The program examines the evolution of Russian civil society and relations between citizens and various levels of government, in the context of the economic, social and political development of Russia’s regions. Since 2005, the program has conducted ongoing monitoring of the democratic development of Russia’s regions, with reports regularly published on a dedicated website.
The regional unification of record-high presidential election results has closed the Kremlin bureaucrats’ eyes to the diversity of different parts of the country, their elites, and the preferences of their electorates. In this model, regional masters of balance and public politics are extraneous. But the expulsion of old regional barons is risky: the banner of public pushback and local patriotism could be picked up by new regional politicians who might be even less convenient for Moscow.
In theory, the seizure of a greater share of Sakhalin’s resource wealth by the federal authorities could lead to a fairer distribution of wealth throughout the Russian Far East. The fear, however, is that further centralization of budgetary revenues will merely encourage the pursuit of vanity projects that will not come to fruition for over a decade, if ever.
Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky’s primary motive is to curry favor with Vladimir Putin. As Putin has shifted gears to a more conservative, anti-Western, and isolationist outlook, scores of his aggressive loyalists have followed the new trend.
The seizure of Crimea is Putin’s personal conquest, as well as a dramatic reinforcement of his regime of personal power. For now Putin has succeeded in halting Russia’s social and economic modernization and has pushed Russia to an anti-modernization course.
It seems unlikely that Russian armed forces will move beyond the Crimean peninsula. The softer and more conciliatory tone taken by Putin could be a result of the determination of the United States and Europe to take action against Russia.
The situation in Ukraine is very unstable and dangerous, and Moscow's support of the delayed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and non-recognition of the new authorities in Kyiv only adds to the tension.