The article is devoted to the analysis of those political transformations which have
taken place at the level of separate regions since the beginning of Putin’s
reforms. The research is carried out with the use of the method of in-depth interview.
The goal of the research was to find out if there is any direct dependence between
the policy of the Center and the resource of the influence of regional authorities.
How do regional authorities react to the existent transformations and how do they
“fit” in the new political reality? Is regional opposition possible today?
As the object of the research we chose the subjects of Russian Federation strong
in the economic sense, in which stable and effective authority had been formed –
Perm, Yaroslavl and Sverdlovsk regions.
We conducted the survey of the representatives of political, administrative and economic
elite of these regions. We collected and processed 80 in-depth interviews with the
representatives of elite groups in these regions, including the opinions of leading
What are the results of the research?
The estimation of regional elites showed that there is a sharp decrease of the potential
of regional elites’ influence on the federal Center. Such decrease was the
consequence not only of the dismantling of the Council of Federation, regional associations,
but also of the fundamental change of the rules of interaction between federal and
regional elites, when it became normal to ignore the proposals of regional elites,
to reject joint discussion of the problems, existing in regional communities. In
current situation regional elites consider as the most effective the language of
informal agreements, and the model of bargaining becomes determining in the process
of interaction with the Center. In this sense the “authority vertical”,
understood as hierarchyzation of relations between political players of the Center
and regions has in fact been constructed.
However such conclusion cannot be drawn with regard to the intraregional situation.
The materials of the interviews give an opportunity to say, that within the conditions
when the federal authority has strengthened the centralized direction of its policy,
the governors began to “look for their niche” in the new system of authority.
That is why the governors nowadays “embed themselves in the new political system
and master the new rules of the game”.
The results of the conducted research show that the resources of this authority are
being modified. This tendency is especially clearly traced within the resource base
of the governors’ authority.
The most important tendency discovered during the research consists in the fact that
the resources of the governor authority are not just reducing or increasing; they
are becoming different, obtaining a different structure.
Within the developing situation the resources of the governor are not reproduced
in an accelerative way due to political institutes of a region. That is why the dominant
role in the dynamics of the resource base begins to be played by the efforts of the
governor himself and his team aimed at the construction of controlled political regime
in his region. The differentiation of political regional regimes remains high in
spite of the attempts to unify them, this is one of the reasons why the level of
maturity of political institutes in regions essentially differs one from another,
as well as the character of leadership and the ambitions of those who are at their
An important characteristic of the resource base of the governor during the period
of Putin’s leadership is not only its volume, but also the ability to deal
with the available potential, possibility to search for and to find new resources
of personal influence instead of those which became invalid.
Among them there is the type of interaction with the main political and economic
players on the field of regional policy. The more a governor is capable of taking
into account the interests of many people, but first of all the interests of the
powerful regional actors, the larger is the volume of resources he has at his disposal,
in spite of the type of the vertical constructed by the federal Center. The presence
of any vertical cannot cancel the interests of political players in a region, though
sometimes they shift from the field of public policy to the informal agreements,
but they do not completely disappear.
Consequently, the conducted analysis allows to speak about the fact that today there
is no decline of the resource base of a governor within a region. The efforts of
a governor and his team, especially within the conditions of the donor-regions, allow
them to restore a part of political resources due to the efforts undertaken. The
emergence of new political resources give a governor an opportunity to keep a high
level of political control in a region, in spite of leaving the public space of the
By the estimations of regional elites and experts, in future one should not expect
the catastrophic decline of the resource base of regional elites.
The research allows us to make a conclusion that we can hardly expect the evident
opposition of the elites towards the Center within the public political space. The
consolidation of regional elites against the federal Center is possible only in the
situation of the threat towards personal condition. An important reason for the locality
of the opposition of regional elites is the unformed character of the interregional
institutes, in the framework of which such opposition could have been formed. This
fact does not cancel the informal pressure and the future activation of the model
of bargaining in the relations between political players of the Center and those
of Russian regions.