On 16 September 2003 a new law, ‘On the General Principles of Organizing LocalSelf Government in the Russian Federation’ (hereafter, the 2003 Law)1 was ratifi ed by the Russian parliament (the State Duma), which led to a doubling of the number of municipali ties (from 11,957 to 24,208) by December 2005.2 The fi rst major round of elections to these new municipalities took place over the period 2004-5, and by December 2005, 198,815 deputies and 13,655 heads of local administrations had been duly elected.3 In addition, the creation of the new municipalities required the recruitment and training of hundreds of thousands of administrative personnel. It is somewhat surprising, given the vast numbers of citizens who are now engaged in grass-roots politics, that the study of local self-government in Russia has been somewhat neglected. While there have been a plethora of scholarly works devoted to regional politics, there have been far fewer books devoted to municipal politics, and even fewer that deal with both politics and fi nance.4 In Russia the study of local govern ment has been dominated by legalistic studies, which focus on the formal rights and powers of municipalities.5 In this study I provide an account of local government reforms from Gorbachev to Putin, and I examine local level politics and fi nance.