In Local Heroes, Kathryn Stoner-Weiss analyzes a crucial aspect of one of the great dramas of modern times--the reconstitution of the Russian polity and ecomy after more than seventy years of communist rule. This is the first book to look comprehensively and systematically at Russia's democratic transition at the local level. Its goal is to explain why some of the new political institutions in the Russian provinces weathered the monumental changes of the early 1990s better than others. Using newly available ecomic, political, and sociological data to test various theories of democratization and institutional performance, Stoner-Weiss finds that traditional theories are unable to explain variations in regional government performance in Russia. Local Heroes argues that the legacy of the former ecomic system influenced the operation of new political institutions in important and often unexpected ways. Past institutional structures, specifically the concentration of the regional ecomy, promoted the formation of political and ecomic coalitions within a new proto-democratic institutional framework. These coalitions have had positive effects on governmental performance. For democratic theorists, this may be a surprising conclusion. However, it is possible, as Stoner-Weiss suggests, that the needs of democratic development may be different in the short run than in the long run. The local heroes of today may be impediments to the further development of democracy tomorrow. This provocative work, solidly grounded in research and theory, will interest anyone concerned with issues of ecomic and political transition.
Kathryn Stoner-Weiss is Assistant Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University.