Our study of the implementation of the 2012 presidential "May Decrees" in Russia's regions shows that, even though the political system is highly centralized and authoritarian, the administrative capacity of the state is low and there are wide variations in the execution of the decrees across the Federation. One important factor that has negatively impacted state capacity is the weakness of formal institutions and the dominance of informal over formal politics. The personal ties of regional governors to policymakers at the center and their administrative competence, coupled with the level of cohesion of the regional elite, are the most important determinants of the state's subnational capacity.