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EAST-WEST-RESEARCH  April 2002

EAST-WEST-RESEARCH April 2002

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Subject:

Regional elite

From:

Andrew Jameson <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Andrew Jameson <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 25 Apr 2002 14:19:28 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (148 lines)

Johnson's Russia List
#6206
25 April 2002

#11
EastWest Institute Russian Regional Report
(Vol. 7, No. 15, 24 April 2002)

REGIONAL ELITE

Nataliya Lapina and Alla Chirikova are two of the most prominent Russian
scholars of the regional elite. In earlier work they laid out the evolution
of the Russian regional elite in the 1990s, detailing how regional executives
set up their authority, established control over regional policies, and
gained ways to exert influence on the federal government. Although regional
elites won considerable power in the 1990's, they were not able to block
Putin's 2000 program of reforming Russia's federal relations. As the authors
point out, the regional elite had no "political resources comparable to the
political resources of the center." In particular, they had no party or other
form of movement that could unite them. (See Chirikova and Lapina, "Regional
Elite: A Quite Revolution on a Russian Scale," published by the Center for
Security Studies and Conflict Research, Zurich,
http://www.isn.ethz.ch/russia/)
        In the article presented here, Lapina and Chirikova examine the
process of creating a federal "party of power" in the regions at a time when
the federal government has strengthened its position vis-a-vis the regional
elite and significantly reduced the standing of the governors. This article
reports the results of research conducted in Samara and Yaroslavl during
July-November 2001 (before Yedinstvo merged with Otechestvo to create
Yedinaya Rossiya) with support from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. During
their research, Lapina and Chirikova interviewed more than 70 representatives
of various elite groups in the two regions. Their interlocutors included
political party leaders, public officials in the executive and legislative
branches, businessmen, enterprise directors, analysts, political consultants,
and journalists.

AUTHORITIES SEEK TO BUILD NEW PARTY OF POWER IN REGIONS. Yaroslavl and Samara
are distinguished among Russian regions by a high level of support for the
party of power. During the 1990s, these regions set up active branches of the
various incarnations this party took: starting with Russia's Choice, then Our
Home is Russia (NDR), and later Otechestvo. At the end of 1999, both regions
began to set up branches of the new party of power, Yedinstvo.
        The method for establishing the parties differed in the two regions.
In Yaroslavl, Yedinstvo was the direct descendant of Otechestvo. According to
one Yaroslavl Oblast mayor, 80 percent of the members of Yedinstvo came from
Otechestvo and Otechestvo has practically collapsed. The new party has the
support of Governor Anatolii Lisitsyn and is led by one of the region's
leading businessmen, Yaroslavl Tire Factory General Director Nikolai Tonkov.
        The Yaroslavl branch of Yedinstvo is growing quickly and has good
prospects in the region, according to the people we interviewed. Yedinstvo
branches exist in all cities of the oblast, including Rybinsk, where a branch
is being established; but it is weakly represented in rural areas. The party
organizers are noted for their high level of professionalism.
        One of the main difficulties in establishing Yedinstvo is the
negative legacies inherited from previous attempts to set up parties of
power. One party organizer complained that first "we had NDR, then Otechestvo
appeared. The governor joined the leadership of that party. Now Yedinstvo. It
is not so simple to change tack from right to left. ... You also need to take
into account that people are psychologically tired. We have to pay for
changing course too often." Taking this situation into account, the Yedinstvo
leadership decided not to force events and is setting up the regional
organization gradually. They are less concerned about the number of members
in the organization than the final results.
        In Samara, Yedinstvo organizers work in a complicated political
environment in which there have been a number of scandals. For a long time,
elite clans in the oblast fought over who would be leader. Initially, in
January-February 2000, Samara Mayor Grigorii Limanskii sought to lead the
party. However, he was not acceptable to the Samara elite or the Moscow party
leadership. After a long battle, Limanskii was pushed out of the leadership.
        From the moment it appeared in Samara, Yedinstvo worked as a
competitor to Governor Konstantin Titov and his local party of power, the
Russian Party of Social Democracy. "Our relations with the authorities are
very difficult," one local party leader said. "For a long time, Titov forbid
everyone to join the party. Of course, those who had something to lose were
afraid to join. He dragged many to his side, but we are competing with him."
However, in joining the federal party of power, most local elites do not want
to sever their ties with the governor. This is the situation in Togliatti,
which is home to the giant AvtoVAZ automobile factory. In Togliatti, the
party has some support, but according to one of the party leaders, the
general population of the city does not back any opposition to the governor.
This unwillingness to cross Titov creates considerable problems for the
oblast party leadership.
        On top of its other problems, there is no unity among the leadership
of the Samara party. In the fall of 2001, on the eve of elections to the
Samara Oblast Legislative Assembly, there were rumors about a conflict
between the leader of the oblast organization, Yurii Sevostyanov, and
Gennadii Zvyagin, a prominent politician in the region who is a member of the
Yedinstvo federal-level political council.
        Despite the different local situations, there was much in common in
the establishment of Yedinstvo in Yaroslavl and Samara. In the first step of
party formation, the regional business and political elite took the
initiative. Today, when such elite reserves have been used up, the regional
parties are trying to increase their numbers among the masses. According to
the Samara oblast party, membership is 1,800 in Samara, 400 in Volzhskii
Raion, and 350 in Syzran. Each week, Yedinstvo claims that it adds 100
members. The local party leader sees its main potential for growth in Titov's
shrinking political status. Yedinstvo plans to attract as new members people
who today support the local authorities. However, the party leaders also
admit that many people began to join the party only after Titov announced
that he might form an alliance with it.
        Most people we talked to defined the social base of Yedinstvo as the
nomenklatura. However, there are other views. The Samara Oblast
administration official responsible for contacts with parties said that
"sober-minded people who support the idea of order and stability" (teachers,
doctors, professors, researchers) are also attracted to the party. The
party's willingness to discuss people's personal problems with them makes it
popular among a wide group of the population. Earlier, only the Communist
Party was willing to do such things.
        The main strength of the Yedinstvo organization in Yaroslavl is the
professionalism of its members, according to the party leader. He notes that
many parties are well financed, but managerial ability is often in short
supply. "This is more important than money today in Russia," he claimed. The
Yaroslavl chapter has many prominent politicians and businessmen among its
ranks. It also has many members in the regional legislature and oblast and
city administrations.
        The Yaroslavl and Samara Yedinstvo chapters occupy different niches
in their regions. In Yaroslavl, Yedinstvo is a traditional party of power
with close ties to the ruling elite and governor. In Samara, Yedinstvo is the
"party of power without power," according to Samara Sociologist E. Molevich.
        Future perspectives for the party branches depend on four factors.
First is the party leadership's choice of tactics. In Yaroslavl, the party
must widen its social base. In Samara, it must seriously think about its
relationship with the governor because the current policy of fighting the
governor hurts the party. Only by rejecting confrontation and forming a union
with the oblast authorities will Yedinstvo be successful. Second is the
ability of the organizers to evolve from the initial nomenklatura stage of
party building to developing a mass party.
        Third is the success with which regional party leaders balance the
party's orientation toward the federal government with regional interests.
Fourth is the policy of the federal authorities and Putin personally. The
main resource for the party could become Putin's direct support, which would
make it the most important party in Russia. However, there are no signs that
the Kremlin political advisors want to identify Putin so closely to the
party.
        During the last two-three years, the political space of the Russian
regions has been modernized and the federal government has taken the
initiative in party-building from the regional elite. The federal government
has defined Russia's course of political development and has given the party
of power a central role. Yedinstvo is not Moscow's first attempt to set up a
political party. But, in contrast to previous years, the federal government
has strengthened its position by bolstering state power and reducing the
political status of the regional elite. During the last two to three years,
the stronger federal government has become a serious actor on the political
stage and this redistribution of power has not provoked serious opposition in
the regions. - Nataliya Lapina and Alla Chirikova in Moscow

*******

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