The Political Economy of Russian Regional Governance

In This Review

The Political Economy of Russian Regional Governance

By Kathryn Stoner-Weiss
Princeton University Press, 1997
240 pp. $35.00
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Focused on regional government, this is one of the first studies of whether and why government is working in Russia. Stoner-Weiss sets up a series of criteria for effectiveness -- trade and economic performance, modernization, and educational improvement -- as well as for government "responsiveness" -- constituent satisfaction. She then compares the results among four regional governments. Nizhny Novgorod, the region of the young former first deputy prime minister, Boris Nemtsov, and Tyumen, the great oil-producing region, perform best; Yaroslavl and Saratov, less well. Why? Not, she argues, because the more successful regions were more democratic, reform minded, or blessed with skilled leadership. These advantages, to the extent they existed, were less the cause than the result of governmental effectiveness. Rather, regions favored by highly concentrated economic power in a few giant enterprises excelled because business leaders and politicians found it easier and more rewarding to collaborate. Democratic theorists may not take much satisfaction from her results; political scientists, however, will be stimulated by her elaborate use of fashionable theory, an aspect other readers may more readily endure than enjoy.