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The Legacy Structure of Russia’s One Hundred Year Transformation, David Foley

Reviewed by Peter Rutland

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David Foley examines the role of federalism in the failure of democracy to consolidate in post-Soviet Russia. His core argument in The Legacy Structure of Russias One Hundred Year Transformation, which is a convincing one, is that the Russian Federation inherited the ethno-territorial federal structure of the Soviet Union, which was ill-suited to foster the democracy that Boris Yeltsin was ostensibly trying to build. The contradictory pressures in that ethno-federal structure directly contributed to the collapse of the Soviet state in 1991. Foley hints that such a fate may also threaten the integrity of the Russian Federation, though he stops short of making any predictions along those lines (p. 51).

The puzzle that Foley addresses is why post-Soviet elites in Moscow decided to retain the ethno-territorial structure—the very structure that had doomed the Soviet Union. Why did they think it would work any better for Russian democracy than it had for Soviet communism? Foley argues that Yeltsin deliberately maintained the pseudo-federal system he inherited from the Soviet Union since it enabled him to strike bilateral deals with regional bosses that strengthened presidential power and undermined the capacity of the State Duma to exercise control over the executive branch (p. 117). Sixteen of the 89 regions signed such deals

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