So, in the United States, of course, there is the 10th Amendment to the constitution, stating that powers not enumerated as adhering to the federal government are reserved either to the states or to the people. In practice, this means there are several powers (education, welfare, and transportation come to mind) that really are the province of sovereign states. Even if federal laws supercede state ones in many instances, states still have the right to appeal to the Supreme Court if their sovereignty has been impugned.

In the days of the USSR, individual republics had, I am at least led to believe, a similiar level of authority. Boris Yeltsin, for example, rose to prominence precisely because he was able to secure Russia's rights over against the disintegrating USSR.

The question then is about the current Russian Federation. To what extent are the constituent members sovereign entities? For example - could Chechnya or other autonomous Oblasts nullify a federal power? Is there an entity to which the regions can appeal a federal power? Or, are the constituent regions more akin to the Dillion Rule which states that counties are mere administrative divisions of the state?

In other words, what does federalism look like in the Russian Federation?

  • I'm a bit surprised at your mini-explanation of Dillion Rule. It seems to be (reading the link you provided) centered on not granting localities powers beyond those expressly stated, NOT on rationing of power between federal and local.
    – user4012
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 19:39
  • Yeah, its not a great link. I'll see if I can find a better one. Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 20:41
  • "there are several powers (education, welfare, and transportation come to mind) that really are the province of sovereign states". Given the number of federal departments and dollars for these, that's a rather generous interpretation. Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 15:30

3 Answers 3


I'm not quite sure what you're asking, but if you care about soveregnity, it's been conclusively resolved by Russian Constitutional Court in 2000 (src):

Конституция Российской Федерации не допускает какого-либо иного носителя суверенитета и источника власти, помимо многонационального народа России, и, следовательно, не предполагает какого-либо иного государственного суверенитета, помимо суверенитета Российской Федерации. Суверенитет Российской Федерации, в силу Конституции Российской Федерации, исключает существование двух уровней суверенных властей, находящихся в единой системе государственной власти, которые обладали бы верховенством и независимостью, то есть не допускает суверенитета ни республик, ни иных субъектов Российской Федерации.

I won't bother with complete translation, TL;DR rough version is

The only source of power in RF is multi-ethnic People(s) of Russia, and Constitution has no basis for any state sovereignty aside from that of Russian Federation; which totally excludes any '2-level' sovereign power"

The only appeals of federal power would be Constitutional Court.

As an aside - Russian Federation only has ONE "Autonomous Oblast" - Jewish AO (define irony - by now, due in part to extensive emigration by Jews, it has <1% population who are Jewish :)

All the other feeration subjects you are thinking of are "Republics", although some of them (not Chechnya) were AOs during USSR.

  • 3
    The last statement is grossly wrong: there are many subjects called krais and oblasts.
    – Anixx
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 15:57
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    "The only appeals of federal power would be Constitutional Court." this statement is also wrong, when you are charged excess taxes, you appeal it to a local court.
    – Anixx
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 15:58
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    @Anixx - if you can back that up, it's worth a separate answer, it's important information.
    – user4012
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 20:08
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    which statement exactly? The both are obvious.
    – Anixx
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 2:34
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    you said that all other are republics - this is simply wrong.
    – Anixx
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 5:33
For example - could Chechnya or other autonomous Oblasts nullify a federal power? 

Neither it can, nor Soviet republics could, nor a US state can as I understand this question.

Is there an entity to which the regions can appeal a federal power?

Yes there is, they can appeal to a court.

You should note though that since 2004 the heads of the regions of the Russian Federation are not elected, but appointed by the president (this is outdated, the heads are elected again). As such it is unlikely any region would try to appeal the federal actions supported by the president. Yet the appeal to a court could be done by the elected regional parliament, the prosecutor's office, by individual parliament member or any other body whose interests are involved.

The court to which they would have to appeal depends on what act they want to appeal. In most cases of the presumably illegal actions of the ministries or federal agencies or in the case of contradictions inside the law they can appeal to a local court of the lowest level, which can then be escalated up to the supreme court in case of disagreements.

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    i doubt that any appeals in court from region on any subject ever take place. Russian Federation court system is not about justice, it is rather extension of penal system - it is the same as it was setup by Stalin in early 30's. Civil courts are weak and bribed easily. If region has any problems they have to go to Moscow and bribe some guys in Kermlin and/or Duma and try to make useful friends etc. Nothing to do with 'appeal court'. So called Constitution Court is pure circus and is dormant for quite some time.
    – lowtech
    Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 19:40
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    @lowtech contrary to your opinion, I think such appeals happen on a regular basis, frequently. On the other hand, it depends on the definition of "appeal by a region", that is what regional bodies count.
    – Anixx
    Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 19:43
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    @lowtech this is the proceedings by a regional administration from Tambov oblast against Ministry of Defense: kad.arbitr.ru/Card/5ec5454b-c84e-45a6-b5c1-f9704ae5b56b
    – Anixx
    Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 20:08
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    @What do you mean by "government of Yakutia"? Does, say, department of property relations count? Or do you need the court appeal be signed by the head of the republic himself?
    – Anixx
    Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 6:14
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    @lowtech Here, for example, Krasnoyarsk appeals against Ministry of emergency situations: my.arbitr.ru/Kad/Card/5551fbe2-88dd-4f33-9761-1f130eb9d574 Krasnoyarsk is the center of Krasnoyarsk krai, a subject to the federation.
    – Anixx
    Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 6:25

Russia is very different from western countries in a sense that corruption of public officials is playing major role in country governance. essentially central power prescribes on how much each governor can steal from federal budget cut and governors are doing the same down the power chain. kickbacks are norm, it was finally admitted by some sochi olympics contractors. everything else (like degree of autonomy for individual region) doesn't matter. there is additional factor in North Caucus (Chechnya, Dagestan). Because of their natural separatism that regions receive bigger cuts from federal budget.

To be a bit more specific on how it works:

Federal powers in Moscow know everything about kickbacks in region thanks for FSB spying abilities. If someone violates rules about 'level of autonomy' or just stealing too much then the governor is replaced.

75% GDP of Russia is related to fuel exports. Since Putin came to power federal revenue based on taxes and fees related to that increased from 40% in 2000, to 84% in 2005 to 98% in 2013 (from http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D4%E5%E4%E5%F0%E0%EB%FC%ED%FB%E9_%E1%FE%E4%E6%E5%F2_%D0%EE%F1%F1%E8%E8). I.e. right now all money go to Moscow.

Almost all regions are dependent on redistribution of this big oil-natgas revenue pie. There are negotiations between Moscow and regions on this subject and then region get it's piece. Region has it's own decision power where the money goes. Here where regional kickbacks started:

http://www.kompromatural.ru/basarginu_vekselbergu_prorochat_obschee_ugolovnoe_delo -- in Perm, Basargin and Vekselberg http://www.compromat.ru/page_29655.htm -- in Pskov region Turchak

But sometimes governor get arrested:

http://www.compromat.ru/page_34389.htm -- Novosibirsk governor arrested, kickback schema with Oleg Deripaska participation.

Here mentioned about kickbacks from region to Kremlin (paragraph 9): https://wikileaks.org/cable/2010/02/10MOSCOW317.html, whole document is about Moscow mayor corruption empire.

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    Can you prove, what you say: "central power prescribes how much each governor can steal from federal budget"?
    – user4035
    Commented Mar 22, 2014 at 14:55
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    @user4035 I added some urls to materials in russian websites to illustrate the picture. This is mostly yellow press articles. wikileaks may have more materials on this subject.
    – lowtech
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 6:58
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    This does not answer the question IMHO.
    – MrFox
    Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 15:01

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