The central research goals of this article are to classify and explain the positions of the 89 state “governors” of Russia with regard to the most desirable federal division of power. The state governors are classified along a 5-item autonomy index based on events data and content analysis of their speeches, declarations, petitions, threats and actions from 1991–1995 as reported in two regional sources. Theoretical propositions derived from four schools of thought (essentialism, instrumentalism, relative deprivation and resource mobilization) are tested to discover which, if any, provide useful insights into the preferences and behavior of regional elites in Russia. In the end, a combined model that synthesizes elements of the above is shown to be most useful in explaining variation in elite positions.

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