Federation vs the Empire, or How to jump out of the “rut”

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DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2023-1-48-71

Keywords: modernization; reforms; imperial syndrome; great-power (imperial) consciousness; identity; federalism; parliamentary model


In the first part of the article the author criticizes the approach to explaining the reasons for the failures of Russian modernizations, which ignores the role and importance of the institutional factor. Meanwhile, institutions, including the model of organization of public authority, are by no means a “hostage” of natural, geographical and socio-cultural factors that shape public consciousness. On the contrary, institutions themselves are capable of minimizing mental obstacles to modernization, the essence of which boils down to the progress of law. But this requires an understanding of what constitutes a “rut” (A.Auzan’s concept), i.e. what exactly prevents the normal functioning of institutions. In search of such a generalized obstacle, the author turns to the concept of the imperial syndrome proposed by E.Paine and developed by him together with S.Fedyunin. One of the elements of the imperial syndrome is the great-power (imperial) consciousness of Russian society. It, according to the author, has objective reasons that lie primarily in the spatial parameters of Russia, its huge reserves of natural resources, as well as the degree of world significance that the country had in the world for many decades. This peculiarity of public consciousness distorts both the very design of modernized institutions and the nature of their functioning. Overcoming the dependence on objective reasons and historical inertia requires precisely jumping out of the “rut”, i.e. to take the path of radical restructuring of institutions. This is the subject of the second part of the article, which outlines some measures that would change political practice and political culture in Russia. We are talking about the formation of people’s regional identity, equal in strength to the national identity. Such a competition between the two identities, according to the author, could significantly reduce the influence of the “geopolitical” consciousness and form a civic subjectivity. As one of such measures it is proposed to ensure much greater independence and responsibility of the subjects of the Russian Federation, but subject to certain conditions that block separatist aspirations. The second major measure, and at the same time one of the anti-separatist conditions, is the transition to a parliamentary model of regional government organization, which would help reduce the likelihood of leaders who build their political careers on nationalist speculation coming to power.

Citation: Krasnov M. (2023) Federatsiya vs Imperiya, ili Kak vyprygnut’ iz “kolei” [Federation vs the Empire, or How to jump out of the “rut”]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 48–71. (In Russian).


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