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Research Report

From Apparatchik to President – From Businessman to Khan: Regime Transition and Consolidation in the Russian Republics of Buryatia and Kalmykia

Jorunn Brandvoll
Copyright Date: Nov. 1, 2002
Pages: 115

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. [i]-[ii])
  2. (pp. 1-2)
  3. (pp. 3-4)
  4. (pp. 5-12)

    The Russian state developed a quite peculiar sort of federalism in the 1990s. The system evolved as relics from the Soviet territorial make-up changed their nature when the central state power was seriously weakened after the break-up of the Soviet Union. The result was a federal system moving ever closer to a confederation. Not only were federal laws contradictory and incomplete, the laws adopted by the federal subjects also frequently contradicted federal laws or filled in gaps where federal laws were still missing. The result was that the 89 federal subjects developed political regimes ranging from democratic systems to strongly...

  5. (pp. 13-28)

    When analysing the emergence of political regimes it is necessary to speak about two distinct time periods, in which two different processes take place: getting to power and holding on to power. In other words, I will look at regime transition and regime consolidation.

    To delineate when one period ends and the other begins, I will define regime transition as the period between when one regime is dissolved and a new one installed. This is a period when the political rules are in flux and contested (O’Donnell and Schmitter 1986: 6). Transition to democracy is considered to be over when...

  6. (pp. 29-34)

    To sum up briefly the conclusions of my theoretical discussion, the dependent variable of my analysis is regime type. In explaining regime type I rely on the following independent variables:

    1. Political-economic structures of governance

    2. Elite struggles in regime transition

    3. Formal political institutions

    4. Political processes in regime consolidation

    5. Intra- and inter-ethnic polarisation

    The two first variables are connected to the transition period and create the foundation for a regime that further needs to be consolidated. The third and fourth variables scrutinise this regime consolidation. Finally, by bringing the fifth variable into the analysis I will check whether the explanatory power of...

  7. (pp. 35-44)

    In my outline of theoretical approaches I argued for including as a structural element the so-called political-economic structures of governance. My assumption was that a diversified economy makes it more difficult to concentrate economic and political power in a region than where the economy is concentrated. I will now take a look at Buryatia and see whether the economic structure here corresponds with its “guided democracy”.

    The economic base of Buryatia rests on a mixture of mineral resources, light industry and agriculture. Of the gross regional product in 1991 37% consisted of industrial production, 16.2% was agricultural production and 13.8%...

  8. (pp. 45-54)

    In the case of Buryatia I found that the political-economic structure of governance there did not quite fit with the theoretical expectations, since Buryatia has a mixed but weak economy but nevertheless a quite strong political regime. The regime has allied itself with parts of the economic elite, although neither Stoner-Weiss nor Gel’man predicts such an alliance under these circumstances.

    Kalmykia is one of the poorest and most underdeveloped regions in the Russian Federation. Agriculture traditionally has a dominant position, with an emphasis on sheep and cattle farming. Whereas in 1995 33.9% of the population of Kalmykia were employed in...

  9. (pp. 55-68)

    According to the Russian Constitution of 1993, one of the rights national republics possess that other federal subjects lack is the right to adopt their own constitution (Article 5, Paragraph 2). The republics are among other things entitled to establish their own political system, under the precondition that the system does not contradict the principles of the Federal Constitution and laws (Article 77, Paragraph 1). This has opened up for a variety of political regimes, and in this chapter I will look into the alternative that has been consolidated in the Republic of Buryatia.

    The Constitution of the Republic of...

  10. (pp. 69-82)

    Kalmykia differs from the other republics in the Russian Federation by having renounced its right, defined by the Russian Constitution, to have its own constitution. The republic thereby also gave up its sovereignty. This happened on 5 April 1994, when, on the initiative of the republic’s President Kirsan Iliumzhinov, the so-called Steppe Code, or Basic Law, replaced the Soviet Constitution from 1978. It does seem, however, that the Kalmyk Steppe Code nevertheless has the same legal status as a constitution, since it is the highest set of Kalmyk laws, subordinated only to the Federal Constitution and laws.

    If assuming that...

  11. (pp. 83-94)

    Above I have examined the applicability of transition and consolidation theory to the regime developments in Buryatia and Kalmykia. Now it is time to investigate whether the fact that my analytical units are ethnically defined federal subjects adds something to this explanation. More specifically, I will look at the role of intra- and inter-ethnic competition and polarisation in the regime developments in Buryatia and Kalmykia.

    As I mentioned in the introduction, Buryatia has a complex ethnic structure by being a society with three levels of ethnic cleavages. The first level is the cleavage between the Russian majority and the Buryat...

  12. (pp. 95-102)

    My analysis started with a criticism of some scholars of Russian regionalism for shying away from building theories about regime change in ethnically defined federal subjects. I asked whether it would be possible to apply the existing theories on regime transition and consolidation also in these cases, or whether a full understanding only can be obtained through a scrutiny of the factor that distinguishes them from other, territorially defined entities: ethnicity.

    In my choice of case studies I aimed at finding two cases that had developed relatively different regime types, but that in many other respects were similar. Therefore I...

  13. (pp. 103-112)
  14. (pp. 113-113)