Federal-Regional Relations in Russia and the Northern Territories Dispute : The Rise and Demise of the 'Sakhalin Factor'

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-285
Journal / PublicationPacific Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2006
Externally publishedYes


This paper examines a relatively unexplored aspect of the Russo-Japanese territorial dispute: the involvement of subnational actors. It focuses in particular on the sustained campaign of domestic lobbying and paradiplomacy by elites from the Far East region of Sakhalin aimed at preventing the Russian central government from transferring the South Kuril Islands/Northern Territories to Japan during the 1990s. It explores the various responses to the 'Sakhalin factor' from federal authorities in Russia, as well as private and public bodies in Japan, highlighting the subsequent localization and pluralization of diplomatic channels. The paper also considers why the 'Sakhalin factor' became so prominent, pointing to a synergy of factors that include the high-profile anti-concessionary campaigns of the Sakhalin political elite, the fallout from Russia's troubled attempts at state building and a possible convergence of interests between Boris Yeltsin and regional authorities. The paper concludes with an analysis of how Vladimir Putin's federal reforms, launched in 2000, have diminished Sakhalin's authority over the South Kuril Islands.

Research Area(s)

  • Federalism, Japan-Russia relations, Northern territories dispute, Paradiplomacy, Sakhalin, Vladimir Putin