In the absence of public information on the inner workings of the Russian political regime, especially during Medvedev’s presidency, outside observers often have to rely on politicians ’ unguarded comments or subjective analysis. Instead, we turn to quantitative text analysis of political rhetoric. Treating governors as a quasi-expert panel, we argue that policy positions revealed in regional legislative addresses explain how elites perceived the distribution of power at the federal centre. We find that governors moved from a neutral position in 2009 to a clearly pro-Putin position in 2011, and that policy initiatives advocated by Medvedev all but evaporated from the rhetoric of governors in 2012. Key Words: Political rhetoric, elite politics, policy position estimation, Russian politics Recent advances in comparative politics underline the crucial importance of institutions that manage intra-elite cooperation to ensure the stability of non- and partly- democratic regimes (e.g. Gandhi, 2008; Magaloni, 2008). Central to this research agenda is the analysis of the relationship between rulers and their coalitions. Indeed, rulers most often lose offic
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