This study explores perceptions and beliefs of residents of four Russian regions, based on a survey carried out after the March 2000 presidential election, which itself followed shortly on the Duma elections of December 1999. In using the data to assess the plausibility of the strategic co-optation and strategic cronyism models we engage in two types of analysis. First, we examine citizens' understandings of fiscal federal relations, answering questions such as the following: How accurate are citizens' perceptions of their own region's position in terms of centre-regional budgetary relations? What factors do citizens perceive as important in influencing the level of benefits the region receives? How do they assess the effectiveness of the various levels of government in delivering services? What type of fiscal arrangements do they favour and what factors do they see as influencing the level of transfer payments? While citizens' perceptions may not be accurate and their value judgments may not mirror those of their leaders, an understanding of popular perceptions will help to clarify what influences their electoral decision making.