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Without Real Federalism, Russia Will Inevitably Be A Repressive And Aggressive State – OpEd


Unless Russia puts in place genuine federalism based on decentralization of power, Vladimir Pastukhov says, the country will return to the repressive and aggressive state it is today under Vladimir Putin; and in turn will lead to revolution rather than development.


The London-based Russian analyst says that many who have been involved with the drafting of constitutions and others who think about what kind of constitution Russia should have to become a liberal democracy underestimate the importance of this factor for several reasons (

On the one hand, Pastukhov says, many who wrote the 1993 Constitution thought that the text was the most important thing and that if it identified all the desiderata for the central government, everything would work out, without any concern for finding the kind of compromises among different groups that a constitution needs if it is to last and be effective.

And on the other hand, many who prepared that document and many who are thinking about new constitutions for the future fail to see that one of the most important things that will make such a compromise possible and long-lasting is to ensure that power is not concentrated in a single individual but shared among parties and among regions.

“The main thing” in drafting constitutions is that those who do recognize that they have to come up with a document that reflects a compromise among various power centers in society and then create institutions that will allow this compromise to be renewed constantly rather than destroyed, something that leads either to dictatorship or to civil war.

Talk about division of powers is a fine thing, but it won’t occur unless the constitution blocks the concentration of enormous powers in the hands of the ruler and allows him to undercut the powers of all other groups, Pastukhov continues, arguing that this is exactly what has happened under Putin.


He suggests that there are two steps that constitution writers in Russia must take – move the country toward a parliamentary republic so that the president can’t concentrate such enormous powers in his hand and move it as well toward genuine federalism so that the regions and republics will be a counterbalance to the Kremlin.

Russia is so large and diverse that it requires a complex federal system which will have elements of both confederation and asymmetry. Unless it moves in that direction, power will inevitably be concentrated in the center, and the center will use that power to build a repressive and aggressive state.

Indeed, Pastukhov argues, if Russia is anything but a federation, Moscow will develop a huge bureaucracy which will act as “an enormous financial pump,” pulling money out of the regions and using them to finance force

structures that the center will then deploy against the people at home and countries abroad.

That has happened again and again in Russia; and it is happening today under Vladimir Putin’s rule, the Russian analyst says. And only if this is broken by decentralizing power and strengthening the regions and republics as counterweights to the Kremlin is there any chance to avoid another repetition of the vicious and destructive cycle.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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