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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Local Self-Administration in Russia: Holiday Remains but Reality Doesn’t, Luzin Says

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Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 21 – Today is Russia’s Day of Local Self-Administration, an event established in Russia in 2012 to celebrate local governance and timed to correspond to the date in 1785 when Catherine the Great gave cities their charters. Unfortunately, this year, the holiday itself remains but the phenomenon no longer does, Pavel Luzin says.

            Even when the holiday was created nine years ago, the Perm political scientist says, it was obvious that in Russia “neither republics, nor a federation, nor a democratic system had been set up in Russia” because these things lacked the resources to allow them to be self-standing and independent (

            The Putin regime has been slowly eliminating any signs of autonomy not only for the republics and regions but for local government that the 1993 Constitution had declared, and then last year, with the amendment process, it “formally deprived” them of any autonomous role by including them within “the system of state power.”

            According to Luzin, “the Kremlin understands very well that economic flourishing and genuine democracy begin with local self-administration and not with presidential or Duma elections, however honest they might be.” And since it opposes both, it won’t allow local governments to have any independence lest it “lose a powerful lever of control and influence.”

            The pandemic only accelerated this process because the center showed that it wanted to overcome that problem not in partnership with local governments but in ways that eliminate any the last vestiges of local governance as such. The Kremlin wants to ensure that local governments won’t be the source of referendum proposals.

            But the Kremlin may have won only a tactical victory in this regard. Ever more Russians are moving from the villages to the cities and making the latter more important as political centers. (Historically, the state-controlled migration within the country but now that is no longer the case.) And residents of these growing cities want more control closer to home.

            As a result, he says, “we will see ever more local political initiatives of the Perm pre-election coalition ( which arose not long ago.” Such arrangements inevitably are sparking conflicts “between the existing reality and the desire of the ruling group to transform itself into a political caste lasting more than one generation.”

            Luzin argues that such tensions, although not yet the focus of much attention, “will define a long-term political tendency in Russia in the 1920s.”

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