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Friday, May 6, 2011

On the Eclipse of Russian Federalism: Implications for the E.U.

Dmitri Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, fired Yuri Luzhkov in September, 2010, after Luzhkov, the mayor of Moskow (legally a governor of a region), had questioned the president’s fitness to rule.The conflict turned into a highly unusual spectacle because such defiance of the country’s leadership by a senior official rarely occurs in public. “It is difficult to imagine a situation under which a governor and a president of Russia, as the chief executive, can continue to work together when the president has lost confidence in the leader of a region,” Medvedev said. The state-controlled television channels, which rarely if ever voice criticism of party leaders, suddenly went after Luzhkov, signaling the Kremlin’s displeasure with him. They broadcasted programs that suddenly questioned his performance and suggested that he was responsible for corruption in Moscow.  To be sure, he had been criticized for reigning like an autocrat, muzzling dissent and allowing blatant corruption to flourish. During his tenure, his wife, Yelena Baturina, obtained much of the construction business in Moscow, becoming one of the world’s richest women. However, it was criticism of Medvedev, rather than corruption, that costed him his job.  We can conclude more generally that the governors of Russia’s regions, which are equivalent to the states of the E.U. and U.S., are not free of the federal government.  In actuality, therefore, Russia is not a federation.

The complete essay is at Essays on Two Federal Empires.