The development of party activism in Russia : a local perspective
One of the great opportunities afforded to the political scientist since the fall of the Soviet Union has been that of examining politics ‘on the ground’ in non-metropolitan areas. The current study addresses the development of regional and local political party organisations in post-communist Russia. Focusing on the six movements which won representation in the 1999 election to the State Duma, it uses three case study regions in the middle Volga - the Republic of Tatarstan and the provinces of Samara and Ul’yanovsk - to examine party activity at the regional and district levels. Based on extensive fieldwork in Russia, the investigation utilises a broad range of local sources and interviews in its analysis. However, in order to avoid the danger of simply providing an observational study of local politics, wide use is also made of national opinion survey and focus group data. The study begins by examining the context of party activity in Russia, giving a brief history of the party system and its institutional framework. Thereafter, examination is made of the role of parties in regional and local politics, based mainly on official electoral statistics from 1995-2001. This analysis begins by looking at the Russian Federation’s eighty-nine regions in a comparative context, before narrowing the focus to the three case study regions. Parties’ activities, and their interactions with the respective political systems in each region, are examined in detail. Thereafter, the functioning of parties at three levels - federal, regional and district - is examined, using both theoretical and empirical methods. The study goes on to examine the role played by members in Russia’s political parties, most specifically at a regional and local level, utilising survey and focus group material (undertaken specifically for this study) to case new light on the entry patterns, bases of activism, and attitudes of party members in the middle Volga. Furthermore, parties are examined in the context of the 1999-2001 electoral cycle. This analysis concludes that, in the federal elections, particularly that to the State Duma in December 1999, regional nuances dominated over the national campaign; but that party participation was limited in region-specific elections.