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The Concept of Multilayered Statehood in the System of Russian Federalism

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image of Review of Central and East European Law
For more content, see Review of Socialist Law.

The Russian state has a long tradition of top-to-bottom centralism. Nevertheless, Russia’s 1993 Constitution is based on both federalism and local autonomy, principles that create and require multilayered sovereignty, distributed over a larger number of political power centers, which is alien to the Russian tradition of centralized sovereignty. During the Boris El’tsin era, state power was decentralized to a certain extent, and regions, local governments, economies, and civil society were given room to act independently from the Kremlin’s tutelage. Nonetheless, many felt that this was chaotic. Vladimir Putin’s ‘consolidation of vertical power’ reduced federalism and local autonomy to a facade behind which traditional top-to-bottom centralism has been re-established. In reducing federalism to a mere show, Putin has been able to rely on Soviet traditions. Furthermore, central power instrumentalizes local autonomy in order to further reduce the powers of federal entities, i.e., subjects of the Russian Federation. Thus, political reality has returned to Russian traditions, whereas the text of the Constitution preserves the ‘outdated’ institutions of federalism and local autonomy.


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