Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a considerable devolution of
power from the national government to lower levels of government
has taken place. Most of the research on this decentralisation process
has focused on the growing importance of the second tier of
governmental structures, the republic- and oblast’ level.
The aim of my own research is to go one step further down the
administrative ladder, to the level of local government. Which are
the factors enabling and restraining the development of an
autonomous local government? Can we even speak of a politically
autonomous local government? And what is the attitude of the
population at large to these developments? As one of the results of the
previously mentioned decentralisation to the regional level has been
a considerable regional differentiation, it is likely that the situation
for local government is not uniform throughout the Russian Federation.
A selection of cases therefore has been made.
The focus of the study will be on the oblasts of Sverdlovsk, Nizhegorod
and Tambov, and specifically on the regional centres of these three oblasts
(Ekaterinburg, Nizhnii Novgorod and Tambov, respectively). Naturally,
a selection of just three oblasts will out of necessity limit the potential
for generalisations of the findings. It is, however, this author’s belief
that the chosen oblasts are sufficiently similar in terms of constitutional
status, ethnic composition and political development (all have a history of
conflictual relations between the local government of the regional centre),
to warrant a comparison. Simultaneously, they are sufficiently different
in terms of socio-economic development and importance for the national
economy, for such a comparison to be worthwhile.
The overall objective of the study is the following:
1) To evaluate the level of autonomy of the local government structures
in the chosen oblasts,
2) To disentangle the reasons for these differences, if any, and
3) To correlate the findings in step one and two with the public attitudes
toward decentralisation and local government autonomy.
The first and second of these objectives will be accomplished by a
combination of analysis of relevant legislation and economic factors, and
in-depth interviews with public officials of all levels of government.
For information on public attitudes, I have access to a survey measuring
(among many other things) popular trust in different levels of government,
and whether they believe local level autonomy should be increased or
Read more about the project.