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Regular version of the site

190068 Saint Petersburg
123 Griboedov channel, Room 123

Phone:+7 (812)786-92-49 

Postal address: 
190068 Saint Petersburg
123 Griboedov channel

Department Head Adrian A. Selin
Academic Supervisor Evgeniy Anisimov
Remembering the Neoliberal Turn: Economic Change and Collective Memory in Eastern Europe after 1989

Gökarıksel S., Gontarska O., Hilmar T. et al.

L.: Routledge, 2023.

Book chapter
The Stolbovo Treaty and Tracing the Border in Ingria in 1617–1618

Adrian Selin.

In bk.: Sweden, Russia, and the 1617 Peace of Stolbovo. Vol. 14. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2024. P. 99-118.

Working paper
The Image of the Past in Ciro Spontone’s ‘Historia Della Transilvania’

Khvalkov E., Levin F., Кузнецова А. Д.

Working Papers of Humanities. WP. Издательский дом НИУ ВШЭ, 2021

Federalism and Regionalism in Russia and Germany

On April 19, 2016, in the HSE within the framework of the 13th German Week in St. Petersburg the international seminar "Federalism and Regionalism in Russia and Germany" took place.

The seminar was organized by Dietmar Wulff, a long-term associate professor of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) (History Department, HSE - St. Petersburg), and Andrey Starodubtsev, associate professor at the Department of Applied Political Science (HSE - St. Petersburg), research fellow of the Alexanteri Institute (University of Helsinki). At the beginning participants claimed that for this seminar would be important such questions as how does federalism function in Russia and in Germany and how it might looks like, for example, in 20 years? Moreover, it was pointed out that German week in Saint Petersburg is an important place for exchanging of international experience and improving relationships and communication.

Felix Knüpling, Head of Programs at Forum of Federations, made a presentation about federalism and contribution to unity and diversity. He described the experience that they had gained during the work of the organization. He claimed that federalism in Germany is one of the basic principles of the Constitution and the German governance. Furthermore, federalism takes into account regional differences. Despite the fact that federalism in Germany is considered as a basic principle of the construction and development of the state, it is perceived as a technical principle, which is attended by experts: there is a special federalism commission. The attitude of the population to this question can be opposite. The problem of German federalism is that Germany is divided into 16 federal states, which differ according to economic strength. According to the words of Knüpling, the German version of federalism is an export commodity, the increasing popularity of which can be seen in the multi-ethnic states.

Alexander Semyonov, Deputy Director, Professor at the Department of History (HSE - St. Petersburg), spoke about the category of region in studying of the Russian Empire history. This category in the modern historical science is connected with diverse and controversial intellectual and political traditions. It has been being a tool to realize power relations. Thus, on the one hand, it is the instrument of power relations, which should be reconstructed; on the other hand, this term became a spatial category. Professor Semyonov said that the Enlightenment highlighted the category of civilization, when it was perceived as a movement through time and progress. Moreover, it was connected with the idea of ​​universalism. Later this concept of civilization turned into spatial, coinciding with the particular region and type of culture - European, Islamic, Byzantine civilization. In the 19th century category of region became the central concept in the Russian historiography, what can be noticed, for example, in works of Solovyov. In this case Russian history represents as a confrontation between a region of forest and a region of steppe, nomadic and sedentary cultures. In the 20th century the change of historical concepts happened frequently and was filled with paradoxes. So, the regional political imaginations remained, but their meanings changed. In this context the reporter stressed the importance to study the policy of manipulation of spatial boundaries, i.e. the regional policy. The category of region is constructed and it is connected with the policy. Professor Semyonov claimed that the history of the Russian Empire shows that the category of region can be filled with different and sometimes diametrically opposite meanings in political language and imagination of a period of crisis and transformation of the dynastic empire. It can explain the historical transition from the Russian Empire to the Soviet Union, when a specific form of the federation, federative asymmetrical (from the point of view of classical federalism) arrangement, was appeared.  Despite the fact that the federal unit was expected in the Habsburg Empire, it was realized in the state, where it was supposed least of all, because in the case of Russia centralization seemed to be more obvious variant.

The presentation by Vladimir Bobrovnikov, head of the sector of Caucasus (Centre for Central Asia and Caucasus research, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences), professor of the Centre for International Educational Programs (HSE), was devoted to "Discourse of Federalism in Empire Building on the Russian Frontier, from “Free Societies” (vol’nue obshestva) of Highlanders to Caucasus Governorship (namestnichestvo), 1783-1917" First of all, the reporter noted that he considers federalism as the imperial discourse, which is closely connected with colonialism. In the center of his attention were free societies:  military and political unions of rural communities, which were based on agreements. It can be called federal institutions, where agreements fixed that participants saved their territories and power. Such practice existed in the North Caucasus to the 1830s, when they were absorbed by Imamat and then by the Russian Empire. Vladimir Bobrovnikov also told about the case in 1783, when the federative contract between the Russian Empire and Kakheti was awarded. This agreement included questions about military forces and "dual citizenship" and meant that people would have Russian citizenship and preserve themselves as a political unit with their own system of laws. But in the 1840s the active building of the Caucasian line led to a transition from a federal to a colonial system of organisation.

Irina Busygina, professor of the Faculty of Political Science (MGIMO University), made a presentation "State Building and the Restrictions imposed by Federalism (comparative analysis of Germany and Russia)" At the beginning she claimed that the distinction between the state and political regime should be taken into account, because it is necessary to understand that the state is more stable and long-term political structure. Her thesis is that federalism makes the construction of the state more complicated, because there are more veto players and it leads to a problem between donors and recipients. The Russian case of the 1990s, when the Constitution was adopted in 1993 and the creation of the law about the basic principles only in 1999, confirms her thesis. However, other situation can be noticed considering the experience of Germany. Germany managed to combine the construction of "big" and effective state with saving of federalism. It can be explained by the heritage of Germany - the "habit" of decentralization. In Russia the habit of informal institutions exists. In addition, the practice of Nazism in Germany destroyed the traditional loyalty, which could be a basement of authoritarianism. In Russia the Soviet authoritarianism became one the foundation of the post-Soviet authoritarianism.

Andrey Starodubtsev, associate professor at the Department of Applied Political Science (HSE - St. Petersburg), research fellow of the Alexanteri Institute (University of Helsinki) made a presentation "Tertius gaudens, or what is wrong with the Russian federalism?" He claimed that there are two scenarios for the formation of federation. Scenario of centralization means creation of units for protection and strengthening economic situation. Such states certainly pass through the stage of confederations, as, for example, the USA and Switzerland until the middle of the 20th century. In this case, there is initially weak, but gradually growing center. The second one is the decentralization scenario, when unitary states begin to decentralize in situation of asymmetry. In this case, the opposite situation can be noticed: initially strong center, which becomes weaker. Russia does not fit into these models, because it is the asymmetric federation; it is initially with a weak center, which gradually increases. Andrey Starodubtsev came to the conclusion that in Russia the absence of the demands for federalization among politicians and population can be noticed. Thus, the symmetry destroys the Russian federalism, because any initiative of a single federal subject is not taken into account. That is why federalism in Russia must be asymmetrical.

The report of Andreas Heinemann-Grüder, Senior Researcher Bonn International Center for Conversion, professor at the University of Bonn, was dedicated to the theme "Regional Differences in Russia. Structural or political reasons?" He started with the fact that there are centralizing tendencies today in Russia. However, movements against it also exist. So, there are a number of reasons why regions may resist centralization: the regional elites want to maintain their power and that is why they demand the federalization, there is competition between regions, rich regions do not want to transfer money and support poorer ones. According to the reporter, there are more and more discussions about the socio-economic differences between the regions in recent years. The difference between them today becomes more and more noticeable. Thus, the development can be observed by the average wage, which in 2011 was 5 times higher in Moscow than in the most successful regions. In this connection there is a migration of population: people go to places, where they can earn more money. One of the socio-economic consequences is the fact that regions become dependent on federal taxes - they have little autonomy in the field of taxation. In recent years the level of region’s debt increased by 30 percent. Moreover, the number of regions – recipients as well as regions – donors increased.

In the final part of the seminar a round table "The Future of Federalism in Russia and Germany" took place. It was moderated by Pietro Merlo, head of the Department of Culture, Press and Communications at the German Consulate General in St. Petersburg.  During the discussion it was noted that questions about federalism are really complicated and cause a lot of discussions in Germany. However, there is a dialogue, in the framework of which classical and non-classical versions of federalism are considered.

Valentina Smirnova