Asymmetrical federalism

   Growing out of the so-called parade of sovereignties of the last years of Mikhail Gorbachev’s rule, the push for local control of resources and policies among Russia’s various regional divisions reached fever pitch in the midst of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Hoping to win allies among the regional nomenklatura>, Russian president Boris Yeltsin famously urged republican leaders to “take all the sovereignty you can swallow” in Kazan on 5 August 1990. Reflecting this approach, the Russian Federation subsequently embraced a system of asymmetrical federalism that granted differing amounts of autonomy to its various federal subjects. In the case of the ethnic republics, local authorities enjoyed immense freedom from central control, including control over tax revenues, the right to implement constitutions, and the ability to designate official languages in addition to Russian; less autonomy was granted to the krais and oblasts. Tatarstan, which issued its own passports and attempted to conduct independent foreign relations, represented the extreme example of this system of governance. Upon coming to power, Vladimir Putin publicly declared his intention to reduce the level of asymmetry in the federation, reduce the power of the republican leadership, and harmonize laws across the country. Putin used the tragic events surrounding Beslan to push through reforms that partially accomplished these goals.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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