The COVID Biopolitics in Russia: Putin’s Sovereignty versus Regional Governmentality

  • Andrey Makarychev University of Tartu, Estonia,
  • Maria Goes Barents Institute, Arctic University of Norway,
  • Anna Kuznetsova University of Tartu, Estonia,
Keywords: COVID-19, centre-region relations, governmentality, sovereignty, Russia


In this article, we discuss the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic as a biopolitical challenge that – along the lines of the contemporary academic debate on biopower – may be approached through the concepts of sovereignty and governmentality. Within this general framework, the authors look at the challenges Russia faces due to the corona crisis from the viewpoint of domestic transformations within the ruling regime, mainly focusing on center – periphery relations as a core element of the power structure in Russia that demands a stronger emphasis on governmentality. We outline several forms of regions’ distancing from the federal center: digital empowerment, the resistance of the North, and the demand for "people’s governors". Our main conclusion is that the relative administrative autonomy obtained by the regions reflects the ongoing process of decentralization of the Russian political system which will affect the structural characteristics of Russian federalism in the future.

Author Biographies

Andrey Makarychev, University of Tartu, Estonia,

Andrey Makarychev is Professor of Regional Political Studies at the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Science, the University of Tartu. His areas of expertise include regionalism, biopolitics and visual analysis. He recently co-authored (with Alexandra Yatsyk) The Biopolitics of the Post-Soviet: From Populations to Nations (Lexington, 2020).  

Maria Goes, Barents Institute, Arctic University of Norway,

Maria Goes is research affiliate at the Barents Institute, UiT – The Arctic University of Norway. She has an MA in Peace and Conflict Transformation and a PhD in Political Science. Her current research interests include Critical Security Studies, Russian Studies, and environmental policy in the Barents region. 

Anna Kuznetsova, University of Tartu, Estonia,

Anna Kuznetsova, a doctoral student at the Institute of History and Archaeology of the University of Tartu, does work on the issues connected with ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples of Russia, language policies and regional development in Russia.