Regional Governors as Putin's Agents or Stakeholders? The story that COVID-19 pandemic tells about center-regional relations in Russia
The COVID-19 crisis has provided an opportunity to re-evaluate how federal relations work in today’s authoritarian Russia. In particular, the talk will demonstrate that the crisis has confirmed that the regional governors are an integral part of maintaining stability of the non-democratic regime in Russia. Because the whole system, and thereby the political careers of the incumbent governors, depend on Putin's popularity, the governors have an interest in maintaining this popularity – even at the expense of their own popularity in the eyes of their regional populations. This, in its turn, means that they are in fact not just agents, but also stakeholders in maintaining the authoritarian status quo in Russia.
During the course of the pandemic, regional governors have demonstrated their loyalty and willingness to shield President Putin from taking political responsibility for unpopular measures associated with COVID-19. Further, the talk will show that the tasks that Moscow assigns to the regions during the pandemic are consistent with the goals of maintaining regime stability but create no incentives for improving the quality of governance in the regions.
The most recent manifestation of the regional authorities’ loyalty was a large-scaled campaign to prevent youth protests launched in response to January 2021 protests in support of Alexei Navalny.
Comments: Vladimir Gel’man, Professor of Russian Politics, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki
Moderator: Anna Korhonen, Head of International Affairs, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki
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