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Relations between the center and regions in Russia, being always in the limelight of attention in political science literature, remain a battlefield of different scholarly interpretations. Several narratives shape the current debate on Russian subnational regionalism or, in very legalistic terms, “federalism.” One is bent on applying to Russia such normatively-loaded concepts as multilevel and networked governance, meta-governance, indigenous governance, civil society participation, and others with strong liberal and institutional pedigrees. In this vein, Russia might be referred to—for example, along with Germany and France—as a “post-imperial democracy,” with an implicit anticipation of the prefix “post-” to signify Moscow's commitment to a democratic, rather than imperial, future. Seen from this perspective, with all its specificity Russia still conforms to basic standards of democratic rule and therefore can be approached, described, and analyzed in the language applicable to the liberal west, where institutions mitigate controversies over interests and create consensus over rules of the game.
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