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SOURCE. Tomila Lankina, "Local Administration and Ethno- social Consensus in Russia," Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 54 No. 7, November 2002, pp. 1037-54

In many (though not all) of Russia's autonomous ethno- territorial formations, the titular elites have secured a remarkable level of political dominance. Thus by the mid- 1990s about two-thirds of government ministers in Yakutia were Yakuts, although Yakuts constitute less than a third of the population; in Adygeya, where Adyge make up a fifth of the population, four-fifths of government executives and all university deans were Adyge. (1)

How, in a country where ethnic Russians predominate so heavily at the national level, have titular elites achieved such firm control at the regional level? And why have Russians and other non-titulars not protested more vigorously against titular domination? In answering these questions, Tomila Lankina (Humboldt University, Berlin) focuses on factors that rarely receive the close attention they deserve - - namely, the structure and functioning of local government.

The author conducted field research between 1996 and 1999 in Adygeya and Bashkortostan, (2) where she interviewed over 50 local activists and studied the local press and records of local council proceedings. As these two regions are different in many respects, she thinks it likely that her results can be extrapolated to other ethnic autonomies.

Since 1994, Bashkortostan has been governed by a centralized executive hierarchy headed by President Murtaza Rakhimov, who appoints heads of administration in the republic's 74 main municipal units (counties, cities, and urban districts). In turn, these heads of administration appoint heads of administration of smaller units such as villages. They also sit as deputies in the House of Representatives, the upper chamber of the republic's legislature.

Local government in Adygeya is somewhat less centralized. The heads of administration of towns and village districts are popularly elected. However, the most important local governments -- the 7 counties and the 2 main cities, Adygeisk and Maikop (3) -- are directly subordinate to the president.

These local government structures retain a wide range of powers over civil society. They can choose to register or not to register a public association, to permit or to ban a protest demonstration, and to provide an association with logistical support (e.g., office premises) or to withhold such support. They can also decide what kind of coverage, if any, to give to different views and issues in local media that are mostly under their control. These powers are used systematically to weaken any organization opposed to the titular elite.

The author concludes that local governments have served as highly effective "mobilizational infrastructures." They give valuable assistance to titular ethno-political movements acceptable to the elite. At the same time, they block the mobilizing efforts of non-titular ethno-political movements that represent the interests of ethnic Russians or third groups (such as the Tatars in Bashkortostan).


(1) Yakutia, also known as Sakha, is in eastern Siberia. Adygeya (the titulars of which are also called Circassians) is in the northwestern Caucasus .

(2) Bashkortostan is in the Middle Volga region, neighboring Tatarstan. The titular Bashkirs constitute a minority; the other two main ethnic groups are the Russians and the Tatars.

(3) Since 1997 the mayor of Maikop, the capital, has been elected, but he remains subordinate to the president as a cabinet minister.

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