Why Did Putin Engage In Federal Reform As His Immediate Priority On Coming To Power? What Were The Main Aspects Of His Policy?

3395 words - 14 pages

Following the break-up of the hyper centralized Soviet Union, there was fragmentation among Russia's regions, and contesting definitions of sovereignty. Under Yeltsin there was an asymmetrical growth in the federal authorities, with regions being given free reign so long as secession was not threatened. This principle of granting local privileges in return for loyalty was not a new concept; indeed it was practiced by the Ottoman and Hapsburg empires. However this tolerance of regional governance allowed the consolidation of political ethnic groups while also permitting authoritarian regimes. On the 11th May 2000 Putin began issuing the first presidential decrees to combat the destructive ...view middle of the document...

Contractual federalism foresees each sub-national unit entering the federation on a negotiated basis such that the center's power would be de-emphasized relative to that of the federation's constituent parts. The center's failed zemli proposal (in which Russia would have been condensed into 50 regions from 89), the "war of laws" of the early 1990's between the federal center and a number of regions, and the regional practice of temporarily withholding federal tax revenues should all be viewed in the context of these conflicting perspectives on the shape of the Russian state. The compromise that eventually emerged was a result of regional government action that, since 1994 in particular, forced the center to cede more political and economic control.Examples of policy autonomy taken (as opposed to granted or formally acknowledged by Moscow) in the face of central state incapacity come from a whole host of regions and policy areas. The continuing problem of wage arrears that persisted in many regions despite central government avowals to end such practices is but one of many notable examples. Regional governments often have simply appropriated the funds transferred by the center for the payment of wages to public sector workers and used these funds in other areas of their cash strapped budgets. Earlier in the reform process, many regions refused to free the prices of basic consumer goods, delayed the implementation of the state privatization program, and continue to hamper small business development.Regions continued to carve out more de facto autonomy through their legislative efforts. Izvestiya reported in 1997 that the Justice Ministry examined 44,000 regional legal acts, including gubernatorial orders, and found that nearly half of them did not correspond with the Constitution of the Russian Federation. A similar report was issued indicating that in the first three quarters of 1998, 30% of regional acts were found to violate the constitution and federal law. For example, Arkhangelsk, Irkutsk, North Ossetiya, Omsk, Samara and Voronezh have all apparently passed legislation restructuring their judiciaries, a right exclusively reserved to the federal government by Art. 71 of the constitution.Regions also began to behave as international actors. In the four years 1991-1995 the peripheries within Russia signed over 300 international agreements on economic, trade and humanitarian co-operation, severely undermining Moscow's international presence, while highlighting regional issues. Yevgenii Nazdratenko, the governor of the Primorskii Krai, in 1996 asked the Constitutional Court to examine the 1991 Soviet-Chinese border agreement. Other regions, such as Tatarstan began to assertively pursue their own foreign policies.Yeltsin, however, was prepared to sign what he would later term "political" agreements with errant regions, like Tatarstan. Tatarstan, therefore, established its relationship with the federal center on a unique basis, 'contractual' rather...

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