Local communities as a tool for the development of municipal democracy: German experience and lessons for Russia

Available in Russian

Price 100 Rub.

Authors: Aleksandr Larichev, Emil Markwart

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2020-5-74-88

Keywords: German experience; legal nature; local communities; local government in Russia; municipal democracy; sub-municipal units


Local government as a political, legal and social institution finds itself in a very difficult period of development in Russia. The long-established tendency of its subordination to the state has intensified today in connection with the newly adopted constitutional amendments. At the same time, it seems obvious that further “embedding” of local government into the state management vertical, in the absence of any positive effect in terms of solving socio-economic and infrastructural problems, will inevitably lead to other hard to reverse, negative results both for local government institutions and the system of public authority as a whole. The normal functioning of local government requires, however, not only the presence of its sufficient institutional and functional autonomy from the state, but also an adequate territorial and social base for its implementation. To ensure the formation of viable territorial collectives, especially in urban areas, it seems appropriate to promote the development of self-government based on local groups at the intra-municipal level. Such local groups can independently manage issues of local importance on a small scale (landscaping, social volunteering, and neighborly mutual assistance), and provide, within the boundaries of a local territory, due civil control over the maintenance by municipal authorities of more complex and large-scale local issues (repair and development of infrastructure, removal of solid household waste and more). At the same time, the development of local communities can by no means be a self-sufficient and substitutional mechanism, whose introduction would end the need for democracy in the full scope of municipal structures overall. In this regard, the experience of local communities’ development in Germany, a state with legal traditions similar to Russian ones, with a centuries-old history of the development of territorial communities and a difficult path to building democracy and forming civil society, seems to be very interesting. Here, the progressive development of local forms of democracy and the participation of residents in local issue management are combined with stable mechanisms of municipal government, and the interaction of municipalities with the state does not torpedo the existing citizen forms of self-government. At the same time, the experience of Germany shows that the decentralization of public issue management which involves the local population can only be effective in a situation where, in addition to maintaining a full-fledged self-government mechanism at the general municipal level, relevant local communities are endowed with real competence and resources to influence local issue decision-making. The role of formalized local communities in urban areas, as the German experience shows, can not only facilitate the decentralization of solving public problems, but can also help in timely elimination of triggers for mobilizing citywide supercollectives with negative agendas. This experience seems useful and applicable in the Russian context.

About the authors: Alexander Larichev – Doctor of Sciences in Law, Deputy Dean for Research, Professor of the Department of Public Law, Faculty of Law, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia; Emil Markwart – Doctor of Sciences in Economics, Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Professor of the Department for Spatial Development, Institute for Social Sciences, Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Larichev A., Markwart E. (2020) Lokal'nye soobshchestva kak instrument razvitiya obshchemunitsipal'noy demokratii: opyt Germanii i uroki dlya Rossii [Local Communities as a Tool for the Development of Municipal Democracy: German Experience and Lessons for Russia]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.29, no.5, pp.74–88.


Babichev I.V. (2004) Mestnoe samoupravlenie: vchera, segodnya, zavtra [Local Government: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow]. Politiya, no.1, pp.70–87. (In Russian).

Bezvikonnaya E.V. (2018) Kategoriya “mestnoe soobshchestvo” v strukture protsessov samoorganizatsii: istoriko-kontseptual'nyy analiz [The Category of Local Community in the Structure of Self-Management: A Historical and Conceptual Analysis]. Obshchestvo: politika, ekonomika, pravo, no.7, pp.10–16. (In Russian).

Gritsenko E. (2014) V poiskakh utrachennykh idealov: rossiyskaya munitsipal'naya reforma i opyt Germanii [Local Self-Government in Russia and Germany: Similarities and Differences between Models]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.23, no.6, pp.17–43. (In Russian).

Gritsenko E.V. (2001) Mestnoe samoupravlenie v sisteme publichnogo upravleniya federativnogo gosudarstva: znachenie opyta FRG dlya Rossii [Local Government in the Public Administration System of a Federal State: the Significance of German Experience for Russia], Irkutsk: Irkutskaya gosudarstvennaya ekonomicheskaya akademiya. (In Russian).

Gritsenko E.V. (2007) Organizatsiya publichnoy vlasti v gorodakh federal'nogo znacheniya: v poiskakh optimal'noy modeli [Organization of Public Power in Cities of Federal Significance: in Search of an Optimal Model]. Konstitutsionnoe i munitsipal'noe pravo, no.15, pp.28–36. (In Russian).

Hlepas N.-K., Kersting N., Kuhlmann S., Swianiewicz P., Teles F. (eds.) (2018) Sub-Municipal Governance in Europe. Decentralization Beyond the Municipal Tier, Basingstoke, Hampshire; Cham, Switzerland; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Larichev A. (2019) Vniz po lestnitse, vedushchey vverkh: lokal'nye soobshchestva i preodolenie munitsipal'nogo krizisa [Down the Stairs Leading up: Local Communities and Overcoming the Municipal Crisis]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.28, no.3, pp.85–97. (In Russian).

Larichev A.A. (2019) Teoretiko-pravovye problemy funktsionirovaniya territorial'nykh publichnykh sverkhkollektivov v gorodakh: vzglyad skvoz' prizmu yuridicheskoy urbanologii [Theoretical and Legal Problems of the Functioning of Territorial Public Supercollectives in Cities: a Look through the Prism of Legal Urbanology]. In: Tabolin V.V. (ed.) Gorod v teorii i praktike: pravovye i urbanologicheskie aspekty: kollektivnaya monografiya [City in Theory and Practice: Legal and Urbanological Aspects: collective monograph], Moscow: Yustitsinform. (In Russian).

Lazarev V.N. (2004) Sotsial'nye osnovy mestnogo samoupravleniya [Social Foundations of Local Government], Belgorod: Logiya. (In Russian).

Lübking U. (2017) Rechtliche Grundlagen der Bürgerbeteiligung. In: Bauer H., Büchner C., Hajasch L. (hrsgg.) Partizipation in der Bürgerkommune (KWI Schriften), Potsdam: Universitätsverlag Potsdam.

Markwart E. (2013) Sovremennyy munitsipalitet — fabrika uslug ili platforma dlya grazhdanskogo obschchestva [A Modern Municipality: a Service Factory or a Platform for Civil Society]. Munitsipal‘naya Rossiya, no.1, pp.73–82. (In Russian).

Markwart E., Sosnin D. (2018) Territorial'nye reformy mestnogo samoupravleniya: otsenka predposylok i effektov [Territorial Reforms of Local Government: an Assessment of the Prerequisites and Effects]. Mestnoe pravo, no.4, pp.19–34. (In Russian).

Markwart E., Petukhov R.V., Ivanova K.A. (2019) Institutsional'nye osnovy mestnogo samoupravleniya: uchebnoe posobie [Institutional Foundations of Local Government: textbook], Moscow: Prospekt. (In Russian).

Tetzner T. (2017) Der sachkundige Einwohner in Sachsen — Ausschussmitglied oder nicht? Landes- und Kommunalverwaltung, vol.27, no.5, pp.193–240.

De Tocqueville A. (1992) O demokratii v Amerike [Democracy in America], V.T.Oleynik, E.P.Orlova, I.A.Malakhova, I.E.Ivanyan, B.N.Vorozhtsova (transl.), Moscow: Progress. (In Russian).

Vasil'ev V.I. (2007) O funktsional'nom naznachenii mestnogo samoupravleniya [On the Functional Purpose of Local Government]. Zhurnal rossiyskogo prava, vol.127, no.7, pp.13–23. (In Russian).