This article provides a comparative assessment of territorial politics in Russia and Western Europe. The consolidation or deepening of regional autonomy in Western Europe contrasts with the transformation of Russia from a segmented and highly centrifugal state into a centralized authoritarian state in the course of just two decades. The consolidation of territorial politics in Western Europe is linked to the presence of endogenous safeguards that are built into their territorial constitutional designs and most importantly to the dynamics that emanate from multi-level party competition in the context of a liberal and multi-level democracy. In contrast, in Russia, neither endogenous safeguards nor multi-level party democracy play an important role in explaining the dynamics of Russian federalism, but who controls key state resources instead. We argue that under Putin power dependencies between the Russian center and the regions are strongest where regional democracy is at its weakest, thus producing ‘autocracy-sustaining’ instead of a democratic federation. By studying the relationship between federalism and democracy in cases where both concepts are mutually reinforcing (as in Western Europe) with the critical case of Russia where they are not, we question the widely held view that democracy is a necessary pre-condition for federalism.
- multi-level government
- Western Europe