In May 2000, during the very first days of his presidency, Vladimir Putin announced his plans for federal reform as the crucial step toward strengthening the Russian state under the slogan of “dictatorship of law.” The reform package, based on the recentralization of federal power vis-àvis regional authorities, had the very pragmatic aim of strengthening the president’s influence by weakening the position of regional elites. This package included:
• The establishment of seven federal districts across Russia, with special presidential envoys as their heads. These envoys have broad powers of control over federal agencies in their respective region and monitor the performance and consistency with federal law of the actions of regional and local authorities. The branches of federal agencies themselves (such as the Prosecutor’s Office, Federal Security Service, Ministry of Interior, Tax Inspection, Tax Police, etc.) were then reorganized around federal districts in order to minimize their dependence on regional governments.
• The reform of the Federation Council, which (as of January 1, 2002) no longer includes regional chief executives and heads of regional legislatures as ex officio members. Instead, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament now consists of full-time legislators, appointed by regional chief executives and regional legislatures, which also meant that regional governors lost parliamentary immunity.
• The adoption of new laws that granted the Russian president the right to dismiss popularly elected regional chief executives and/or regional legislatures in instances of certain violations of federal law or some criminal cases against regional chief executives. The regional authorities received the same right vis-à-vis local governments (save for regional capitals, whose authority was subject only to presidential control in this respect).
Early 2002 is an ideal time to examine the impact of this federal reform on regional political development and center-periphery relations in Russia as well as its broader consequences for Russian politics and policy. […]