According to the Constitution of December 1993, as subsequently revised, the Russian Federation is a democratic, federative, multi-ethnic state, in which state power is divided between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, which are independent of one another. The President, who wields considerable executive authority, is elected for a term of six years by universal direct suffrage, for no more than two consecutive terms. The President appoints the Chairman of the Government (prime minister), but the cabinet must be approved by the legislature. Supreme legislative power is vested in a bicameral Federal Assembly. For much of the 1990s and the first half of the 2000s the Russian Federation

comprised 89 federal territorial units. The status of the federal subjects had begun to be regularized by the Federation Treaty of 31 March 1992, which, inter alia, formalized the transformation of four former autonomous oblasts (regions) into republics (the remaining 16 republics having held the status of Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic-ASSR). The autonomous okrugs (districts) remained under the jurisdiction of the krai (province) or oblast within which they were located (a situation that largely continued thereafter), but additionally were granted the status of federal units in their own right. The Checheno-Ingush ASSR was divided into two republics in June 1992, by the formal recognition of an Ingush Republic (subsequently renamed the Republic of Ingushetiya). The republics each have their own governments and ministries; in many cases there

is also a republican president or head. (In 2010 legislationwas approved prohibiting the use of the designation ‘president’ for regional leaders, with effect from 2015.) In 1992 the republics were granted greater powers than the other federal units, specifically over the use of natural resources and land. The remaining federal units are governed by a local administration, the head or governor of which is the highest official in the territory, and a representative assembly.Governors are able to veto regional legislation, although their vetoes may be overridden by a two-thirds’ parliamentary majority. The federal legislature intended that the governor be elected by popular vote. However, the federal President, Boris Yeltsin, secured an agreement that the governors be appointed. In those cases where the regional legislature approved a vote of no confidence in the governor, elections were permitted. (This occurred in eight territories in April 1993.) Following Yeltsin’s dissolution of the Russian legislature in September 1993, and parliament’s violent resistance, it was announced that all heads of administration of federal subjects would, henceforth, be appointed by presidential decree. In response to increasing pressure, this ruling was relaxed in December 1995, when gubernatorial elections were held in 12 territories, and in the second half of the 1990s elected governors became the norm across the Federation. From 1995 the agreement of bilateral treaties to delineate powers between the federal Government and regional authorities became increasingly commonplace. Vladimir Putin, who was elected as President in March 2000, announced his

intention to strengthen what he termed ‘vertical power’. He grouped the federal subjects into seven federal okrugs, each of which was headed by a plenipotentiary representative of the President, based, respectively, in Moscow, St Petersburg,

An eighth federal okrug, based in Pyatigorsk, comprising seven territories in the North Caucasus, was created in January 2010, by the subdivision of the Southern Federal Okrug (which had, itself, initially been designated the North Caucasus Federal Okrug in 2000). Additionally, the federal subjects are grouped into 11 economic areas. A series of presidential decrees ruled that laws specific to certain regions were

unconstitutional. The republics, which had the greatest degree of autonomy to lose under the new arrangements, were most severely affected. By April 2002 some 28 of the 42 power-sharing treaties signed between the regional and federal authorities had been annulled, andmany of those which remained had been amended, in order to bring regional legislation into conformity with the federal norm, as had the constitutions of several republics. In the mid-2000s the negotiation of new power-sharing treaties between the federal authorities and two of the republics that had beenmost persistent in asserting their autonomy-Chechnya and Tatarstan-were underway. However, the Chechen authorities subsequently expressed opposition to the signature of any such document, while the treaty agreed with Tatarstan, ratified by the federal legislature in mid-2007, granted only limited privileges to the Republic. In December 2004 the federal legislature approved proposals, initially presented

by President Putin, in accordance with which governors of all federal subjects would henceforth be appointed by the federal authorities; an election in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, in early 2005, represented the final such poll. The appointment of governors subsequently became widespread, sometimes occurring when an incumbent regional leader’s mandate expired, but also taking place when a leader requested an expression of confidence from the federal President. Under the new arrangements, the President selects a nominee from a list of candidates prepared by the Presidential Representative in the appropriate federal okrug; this appointment of the nominee is subject to approval by the regional legislature. In the event that an appointment is repeatedly refused, the President may order the dismissal of the legislature. In 2006 legislation was approved alternatively permitting the largest party grouping in the relevant regional legislature to nominate candidates for the regional presidency or governorship, subject to the approval of the federal President. Following the formation of Perm Krai by the merger of Perm Oblast with the Komi-

PermyakAutonomousOkrug,which took effect from1December 2005, the number of federal subjects was reduced to 88. The total number of territories was further reduced on 1 January 2007, to 86, when Krasnoyarsk Krai absorbed the Evenk and Taimyr (Dolgano-Nenets) Autonomous Okrugs. The number of territories was reduced to 85 on 1 July 2007, with the formation of Kamchatka Krai by the merger of Kamchatka Oblast and the Koryak Autonomous Okrug, to 84 on 1 January 2008, when Irkutsk Oblast absorbed the Ust-Orda Buryat Autonomous Okrug, and to 83 on 1March 2008, when the Aga-Buryat Autonomous Okrug and Chita Oblast merged to form Transbaikal Krai. The 83 territories comprise 21 republics, nine krais, 46 oblasts, two cities of federal status (Moscow and St Petersburg), one autonomous oblast and four autonomous okrugs. Republics, autonomous okrugs and the autonomous oblast are ethnically defined, while krais, oblasts and the cities of federal status are defined on territorial grounds.