The elected leaders of Russia’s eighty-nine regions still sit in parliament as the Federation Council, an upper house with real legislative powers. That will end in 2002, when appointees will fill those seats. But the regional leaders will still get government travel orders for trips to Moscow. On September 1, President Putin signed a decree creating a purely advisory State Council, whose members include the executive leaders of all eighty-nine regions. The State Council is to meet in Moscow every three months.

Formation of the State Council marks at least a truce in Putin’s struggle with the regions. The Kremlin backed away from many of its early ideas for the Council that the regional leaders opposed–the idea of including nongovernmental organizations, for example, or of limiting participation to regions that are net contributors to the federal budget. And Moscow has relaxed its conformist pressure on the large ethnic republics. For example, former prime minister Sergei Kirienko, Putin’s special representative to the Volga federal district, suggested that Tatarstan should ignore a Constitutional Court ruling that found Tatarstan’s 1992 constitution in conflict with the 1993 constitution of the Russian Federation. “There are several areas in which the independence of the republics is genuinely good. It seems that in the future we shall be dealing with measured sovereignty,” Kirienko said. As if to emphasize the point, Putin took care to name Tatarstan’s President Mintimer Shaimiev, a strong force for regional autonomy, to the State Council’s seven-man presidium.