Staunton, October 6 – Modern history shows, Fyodor Krasheninnikov says, that a unitary state can be democratic “only in small countries or there where the country has a long history and established traditions as for example in France.” But unfortunately, Russia has no such tradition and must be a federal state if it is to become a democracy.
All its political traditions, the commentator on regional issues says, “go back to various kinds of authoritarianism and dictatorship. Thus, without reliance on real, up-to-date and stable federalism, democracy in Russia will always be only a transitional stage to a new authoritarianism” ( ).
“The recent history of Russia teaches, Krasheninnikov says, “that ever the theoreticl preservation of the chance to influence elections in the subjects of the federation and to appoint there leaders suitable to the center will lead to the rapid demise of any democracy in general,” exactly what has happened since the end of free elections for governors in 2004.
Consequently, the analyst continues, “the struggle for democracy in Russia is meaningless without a struggle for federalism and the rebirth of local self-administration with broad authority. Alas, this struggle will be long and hard [as] it must begin not from zero but with destruction of imperial and authoritarian institutions, traditions” and widespread attitudes.
Unfortunately, Krasheninnikov says, Putin has made the situation worse by imposing outsiders as heads of the regions and republics and stripping them of any real power. Indeed, the commentator says, “Putin has consciously buried federalism and now doesn’t even consider it necessary to suggest that Russian regions and their leaders have any real status as subjects.”
(Another blogger put it even more bluntly. He suggested that as of today, there are only two “subjects” of the Russian Federation – Moscow and Chechnya. All the others are objects of Kremlin policy with no real ability to act on their own or reflect the popular will (
And he has arranged things so that even if some opponents of the Kremlin do win out in gubernatorial races, the Kremlin leader will hold the whip hand and be able to force them into an unequal battle that they are certain to lose. That can only change if Russians are able to win back both democracy and federalism.