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Federal Disctricts

The federal districts are a level of administration for the convenience of the federal government of the Russian Federation. They are not the constituent units of Russia (with its federal subjects being the constituent units), but are mentioned more than the federal subjects in news and government. Each district includes several federal subjects and each federal district has a presidential envoy (whose official title is Plenipotentiary Representative). The official task of the Plenipotentiary Representative is simply to oversee the work of federal agencies in the regions, although in practice this oversight is extensive and of considerable consequence.

Federal districts' envoys serve as liaisons between the federal subjects and the federal government and are primarily responsible for overseeing the compliance of the federal subjects with the federal laws. For economic and statistical purposes the federal subjects are grouped into economic macrozones.

The federal districts were created in May 2000 by Vladimir Putin as a part of a wider program designed to reassert federal authority. This wider program of reform included the Federation Council becoming indirectly elected, the scrutinizing of republican constitutions and regional charters, and the President gaining the right to dissolve subjects' parliaments and dismiss subjects' governments if they disobey federal law.


The Plenipotentiary Representatives and their staff ascertain the extent of a subjects' violation of federal laws and norms. They also oversee the process of correction at a closer level than can the federal institutions in Moscow. They are therefore central to Putin's reassertion of federal authority. The creation of the federal districts has assisted in restricting laws and practices of the subjects which contravene federal law, for instance, the curtailment of citizens rights, the authoritarian practices of subjects' governors (or, in case of republics, their presidents), the manipulation of police and the control of the judiciary by subjects' governments, the strict control of journalism, and the manipulation of elections.

Federal agencies, particularly in the justice system, had been "captured" by subjects' governments during the segmented federalism of the Yeltsin period. This process is being forestalled as Plenipotentiary Representatives ensure that agencies do the work for which they are intended rather than being brought under the influence of powerful local elites with vested interests.

The Plenipotentiary Representatives are overseeing a system of rotation of federal employees throughout the regions in order to avoid them becoming dependent on local leaders.

The federal districts coincide exactly with the Interior Ministry forces' military regions, and coincide closely with the Defense Ministry regions. This allows the Plenipotentiary Representatives to have direct access to the command structure of the military and security apparatus. This sends a clear message to the subjects that they must cooperate with the federal government, and is very useful for the Plenipotentiary Representatives.
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