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Meaningful Federalism


Under the communist regime, federalism in Russia, as in the Soviet Union as a whole, was largely formal. Only in the recent years, Russias constitutional order has evolved toward a more meaningful form of federalism, which gives constituent units of the federation a certain degree of autonomy.  

The new bicameral structure of the parliament, introduced by the new constitution of 1993, went some way to making federalism real by ensuring that each of the 89 federal subjects had an equal number of representatives in the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council.

The Federation Council building in Moscow

The Federation Council was given certain specific rights over matters of direct concern to regions, including budget and taxation policy. It has strongly defended the prerogatives and interests of the regions, which has helped to mitigate some of the internal problems that fueled regional separatism and to allay nationalist passions that used to drive the movements for separatism in the republics.

The populations of Russias regions and republics have, by and large, come to recognize that their economies are not likely to benefit from independence. Increasingly, much as in other federal states, the politics of federalism in Russia revolves around a continuous renegotiation of the powers of the center and the constituent members of the federation. The switch from formal to real federalism has enabled the Russian state to preserve itself despite centrifugal pressures from the regions. The sole exception is Chechnya, where the federal government had to resort to force to preserve the unity of the state.

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Russian Federalism

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