Staunton, November 11 – One of the biggest problems any ruler like Vladimir Putin faces is ensuring that he is actually being told the truth about what is happening across his widespread empire. Many lower-ranking officials work hard to report only positive news about their areas of responsibility and block any flow upward of information about what is actually taking place.
Putin and his regime have routinely found out quite late what is going on; and by the time they do, they often face a serious crisis that might have been avoided had they received accurate information earlier. But ensuring that is hard because structures designed to ensure the upward flow of better information inevitably contribute to tighter central control.
Consequently, regional and municipal leaders who have already been stripped of any autonomy by Putin’s power vertical have been and remain wary about any new structure that promises to give the Kremlin yet more leverage over them; and despite pressure from above, they have dragged their feet in this sector.
Two years ago, Vladimir Putin called for the creation of centers for the administration of regions, groups that would include federal officials, regional heads and the Dialogue NGO and monitor complaints from citizens about problems they faced and wanted the government to address.
The first such institution was put in place in Moscow Oblast at the start of 2020, and all other oblasts, krays, and republics as well as municipalities were directed to do the same by December 1, 2020. Having not moved quickly before, many regions are struggling to meet that deadline (regnum.ru/news/polit/3112593.html).
The experience of the Moscow Oblast center suggests that these new institutions will have a great deal of information to process; but whether they will process it in an effective and timely fashion and allow Moscow to achieve its goal of being better and earlier informed and thus better and earlier able to intervene remains to be seen.
The likelihood is that many will strive to fulfill their defined tasks initially to demonstrate their loyalty but then slip back into viewing this as just another bureaucratic ploy that they can manipulate in order to protect themselves and keep Moscow at arms’ length. But at the very least, these institutions will represent yet another barometer of shifting tensions between the center and the periphery.