This issue has been composed of remakes of the reports that leading Russian specialists in problems of local self-government presented at the seminars on the subject, organized by the Russian Public Policy Centre Foundation in winter and spring, 1998. The issue thus designed is to attract the attention of Russian public to a number of essential questions not yet given sufficient coverage in our literature on local self-government, e.g. those related to interaction between state-power and local-government institutions, between municipal authorities and public or communal associations of citizens, etc. The subject is all the more topical in view of the threat, that has emerged in recent years, of eventual reverting to a «unific power vertical».
Local Self-Government in Post-Soviet Russia
Three years after the enforcement of the Federal Law “On the General Principles of the Organization of Local Self-Government in the I Russian Federation”, the country has not yet gone beyond the administrative-organizational and economic-organizational problems involved therein. It is lack of trust in civic values, legal nihilism, lack of social cohesion and of confidence within society, the authorities’ estrangement from the population, failure to comprehend the significance of local self-government that impede the making of the local self-government system in Russia. Unless the state institutions prove eager to rapidly work out urban policy and unless they redouble their attention to problems of local self-government, the country is sure to inevitably face ever growing tendencies in all its parts towards self-sufficiency and autonomization, and is sure to confront, as a consequence, regional and local bodies opposition to the federal power structures.
Local self-government has certain characteristics of power (state) institutions and of social institutions. Due to its dual, both social and public character, local self-government happens to be the central link in the mechanism of interaction between civil society and the state. In periods of crises, as is suggested by historical experience, it is extended rights of local self-government that the state-power bodies’ strategies should be based upon. Procrastination in determining local government’s role in the making of modern Russian statehood, and inconsistency in the implementation of constitutional principles of local self-government, may both prove fraught with major social tension and may, so far as problems of the country’s socio-economic development are concerned, spell protracted postponement of their solution.
The Making of Local Self-Government and the Municipalities’ Development (As Views through the Results of the All-Russia Municipalities' Contest Campaign within the Federal Programme of State Support to Local Self-Government)
The process of Russian local self-government’s formation is analyzed, with the use of the data base obtained during the all-Russia municipalities’ contest campaign of 1997 to 1998, arranged by “Urbexrazvitiye” non-profit organization. For all the substantial diversity in the forms of the municipalization process, a significant part of our country’s municipalities have gained wide experience and are about to find themselves quite in a position to realize in full measure the potentialities inherent in local self-government as a system of mechanisms of municipal units’ development.
According to public opinion polls, Russians draw a clear-cut distinction between (a) ‘basic” self-government structures, which are not looked upon as authority really having a say in local matters, and (b) local self-government bodies of the city and district (raion) levels, in with the population’s trust is relatively high. Though betraying no noticeable signs of readiness to be self-organized for the sake of setting their local affairs going, a considerable part of our compatriots do not look upon the city and district (raion) authorities as self-government institutions either, and do not differentiate between state government and self-government.
Subjects of Self-Government
As rudiments of industruial society are dissapearing, it is (a) the complexity of municipalities’ internal organisation and (b) the degree of integration of municipal government and self-government processes that will become the most typological characteristics of municipalities, as the composition of the territory, administrative value of the central habitation, and the population numbers, the authors single out three main typological groups, urban, complex, and rural. Analysis of the materials of the municipalities’ contest campaign waged in 1997 to 1998 has completely confirmed the adequacy of such typology. Fundamental distinctions between the main typological groups, as revealed in the course of the contest campaign, reflected the different resource potentialities and the I different tempos of the formation, in Russia, of local self-government as such.
Applying such basic typological characteristics of municipalities, as the composition of the territory, administrative value of the central habitation, and the population numbers, the authors single out three main typological groups: urban, complex, and rural. Analysis of the øàÛ* of the municipalities’ contest campaign waged in 1997 to 1998 has completely confirmed the adequacy of such typology. Fundamental distinctions between the main typological groups, as revealed in the course of the contest campaign, reflected the different resource potentialities and the different tempos of the formation, in Russia, of local self- government as such.
Involving vast concrete material, the author analyses the activity of various neighbourhood communities and of all sorts of movements emerging and organized around local problems of housing, communal services and living conditions in a broader sense, and dwells on their role in community self-government at the local level. Special attention is given to the origin, history and experience of communal self-government committees in Moscow.
The key issue if the organization of local government in modern Russia is the definition of potential self-developing sub-systems. However, the definition of a territorial basis for the local government remains quite a complicated problem today. To find an optimal solution we need to consider such factors as the volume of competence the local community is ready for, the level of needs of the local community, integrity and compactness of the territory, the prevailing type of economic activity, availability of due conditions for stable development of a municipal unit, and of appropriate infrastructure. Generally speaking, it is the settlement principle and the “uyezd" type municipal unit that mostly correspond to the conditions of big and medium-size cities. For rural areas it is the “volost” type municipal formation that suits the best.
The Ways to Increase Efficiency of Local Self-Government
The main hindrances for the development of professionalism of local government bodies are: estrangement from modern municipal technologies, lack of developed forms of coordinating administrative work with communal public activity, the imperfect system of selection, training and retraining of municipal bodies’ personnel. Considering the ways of overcoming these impediments, the author dwells mainly on the problem of training and retraining of the personnel. He describes in detail the experience of the problem-oriented refresher course conducted by the “IMS” consulting firm. He also stresses the need for cooperation of individual consulting organizations and training centres and for coordination of their activities within the professional community of municipal government figures in order to create as complete a system as possible, of infrastructural support for the development of local government bodies’ professionalism.
As a matter of fact, community organizations deal with the same problems as the local government bodies do. A constructive cooperation between the two sides, by way of social partnership, might be beneficial for both and for society as a whole. Yet, although local authorities are now changing their attitude to the initiatives of the citizens, many local representatives and functionaries still believe that governing the local community is the privilege of the elect, and consider community organizations to be just their competitors.
The major potential subjects of cooperation in matters of regional development today are the state power bodies (those of the RF and of its subjects) and the local government bodies. Under the present political and economic conditions, the former mechanisms of development, bases on the centralized administrative system, are no longer valid. In the new situation, it is the local blueprint of socio-economic development that I can make the most adequate basis for the interaction of the regional M structures, on the one hand, and those subjects that represent them, on the other. Such local programme can be not only an efficient mechanism of development and of government, but also an organizational mechanism of negotiating the interests of all its participants, an economic mechanism for the concentration and optimal use of the resources, and a political mechanism of joint decision-making.
Sources and Resources of the Development of Local Self-Government
Withdrawal of local self-government from the state government system was untimely. For their had been no detailed legislative provisions, no qualification standard, no preliminary training, no consideration of the fine mechanisms of viability of the city infrastructure and of the housing fund. But now that it had happened, it is necessary to develop a realistic strategy for municipal units’ self-consolidation in the most unfavourable socio-economic conditions, to define and mobilize all the available resources i economic, social and managerial - for survival and development of various territories. Considering the low level of the development of market relations in our country, it is no less important to attract the local population to the participation in the process. Unless the population gets activized, the resources of a territory will remain but potential.
Unclaimed local resources are today a substantial reserve of socioeconomic development of Russia. The change of the structure of the state institutions and the emergence of a new power institution – local government – create the necessary prerequisites for the formation (release) of new resource factors – political, social, managerial, economic – of regional development. A substantial reserve for the optimization of municipal resources is also to be found in the very nature of municipal economics allowing elements of corporate economy.
Yuri Korgunyuk quotes the data that reflects the dynamics of the party life in Russia (winter 1998 - 1999) and gives the chronological report of the main political events.