Federation is one of the two main forms of government. The second common form is the unitary state. The term "federation" comes from the Latin foederatio (union, union) and presupposes the unification of several relatively independent state formations into a single integral state.
All federal states have objective historical reasons for their formation. In particular, federations can be formed on a national basis, uniting several different peoples into a single state, on a religious basis, territorial or mixed. As an example of a federation created on a territorial basis, one can consider Germany or the United States, on a national basis - Czechoslovakia, and on a mixed basis - Russia or India.
The main characteristic feature that distinguishes a federation from a unitary state is a dual system of supreme authorities, including the federal and regional levels. In a federal state, the subjects of the federation, along with the federal constitution, can form their own laws and regulations. They can have their own citizenship, capital, their own coat of arms and even a constitution. However, the subjects of the federation do not have the right to terminate the federal treaty and withdraw from the federation. They also do not have their own state sovereignty and cannot independently act in the international arena as an independent subject of world politics.
Regardless of the specifics of their structures and the characteristics of their formation, all federal states have a number of features that allow them to be accurately distinguished from other forms of government:
- the territory of the federation always consists of the totality of the territories of its subjects (regions, states, cantons, etc.);
- a federal state assumes diversity along ethnic, national, religious grounds;
- the federal state is based on a federal treaty signed by all subjects of the federation;
- all supreme legislative, executive and judicial power is under the jurisdiction of federal state bodies;
- the powers of federal and regional authorities are delimited by the federal constitution;
- the federal parliament always has a bicameral system, in which one chamber represents the interests of the subjects of the federation, the second acts as the legislative body of the entire federal state;
- the subjects of the federation have their own legislative, executive and judicial authorities. They can form their own constitutions and legislate, often have their own citizenship, but do not have the right to print their own currency and do not have state sovereignty.