far East and the Pacific Fleet. Here Governor Viktor Nazdratenko of Maritime Territory has effectively regionalised the military, paying wage arrears to the Russian Pacific Fleet from regional budgets in return for ensuring only those officers born in the region serve in the Pacific Fleet. Through June and July 1998 it became apparent that Governor Alexander Lebed of Krasnoyarsk Territory, was also prepared to follow suit. 3   These ties of horizontal intra-regional dependence fragments military cohesion and the integrity of military units within the Federation. This process creates de facto alliances between local military commanders and regional political elites.

Through 1996 – 1998, as a consequence of the loans-for-shares scheme (the bankrolling of Yeltsin’s election campaign in return for shares in the large state owned monopolies that controlled Russia’s industries that were soon to be privatised), private companies have largely taken control of profitable raw material export economic assets. In essence, state economic control of the profitable sectors within the periphery has been greatly reduced – the state’s role in these areas has been marginalized. The nature of the new relationship between regional political elite’s and the key Financial-Industrial Groups (FIGs) is difficulty to characterise. In most provinces there tends to be only one main industrial or raw material economic base. Thus provincial politics have come to involve an inter-play between the particular FIG controlling the profitable economic asset and the regional governor. 4   This provides a stabilising element within the provincial political landscape (Irkutsk with its multiple and competing FIGs is an exception), allowing both dependency and interdependency networks between FIG and political elite’s to flourish. Thus, in some provinces governors are dependent on oligarchic Moscow-based capital and media control to ensure their re-election, and these services rendered in return for pro-business environments (i.e. low regional taxation rates). In others, the attitude and relationship of governors towards unprofitable industrial and manufacturing companies is the dominating factor determining their sustainability. Governors are able to regulate the business environment through their influence over the activities of tax collectors, arbitration courts and bankruptcy procedures. The essential chaotic nature of these coalitions – further complicated by the presence of criminal groupings in the regions—impedes state attempts to mediate or structure the economic relationships between the core and periphery.

National banks have taken over the role of regional banks; they thus interpenetrate regional space, linking provinces together and help to cement their relationship to the centre. FIGs have the capacity to contribute towards Federal cohesion as they represent a pan-Federation presence that unites regions both with each other and with the centre. Horizontal economic integration – a bulwark against disintegration—is promoted through the creation of inter-regional economic associations (IREAs), such as the Siberian Agreement, the North-West, the Greater Volga association, the Urals regional association, the Chernozem Zone, the Far East Association, and the Association of the North Caucasus. Whilst FIGs have a pan-federative presence and help to unite the federation, they are not state controlled and serve their own sectoral interests, rather than the greater good of the state. FIGs both represent an unstable pillar of federal support and an alternative non-federal state source of regional cohesion.

Governors are also exerting greater independence from central federal control through the acquisition or creation of ‘independent’ provincial communication and informational networks, based on the creation and control of TV and radio channels and newspapers. The Moscow press is rarely critical of Luzhkov, a governor who has created Metropolis holdings, which has launched a pro-Luzhkov national newspaper Rossiya and controls TV6. The more powerful amongst the regional governors and presidents support the building of international airports – Ingushetia and Kursk regions are examples – allowing them direct access to foreign states and so the ability to by-pass Moscow power centres and ministries. This process contributes to a decrease national newspaper readership and state television viewing figures and so perceptions and loyalty to the state.

The rise of regions and regional elite’s onto the national stage has an important impact on Russia’s foreign policy. Increasingly the line between territorial unit and Russian Federation or state foreign policy is being blurred. The regions are already foreign policy actors, able to ‘project sovereignty’ by signing agreements with foreign countries—Tatarstan with Ukraine, for example. The governor of the Sverdlovsk region, Eduard Rossel, has continually pushed for the creation of a ‘Urals Republic’. In June 1998 he issued a decree which transformed regional government departments into ‘national’ ministries, appointing Anatoliy Tarasov minister of international and foreign economic relations of Sverdlovsk Region. Russia’s first ‘regional minister’s’ task was to restore the ‘horizontal economic ties of Sverdlovsk Region with countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States.’ The Regional Duma also passed a law on international and interregional agreements of Sverdlovsk Region, in which the Region de facto secured the status of a subject of international law. 5   It is difficult to see how the federal centre can halt the fragmentation of foreign policy coherence within the current context.

Systemic Weakness: a Source of Federal Strength?

That provinces within the federation have quietly acquired a greater degree of autonomy is clear, but does this constitute a threat to the continued viability of Russian Federalism? Moscow’s control over the constituent parts of the Federation may be relatively weak in the immediate post-Soviet period, but a central feature of Russian political history has been the seesawing of power between the regions and the capital. 6   Centre-periphery tension remains a reassuringly constant though evolving dynamic, a thread of continuity within Russian political history that links Tsarist, and Soviet and post-Soviet experiences into a particularly Russian continuum. Regional autonomy per se is merely one characteristic of contemporary Russian political environment. These evolving local power networks can be seen as an end in themselves, not a means to break from the centre.

This framework of weak federal control has contained regional excesses and ameliorated separatist tendencies within an uneasy equilibrium and allowed such local networks to prosper. 7   In light of these features of local politics, it could be argued that the existing system of federalism – if not the written word of its Constitution – effectively accommodates the diverse patch-work of local political activity; the system of federal control paradoxically draws ultimate strength from its very weakness. Indeed, it is misleading to concentrate overly upon the sources of local particularism and provincial regionalism without stressing the bonds that unite the Federation, and uphold its territorial integrity. These sources of cohesion are numerous.

The regions have no tradition of independent statehood and would be unwilling to break from Moscow’s control. 8   The ‘Time of Troubles’ (1598-1613) or the post 1917 period helped to ingrain a fear of chaos and anarchy which underpin a sense of community amongst the Russian people, of togetherness and survival through co-operation rather than individualism. This sense of ‘togetherness’ (sobornost) is underpinned by psychological, linguistic and cultural affinities that bind the Russian people (ethnic Russians and Russian speakers) together. Such bonds—the unifying effect of cultural homogeneity—further undermine separatist tendencies. 9   Indeed, whilst central power may be presently weakened, it receives strong support from the international system and international institutions which relate to Russia as a sovereign and integral state. This provides the state with a powerful external mode of legitimisation.

These arguments are not as persuasive as they at first appear and they are open to refutation. The counter-arguments are based around the notion that the Federation lacks internal modes of legitimacy. For many Russians there is already a feeling—Chechnya apart—that ‘Russian’ territorial integrity has been breached. Such an understanding compares the Soviet Union to the Russian Empire in terms of territorial equivalence, and argues that the Russian Federation is an artificial, ahistorical creation, which fragmented the Russian people, leaving large Russian communities stranded in eastern Ukraine, the Baltic States and Kazakhstan. Before 1991, what was the difference in the eyes of the majority of Russians, and not least the CPSU and KGB elite’s, between the status of Kiev, Minsk and Vladivostok?

The Russian Federation is neither a nation nor a state but territories upon which some Russian peoples live. It already sports great diversity in the patterns of political and social control between those constituent parts that are ethnically Russian and those that are not. The non-ethnic or ‘non-indigenous’ constituent parts (15 republics out of 21), appear more amenable to central control. These republics have not tended to adopt a federal sub-system on their territories, but have instead introduced unitary systems and presidential regimes. They are more agricultural and rural than urban and industrial. Traditional political cultures allow for more rigorous forms of persuasion and control; and they are, by and large, poorer.

2. Systemic Shock: the impact of August ‘98

In August 1998 Russia suffered what appeared to be a major financial and economic ‘Meltdown’ or dislocation. This collapse has had a wider and more profound significance that should be recognised – it is systemic in nature. Its impact upon governance within the Russian Federation, particularly Federal economic coherence and political stability has been profound. It also had a residual or ‘spillover’ effect on the coherence and management of Russia’s foreign policy. It has transforming both the substance of the policy, further stretching the soft security agenda to cover new issues, and it has placed a far greater importance on inter-state interaction at the regional level through the use of sub-federal institutions.

Whilst some of Russia’s constituent parts had gained greater autonomy between 1996 and 1998, their ability to act independently was circumscribed by the centre – not least by the overt exercise of budgetary federalism and the unconscious linguistic, cultural and psychological commonalties that bound the federation together. Moreover, president Yeltsin had developed a vertical hierarchy of power within the Russian Federation, in which the Duma’s role was slight and through which the force of both presidential personality and the centre-periphery patronage networks he serviced provided import lever of control over the regions. But, throughout the post-August 1998 period Russia appeared mired in crisis, as pillars of federal control and power were weakened by the fusion of political and economic breakdown. The cumulative impact of the disintegration of federal pillars of support has the potential to cause at the very least the restructuring of the Russian Federation, at most the collapse of the Federal system and its replacement with an alternative more effective system of governance. As the precarious balance of power between integratory and centrifugal forces created between 1996 – 1998 is disrupted, Russia appears to have entered a period of drift towards federal transformation.

The August events of 1998 have seriously impaired the sustainability of federal power structures, shedding light on many of the inherent structural, institutional and behavioural weaknesses of Russia’s post-Soviet state-building project. 10   On 17 August 1998 the rouble was devalued to two thirds of its value and on the 21 August 1998 the Kiriyenko government fell. The banking system in particular came under immense pressure from rouble devaluation. The chances of economic stagnation and hyper-inflation increased as pressures grew for ‘controlled emissions’ of cash into the monetary system to cover the budget deficit. These events highlighted two ongoing inter-linked systemic processes. Firstly, it focussed attention on economic dislocation, the weakening of the Financial-Industrial Groups (FIGs) and their power, particularly over the banking system, and the pressures placed on the maintenance of ‘budgetary federalism’ through the general shortage of funds and non-arrival of investments. Secondly, it served as a catalyst for further regionalisation and emphasised the loss of political authority (or ‘capital’) and respect that the regions had for Moscow based Federal institutions. Primakov, as the first post-August 1998 Prime Minister, was the first to underscore the seriousness of systemic weakness. On 11 September 1998 he sombrely informed the Duma that the threat to Russia’s integrity was ‘not a theoretical or hypothetical issue’ and that ‘we are facing a very serious threat of our country being split up. 11   A final implosion heralded by a slip into hyperinflation, bankruptcy and the complete collapse of the banking system was a real threat.

The economic collapse of August 1998 impacted on Russian attitudes to marketization, the stability of centre periphery relations within the Federation and the strength of Russia’s international trade. The banking collapse and loss of personal savings undermined the faith of Russians in the legitimacy and integrity of market-democratic ideals and practice. The core of federalism is the relationship between the budgets of the regions and the centre. The fall in tax receipts impaired the ability of ‘budgetary federalism’- the distribution of subsidies between net donor and receiver regions – to act as a glue or cohesive force within the Federation and so disrupted centre-periphery relations. 12   The First Deputy Speaker of the State Duma, Vladimir Ruzhkov, compared the impact of August 1998 in Russia to that of the ‘big bang’ within the Universe, arguing that divergent legislation, customs barriers, economic and trade warfare and an unstable ethnic policy characterised the contemporary federal system. 13

These internal dimensions to the economic dislocation have been matched by external trade implications. Russian international trade has also been seriously weakened. In 1998 Russian exports shrank by 16.4% and imports were down 19.1%; Russian trade, including unofficial trade shrank 17.6% in 1998. 14   Maslyukov argued that although the economic decline had been halted six months after August meltdown the situation remained grave, particularly in textiles and light industries, but not hopeless. 15   Inflation slowed from 11.6% in December 1998 to 8.5% in January to 4.1% in February 1999. The new budget came into force on 1 March 1999. It supposed IMF financial support (which has yet to materialise) and was based upon a projection of 30% inflation, yet the first quarter showed a 16% rise, and by late July the forecast was for 60% inflation. 16   The budget has to resolve wage debts to regional budget employees, where arrears are at R11.6bn (Federal budget employees paid through February 1999.) and pensions arrears. Only 6 regions have eliminated all arrears, whilst 20 regions have actually increased arrears. 17   In 1991 450 m tonnes of oil was drilled, in 1999 that figure is projected to be 285 million tonnes. Should this continue, by 2005 it is calculated that an irreversible degradation of the energy sectors technological and cadre potential will have been breached and Russia will have lost its ability to compete on the foreign as well as domestic markets. In this context, Russia will be become a net oil importer according to Maslyukov. 18

Despite this gloomy assessment, it should be noted that the most pessimistic of the predictions made in August 1998 have failed to materialise and judged against this stern barometer, the economy remains more stable and robust than anticipated. 19   The weekly business magazine Ekspert published an article in May entitled ‘Unexpected Happiness’ – it argued that the Russian economy was now showing unexpected signs of growth, with the revival of domestic goods at the forefront of a resurgent industry. Barter transactions were reported to be down and the wage backlog had been cut. However, the article also warned that industry could exhaust slack capacity and be forced to hike prices to boost output, so fuelling inflation. Further rouble devaluation coupled to under-investment and changes in government policy also threatened economic stability. 20

The new Russian government faced a series of policy dilemma’s centred upon their need to maintain the unifying and cohesive effect of budgetary federalism in a period when revenue and tax collection was halved by the combined effects of non-payment and inflation. There was, for example, a 50% fall in tax collection in September and six-fold drop in imports. 21   As the Russian Ministry of Finance became unable to distribute federal subsidies to the eighty ‘consumer’ regions or collect from the nine ‘donor’ or ‘producer’ regions, budgetary federalism as a lever of federal cohesion was seriously damaged. 22   Russian centre-periphery relations were then set to drift towards an ever deepening and vicious spiral of vice. As Federal subsidies dry-up, tensions – stemming from a combination of falling regional living standards 23   and clashes between opposing factions in dependent regions are exacerbated and so competition for control of the limited handouts becomes more intense. 24

As the governor of Samara noted, this represents a danger to federal survival: ‘once united, the regional leaders are capable of turning purely economic questions into political ones, whereupon the centre will be left in splendid isolation. 25   The Kalmyk President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov stated in mid-November 1998 that his republic is prepared to secede from the federation and rejoin a Russian confederation as an associate member or become a sovereign republic with a defence alliance with Russia. He threatened to remove Kalmykia from the federal budget and nationalise federal structures on Kalmyk territory. 26   Although this provocative threat was designed to bring the republic’s budgetary problems to the attention of federal authorities, it undermines the unity and the integrity of the federal state.

By 23 September 1998 66 regions had entered ‘austerity mode’, imposing price controls on key food products. 27   Indeed, Russia’s Minister for the Regions noted that: ‘Almost all constituent parts of the federation which have a reasonably strong food and industry have adopted local laws banning the export of food and other commodities.’ 28   Such ‘food separatism’ through the creation of customs regimes is seen as a means of protection against the crisis in lieu of federal action. It has, however, a devastating impact federal integrity when 57% of food is imported and ‘the collapse of the banking system has put an end to settlements and payments. 29   Other constituent parts were truly in dire straits. The ability of the federal government to ensure food and fuel supplies to the Russian ‘Far North’ was heavily questioned. It became apparent in late September 1998 that the Northern regions had received only 63.8% of oil, 58.6% of coal and 46.7% of food, in individual regions (Koryaksky autonomous district and Amursky region) the supply percentages were much lower. 30   Primakov reported in February 1999 that the agro-industrial complex was being destabilized by bans on the flow of food across the borders from one constituent part of the Federation to another: ‘It is not just a political matter. It develops separatism. In the economic field, it totally destroys the market for agricultural produce throughout the country. 31

During this period the integrity of federal military and security structures markedly deteriorated. The General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces reported the psychological stress and low morale amongst troops caused by cash starvation, regionalisation and the growing criminalisation of armed structures. 32   The State Duma Defence Committee has stated that ‘the armed forces are in the deepest imaginable crisis, which is effectively full-scale disintegration, and unable, as their experts say, to carry out strategic operations. 33   This sentiment was underlined by a General Staff report that argued the Russian military was on the brink of being unable to fulfil its primary function—the defence of the Federation. 34   Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev stated in December that 30-25% of military aircraft are in good repair, 60% of strategic missile systems deployed have been in use for twice the length of their service life and more than 70% of naval vessels are in need of repairs. In 1998 the armed forces received ‘not a single nuclear submarine, tank, combat aeroplane, helicopter or piece of artillery. 35   The general malaise within the military was illustrated in Tatarstan when, in January 1999 several defence plants, starved of government orders for over two years, and were taken under dual management by the Republic. 36

3. Identifying the Dynamics of Federal Transformation:

Russia’s federal transformation does now appear to be underway, although ultimate destination of the transformation currently gathering pace is difficult to fathom. There are elite pressures at both the centre and the periphery that push for constitutional reform. There is also a process of drift that has placed the reality of centre-periphery and executive-legislature relations far in advance of existing legislation. The key questions that now arise focus on the direction of the transformation and the extent to which it can be more-or-less managed and controlled. Thus Russia may be in the process of systemic transformation as regional bloc formation occurs on an incremental ad hoc basis, driven by the logic of the crisis and the faltering heartbeat of constitutional reform, rather than elite policy choices or strategy.

a. The Constitutional Dynamic: Russia after Yeltsin

In the immediate aftermath of the August Meltdown, the political elite within Moscow began to debate the utility of reforming and rationalising power relations between centre and periphery in order to simplify governance within the federation. By May 1999 all key politicians were actively engaged in debating the draft treaty on political accord. In discussing the need for constitutional change, all factions rule out all but amendments until after the State Duma December 1999 and Presidential July 2000 elections. The desperate necessity for initiating constitutional reform was best captured by the governor of Saratov, Dmitriy Ayatskov, who stated that ‘the 1993 constitution was adopted in haste and is in shreds. 37   Some influential Russian commentators, such as Sergei Karaganov, the Chairman of the Council of Foreign and Defence Policy, discussed the ‘high probability ’ of Russia disintegrating as a state in the near future and simply becoming a ‘shape on the map’ if political and constitutional reform is not enacted in 1999. 38

In July 1999 Sergey Kiriyenko, the former Prime Minister, recognising that competing institutions could not agree on power transfer and redistribution, called for a constitutional law relating to the constitutional assembly for amendments to the constitution confirmed by national referendum. 39   Amidst all the competing ideas and proposals put forward as Russia’s Constitutional Assembly debated the need and nature of constitutional change, it is possible to begin to identify the key characteristics of the fabric of governance post July 2000. If the debates carried out by the Russian politico-economic elite within Federal power structures and the oligarch-controlled media have a bearing on the reality of power re-distribution, then the main parameters within which the re-structured constitution will rest after the Yeltsin era will be based around five core changes.

i. ‘the idea of larger regions is worth considering’

It is likely that Russia will consist of fewer constituent parts than the present 89; economically and politically unsustainable regions could be merged. All sections of the political elite appear in principle to support this rationalisation. As if to illustrate the intensifying nature of systemic collapse, Primakov admitted in September 1998: ‘the idea of larger regions is worth considering. It seems to me a sound idea, because 89 constituent parts of the federation is too many. 40   In a similar vein, the Regional Policy Minister stated that regions would ‘definitely have to’ merge. 41   In December 1998 Yeltsin gave presidential authority for Leningrad Region and St. Petersburg to hold referenda that month in order to merge, and the leading presidential candidate and mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, promoted the idea of 12 regional economic associations.

A recent example of this trend involves the proposed merger between two failing regions in the ‘Far North’. On April 18, 1999 Governor Vladimir Biryukov of Kamchatka and Valentina Brovevich, Head of the Koryak Autonomous Area, agreed on the joint operation of the administrations of these constituent parts of the Russian Federation. In short, these constituent parts will merge, sharing a common legal space, cutting the number of parallel federal administrative structures by relocating those in Koryak to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy. This will allow for budget savings to be made. 42   In July 1999 Prime Minister Stepashin stated that if the local governor was ‘unable to govern locally, then we will introduce direct federal rule in Kamchatka and then I will be responsible or everything that happens there.’ He added, without elaboration, that ‘it was not within the bonds of possibility that the Kamchatka situation’ might be being used for political purposes.’ 43

Here the dynamic for affecting change in centre-periphery relations here is clearly economic. The Russian Security Council’s interdepartmental commission on economic security meeting in April 1999 acknowledged the crisis in Russia’s Arctic zone. The most acute problem is radioactive waste disposal for submarines and the nuclear icebreaker fleet and the related problem of environmental protection. Emergency situations regularly arise with irregular supplies of food and fuel to the Far North regions. The Commission noted problems resulting from the uneven social and economic development in the region, difficult relations between local and federal budgetary and credit systems tense. 44   One chosen ‘solution’ appears to be merging peripheral regions to cut federal expenditure.

If this ‘solution’ were extended to other regions, particularly those that were poor, peripheral and had been united in the past, then a policy of consolidating ‘emergency’ regions might begin to emerge. The logic of larger units might see Krasnoyarsk merge with Kakhassia (this was one region pre 1993), Sakhalin which is suffering from energy crises with the Maritime Provinces, and the elimination of Autonomous Areas as designated constituent parts of the Federation. At present this appears an ad hoc arrangement that has support of a desperate periphery and cash starved centre – but it could prove the template for the merging of particular types of constituent parts. This process of integrating failed regions could become unstable and the issue ‘securitised’ should autonomous regions be integrated into republics. For example, would the Ust-Orda Buryat Okrug and the Aga-Buryat Okrug split from Irkutsk Oblast and Chita Oblast respectively to merge with the Buryat Republic? 45   Would the Federal centre be able to resolve the likely conflict of interests?

ii. ‘Inter Regional Economic Associations R’Us’

The real battle for reform will be over nature of the relationship between the core and the periphery in a restructured Federation and it is over this issue that most of the debates have centred. It is likely that there greater reliance upon the role of Inter-Regional Economic Associations (IREA’s). These sub-federal political actors are proposed as the key link between centre and periphery in the post-Yeltsin system of governance. However, the indistinct legal and constitutional position of regional associations within a transformed Federation, their voluntary status and weak legitimacy, all point to their inability to fulfil the function of creating and enforcing government policy. In late September 1998 Primakov again noted that as Federal funds are insufficient, regions should consider ‘once again the possibility of co-ordination and co-operation within the framework of the eight regional associations, developing your own tax base. 46

However, the ability of IREA’s to co-ordinate coherent ‘regional’ policies is open to question. Governors in NW Russia (St. Petersburg, Republic of Karelia and Leningrad, Pskov, Novgorod and Kaliningrad oblasts) have shared these sentiments, arguing that decentralisation of federal responsibilities must be matched by the devolution of the means to fulfil the tasks assigned by the centre. As Mikhail Prusak, Governor of Novgorod, reported to Primakov in February 1998, the crisis of budgetary federalism has created a ‘vacuum of power’ within the regions in general and NW Russia in particular. 47   In effect, a weakened Federal centre proposes presenting regional governors with power and authority but deprives them of the means to exercise that responsibility; the flow of power to the regions is not yet to be mirrored by the requisite flow of finance. Moreover, the indistinct legal and constitutional position of regional associations within a transformed Federation, their voluntary status and weak legitimacy, all point to their inability to fulfil such a key function. Also open to question may be the emergence of tensions between IREA’s with their recently created regional-based political associations.

iii. ‘tough vertical relations’

At the same time an attempt will be made to reconstitute a ‘vertical hierarchy of power’. Such a rationalisation of Federal structures, complemented by a dramatic reduction in the number of Federal officials working in the regions, should render them more effective in implementing policies, in a more cost effective manner. Primakov called for the re-establishment of ‘tough vertical relations’ with the regions in order to maintain the integrity of the Federation. 48   It is thus likely that a variant of Primakov’s favoured ‘vertical hierarchy of power’ will be reconstituted, with regional Duma’s ‘electing’ governors from a shortlist of three candidates pre-selected by the centre. Yeltsin reinforced this message following his annual address to the Federal Assembly in an address entitled: Russia at the Threshold of the 21st Century: the situation in the country and the main directions of Russian Federal Policy. He stressed that slimmed down vertical structures of executive power and the demarcation of specific jurisdictions and powers between bodies of state power in the Russian Federation and bodies of state power in the constituent parts of the Russian Federation was needed. 49

Primakov also stated in March 1999 that ‘We have 300,000 representatives of federal bodies at present in the localities. This is a vast army. Many of these people duplicate each other... Extremely tough demands regarding unnecessary expenditure will be made of leaders at all levels this year. 50   In April 1999, this was re-emphasised when he again stressed that a radical cut in the number of federal officials working in the regions was needed. 51   In July 1999 Prime Minister Stepashin reinforced the message, stating that: ‘we do not have the funds to maintain such a huge army of officials ’ pointing out, by way of example, that in Kursk Region 19,000 federal officials are employed. 52

iv. ‘If you have been unlucky with a wife once...’

These discussions on structural changes to federal architecture were supplemented by ideas to redistribute power between the executive and the legislature at the centre and the creation of the post of ‘vice president’ to ensure a smooth succession of power should Yeltsin suddenly become unable to hold office. By mid-November 1998 the constitutional court had ruled that Yeltsin would not be able to stand for a ‘second’ term in 2000. With this decision finalised, Yeltsin appears now to be ready to relinquish executive power, thus rendering any successor more liable to legislative oversight and control. In late November 1998 calls for constitutional reform had become widespread across the political spectrum. Yeltsin himself instructed the presidential administration to set up an expert council to draft proposals for constitutional reform, specifically for the creation of the post of ‘vice president’. 53   As Lebed argued: ‘If you have been unlucky with a wife once, that is no reason to give up the institution of marriage. 54   Thus, political power is likely to be redistributed within the executive (with the appointment of a Vice President) and from the executive to the legislature in Moscow.

v. ‘The political line in 1999...’: President versus Prime Minister

President Yeltsin has added his voice to the debate, suggesting that the Primakov vertical hierarchy principle in centre-periphery relations ought to be diluted, with regions securing ‘more power’ generally and Governors having ‘more priority over the centre’ in particular: ‘The political line in 1999 consists in giving the regions greater independence.’ He called for a review of the 46 bilateral treaties that have been signed between the Federal centre and the constituent parts of the Federation at a meeting with 19 governors of Regions and Territories on 20 April 1999: ‘I am insisting and will insist that you and not the Federal government have priority, that you come first. Then come ministers and all the rest. That’s how it is. So we will give you more independence than set down in the bilateral agreements we have signed. Let us gradually revise these agreements, one Region or Territory after another. You make your proposals and we [the Presidential Administration?] will look at your wishes as to how much more [independence] you want to claw back from the federal centre, and will do it. 55   This suggests that Yeltsin envisages a gradual revision of bilateral treaties, allowing for the devolution of power through to constituent parts, with the centre acquiescing to periphery demands. In other words the periphery sets the agenda, delimits the boundaries of competence and authority and the centre gives consent. Lebed summarised the new Federation as one in which: ‘Russia can be run by having the federal government retain the minimal powers, those which only Moscow can carry out, the regions must implement the rest of power. 56

Transformation under these conditions raises self-imposed difficulties. There is clearly no consensus as to what is acceptable and what is off-limits. As Yeltsin noted: ‘everything should begin with the regions, including proposals for foreign policy activity. 57   The growing role of sub-Federal economic structures such as IREA’s and regional political elites in Russian foreign policy formation is already notable. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledged this reality by establishing a special unit on interregional affairs and promoted its institutional presence in regions most actively engaged in foreign trade. The ministry has also invited leaders from Northwest Russia to participate in federal trade delegations to the EU, and has supported the creation of a representative office for Russian regions in Brussels. 58   In a hybrid-(Con)Federation the core might insist that foreign affairs, defence and security remain the competence of the President—all other powers would then be ‘devolved’ down to the regional blocs or associations. However, as the military is already largely regionalised and this process will intensify, it is likely that future conflicts will arise between centre and periphery over this issue of command and control of military assets and the fuzzy boundaries between competing conceptions of what constitutes ‘foreign affairs, defence and security’. (See Fig. 3: Possible Pathologies of Systemic Transformation ).

If we dismiss the draft constitutional accord debates of early and mid 1999 as largely declaratory and rhetorical, a reflecting ongoing power struggles between competing sectoral interests, or even a cloak for Federal consolidation, then we ignore the importance and residual power of ‘political discourse’ in uncertain and unstable environments. 59   This is not to discount the preponderance of political inflation’ within the Federation, indicative of the lack of accountability and responsibility of the political elite within a system that has yet to consolidate. However, these debates do provide the context, the framework and possible template of realisable constitutional change.

It could be argued that the ad hoc nature of the power relations between centre and periphery is a traditional source of Federal strength rather than weakness. 60   However, such assertion fails to take into account the extent to which centre-periphery disputes are emerging post-August 1998 due to this supposed inherent ‘strength’ and we downplay the serious impact these disputes can have on Federal stability. Constitutional violations (Federal versus constituent constitutions), arbitrary juridical interpretations (Federal versus local courts), economic disparities (tax/budgetary federalism), media, political and military regionalisation all diminish the power, authority, legitimacy and respect of Federal institutions within the regions. Federal power is undermined, not underpinned, by ad hoc and de facto arrangements.

As the State Duma noted, Yeltsin’s proposals of 20 April 1999: ‘further weakens the already fragile foundations of Russian federalism, fails to meet Russia’s strategic national interests and is promoted solely by political considerations of the moment. ’ The deputies added that as a consequence ‘the fast accelerating processes of dilution of federalism will get an additional impulse ’. They argued that this would seal ‘the already dangerous asymmetry and substantial inequality in rights of Russian territories and citizens living there and will ultimately pose a threat to the state’s unity as one of the fundamental principles underlying the federal state. 61

It can be rather more convincingly argued that constitutional change, which embraces a workable system of governance, can only be effective if it takes into account the interests of regional elites representing constituencies that sport the full spectrum of political, social, cultural and psychological diversity. If constitutional violations are to be removed from the list of issues that cause stresses and cleavages between the Federal centre and periphery, then the new constitution must embrace the existing realities of political and economic relations that have emerged in the late 1990s. By definition, this entails acknowledging a greater asymmetry within the Federation and perhaps the adoption of confederative constitutional relationships. At present, the ad hoc and rather haphazard manner in which power is exercised leads to the unwitting drift into de facto confederalism, for which there is no workable model or and little forethought, let alone strategic planning.

Other factors also influence the debate on constitutional amendments. The unification of Belarus and Russia will mean that the constitutions of the two nations will have to be changed if a new country with a common president, parliament and cabinet is to be created. As Sergei Prikhodko, the presidential chief of staff in charge of foreign policy, noted: ‘The Constitution cannot be adapted for just one change. Articles of the fundamental law [constitution] cannot be revised without reconsidering the concept of the whole document. 62   Any such amendments will on impact on the constitutional aspirations of key constituent parts of the Federation. Under such circumstances it would not be surprising if, for example, Tatarstan were to demand a similar constitutional relationship with Moscow—almost certainly other regions would follow suit. This raises the issue of the role and impact, intended and unintended, of constituent parts upon the direction and trajectory of Russia’s systemic transformation.

b. The Challenge of Collapsed Regions?

There are many examples of ‘failed’, ‘collapsed’ or ‘collapsing’ regions within the Russian Federation that can be analysed – that is, constituent parts that have proved hardly able to govern, even ineffectively. Within each of them different dynamics shape their relationship with the centre. They are important as their emergency status does not signify an island of disquiet in a sea of Federal calm, but rather forces the pace and shapes the nature of Federal ship of state’s response and reaction. Their failure to govern manufactures particular types of centre-periphery relationships that could prove enduring, transferable and so emblematic of post-Yeltsin politics. Collapsed regions highlight the Federal centre inability to contain or manage their crises and so explicitly undermine respect and faith in current Federal constitutional arrangements. By association, they implicitly suggest that weaker Federalism, or Confederal arrangements may prove more suitable and appropriate to the needs of stable centre and periphery power distribution. This analysis presupposes that collapsed regions (Chechnya apart) currently act as knowing and unintended mediating agents of Federal transformation within the body politic. Their influence is not benign, restricted to their administrative borders, but malignant. They have the ability to undermine stability in contiguous regions, to reduce respect for Federal politicians, policies and institutions, and even provide destructive disintegrationist paradigms for other unrelated constituent parts. (See Fig 2: Possible Pathologies of Systemic Transformation ). This section will analyse the impact of an ethnic republic, Chechnya, and Russian region, Kaliningrad, upon the changing nature of Russian Federalism.

i. Chechnya – ‘the logic of failed separatist stasis is confederation?

In April 1999 Primakov reaffirmed that the North Caucasus was ‘a buttress of Russian statehood.’ 63   It represents an important political and geo-strategic region for Russia and yet at its heart lies the most separatist, collapsed and destabilising of all Federal constituent parts. Chechnya is split internally between differing clans and war lords and represents a danger to stability throughout the ‘Russian’ North Caucasus. Such ambiguity is unhappily reflected in Russian policy towards this region which is equally uncoordinated. As one government expert noted: ‘The practice of containing the North Caucasus within the Russian Federation through a system of financial injections and military presence is persisting’, but ‘this pernicious policy should be abandoned because the North Caucasus does not want to and cannot breakaway. 64

The question of confederal links with Russia as an interim solution to the issue of its status has been mooted. Most recently in July 1999, Mairbek Vachagayev, Chechnya’s envoy to Russia, stated that a Russia-Chechen confederation would be ‘more or less acceptable ’ and Chechnya was ‘willing to compromise in organising a single defence and economic space with Russia ’. 65   However, Shamyl Basayev, a Chechen field commander, has stated that his intended aim is to create a different type of confederation—a Confederation of the North Caucasus, from the Black to Caspian Sea. Such a Confederation would be underpinned by the imposition of Islamic rule and lead to the creation of a Russian Republic bereft of it’s ‘imperial’ possessions in the North Caucasus: ‘It is only in Russia that the cross rises above the vanquished crescent. But the crescent will never be vanquished. 66   To this end several Chechen field commanders have moved into Dagestan’s mountainous border region in late July, early August 1999, with 1,200 fighters. They have taken almost complete control of the Botlikhskiy and Tsumadinskiy districts of Dagestan, and launched diversionary attacks on North Ossetia and Ingushetia. 67

Analysts in the Russian Interior Ministry argue that such foreign policy pronouncements, including the creation of a Congress of the Peoples of Chechnya and Dagestan are utilised instrumentally to undermine Maskadov and represent a tactic within the clan struggle that is ongoing, rather than a realisable strategic objective. Whatever its intended intent, governance, the rule of law and legitimacy are lacking within Chechnya, creating serious security problems for Russia regions in the North Caucasus, and policy dilemmas for the Federal centre. Karachay-Cherkessia and Dagestan – both have the potential to become a second and third ‘Chechnya’ in the North Caucasus—are of particular concern to the Russian Interior Ministry. 68   The proliferation of this disorder throughout the North Caucasus poses a direct challenge to Russian Federal power structures, particularly conventional military forces, and is a litmus test of their effectiveness. Were these forces to be badly defeated, the North Caucasus would seriously undermine the remaining integrity of the Federal system and hasten the creation of a looser confederation.

The role and relationship of Stavropol Territory towards Chechnya is very instructive. Kurskiy District of Stavropol Territory borders Chechnya and represents a destabilised cross-border zone – Afghan and Pakistani mercenaries, as well as ‘Chechen bandits’, are reported to be attacking police and security units in this explosive district. 69   In the first six months of 1999, Russian internal security forces suffered 45 deaths and 85 wounded in 73 assaults on border posts. 70   Various attempts have been instituted to close the administrative border between Stavropol Territory and Chechnya. The Governor has banned export and imports of good from Chechnya and called ‘for the introduction of strict migration controls and strict passports procedures and the creation of other conditions to ensure the safety of the Territory’s population. 71   To institute an international border would be to de jure accept Chechen independence and the violability of the Federation. Although Moscow has stated that the border has ‘special status’ as the government formally rules out state frontier’s status for this 120km administrative border, special militia regiments consisting of Cossack units supported by four-helicopter gun-ships guard the border. In June 1999 only 10 of the 60 checkpoints were declared open, and each of these access points were to be reorganised into police strongholds manned by up to 60 servicemen, two armoured vehicles with assault capability and four patrol vehicles equipped with machine guns. Two moats and a rampart are to be constructed along the perimeter of the border, as well as a double barbed wire fence, a security strip and 15 watchtowers. 72   This fortified ‘internal administrative border’ is international in all but name. Indeed, the chairman of the State Duma’s Security Committee (Victor Ilyukhin) has warned: ‘If control of the migration situation concerning Stavropol Territory, where more than 400,000 non-residents are staying is not established, we shall soon be faced there with a situation similar to Kosovo’s. 73   In mid to late July 1999, other more speculative reports printed in Nezavisimaya Gazeta predicted another full-scale war between the Russian Federation and Chechnya, 74   as well as the potential of increasing internal anarchy following a possible coup d’etat against Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. 75

Thus the centre’s relationship with its Chechen periphery illustrates the extent to which de facto arrangements can be instituted under the cloak of de jure constitutional propriety. It reveals the extent to which the Federal constitution can be implicitly discarded and indicates the need for new looser constitutional relationships between centre and periphery. The Chechen example points, in extreme relief, to the consolidation of ethnocracies within ethnic republics at the expense of Federal power structures and personnel. Fortified borders between Chechnya and Stavropol Territory are being replicated on the Dagestan-Chechen ‘administrative border’; Chechnya not only has the potential to undermine Federal stability in this region, it is actively doing so. Such ‘brush fires’ are transferable templates of regional separatism and may lead—as the Russian analyst Andrei Shumikhin noted—to ‘the eventual destruction of Russian territorial integrity. 76

ii. Kaliningrad– ‘the logic of separatism by default?’

Kaliningrad, a region of critical geo-strategic and political importance was particularly badly affected by the August 1998 meltdown. Customs and transit tariffs are two to three times higher than those in the rest of the Russian Federation. It has the highest prices in the Russian Federation and 85% of its goods and products were imported from the west and paid for in dollars. It has slipped 25 places on the inter-regional economic table and the bulk of the population had saved in dollars in SBS-Agro Bank, which subsequently collapsed. 77   Some analysts have warned of a social explosion within the region.

An unintended consequence of the drift into a decentralised Federal system has been the perceived and real loss of control and criminalisation of some Russian regions. 78   Kaliningrad, for example, represents an unstable and poorly administered centre for criminal activity, with an aids epidemic competing against the role of organised crime gangs in sustaining prostitution, drugs and illegal migrant networks for the media’s attention. 79   Indeed, the ND (paragraph 40-41) makes particular reference to Kaliningrad as a region in need of ‘programmes of technical assistance’ to ‘fight organized crime.’ 80   Such a perception, coupled to Lithuania’s accession negotiation talks with the EU, has resulted in a Lithuanian refusal to replace the temporary visa free travel regime by a five year visa free travel agreement with the Russian Federation. 81   Effectively, Kaliningraders will need a visa to reach Russia.

As a consequence, Valeriy Ustyugov (speaker of the Kaliningrad duma) has warned of the further economic isolation of Kaliningrad from participating in European-Baltic energy and transport projects, such as the Trans-European Networks (TENs) and the Pan-European Transport Corridors (PECs). 82   Involvement in these programmes is both questionable—given the existence of alternative transport routes—and, at the same time, central to both Kaliningrad’s internal sustainability and its future ability to function as an instrument of Russian influence in the region. As a mark of the seriousness with which stability in Kaliningrad is viewed (or perhaps Lithuanian opportunism in Brussels?), Lithuania, chairman of the Council of Baltic Sea States for the first six months of 1999, focused its undivided attention on involving Kaliningrad in the works of the Council. 83

Kaliningrad finds itself in double jeopardy. Its geo-politico-economic location as a Russian exclave within an expanding EU places particular stresses on its ability to enhance cross-border trade. These challenges are compounded by the lack of a consistently held Federal policy towards the region. The status of the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is particularly indicative of Moscow’s uncoordinated and constantly fluctuating ‘policy’ towards Kaliningrad. In July 1999 a cash-strapped IMF-dependant Federal Ministry of Finance, desperate to increase revenues, viewed the SEZ as contributing to high crime and direct losses to the federal budget. It therefore indicated it would revoke the privileges associated with a special customs regime and decided to re-impose customs duties, excise and VAT on imports. 84   Such a threat has been constant feature of economic environment (for example, March 1995) and in itself destabilises confidence and so partly explains the lack of inward investment to the region.

Indeed, it is difficult to foresee a smooth transition for Kaliningrad from its present socio-economic and political predicaments into a thriving stable trading zone. It has a huge competitive advantage to bridge in terms of its outdated transit infrastructure, services and regulatory environment, when compared to other Baltic ports. Other productive sectors, such as agriculture, are characterised by a massive structural collapse. Traditional industries, such as fishing, paper and pulp, are largely obsolete whilst raw materials, such as amber, are consigned to the grey and black economies. These factors mitigate against the re-establishment of Kaliningrad as a transport conduit and international trading hub, gaining comparative regional advantage by becoming a market place for Russian links into the global market. It could well be that Kaliningrad, a test case for EU-Russian relations, becomes emblematic of a classical security dilemma: the greater the threat of regional instability through separatism or collapse, the greater the bargaining power of local elites with Moscow and Brussels (EU/NATO) respectively. Multilateralism is paradoxically enacted to halt the drift to separatism. ‘Volatile disequilibrium’ may be institutionalised and consolidated if external policy towards Kaliningrad continues to be uncoordinated and reactive.

In essence, Kaliningrad provides a clear insight into the extent of Moscow’s inability to set the actual (as opposed to rhetorical) regional policy agenda. Federal control over Kaliningrad is declining despite the wishes of Kaliningraders to integrate more fully into the Federation. As the Governor noted in his reply to charges that he was a separatist: ‘In fact separatism begins in the offices of public officials in the capital city. They have long been far removed from the country and are living in isolation. 85   Such alienation within Russia’s 36 border regions could be reflected in the Duma elections in December 1999, where it is predicted that people will vote for extremist parties in protest. 86   Thus, despite its best intentions, Kaliningrad provides a template for other more recalcitrant regions. As the Ethnic Policy Minister Vyacheslav Mikhaylov reported: ‘Without the federal presence and federal attention to these territories [Kaliningrad and the Kurile Islands] we may lose them. 87

c. The Dynamic of Super-Presidentialism

The weakening of the president within a presidential republic has disrupted the settled pattern and structured positions of domestic actors and interest groups within the Russian Federation. 88   Russian financial and economic malaise is complemented by a power vacuum and political paralysis at the centre. Gennady Primakov was appointed Prime Minister as a compromise-candidate after the Duma threatened to reject the Presidents candidate, Viktor Chernomyrdin. During Primakov’s Premiership (September 1998 – May 1999), the centre of political gravity switched from the president and presidential administration to the new Prime Minister in combination with a coalition government (and duma) as it took ‘control’ of economic policy decision-making. Throughout the crisis Yeltsin remained seriously physically incapacitated and unable to govern, isolated, lacking legitimacy and holding only nominal power. He lost allies within the Presidential Administration, and there were growing calls for his resignation from across the political board. The ability of FIGs to influence the new economic policy appeared negligible, helping to explain the ‘compromat war’ or ‘class struggle’ between FIGs and Leftist factions within Primakov’s administration, ‘whose instrument is the Prosecutor-General’s Office.’ 89

The fall of the Primakov government in May 1999 appears to have led to the consolidation of Yeltsin and his administration’s position within a weakened Federation. They removed Primakov from the political scene and marginalised his chances as a presidential contender. They survived the talk of impeachment and effectively suppressed the attempt and colonised key posts within the new Stepashin government. They are in the process of undermining another of the leading presidential contenders, Yuriy Luzhkov, leader of the Fatherland Movement and the municipal government of Moscow. 90   The fall of Primakov was also indicative of the measure to which the Federal political system reflects and reacts to more primeval power struggles between interest groups and sectoral interests within Russia. The power relationship between the unholy trinity of President and Presidential Administration (‘family administration’), government and duma charts the ebb and flow of power struggles between FIGs, political parties, the MIC, particular power ministries, the agro-lobby, regional elites and other key interest groups.

Stepashin somewhat ironically but accurately captured the essence of Russian power politics four days before he fell victim to it. On 4 August 1999 he warned that political discord and corruption: ‘are generated at the quest of one or another group to unjustly acquire the public wealth and illegal monopoly of economic, financial and information resources. 91   As new Prime Minister, he paradoxically illustrated this fact when in addressing the State Duma before deputies voted to confirm him in his post he stated that ‘the government is not a puppet body. 92   Some analysts argued that Stepashin would go the way of Primakov. He would be replaced as soon as he appeared effective or at least became more independent of the President and slipped the reins of Presidential Administrative control.

It was also predicted that lobby groups, particularly the ‘grey cardinals’ or oligarchs (such as Boris Berezovskiy, Vladimir Gusinsky and Anatoly Chubais) would attempt to project their influence within the new government. FIGs, then, have emerged from their period of stagnation following the August 1998 meltdown of the banking sector. It is argued that they do not project a consolidated front but are internally divided into factions against each other. For example, Berezovskiy’s ‘party of power’ (lobby group) consisting of key protégés in the presidential administration (headed by Aleksandr Voloshin) and government (First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolay Aksenenko), appears set to become a key actor on the Russian Federal political landscape. 93   These two fulcrums of power are said to act as ‘counterweights’ to Chubais’s personnel choice (‘place-men’) for colonising key governmental posts and non-governmental instruments of influence (‘the real levers of power’), such as media control. 94   The political analyst Vyacheslav Nikonov (and former member of Yeltsin’s 1996 presidential campaign) has argued that the ‘party of power’ will do their utmost to strengthen their position so as to maximise their control of law enforcement agencies, financial flows and natural monopolies ahead of the next elections. 95   This suggested that consolidation of competing factions within the oligarchy would enable them to influence the outcome of the presidential elections as in 1996 and so perpetuate their power.

In short, the atmosphere in Moscow is volatile, complicated by discussions on the nature of power distribution in the post-Yeltsin era, imminent impeachment threats and the looming Duma (December 1999) and presidential (July 2000) elections. The degree of volatility is reflected in the spectrum of speculation. Some analysts have argued that the Duma elections may be postponed and combined with the presidential elections in 2000 or that Yeltsin may impose a state of emergency and rule through decree, so cancelling the electoral process. Others suggest that Yeltsin may endorse the Russia-Belarus Union and stand for a third term. Alternatively, he may resign in December 1999, allowing for the promotion of First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolay Aksensko as acting president. This would maximizing the chances of Yeltsin’s protégé ‘creeping to the throne’ 96   and effectively ensure a ‘continuity of power’ (but what in reality may amount to the guarantee of the ‘party of power’s’ interests), rather than risking a 1991-style radical reshuffle of the ruling elite. A further variant suggests that Stepashin’s self-styled ‘government of professionals’ may prove an extremely weak apolitical (‘enlightened conservatism’?) stopgap, falling in August to allow for early elections in September or October 1999 which would allow for the return of communist-nationalist factions to the White House. 97   Kiriyenko, in July 1999, stated that ‘Everyone is fed up – the whole of Moscow wants to know just one thing: will Stepashin’s government be made to stand down in August or September, or not?’ 98

As it was the latter scenario that came to pass, with the sudden departure of Stepashin from office on the 10 August 1999, it is worth speculating on the causes of his political demise and the likely effect of this latest disruption on Federal stability. It is clear that Stepashin fell from office because of his inability to react to what Yeltsin perceived as a threat to his presidential succession. In 1999 potential presidential candidates have been creating new political parties in order to provide a platform to support their presidential campaigns. The examples are numerous: Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov’s ‘Fatherland’ movement (Otechestvo); Samara region governor Konstantine Titov’s ‘Voice of Russia’; St. Petersburg governor Vladimir Yakovlev’s ‘All Russia’; former prime minister Sergey Kiriyenko’s ‘New Force’; and, former deputy prime minister Boris Nemsov’s ‘Right Cause’. The influence of governors over the formation of the next State Duma through the creation of regional political blocs has been noted by the former Prime Minister, Sergey Stepashin, who noted: ‘We will lose our Russian Federation that way. 99

However, it was the consolidation of these blocs that created a real threat to Yeltsin’s ability to de facto appoint a successor. On 4 August ‘Our Fatherland’ merged with ‘All Russia’, to form ‘Our Fatherland is All Russia’ bloc. Luzhkov and Yakovlev, the mayors of Russia’s two largest and most influential population centre’s, Moscow and St. Petersburg, created a joint election HQ and co-ordinating council consisting of political heavy weights. ‘Our Fatherland’ leadership provided Georgiy Boos (campaign chief and ex-Security Council chairman), Artur Chilingarn (former minister for Taxes and Levies), Anatoliy Kokoshin, Alexander Vladislavlev, and Andrey Isayev. ‘All Russia’ brought in Mintimir Shaymiev, the president of Tatarstan, Ruslan Ayshev, governor of Ingushetia and Petr Sumin, governor of Chelyabinsk, as well as two State Duma deputies, Vladimir Medvedev and Oleg Morozov. ‘Spiritual Heritage’s’ leader, Aleksey Posberezkin and, more importantly, the leader of the ‘Agrarian Party’, Mikhail Lapshin, indicated their parties would joint the coalition, were Primakov nominated for Presidential bid, with Luzhkov as Prime Minister.

The formation of this powerful centre left coalition (the ‘new party of power’) caused a realignment of Russian politics, with a host of centre right parties consolidating in opposition in order to fight the Duma election on the 19 December 1999. Sergey Kiriyenko’s ‘New Force’, Boris Nemsov’s ‘Right Cause’, governor Konstantin Titov’s ‘Voice of Russia’ and the depleted ranks of Victor Chernomyrdin’s ‘Our Home is Russia’ (OHR) created a centre-right, self-styled ‘reformist’ opposition. This bloc has indicated that Sergey Stepashin will be nominated to lead it through the State Duma elections and then stand for president. Given that the liberal vote is calculated at around 20%, and that Yavlinskiy’s Yabloko (which has so far remained independent) tends to receive 10-15% of this vote, it is unclear whether this new bloc will clear the 5% barrier needed to gain State Duma representation from the party lists. Nor is it certain which oligarchs will support this bloc with finance contributions and media support.

This latest reshuffle leaves the little-known Vladimir Putin as Yeltsin’s presidential choice. As a candidate he has support amongst the presidential administration but lacks a natural popular constituency upon which to build a realistic springboard for the presidency. It is likely that Putin will attempt to create ‘centrist bloc’ that takes votes from the left and the right, and is based around those regional governors that are as yet uncommitted. This suggests that the Federation Council and regional heads of administration will become stronger political actors in Russian politics. Under such circumstances, with Yeltsin bye-passing the White House and playing to the Federal Assembly’s gallery, the strengthening of regions will not lead to the strengthening of the Federation, but rather to creeping autonomy and greater uncontrolled devolution. This is process of transferring more political power to regional leaders is underscored by Titov’s (Samara governor) suggestion in July 1999 that only someone who has won the election in more than half of constituent members of the Russian Federation could make a bid for the post of the Russian Federation. 100   The net result were his suggestion adopted would be the diminution of the urban vote as a decisive factor, the inevitability of a run-off, and an increased necessity to bargain intensively with regional governors.

What will be the constitutional and political price paid for the regional governor’s support? Dmitry Rogoyin, the leader of the Congress of Russian Communities, stated: ‘What he [Luzhkov] have to do regarding [Tatarstan’s President] Mintimer Shaymiyev and [Ingush President Ruslan] Aushev will promote Russia turning into a confederation in the future and stronger sovereignty and statehood for Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Ingushetia and other ethnic republics. This is the collapse of Russia’. 101   The question could equally be asked of Yeltsin and Putin in their attempts to garner support for a candidate who can ensure a smooth succession of power that protects both Yeltsin’s legacy and his person. A president more concerned with personal survival than preservation of the Federation encourages the current drift into confederalisation. (These options and variants are outline in Figures 1, 2 and 3).


Conclusions: ‘ What is Russia’s Threshold?’

If the above analysis does capture the essence of Russian systemic transformation – if the inter-linked but uncoordinated pressures of presidentialism, failing regions and constitutional reform do prove to be catalysts for the emergence of a confederal Russia – what are the likely implications? How great do these pressures have to become before Russia crosses the ‘threshold’ from Federal to confederal state? How might foreign states respond to Russia’s systemic transformation or collapse?

One could rather disingenuously argue that as the systemic crisis deepens the security implications and external policy options will become more apparent, or highlight the fact that foreign policy-makers have invariably been caught off balance by the direction, nature and rapidity of change within Russia over the last ten years. It is no more useful to stress that on past evidence it is clear that any international options available will be limited, reactive in nature and largely focussed on supporting key leaders who are likely to promote their conception of what constitutes ‘stability’ and ‘security’ within the Russian Federation.

There are two clear categories of policy implications. Firstly, functional issues—how do foreign actors deal with a Russian Federation undergoing a renewed wave of systemic transformation? Secondly, can the foreign actors identify and implement policies that have the possibility of achieving realisable objectives. Do foreign states share a common consensus as to what constitutes desirable and realisable goals of their ‘Russia policy’? What are the policy dilemmas that need to be avoided? 102

These dilemmas will be particularly acute should Russian Federal systemic transformation become a self-sustaining dynamic, divorced from the influence of political actors and institutions and result in hybrid Russian Confederal and collapsed variants. If both the Federal centre and the regions continue to weaken, then the Russian Federation and its foreign policy will loose coherence. In such a context the West may be drawn much more fully into Russian politics in order to fill the security and governance vacuum left by the effective collapse of Federal authority within the regions. Two Western policy dilemma alternatives are at once apparent should the long-term trends (economic weakness, structural/institutional ineffectiveness and demographic decline) continue and the short-term Federal characteristics (regionalism/corruption) become more pronounced. All of these dilemmas could coexist uneasily.

Western actors as arbiters in Russian centre-periphery disputes?
Two factors are likely to exacerbate the role of external political actors in Russian territorial space. The power vacuum at the Federal centre and the rise of sub-federal-interstate relations, particularly because of environmental security concerns, draw foreign states and international organisations into Russian internal affairs. Both factors mean that regional governors are set to play a growing role in centre-periphery relations, will be key actors for the foreseeable future.

Stepashin’s replacement as Prime Minister on 9 August 1999 does little to strengthen the centre in the lead-up to a volatile period in Russian politics. A new Prime Minister will not be in place until late August 1999, leaving three clear months in which the State Duma electoral campaigns will take place, leading directly onto a hotly contested presidential election. Yeltsin has already indicated that Vladimir Putin is his favoured presidential candidate. This period of political struggle for power will further weaken the resources and power of Federal structures in both Moscow and the regions. As a consequence, the centre’s ability to co-ordinate its policies with the regions and control regional foreign policy formation will be further undermined. Such likely tendencies will inevitably force foreign states to fill the policy vacuum and so become institutionalised as arbiters between and ever weakening centre and periphery. Within the internal political environment such co-operation can be easily characterised as the thin edge of a western wedge. The CPRF-LDPR nightmare scenario of ‘Russia as proxy-state’, governed by the flip side of market economic reform characterised by trans-national corporation colonisation of the Russian natural resource base (comprador capitalism) will become a reality – at least in communist-nationalist populist discourse.

There is a danger that lack of financial payments to energy producing plants, nuclear as well as conventional, or other environmentally unsafe enterprises, could result in the increase of environmental risks of spillage’s and pollution. However, as international environmental safety is at stake, foreign governments are seeking to secure through ‘joint-venture finance’ the integrity of such plants. Such a move effectively represent the ‘outsourcing and privatisation’ of Federal responsibility and functions to foreign states and further erodes the role of Moscow within the periphery. Once partnerships between sub-national governments and foreign states and international organisations have been created and prove effective, this further diminishes the authority of the centre. UK and Norwegian financial support to improve the management of decommissioned Northern Fleet nuclear waste in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk oblasts has been forthcoming and this has improved sub-federal-interstate relations. To what extent can Moscow continue to have a decisive say in the periphery if these types of new relationships become institutionalised?

Foreign states and international organisations have had an important, if unintended effect, in both fragmenting the Federation and strengthening regional blocs through the way in which it promotes and manages inter-regional co-operation through its policies and programmes. For example, the EU’s Northern Dimension (ND), which includes the five Nordic, three Baltic States, Poland, Germany and the Russian Federation has already had an important impact in shaping Russia’s role and policies within the Baltic region. The ND, by identifying Russian constituent parts neighbouring or contiguous to EU states within its organising framework, reinforces the territorial identity and politico-economic legitimacy of ‘NW Russia’. At the same time Moscow, in allowing EU-Russia ‘working groups’ to discuss policies to Kaliningrad, has promoted notions of joint governance and so surrendered its state monopoly in defining its Federal interest; Moscow inadvertently supports de facto de-federalisation.

International policy as de facto disintegrationist and anti-democratic?
If a drift towards de facto confederalism is afoot, what are the policy dilemmas inherent within such a transformation? Undue recognition or legitimisation by external states of the ‘economic conglomerates’ may be construed by an overly sensitive core as a threat to the integrity of the federation. These regions may enjoy economic sovereignty, but would they be able to develop their own foreign economic policy? The indistinct legal and constitutional position of regional associations within a confederation would create difficult foreign policy dilemmas for foreign states. This, in turn, will be complicated if foreign states fail to act in concert and share a similar assessment of federal collapse and agree on joint policy goals.

Alternatively, external legitimisation of particular regions that claim full sovereignty under the stress of a failed transition to a remodelled federation or confederation may actually help stabilise the internal security of particular Russian territories. But which foreign state would risk being accused of breaking up the Russian Federation? As Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Prime Minister designate warned, ‘new threats’ are emerging on Russia’s borders, connected with ‘the geopolitical aspirations of some of the neighbouring countries, activities of trans-national criminal groups and illegal migration.’ 103   Such an appreciation recognises that the Federation is now beset by threats to its internal security, sovereignty and territorial integrity—its very statehood—by non-traditional politico-military factors that demand a more imaginative and effective response than hitherto achieved by the Federation. It suggests further that it is the societal, environmental and economic sectors that produce core threats to the Federation’s continued legitimacy and survival. Paradoxically, it may well be that as they threats are essentially trans-national in nature, they are best dealt with at the interstate or sub-federal level. In effect, the Russian Federation enters a Catch-22 situation: it must promote de-federalising means to secure a federal end. A weak, disorganised and corrupted Federal centre will almost certainly fail in its attempts to square this circle

The processes of regionalisation impels us to reconsider the traditional distinction between international relations and comparative politics, and reveal the degree to which state borders can be penetrated by a multiplicity of actors, so challenging the old models of international relations. It is clear that what is occurring within the Federation is not simply a localised phenomena, but global. Indeed, inter-penetrating, undercutting and reinforcing regionalisation is the omnipresent impact of globalisation, with its economic, cultural and political dimensions. The criminalisation of the Russian Federation—the ‘hollowing out of the state—also reflect and drive the process of systemic transformation. Russia shares many of the stresses that beset large, multinational states at the very end of the 20th century. But does it point to possible key characteristic of international relations in the 21st century, namely, the implosion of these states or managed transformation of their socio-economic and political systems into unitary or confederal states?

If this is the case, then Russian de-Federalisation provides a useful comparative case study of this process, and our analysis can be usefully placed along side the processes of systemic transformation in Brazil, India, China, Indonesia and Nigeria. However, Russia also maintains unique features. It is more urbanised and industrialised than these other large multinational states. It managed its modernisation paradigm by utilising internal sources of finance under Stalin’s forced collectivisation and industrialisation regimes. Russian privatisation in the 1990s – the backbone of its latest modernisation (or post-modernisation) strategy—has resulted in capital flight and helped consolidate the creation of a political and economic oligarchy. A paradox of Russian systemic transformation emerges. The break of ethnic republics from federal to confederal relationship with the centre will be imbuded with and continue to exhibit peculiar features particular to ‘Russia’.


Select Bibliography:

1. Authors Interviews/Conversations

Authors interview with Nikolai V. Petrov, Scholar in Residence, Carnegie Moscow Centre, Moscow, 1 July 1998.

Authors telephone conversation with Anton Surikov, State Duma Advisor to Yuriy Maslyukov, former First Deputy Prime Minister (Economy), May 1999

Authors conversation with Susan Woodward, Senior Research Fellow, Brookings Institute, Washington DC, March 1999

Authors conversation with Dr. Yulia Grigorieva, Research Fellow, Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO), Russian Federation, Bucharest, June 1999.

Nikolai Fomin, Head of Section of European Cooperation Department, Russian Foreign Ministry, workshop, Novgorod, 19–20 March 1999

Martin Nicholson, IISS, ‘Moscow and the Regions Conference’, University of Aberdeen, 8 May 1999.

Professor Stephen White, University of Glasgow, ‘Moscow and the Regions Conference’, University of Aberdeen, 8 May 1999.

2. Secondary Sources

Alexei G. Arbatov, ‘Military Reform In Russia: Dilemmas, Obstacles, and Prospects’, International Security, Vol. 22, no. 4, 1998, pp. 83-95

Johan Backman, ‘The Inflation of Crime in Russia: Paradoxes of a Threat Around the Baltic Sea’, in NEBI Yearbook 1999, pp. 313-326 (forthcoming)

Douglas W. Blum (ed.), Russia’s Future: Consolidation or Disintegration? (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1994)

Joan DeBardeleben, ‘The Development of Federalism in Russia’, in Peter J. Stavrakis, Joan DeBardeleben & Larry Black (eds.), Beyond the Monolith: The Emergence of Regionalism in Post-Soviet Russia (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Centre Press, 1997), pp. 35-56

Stephen Dewar, ‘Kaliningrad—an opportunity or a barrier for Russian-EU co-operation?’ Round Table: Russia and the West: The New Stage of Relations, Moscow, 7 July 1999, unpublished presentation

Mathew Evangelista, ‘Russia’s Fragile Union’, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, May/June 1999, Vol. 55, no. 4, p. 4

Lyndelle Fairlie, ‘Kaliningrad: Recent Changes in Russia’s Exclave on the Baltic Sea, in NEBI Yearbook 1999, pp. 293-312 (forthcoming).

Fredric J. Fleron Jr, ‘Congruence Theory Applied: Democratisation in Russia’, in Harry Eckstein, Fredric J. Fleron Jr, Erik P. Hoffman & William M. Reisinger, (eds.), Can Democracy Take Root in Post-Soviet Russia? (Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998), pp. 35-68

Tracey German (ed.), ‘Moscow, the Regions and Russia’s Foreign Policy’, Conflict Studies Research Centre, June 1999, E103

Graeme P. Herd, ‘Russia: Systemic Transformation or Federal Collapse?’ Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 36, no. 3, May 1999, pp. 259-269

Graeme P. Herd, ‘Russia: The Disintegration of the Federation?’ London Defence Studies Paper, (Brassey’s Publications Ltd., London, 1998)

Evaldas Ignatavicius, ‘Domestic Aspects of Direct Neighbourhood. A Lithuanian Perspective’, in Strategies, pp. 23-28.

‘Kaliningrad Region SEZ: Pros and Contras’, East-West Institute, 1999.

Iris Kempe & Wim van Meurs (eds.), ‘Strategies of Direct Neighbourhood for the Baltic Sea Region and Northwestern Russia’, Centre for Applied Policy Research (CAP) Working Paper, University of Munich, June 1999, pp. 1-45

Gail W. Lapidus & Edward W. Walker, ‘Nationalism, Regionalsim and Federalism: Centre-Periphery Relations in Post-Communist Russia’, in Gail W. Lapidus (ed.), The New Russia: Troubled Transformation (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1995), pp. 79-113

Aleksei M. Lavrov, ‘Bugetary Federalism’, in Jeremy R. Azrael & Emil A. Payin (eds.), Conflict and Consensus in Ethno-Political and Centre-Periphery Relations in Russia (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, 1998), pp. 23-44

Emil A. Payin, ‘Ethnic Separatism’, in Azrael & Payin, pp. 15-22.

Alexander Sergounin, ‘The Process of Regionalisation and the Future of the Russian Federation’, COPRI Working Paper 9, 1999

Leonid V. Smyrnygin, ‘Typologies of Regional Conflict in Modern Russia’, in Azrael & Payin, pp. 1-13



Note 1: This section is based on an article written in October 1998: Graeme P. Herd, ‘Russia: Systemic Transformation or Federal Collapse?’ Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 36, no. 3, May 1999, pp. 259-269.  Back.

Note 2: Alexei G. Arbatov, ‘Military Reform In Russia: Dilemmas, Obstacles, and Prospects’, International Security, Vol. 22, no. 4, 1998, pp. 83-95.  Back.

Note 3: ‘Krasnoyarsk Territory governor Lebed meets local military commanders’, SWB, SU/3292 S1/1, 30 July 1998—ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscow, 28 July 1998.  Back.

Note 4: Authors interview with Nikolai V. Petrov, Scholar in Residence, Carnegie Moscow Centre, Moscow, 1 July 1998. See also: Dmitry Zaks, ‘Coal Miners Stop Trains Once Again’, The Moscow Times, No. 1486, July 2, 1998, p. 1 – 2.  Back.

Note 5: ‘Newspaper profiles Sverdlovsk governor’s ambitions for ‘Urals republic’, SWB, SU/3319 B/15, 31 August 1998—‘Obshchaya gazeta’, Moscow, 28 August 1998.  Back.

Note 6: Gail W. Lapidus & Edward W. Walker, ‘Nationalism, Regionalsim and Federalism: Centre-Periphery Relations in Post-Communist Russia’, in Gail W. Lapidus (ed.), The New Russia: Troubled Transformation (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1995), pp. 79-113.  Back.

Note 7: Douglas W. Blum (ed.), Russia’s Future: Consolidation or Disintegration? (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1994); Emil A. Payin, ‘Ethnic Separatism’, in Azrael & Payin, pp. 15-22.  Back.

Note 8: Excepting from this generalisation the Republic of Tuva, 1921-1944.  Back.

Note 9: Fredric J. Fleron Jr, ‘Congruence Theory Applied: Democratisation in Russia’, in Harry Eckstein, Fredric J. Fleron Jr, Erik P. Hoffman & William M. Reisinger, (eds.), Can Democracy Take Root in Post-Soviet Russia? (Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998), pp. 35-68; Leonid V. Smyrnygin, ‘Typologies of Regional Conflict in Modern Russia’, in Azrael & Payin, pp. 1-13.  Back.

Note 10: These complex processes are addressed in Tracey German (ed), ‘Moscow, the Regions and Russia’s Foreign Policy’, Conflict Studies Research Centre, June 1999, E103; Alexander Sergounin, ‘The Process of Regionalisation and the Future of the Russian Federation’, COPRI Working Paper 9, 1999.  Back.

Note 11: SWB, SU/3330 B/1, 12 September 1998 – Interfax news agency, Moscow, 11 September 1998.  Back.

Note 12: The unifying effect of ‘budgetary federalism’ has been noted by Joan DeBardeleben, ‘The Development of Federalism in Russia’, in Peter J. Stavrakis, Joan DeBardeleben & Larry Black (eds.), Beyond the Monolith: The Emergence of Regionalism in Post-Soviet Russia (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Centre Press, 1997), pp. 35-56; Aleksei M. Lavrov, ‘Bugetary Federalism’, in Jeremy R. Azrael & Emil A. Payin (eds.), Conflict and Consensus in Ethno-Political and Centre-Periphery Relations in Russia (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, 1998), pp. 23-44.  Back.

Note 13: SWB, SU/3457 B/2, 12 February 1999 – NTV, Moscow, 10 February 1999.  Back.

Note 14: SWB, SUW/3577 WA/4, 26 February 1999 – Interfax news agency, Moscow, 19 February 1999.  Back.

Note 15: ‘Deputy PM says economy dire, not hopeless’, SWB, SUW/0579 WA/4, 12 March 1999 – ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscow, 2 March 1999.  Back.

Note 16: ‘Annual inflation rate forecast at 60%’, SUW, 0600 WA/6, 6 August 1999 – Interfax news agency, Moscow, 27 July 1999.  Back.

Note 17: Regions still beset by wage arrears’, SWB, SUW/0579 WA/5, 12 March – Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Moscow, 2 March 1999.  Back.

Note 18: ‘Duma official ponders remedy for the oil sectors ills’, SWB, SUW/0577, WA/8, 26 February 1999 – Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Moscow, 18 February 1999.  Back.

Note 19: ‘Economy said to defy worst forecasts – paper’, SWB, SUW/0590 WA/3, 28 May 1999 – Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Moscow, 19 April 1999.  Back.

Note 20: ‘Economy showing positive signs since crisis’, SUW/0591 WA/2, 4 June 1999 – Ekspert, Moscow, 10 May 1999.  Back.

Note 21: ‘Prime Minister Primakov tells regional leaders to toe line or risk sack’, SWB, SU/3345 B/1, 30 September 1998—NTV, Moscow, 29 September 1998.  Back.

Note 22: ‘Maritime Territory’s budget suffers from defaulting banks’, SWB, SU/3308 B/10, 18 August 18998—ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscow, 17 August 1998.  Back.

Note 23: ‘Living standards fall in regions, polls show, SUW, 0600 WA/5, 6 August 1999 – RIA news agency, Moscow, 28 July 1999. A substantial drop in living standards was reported in the first 6 months of 1999, when compared with 1998, particularly amongst pensioners, reflecting their purchasing capacity adjusted to inflation decreasing by almost 50% as compared to 1998. Radio Russia, Moscow, 30 July 1999.  Back.

Note 24: Graeme P. Herd, ‘Russia: The Disintegration of the Federation?’ London Defence Studies Paper, (Brassey’s Publications Ltd., London, 1998).  Back.

Note 25: ‘Donor regions’ warn federal centre to listen to their views’, SWB, SU/3342 B/9, 26 September 1998 – Kommersant Daily, Moscow, 24 September 1998.  Back.

Note 26: ‘President Ilyumzhinov says his republic may secede from Russian Federation’, SWB, SU/3388 B/5, 19 November 1998 – Russian Public TV, Moscow, 17 November 1998.  Back.

Note 27: This was calculated in a rough and ready way by the author and Steven Main through this period using SWB reports.  Back.

Note 28: ‘Deputy PM Gustov asks prosecutor to probe local bans on food exports by regions’, SWB, SU/3343 B/9, 28 September 1998—Radio Russia, Moscow, 25 September 1998. By way of comparison, in mid-1992 only 23 regions had instituted customs regimes.  Back.

Note 29: ‘First Deputy PM Maslyukov speaks of his politics and plans’, SWB, SU/3351 B/10, 7 October 1998—NTV, Moscow, 4 October 1998.  Back.

Note 30: Northern regions received only 53% of their budget allocations and the Finance Ministry refuses to extend federal credits, as they were not paid back from the previous year.  Back.

Note 31: ‘Primakov criticizes food movement restrictions’, SWB, SU/3465 B/6, 22 February 1999 – Russia Public TV, Moscow, 19 February, 1999.  Back.

Note 32: ‘Crime undermining armed forces’ combat readiness’, SWB, SU/3343 SI/3, 28 September 1998—‘Nezavisimaya gazeta’, Moscow, 25 September 1998.  Back.

Note 33: ‘Yeltsin ruined Russia’s defence potential – senior MP’, SWB, SU/3374 B/3, 3 November 1998 – Interfax news agency, 2 November 1998.  Back.

Note 34: ‘Segodnya’ newspaper warns of explosive situation in the armed forces’, SWB, SU/3346 SI/1, 1 October 1998—Segodnya, Moscow, 26 September 1998.  Back.

Note 35: ‘One-third of arsenal unserviceable – defence minister’, SWB, SU/3410 S1/2, Interfax news agency, Moscow, 11 December 1998.  Back.

Note 36: ‘Tatarstan takes control of Defence plants’, SWB, SUW/0574 WA/11, 5 February 1999 – Kommersant, Moscow, 20 January 1999.  Back.

Note 37: ‘Saratov regional governor calls for constitutional reform’, SWB, SU/3394 B/8, 26 November 1998 – ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscow, 24 November 1998.  Back.

Note 38: John Thornhill, ‘Primakov seen heading for a showdown with yeltsin’, Financial Times, 13-14 February, 1999, p. 2.  Back.

Note 39: ‘Ex-PM Kiriyenko would seek referendum on presidential powers’, SWB, SU/3596 B/5, 26 July 1999 – Russia TV, Moscow, 22 July 1999.  Back.

Note 40: ‘Premier Primakov criticises previous cabinet’s handling of the crisis’, SWB, SU/3337 B/1, 21 September 1998 – Russian TV channel, Moscow, 19 September 1998.  Back.

Note 41: ‘New regional policy minister tells paper regions definitely to merge’, SWB, SU/3347 B/7, 2 October 1998—Kommersant Daily, Moscow, 30 September 1998.  Back.

Note 42: ‘Kamchatka Region, Koryak Autonomous Area agree on joint operations of administrations’, SWB, SU/3513 B/9, 29 April 1999 – ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscow, 18 April 1999.  Back.

Note 43: ‘Government sets up team to tackle energy crisis in Kamchatka’ SWB, SU/3586 B/8, 14 July 1999 – ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscow, 12 July 1999.  Back.

Note 44: ‘Security Council concerned at ‘crisis’ in Russia’s Far North’, SWB, SU/3504 B/13, 9 April 1999 – RIA news agency, Moscow, 6 April 1999.  Back.

Note 45: I am grateful to Dr. Yulia Grigorieva, Research Fellow, Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO), Russian Federation, for this point.  Back.

Note 46: ‘Primakov stresses economic recovery and discipline’, SWB, SU/3345 B/1, 30 September 1998—Russia TV Channel, Moscow, 29 September 1998.  Back.

Note 47: ‘Primakov clashes with Novgorod governor at meeting’, SWB, SU/3467 B/6, 24 February 1999 – NTV, Moscow, 22 February 1999.  Back.

Note 48: ‘Primakov’s address to Federation Council’, SWB, SU/3401 B/4, 4 December 1998 – Russia TV, Moscow, 2 December 1998; ‘PM Primakov urges reform to ‘vertical system of authority’, SWB, SU/3465 B/5, 22 February 1999 – Interfax news agency, Moscow, 21 February 1999.  Back.

Note 49: ‘Government discusses economic action plan’, SWB, SU/3512 B/1, 19 April 1999 – ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscow, 16 April 1999.  Back.

Note 50: ‘Primakov demands cuts in expenditure on civil servants’, SWB, SU/3482 B/2, 13 March 1999 – Radio Russia, Moscow, 12 March 1999.  Back.

Note 51: ‘Primakov favours radical cut in the number of region-based federal officials’, SWB, SU/3518 B/9, 26 April 1999 – Radio Russia, Moscow, 24 April 1999. He stated that excluding staff of the Internal Affairs Ministry and Tax Police, there were 330,000 federal officials in the regions.  Back.

Note 52: ‘Stepashin wants to modify federal structure, cut bureaucracy’, SWB, SU/3596 B/3, 26 July 1999 – Radio Russia, Moscow, 23 July 1999.  Back.

Note 53: ‘Yeltsin orders creation of council to discuss constitutional reform’, SWB, SU/33965 B/2, 28 November 1998 – ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscow, 27 November 1998.  Back.

Note 54: ‘Krasnoyarsk governor Lebed argues for reviving institution of vice-presidency’, SWB, SU/3369 B/5, 28 October 1998 – Interfax news agency, Moscow, 27 October 1998.  Back.

Note 55: ‘Yeltsin says demarcation of powers between the regions and the centre could be reviewed’, SWB, SU/3514 B/6, 21 April 1999 – Interfax news agency, 10 April 1999.  Back.

Note 56: ‘Siberian governor Lebed backs devolved power for regions’, SWB, SU/3514 B/7, 21 April 1999 – Interfax news agency, 10 April 1999.  Back.

Note 57: ‘Yeltsin says demarcation of powers between the regions and the centre could be reviewed’, SWB, SU/3514 B/6, 21 April 1999 – Interfax news agency, 10 April 1999.  Back.

Note 58: Alexander Sergounin, The Process of Regionalisation and the Future of the Russian Federation, COPRI Working Paper 9, 1999; Nikolai Fomin, Head of Section of European Co-operation Department, Russian Foreign Ministry, workshop, Novgorod, 19–20 March 1999, unpublished prsentation  Back.

Note 59: Discussion point argued by Martin Nicholson, IISS, ‘Moscow and the Regions Conference’, University of Aberdeen, 8 May 1999.  Back.

Note 60: Discussion point argued by Professor Stephen White, University of Glasgow, ‘Moscow and the Regions Conference’, University of Aberdeen, 8 May 1999.  Back.

Note 61: ‘Duma criticizes Yeltsin for inviting regions to wrest more power from centre’, SWB, SU/3558 B/1, 11 June 1999 – RIA news agency, Moscow, 9 June 1999.  Back.

Note 62: ‘Yeltsin will not be president of merged Russia-Belarus state – aide’, SWB, SU/3596 B/1, 26 July 1999 – Interfax news agency, Moscow, 23 July 1999.  Back.

Note 63: ‘Primakov welcomes growing ties among North Caucasus regions’, SWB, SU/3518 B/9, 26 April 1999 –Russia TV, Moscow, 24 April 1999.  Back.

Note 64: ‘Government backs policy guidelines for North Caucasus’, SWB, SU/3578 B/6, 5 July 1999 – RIA news agency, Moscow, 2 July 1999.  Back.

Note 65: ‘Chechnya willing to enter confederation with Russia as interim solution—envoy’, SWB, SU/3595 B/6, 24 June 1999—Interfax news agency, Moscow, 23 July 1999.  Back.

Note 66: ‘Chechen failed commander Basayev outlines his political stance’, SWB, SU/3512 B/1, 17 April 1999 – Moskovskiye Novosti, Moscow, 15 April 1999.  Back.

Note 67: ‘Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev says Russian troops cut off in Dagestan’, SWB, SU/3612 B/4, 13 August 1999 – NTV, Moscow, 11 August 1999.  Back.

Note 68: ‘Deputy Premier Stepashin warns against second Chechnya emerging in the North Caucasus’, SWN, SU/3525 B/5, 4 May 1999 – NTV, Moscow, 2 May 1999.  Back.

Note 69: ‘Afghan, Pakastani mercenaries seen behind latest killings in southern Russia’, SWB, SU/3566 B/11, 21 June 1999 – Russia TV, Moscow, 18 June 1999.  Back.

Note 70: ‘Chechen attacks a reaction to tightened border control—Russian official’, SWB, SU/3589 B/5, 17 July 1999—Russian TV, Moscow, 15 July 1999.  Back.

Note 71: ‘Stavropol Territory closes border with Chechnya’, SWB, SU/3504 B/13, 9 April 1999 – Interfax news agency, Moscow, 7 April 1999.  Back.

Note 72: ‘Russia closes checkpoints along Chechen border after violence’, SWB, SU/3566 B/9, 21 June 1999 – Interfax news agency, Moscow, 18 June 1999.  Back.

Note 73: ‘Duma adopts law envisaging emergency measures in Stavropol Territory’, SWB, SU/3571 B/14, 26 June 1999 – RIA news agency, Moscow, 24 June 1999.  Back.

Note 74: ‘Chechen president effectively deposed, was with Russia imminent—paper’, SWB, SU/3592 B/11, 21 July 1999—Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Moscow, 17 July 1999.  Back.

Note 75: ‘New Chechen security council result of ‘coup’ by field commanders, says paper’, SWB, SU/3589 B/4, 17 July 1999—Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Moscow, 15 July 1999.  Back.

Note 76: Mathew Evangelista, ‘Russia’s Fragile Union’, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, May/June 1999, Vol. 55, No. 4, p. 4; ‘Dagestan warns federal authorities of separatist threat to its integrity’, SWB, SU/3607 B/5, 7 August 1999 – Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Moscow, 4 August 1999, pp. 1, 5.  Back.

Note 77: ‘Yeltsin move to resolve the ‘close to critical’ situation in Kaliningrad Region welcomed’, SWB, SU/4541 B/11, 21 April 1999 – Ostankino Radio Mayak, Moscow 18 April 1999.  Back.

Note 78: For a general discussion, see: Johan Backman, ‘The Inflation of Crime in Russia: Paradoxes of a Threat Around the Baltic Sea’, in NEBI Yearbook 1999, pp. 313-326.  Back.

Note 79: Igor Korolkov, ‘All the governor’s Men: they have turned the region into a particular zone of risk’, Izvestiya, 29 August 1998; Lyndelle Fairlie, ‘Kaliningrad: Recent Changes in Russia’s Exclave on the Baltic Sea, in NEBI Yearbook 1999, pp. 293-312 (forthcoming).  Back.

Note 80: Stephen Dewar, ‘Kaliningrad—an opportunity or a barrier for Russian-EU co-operation?’, Round Table: Russia and the West: The New Stage of Relations, Moscow, 7 July 1999, unpublished presentation; Iris Kempe & Wim van Meurs (eds.), ‘Strategies of Direct Neighbourhood for the Baltic Sea Region and Northwestern Russia’, Centre for Applied Policy Research (CAP) Working Paper, University of Munich, June 1999, pp. 1-45.  Back.

Note 81: ‘Premier’s Moscow visit linked to progress of talks on Russian enclave of Kaliningrad’, SWB, SU/3460 E/1, 16 February 1999 – Lithuanian Radio, Vilnius, 11 February 1999.  Back.

Note 82: ‘Kaliningrad official fears isolation if Lithuania joins EU’, SWB, SU/3438 B/9, 21 January 1999 – Interfax news agency, Moscow, 19 January 1999; ‘Kaliningrad governor praises Lithuanian president for good relations’, SWB, SU/3436 B/15, 19 January 1999 – BNS news agency, Kaliningrad, 14 January 1999.  Back.

Note 83: ‘Lithuania, Russia team up to integrate Kaliningrad Region into Europe’, SWB, SU/ 3579 H/1, 6 July 1999 – BNS news agency, Tallinn, 2 July 1999. For an analysis of Lithuania’s post August 1998 Kaliningrad policy, see Evaldas Ignatavicius, ‘Domestic Aspects of Direct Neighbourhood. A Lithuanian Perspective, in ‘Strategies’, pp. 23-28.  Back.

Note 84: ‘Kaliningrad Region SEZ: Pros and Contras’, East-West Institute, 1999. I am grateful to Stephan Dewar (EU TACIS Kaliningrad Consultant, 1996-1998) and Lyndelle Fairlie (San Diego State University) for passing on this excellent analysis to me.  Back.

Note 85: ‘Kaliningrad Governor denies charges of separatism’, Tribuna, Moscow, 18 February 1999.  Back.

Note 86: ‘Stepashin warms of potential extremism in border regions’, SWB, SU/3580 B/8, 7 July 1999 – Ekho Moskovy radio, Moscow, 6 July 1999.  Back.

Note 87: ‘Border policy should be tailored to suit individual areas, ethnic policy minister says’, SWB, SU/3581 B/10, 8 July 1999 – ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscow, 6 July 1999.  Back.

Note 88: For an analysis of the role and influence of these actors before August 1998, see: Segounin, ‘The Russia Dimension’, pp. 50–68.  Back.

Note 89: ‘Arrest warrants for oligarchs signify start of class struggle’ – newspaper’, SWB, SU/3504 b/2, 9 April 1999 – Segodnya, Moscow, 7 April 1999. Boris Berezovskiy and Alexsandr Smolenskiy were targeted.  Back.

Note 90: ‘Aide says Moscow mayor subjected to media blackout by Yeltsin’s team’, SWB, SU/3555 B/6, 8 June 1999 – TV6, Moscow, 6 June 1999.  Back.

Note 91: ‘Stepashin governor will no allow ‘dirty elections’’, SWB, SU/3607 B/3, 7 August 1999 – Interfax news agency, Moscow 5 August 1999.  Back.

Note 92: ‘Acting PM Stepashin outlines his priorities before his endorsement by MPs’, SWB, SU/3540 B/2, 20 May 1999 – ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscow, 19 May 1999.  Back.

Note 93: ‘Newspaper predicts hard times ahead for Stepashin’, SWB, SU/3541 B/2, 11 May 1999 – ‘Moskovskiy Komsomolets’, Moscow, 20 May 1999. See also, ‘Paper suggests tycoon Berezovskiy ‘directly involved’ in forming new cabinet’, SWB, SU/3544 B/2, 26 May 1999 – Komsomolskaya Pravda, Moscow, 21 May 1999; ‘Oligarchs carving up power – newspaper says’, SWB, SU/3545 B/3, 27 May 1999 – ‘Vremya MN’ web site, Moscow, 20 May 1999.  Back.

Note 94: ‘Grid chief wins fights with media tycoon over ‘Kommersant’ acquisition’, SWB, SU/3570 B/2, 25 June 1999 – ‘Moskovskiy Komsomolets’, Moscow, 21 June 1999.  Back.

Note 95: ‘Government formed by president’s family and entourage – expert’, SWB, SU/3545 B/4, 27 May 1999 – NTV, Moscow, 25 May 1999.  Back.

Note 96: ‘Newspaper ponders possible Kremlin scheme for Yeltsin’s early retirement’, SWB, SU/3582 B/1, 9 July 1999 – Moskovskiy Komsomolets’, Moscow, 6 July 1999.  Back.

Note 97: Authors telephone conversation with Anton Surikov, State Duma Advisor to Yuriy Maslyukov, former First Deputy Prime Minister (Economy), May 1999.  Back.

Note 98: ‘Ex-PM Kiriyenko would seek referendum on presidential powers’, SWB, SU/3596 B/5, 26 July 1999 – Russia TV, Moscow, 22 July 1999.  Back.

Note 99: ‘Stepashin warns governors’ bloc threaten unity of Russian Federation’, SWB, SU/3596 B/2, 26 July 1999 – NTV, Moscow, 23 July 1999.  Back.

Note 100: ‘Samara governor proposes changes to presidential law’, SWB, SU/3603 B/8, 3 August 1999 – Izvestiya, Moscow, 23 July 1999.  Back.

Note 101: ‘Regional party leader fears new bloc could mean the collapse of Russia’, SWB, SU/3608 B/7, 9 August 1999 – Russian Public TV, Moscow, 6 August 1999.  Back.

Note 102: Authors conversation with Susan Woodward, Senior Research Fellow, Brookings Institute, Washington DC, March 1999.  Back.

Note 103: ‘Security Council meeting looks to security in border areas’, SWB, SU/3598 B/1, 28 July 1999 – ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscow, 26 July 1999.  Back.