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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Type of Regional Influence

In the midst of all the tumultuous political events of late spring and early summer, few noticed the publication of an important study that measured the influence of regional political elites. It was conducted by the Institute of Situational Analysis and New Technologies in cooperation with Expert magazine and the Institute of Social Engineering. Coming as it did on the eve of elections and having a wide regional scope -- covering 32 regions -- this study is of considerable political and scientific interest.

The information in this survey could be used to form top positions of the regional United Russia party structure -- especially since the various centers that conducted the research already cooperate with United Russia in one form or another.

Of the regional governors included in the study, those with the lowest general level of political influence were Governor Alexander Chernogorov from the Stavropol region, Governor Oleg Chirkunov from the Perm region, Governor Nikolai Maksyut from the Volgograd region, Governor Vyacheslav Dudka from the Tula region, and Governor Alexander Tishanin from the Irkutsk region. The survey covered only a little more than one-third of the country's regions, and therefore it did not include other "weak" governors from such regions as Karelia, Voronezh, Kirov, Ryazan and Saratov, who are of marginal political use to United Russia.

The study paints an extremely interesting picture of the most influential leaders in each region at the close of President Vladimir Putin's second term. It offers no surprises as to the effectiveness of the governors' overall leadership or their influence on, among other things, the economy, the electoral process, regional conflicts, mass media, the activity of non governmental organizations and on who gets appointed to key positions.

Another interesting point of the survey is that the governors were more influential compared with other regional leaders from competing centers of power. The governors were closely followed by: the regional head of the FSB; the local chief of the Interior Ministry; the regional Prosecutor General's Office; the chairman of the regional court; the main regional federal inspector, who is appointed by the presidential envoy in each federal district and whose job is to review the work of all federal appointments in the region; and the speaker of the regional legislature. In a democratic government, this order would be reversed.

Next in the list came the speakers of the regional legislative assemblies and the mayors. It is not surprising that mayors exercise greater influence over the economy, the mass media and regional conflicts than the speakers do, although neither comes close to the influence that the governors wield.

According to the study, the top Russian Orthodox Church official, the head of the FSB and the main federal inspector shared the fourth, fifth and sixth places on list of the most influential. Seeing the most senior regional church leader alongside the head of the FSB was perhaps the most unexpected result of the study. Only two privately-run surveys have measured the influence of the Orthodox Church; they addressed its influence on non-governmental organizations and the media.

Although the main federal inspector has influence in many different areas, it has little sway in matters connected with the media and economic processes. The position of main federal inspector, however, may be on its way out. While there may have been a reason to have federal inspectors keeping tabs on elected governors, such oversight is redundant now that Kremlin-appointed governors serve as the highest federal officials in the regions.

It is also revealing that the regional head of the FSB recently began coordinating all the security structures in the region in his capacity as chief of the anti-terrorist command staff. In this way, he has now outstripped the influence of the main federal inspector and the regional Prosecutor General.

In the seventh and eighth spots on the list were the speaker of the city legislature in each region's capital city and the Prosecutor General of the region, respectively. In ninth and 10th places were the regional head of the Interior Ministry and the chief justice of the region. Thus, the majority of the 10 most influential positions were federal posts, and within this category, most are connected with the siloviki. Considering that all high-ranking officials are now appointed by Moscow, only three of the 10 most influential positions are held by individuals native to the cities and regions in which they serve -- namely, the speakers of the regional and municipal legislatures and the mayors of the regional capitals. Mayors are the only influential officials directly elected by voters, and they are precisely the ones who have become targets of massive attacks from federal authorities.

It should be noted that the results of the institute's survey in 2003 showed a completely different picture. Of the more than 60 regions studied, security and law enforcement officials were counted among the 10 most influential persons in only one or two regions, but in most cases they did not even make the list of the top 35 most influential political figures. In 2003, the local oligarchs and top managers were the most influential centers of power.

It is important to note that the growing influence of the regional siloviki has occurred at the same time that they have been rotated to other areas. Not only has the influence of siloviki generals on regional politics sharply increased, but more than half of them with deep personal roots in their regions have been replaced by generals coming in from other regions.

Russian history already knows one well-known attempt at entrusting a military leader -- or "silovik" in the broader sense -- with managing affairs in the regions. And it was very successful! Perhaps the best example of this was Count Alexei Arakcheyev, a general and statesman under Tsar Alexander I, in whose name the term arakcheyevshchina was coined. Will the new arakcheyevshchina be more successful?

Nikolai Petrov is a scholar in residence at the Carnegie Moscow Center.