Country Listing

Russia Table of Contents


Local and Regional Government

In the Soviet period, some of Russia's approximately 100 nationalities were granted their own ethnic enclaves, to which varying formal federal rights were attached (see Minority Peoples and Their Territories, ch. 4). Other smaller or more dispersed nationalities did not receive such recognition. In most of these enclaves, ethnic Russians constituted a majority of the population, although the titular nationalities usually enjoyed disproportionate representation in local government bodies. Relations between the central government and the subordinate jurisdictions, and among those jurisdictions, became a political issue in the 1990s.

The Russian Federation has made few changes in the Soviet pattern of regional jurisdictions. The 1993 constitution establishes a federal government and enumerates eighty-nine subnational jurisdictions, including twenty-one ethnic enclaves with the status of republics. There are ten autonomous regions, or okruga (sing., okrug ), and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (Yevreyskaya avtonomnaya oblast', also known as Birobidzhan). Besides the ethnically identified jurisdictions, there are six territories (kraya ; sing., kray ) and forty-nine oblasts (provinces). The cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg are independent of surrounding jurisdictions; termed "cities of federal significance," they have the same status as the oblasts. The ten autonomous regions and Birobidzhan are part of larger jurisdictions, either an oblast or a territory (see fig. 1). As the power and influence of the central government have become diluted, governors and mayors have become the only relevant government authorities in many jurisdictions.

The Federation Treaty and Regional Power

The Federation Treaty was signed in March 1992 by President Yeltsin and most leaders of the autonomous republics and other ethnic and geographical subunits. The treaty consisted of three separate documents, each pertaining to one type of regional jurisdiction. It outlined powers reserved for the central government, shared powers, and residual powers to be exercised primarily by the subunits. Because Russia's new constitution remained in dispute in the Federal Assembly at the time of ratification, the Federation Treaty and provisions based on the treaty were incorporated as amendments to the 1978 constitution. A series of new conditions were established by the 1993 constitution and by bilateral agreements.

Data as of July 1996