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The Dynamics of Sub-national Authoritarianism: Russia in Comparative Perspective

Wednesday, September 9, 2009
4:00 AM
International Institute, Room 1636

Vladimir Gel’man, Chair of Political Science and Sociology, European University at St. Petersburg

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In the 1990s, sub-national authoritarian regimes - local-based monopolies of ruling elites - emerged in many of Russia's regions and cities against the background of spontaneous decentralization of government and competitive electoral politics. Since 2000, the decline of political competition and recentralization of the Russian state led to incorporation of sub-national authoritarian regimes under the federal control and cooptation of local-based actors into the dominant party, United Russia. This paper is devoted to comparative analysis of sub-national authoritarianism in Russia in the light of experience of local political machines in other countries, ranging from US cities in 1870s-1930s to Southern Italy in 1950s-1980s. Unlike American political machines, which were demolished from below as a byproduct of modernization processes, Russia's sub-national authoritarian regimes were integrated from above into the nationwide authoritarianism. One might expect a further stagnation of sub-national authoritarian regimes in Russia until major regime changes occur on the national level.
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