Governing the Locals demonstrates that with the exception of a brief period in 1990-92 when the local soviets fostered mass mobilization, local governments in post-Soviet Russia have actively constrained grass-roots activism. Rather than serving as instruments of the 'schooling in civil society,' or of 'making democracy work'_as the conventional wisdom holds_local governments have been used by the regional authoritarian or ethnocratic regimes as instruments of top down social control. The author suggests that this tendency has been on the rise under President Putin, whose reforms have served to integrate local government into a centralized power vertical potentially facilitating authoritarian style social mobilization non only on a regional level, but also on a nation-wide scale. The author examines the impact of local self-governing institutions on nationalist movement mobilization in Russia. Using insights from social movement theories, Lankina argues that similar to the soviets in the Soviet system, municipalities in post-Soviet Russia continue to influence local societies through their control over social networks, material resources, and public agenda setting. Accordingly, their facilitating or constraining role crucially affects movement successes or failures. This is the first study identifying the centrality of local government for understanding the nature of state-society relations in Russia, and for explaining the broader questions of social activism or lack thereof in the post-Soviet space.
Lankina's work stands to make a major contribution to the understanding of sub-national politics in the Soviet and post-Soviet period and should be essential reading for anyone interested in regional and local governance in today's Russia. Europe-Asia Studies The book's insights into grassroots politics in Russia today, and in the last years of the Soviet Union, have rarely been matched and should be taken note of by anyone with an interest in contemporary Russia. Slavonic & East European Review, (Seer) Governing the Locals is deserving of a wide readership, both for the wide-ranging conclusions reached and the fascinating details of local politics in three of Russia's more contentious republics. Canadian Slavonic Papers Tomila Lankina is an outstanding representative of the new generation of specialists on Russian and post-Communist politics. She combines an impressive knowledge of the political science literature with thorough fieldwork that has taken her into many different, and sometimes dangerous, parts of the former Soviet Union. Governing the Locals is a penetrating analysis of federalism Russian-style and of ethnic politics and governance in the republics and localities. -- Archie Brown, Oxford University In order to understand social change in Russia, or any country, it is necessary to look at the local level. Things happen there first, whether one is talking about terrorism or democratization. Lankina's Governing the Locals is extremely important in this regard because it is one of a very few available works that focuses precisely on local level actors. Lankina makes a real contribution to this discussion with her detailed analysis of the local government issue. Russian Regional Report Lankina's study offers a useful explanation of at least one cause of relative apathy in Russian politics. Highly recommended. CHOICE