Blog by Olga Gulina

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How Many Legal Regimes Are There in Russia?

For years, Russian experts wrote about regional differentiations in federal regulations. Indeed, Russia is far from being a unified or homogenous state, rather it is an increasingly dispersed archipelago of territories that only pretends to be a single country.


Natalya Zubarevich, director of regional programs at the Moscow-based Independent Institute for Social Policy, explained this creeping dispersion through the idea of “Four Russias,” as follows:

•Russia No. 1 includes metropolitan areas constituting the heart of country's post-industrial economy;

•Russia No. 2 is a country of industrial towns with populations ranging between 25,000 and 250,000 inhabitants;

•Russia No. 3 is an agglomeration of rural and semi-urban regions; and

•Russia No. 4 is composed of peripheral and border-located territories.


Looking at federal legislation, it does appear that federal policies have been increasingly region-specific.


In July 2013, the State Duma adopted amendments to legislation on migration. Federal law No. 207 introduces regionally differentiated liabilities for violating immigration laws. For example, the failure of a foreign national or a person without citizenship to properly register in Moscow, the Moscow oblast, St. Petersburg, or the Leningrad oblast is punishable by an administrative fine of between 5,000 to 7,000 rubles (about $200) and deportation from the Russian Federation (see Article 18.8 on the Code of Administrative Offences).


Yet the same violation committed in other parts of the Russian Federation entails administrative fines of between 2,000 to 5,000 rubles with or without deportation. In fact, the law says that foreigners who breach immigration rules in Moscow ought to be deported, while in Tver, Kaluga, or Novosibirsk they might be allowed to stay.


A similar territorial-specific approach to employers' responsibilities is manifest in new versions of Article 18.15 (on the “Unlawful engagement of a foreign citizen or person without citizenship in labor activities in the Russian Federation”) and Article 18.16 (“Violation of the rules of engagement of foreign citizens and persons without citizenship in labor activities at trade outlets, including shopping complexes”). A violation of these rules leads to fines ranging from 400,000 to 1,000,000 rubles (up to $30,000) for employers in Moscow, and only 250,000 to 800,000 rubles in the regions.


By the same token, sports mega-events were used for introducing special legal regimes in host cities. This began with the federal law No. 310 in December 2007 that turned the city of Sochi into a special territory where some Russian legal procedures are temporarily discontinued.


Furthermore, law No. 108 introduced in June 7, 2013 on the organization of the 2018 FIFA World Cup extended this practice to the dozen major Russian cities where the soccer events will be staged. The law stipulates visa-free entry without mandatory registration for all foreign nationals employed by the organizers. In those cities, thousands of FIFA employees will not be required to obtain regular work permits and employers of foreign workers will not be requested to report to immigration control agencies.


These examples of regionalization may be the tip of the iceberg, and some certainly seem geared toward facilitating work on, and the management of, major international events. Nonetheless, twelve years ago, Vladimir Putin ascended to the presidency with a pledge to unify legislation in all regions, but that course has changed.


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