Volume 51 Number 2 / March-April 2013 of Russian Politics and Law is now available on the mesharpe.metapress.com web site at http://mesharpe.metapress.com/link.asp?id=U3W2355N2437.
This issue contains:
Volume 51 Number 2 / March-April 2013 of Russian Politics and Law is now available on the mesharpe.metapress.com web site at http://mesharpe.metapress.com/link.asp?id=U3W2355N2437.
This issue contains:
|Civil Society in Russian Politics: Editor’s Introduction||p. 3|
|Quo Vadis?: Prospects for Establishing Civil Society in Russia. A Round-Table Discussion Hosted by Polis||p. 6|
|Mass Protests in the Context of the Russian Power Regime||p. 77|
|Anton N. Oleinik|
In the aftermath of the public protests that accompanied the 2011–12 Russian electoral season, the topic of civil society in Russia returned to a level of prominence it had not had in Russia since the immediate aftermath of the period of mass protest that brought down the Soviet government in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. While many analysts had for years written about the unusually quiescent nature of Russian society, the emergence of mass public demonstrations against an entrenched political regime led some scholars to reevaluate their models of the political behavior of Russian citizens.
Most of the issue comprises the presentations made at a roundtable held by the journal Polis. The roundtable, titled “Quo Vadis? Prospects for Establishing Civil Society in Russia,” shows that there is no consensus on the role and functioning of civil society in present-day Russia, much less on its future prospects, among leading Russian academics. Some of the speakers see civil society as emerging from the organizations that have sought to protect and institutionalize Russians’ political rights over the last two decades. Others argue that these organizations are inherently political and therefore cannot be the basis for a true civil society. As one speaker notes, protests cannot be taken as a sign of the maturation of civil society. Supporters of this viewpoint look instead to various nonpolitical social organizations, including ones focused on establishing organizations that help Russian citizens achieve their material, spiritual, and social needs.
The speakers also disagree on the state’s role in developing civil society in Russia. Supporters of the political point of view primarily see the state as an opponent of efforts to build Russian civil society. Others argue that in present-day Russia, civil society cannot be developed without state involvement. While there are many nuances to the argument, the critical disagreement can be summarized in the debate over whether civil society can function successfully only if social actors and the state cooperate in its development or, on the contrary, if its development requires society to battle against a largely authoritarian state to create space for public political activity. The roundtable participants do not resolve this dispute, which also remains at the heart of divisions among different political currents within the Russian Federation.
In “Mass Protests in the Context of the Russian Power Regime,” Anton Oleinik interprets the mass protests in Russia in late 2011 and early 2012 as a reaction to the prevalence of a special model of power relationships in Russia. He argues that dissatisfaction with the absence of feedback in relations between the state and society played a critical role in spawning the protests, utilizing survey data that shows that this reason was given by more than half of all protest participants as a cause of their participation in a critical December 2011 demonstration, while the more specific reason of indignation about voter fraud (also an indicator of a lack of equitable relations between state and society) was cited by almost three-quarters of respondents.
Oleinik discusses scenarios in which the mass protests are a first step toward the transition from the existing equilibrium of the Russian power regime to a new democratic equilibrium regime, placing an emphasis on two tasks. The first is the need to reform municipal and regional governance, which could act as a school for the next generation of officials, who could transfer their experience to the central level as they rise in the ranks. The second is the need to democratize the functioning of universities, especially those that train members of the future governing elite. As with local administration, the educational institutions could act as training grounds for the next generation of government officials, inculcating democratic values that they would in turn enshrine in state institutions during their subsequent careers.
Since these articles were published in mid-2012, the Russian protest movement has visibly lost steam. Vladimir Putin’s regime not only seems strongly entrenched but has initiated a crackdown on independent nongovernmental organizations that has made it increasingly difficult for societal organizations seeking to build civil society to function. As a result, it may be that in the short term, collaboration with the state or withdrawal from political engagement may be the only ways for independent civil society organizations to survive. The longer term offers a much wider array of possibilities, as the gradual emergence of a true middle class in Russia’s larger cities augurs well for the possibility of the gradual development of preconditions for the development of a civic culture in Russia that may lead Russian citizens to create boundaries for state power.
Posted in Central Asia, Russian Politics and Law, tagged Central Asia, Dina Malysheva, Fatima Kukeeva, Galiia Movkebaeva, Kuralai Baiazakova, Russian Politics and Law, SCO, Sergei Dorofeev on April 2, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
Volume 51 Number 1 / January-February 2013 of Russian Politics and Law is now available on the mesharpe.metapress.com web site at http://mesharpe.metapress.com/link.asp?id=K41837771231.
This issue contains:
|Security in Central Asia: Editor’s Introduction||p. 3|
|Russian and U.S. Interests in Central Asia: Prospects for Cooperation||p. 7|
|Central Asia Viewed in the Context of the Afghan Situation: A Discussion at the Institute of the World Economy and International Relations||p. 25|
|The U.S. Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan and Regional Security in Central Asia||p. 49|
|Fatima T. Kukeeva|
|The Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s Role in Countering Threats and Challenges to Central Asian Regional Security||p. 59|
|Kuralai I. Baizakova|
|Energy Cooperation Among Kazakhstan, Russia, and China Within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization||p. 80|
|Galiia A. Movkebaeva|
|Regional Security Cooperation Between the Republic of Kazakhstan and the European Union||p. 88|
|Kuralai I. Baizakova|
Posted in Central Asia, Russian Politics and Law, tagged Central Asia, Dina Malysheva, Fatima Kukeeva, Galiia Movkebaeva, Kuralai Baiazakova, Russian Politics and Law, SCO, Sergei Dorofeev on April 2, 2013 | 3 Comments »
This issue of Russian Politics and Law examines security issues in Central Asia. The main focus is on the interaction between Central Asian states and regional powers, particularly in the context of the upcoming NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan. The articles include a variety of perspectives from both Russian and Central Asian scholars.
Sergei Dorofeev’s article on “Russian and American Interests in Central Asia: Prospects of Possible Cooperation” opens the issue. In this article, Dorofeev argues that Russia’s primary interests in the region include maintaining sociopolitical stability and regional security, which comprises issues as varied as the fight against Islamist extremism and the drug threat, nuclear nonproliferation, and border control. Secondary interests include maintaining influence over the region’s energy sector and transportation infrastructure, promoting Russian language and culture and helping Russian-speaking residents of Central Asia, and encouraging regional integration initiatives such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC).
Dorofeev sees U.S. interests as focused on promoting American values such as democracy and human rights while making sure that no other power acquires controlling influence in the region. In addition, the United States is committed to preventing the destabilization of the region and wants to ensure continued international access to Central Asian energy supplies. The author argues that Russian and American interests coincide most closely in the areas of maintaining regional stability and ensuring energy exports. On the security side, he calls for the management of risk through the establishment of a creative partnership between the CSTO and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which could improve the management of security risks in the region and thereby benefit both sides.
The second article in this issue is actually the transcript of a discussion on “Central Asia Viewed in the Context of the Afghan Situation,” held in December 2010 at the Institute of the World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The speakers at this session included such prominent scholars as Georgii Mirskii and Aleksei Arbatov.
The keynote lecture at the session was given by Dina Malysheva, who argued that Central Asia has in recent years come to receive more attention from the international community because of its energy resources and because of its proximity to Afghanistan. As NATO and the United States begin to withdraw from Afghanistan, Malysheva believes that Russia may have a short-term opportunity to increase its influence in the region. The subsequent discussion addressed the possible long-term impact of the withdrawal of allied forces from Afghanistan on the Central Asian region. The speakers found that increased drug trafficking, political instability, and the threat of Islamism pose significant challenges that the Central Asian states and Russia are as yet unprepared to meet.
Fatima Kukeeva’s article, “The U.S. Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan and Regional Security in Central Asia,” explores in greater detail the potential impact of U.S. withdrawal on stability in the region. While most analysts limit themselves to examining the interests of global and regional powers, she discusses the positions of the Central Asian states themselves, especially regarding their relations with Afghanistan. Although the five states of Central Asia, Russia, the United States, and Europe would all like to see an economically and politically stable Afghanistan after the NATO withdrawal of troops in 2014—not least to maintain regional security—each party brings to the table its own cost–benefit analysis, causing some disagreement over how to achieve a workable settlement. Most of the parties involved agree that regional cooperation is the best route forward, but they disagree on whether this cooperation should take place through increased interaction between security organizations (such as NATO and the CSTO) or through economic initiatives such as the New Silk Road.
In “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s Role in Countering Threats and Challenges to Central Asian Regional Security,” Kuralai Baizakova describes the origin and history of another regional organization, one with a focus broader than security issues. In its decade of existence, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has become a significant regional player promoting military, political, economic, and security cooperation in Central Asia. As such, it has the potential to grow into an institution representing most of Eurasia, including Russia and China.
Regarding regional stability, Baizakova argues that the SCO has the potential to serve a unique role in promoting security, because it is the only organization that ties the two major regional powers—China and Russia—into a cooperative framework with the states that comprise Central Asia. She furthermore makes the case for the potential benefits of close cooperation between the SCO, on the one hand, and NATO and the United States, on the other, in ensuring stability in the region during and after the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan. She concludes that the best way to ensure regional stability is through the linkage of all major regional political actors in a cooperative organization; for her, the SCO is the only organization that can serve this purpose.
The last two articles in this issue focus on Kazakhstan’s foreign policy. Kazakhstan is arguably the most powerful country in the region, both in terms of economic and military power. Galiia Movkebaeva, in “Energy Cooperation Among Kazakhstan, Russia, and China Within the SCO,” focuses on the economic side. She shows that China, Kazakhstan, and Russia are making progress in energy cooperation, but so far largely on the basis of bilateral agreements. She argues that the SCO Energy Club, established in late 2011, offers opportunities to expand that cooperation in a way that benefits all the organization’s members and observer states. Regional energy coordination would make it easier to develop multinational infrastructure projects, allow the member-states to coordinate their extraction and export/import policies, and develop joint measures to ensure mutual energy security.
The last article in this issue, by Kuralai Baizakova, is titled “Regional Security Cooperation Between the Republic of Kazakhstan and the European Union.” It addresses the security aspects of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy. Baizakova argues that Kazakhstan stands to gain a great deal in terms of both economic development and improved security from enhancing its partnership with the European Union (EU). Kazakhstan’s chief interest is to ensure the security of energy exports, an area that is also of critical importance to the EU. The two sides also share an interest in improving border security in order to reduce the flow of narcotics through the region.
The author believes that Kazakhstan can benefit even more from positioning itself within the transatlantic relationship between the European Union and the United States, using the experience of this bilateral and multilateral cooperation to develop its economy and establish a stable democracy in which human rights are respected.
While I am less certain about the priority placed by any of the Central Asian governments on establishing stable democracies and promoting human rights, it seems clear from the articles in this issue that both Central Asian and Russian scholars see the integration of Central Asian states into regional and international institutions as the best, and possibly only, way to ensure their long-term political stability and economic development. The departure of the United States and NATO from the region over the next few years will undoubtedly lead to a number of challenges for these states’ security and internal stability. Regional organizations such as the CSTO and the SCO are likely to be required to step up to fill the resulting gaps.
Posted in Russian Politics and Law, tagged Aleksandr Kubyshkin, Aleksandr Melikhov, Aleksandr Sergunin, Andreas Umland, Boris Dubin, Emil Pain, Lev Gudkov, Russian Politics and Law on December 25, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
Volume 50 Number 6 / November-December 2012 of Russian Politics and Law is now available on the mesharpe.metapress.com web site at http://mesharpe.metapress.com/link.asp?id=W10063662WU0.
This issue contains:
|Varieties of Russian Exceptionalism in Putin’s Russia: Guest Editor’s Introduction||p. 3|
|The Problem of the “Special Path” in Russian Foreign Policy: (From the 1990s to the Early Twenty-First Century)||p. 7|
|Aleksandr Kubyshkin, Aleksandr Sergunin|
|Russia’s New “Special Path” After the Orange Revolution: Radical Anti-Westernism and Paratotalitarian Neo-Authoritarianism in 2005-8||p. 19|
|Special Characteristics of the Post-Soviet Political Regime||p. 41|
|The “Special Path” Ideology as an Instrument of Modernization||p. 69|
|Does the “Special Path” Ideology Contain the Potential for Modernization?: A Conversation||p. 72|
|Lev Gudkov, Boris Dubin, Emil Pain|
Volume 50 Number 5 / September-October 2012 of Russian Politics and Law is now available on the mesharpe.metapress.com web site at http://mesharpe.metapress.com/link.asp?id=G64RT55N7L34.
This issue contains:
|The Claim of Russian Distinctiveness as Justification for Putin’s Neo-Authoritarian Regime: Guest Editor’s Introduction||p. 3|
|The Mythology of the “Third Rome” in Russian Educated Society||p. 7|
|The Myth of the “Special Path” in Contemporary Russian Public Opinion||p. 35|
|Civilizational Nationalism: The Russian Version of the “Special Path”||p. 52|
|Aleksandr Verkhovskii, Emil Pain|
Posted in Russian Politics and Law, tagged Aleksandr Iskandaryan, Aleksei Malashenko, Andrei Ryabov, Nicu Popescu, Olexiy Haran, Pro et Contra, Russian Politics and Law on August 31, 2012 | 1 Comment »
This issue considers how the political systems of the post-Soviet states function. The articles all come from a special issue of the Carnegie Endowment’s Pro et Contra journal, which also included an article on Belarus that could not be published here due to space constraints. The issue forms a natural continuation of the previous issue, which examined the functioning of Russia’s present-day political system.
In “Disintegrating Community or Coherent Region?” Andrei Ryabov sets the stage for the country-specific articles by examining the extent to which the states that formerly made up the Soviet Union can still be considered to constitute a coherent political region. At first glance, it seems that these countries’ political and socioeconomic systems have diverged too far from one another to regard them as belonging to a single unit. The countries also do not share a common foreign policy, a unifying ideology, or even good communication and transportation links with one another.
Nevertheless, Ryabov finds that the former Soviet states do constitute a single region because they have all inherited from their common ancestor a particular mode of authoritarian dominance that has remained a common feature throughout the region’s political systems. In his overall assessment, the current situation in the former Soviet Union is a complex social phenomenon: “on the one hand, there is continuing fragmentation and distancing from the former center; on the other hand, certain shared features of development persist.” Ryabov labels this system post-Soviet capitalism. According to his analysis, the overriding goal of such a system of power is to maintain the permanence of the ruling elite and its absolute control over key national economic assets. When compared to the Soviet system, Ryabov finds that although economic and political fields have shifted, the mechanisms of social interaction and elite behavior have remained largely unchanged.
Aleksandr Iskandaryan focuses his analysis on “Armenia Between Autocracy and Polyarchy.” He finds that in Armenia, a situation of natural resource scarcity has given rise to control of the state by a coalition of representatives of merchant and manufacturing capital that includes regional princelings and state bureaucrats. The country’s poverty encouraged the tight intertwining of business and politics. Players in the upper echelons of the economic system find themselves in an extremely competitive environment, in which there are few resources, highly limited export and import channels, and a narrow market. Members of the elite have been forced into a constant search for consensus among themselves and have quickly determined that the easiest way to reach such an agreement is by seeking to take control of state structures, including the parliament and the presidency.
While this system is similar to those found in other post-Soviet states, the Armenian political system does have some unique aspects that derive from the crucial role played by the Karabakh conflict in its formation and development. Iskandaryan describes how the Karabakh conflict led to the domination of a particular segment of the liberal intelligentsia in the early years of Armenia’s post-Soviet political development. In subsequent years, this elite was gradually replaced by veterans of the Karabakh war, who had come to dominate in both politics and business by the end of the 1990s, creating a system that resembled feudal fiefdoms in its nature. With the passage of time, these veterans are beginning to fade away, and the system is gradually coming to resemble more closely those of the other post-Soviet states.
In discussing “Moldova’s Fragile Pluralism,” Nicu Popescu presents Moldova as “something of a paradox.” On the one hand, it is one of the poorest states in Europe, with a large rural population and a long-running (though frozen) secessionist conflict on its territory. But at the same time, it has the highest indicators of democracy among the post-Soviet states outside the Baltics. Popescu shows that in its short history Moldova has avoided most of the extremes of other post-Soviet states. It has a long and uninterrupted history of peaceful transfers of power from the government to the opposition through elections. The lack of natural resources and the consequent dispersal of economic power have played a role in preventing the takeover of the state by a consolidated business elite, as has happened in the vast majority of post-Soviet states. The country’s foreign policy orientation toward the European Union has also played a helpful role in promoting and preserving Moldovan democracy.
Some of the unique features of Moldova’s system of political institutions have prevented the establishment and consolidation of an authoritarian regime. Efforts to establish authoritarian rule failed on two occasions because of the power given to the parliament by the country’s constitution. Although the Communist Party ruled the country for almost a decade, it was unable to translate its dominance into permanent control of the political system. Its peaceful acquiescence to electoral defeat was yet another step on the road to democratic consolidation.
In “Ukraine: Pluralism by Default, Revolution, Thermidor,” Olexiy Haran considers how Ukraine has managed to avoid the consolidation of an authoritarian state. He argues that the rowdy and unpredictable nature of Ukrainian politics—including such events as the Orange Revolution, the frequent collapse of governing coalitions and subsequent early elections, and regular physical confrontations in the parliament—have created an impression of Ukrainian politics as a zero-sum game. Until recently, however, even during the most acute crises, Ukraine always managed to pull back from the edge of the abyss, avoid violent confrontation, and reach a compromise. Haran asks whether this balance is likely to be maintained under President Yanukovych or if the country is fated to drift toward the more authoritarian Russian model.
Unlike the Russian authorities, the Ukrainian authorities have not been able to create a social base for authoritarianism through the use of cheap raw materials and the idea of state grandeur. Ukraine faces a number of internal divisions, including ones based on language and region. As a result of a combination of a dearth of natural resources and a dominant cultural cleavage, the economic system is much more decentralized than in Russia. The political system includes parties that represent these various business elites. Whenever a single clan has seemed to secure a dominant role, splits develop as members of other clans united to prevent the leading group from establishing complete control. Haran argues that a similar scenario may develop over time to reduce the power now held by President Yanukovych.
The final article in the issue reviews the condition and prospects of the five Central Asian states. The title of Aleksei Malashenko’s article, “Doomed to Eternity and Stagnation,” makes clear that he sees few signs of hope for these countries. The authoritarian regimes of Central Asia are characterized by Malashenko as modifications of a single authoritarian regime, and one that has over the last twenty years withstood the test of time. Central Asian authoritarianism has been sorely tested by socio-political upheaval, Islamist radicalism, and internal squabbling. But this authoritarianism has continually proved its political worth: it has survived and provided for relative stability in the states of the region. Nowhere in Central Asia has anyone been able to put forward a real and publicly understandable alternative.
Because the authoritarian Central Asian regimes lack the necessary conditions for even partial democratization, Malashenko argues that while “the political weather may change in Central Asia, . . . the authoritarian ‘climate’ will remain the same.” Neither the local political elites nor the most influential outside actors have any interest in promoting real democratization, as they fear that it would only lead to instability and conflict.
The articles in this issue show that despite the vast divergence in the political development of post-Soviet states in the two decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the countries still share some core commonalities. The primary shared aspect is a set of similar relationships across the region between political and economic elites, with the latter frequently turning to control of the state to ensure that they can maintain their dominant positions in their countries’ economic systems. This has most often resulted in state capture by one or more sets of business groups, who have attempted, usually successfully, to create a set of political institutions with a dominant executive branch that they hope will act to ensure their continued political dominance.
In this environment, the likelihood of a systemic change is fairly low. The color revolutions have shown that even in cases where these elites are removed from power, the long-term outcome is simply their replacement by a different set of elites. An enduring change would require the establishment of a new and more balanced set of political institutions. As Ukraine’s recent experience has shown, this is a difficult process that is much easier to reverse than it is to initiate.
Posted in Russian Politics and Law, tagged Aleksandr Iskandaryan, Aleksei Malashenko, Andrei Ryabov, Nicu Popescu, Olexiy Haran, Pro et Contra, Russian Politics and Law on August 31, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
This issue contains:
|Post-Soviet Political Systems: Editor’s Introduction||p. 3|
|Disintegrating Community or Coherent Region?||p. 7|
|Armenia Between Autocracy and Polyarchy||p. 23|
|Moldova’s Fragile Pluralism||p. 37|
|Ukraine: Pluralism by Default, Revolution, Thermidor||p. 51|
|Doomed to Eternity and Stagnation||p. 73|
Posted in Russian Politics and Law, tagged Aleksandr Belousov, Dmitry Medvedev, Grigorii Golosov, Ivan Bolshakov, Mikhail Ilchenko, Olga Kryshtanovskaia, Russian politics, Russian Politics and Law, Sergei Sytin, Vladimir Putin on June 10, 2012 | 1 Comment »
This issue of Russian Politics and Law considers how the political system functions in Russia, focusing especially on the differences between formal rules and informal practices. The issue starts with a discussion of the personalities involved in running the Russian political system. In “Formats of Russian State Power,” Ol_’ga Kryshtanovskaia, one of the leading experts on Russian political elites, compares the power resources at the disposal of President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin. She shows that the two leaders divided responsibilities between themselves in a way that does not match the constitutional division of power between the president and the prime minister. Instead, “the siloviki, the economy, parliament, the regions, and the party have been left to Putin, while Medvedev is responsible for the formal performance of constitutional obligations, the courts, the fight against corruption, and the training of a personnel reserve.”
The comparison of resources available to the two leaders reveals that after two years in power, Medvedev had largely failed to develop his own political team and remained dependent on Putin. By examining the resources available to both members of the ruling tandem in late 2009, Kryshtanovskaia correctly forecast Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012. However, she does not think that the Medvedev presidency will pass without consequences for Russia’s political system. In her conclusion, she discusses the possibility that the creation of the Putin–Medvedev tandem has changed the Russian political game, setting the stage for ongoing shifts between the president and the prime minister in future election cycles.
Grigorii Golosov’s article, “Problems of the Russian Electoral System,” moves the discussion to the sphere of institutional rules of the game. The author analyzes how the Russian electoral system has evolved since 1993, showing how electoral institutions that are commonly used by democratic states around the world have been distorted to eliminate their democratic potential. He enumerates a list of problems withRussia’s electoral system, beginning with the single national electoral district—a feature that can work in small homogenous countries such as Israel and the Netherlands but makes no sense in a country as large and diverse as Russia. An excessively high threshold for party entry into parliament further distorts the proportional representation system, allowing the ruling party to easily dominate parliament. Finally, he criticizes the “locomotive” system that allows candidates who have no intention of sitting in the Duma to run at the head of their party’s list, only to be replaced by unknown deputies after the election.
Having discussed the problems that characterize Russia’s electoral system, Golosov then considers what kind of system should be adopted in the event of democratization. He shows that a majoritarian system based on single-mandate electoral districts would not work well in Russia because of its tendency to create highly disproportional outcomes and to entrench local bureaucratic clans in power. He recommends instead a modification of the current system of proportional representation, with lower thresholds and with relatively small electoral districts.
The bureaucracy plays a critical role in the functioning of the Russian political system. In “The Russian Bureaucracy and State Policy,” Sergei Sytin describes the bureaucracy as a social stratum or corporation with its own subculture and political and economic interests. While traditionally state bureaucrats have been tasked with implementing decisions made by their political superiors, they are no longer willing to limit themselves to such a neutral role. Instead, Sytin argues, they are increasingly seeking to implement their own agenda, a tendency that has led to their partial politicization. He believes that the bureaucracy is gradually usurping power over state policymaking, although its dominance has only limited potential.
Since Vladimir Putin first came to power, propaganda has come to play an increasingly important role in the Russian political system. Aleksandr Belousov’s article, “Political Propaganda in Contemporary Russia,” analyzes the forms and content of propaganda under the Putin–Medvedev regime, with a focus on the ideological concepts of the “power vertical” and “sovereign democracy.” He notes that the regime’s propaganda efforts were most successful in influencing the population during the first two Putin terms, when the regime established a circle of intermediaries who publicized its positions without necessarily having an official position in the government.
As far as the content of the propaganda, the concept of the power vertical was the basis for all subsequent propaganda constructs. It helped that the population was ready for an increase in centralization and control after the relative chaos of the Yeltsin years. The concept of sovereign democracy came later, with the goal of distinguishing the Russian political system from both the democratic ideals of the early postcommunist period and from Western democracies. The concept of sovereign democracy allowed the Putin regime to justify the changes it had made in the Russian political system without explicitly rejecting the democratic revolution of the late 1980s or the partial rapprochement with Western democracies.
The last two articles in this issue focus on efforts to change the rules under which Russian politics takes place. Mikhail Il_’chenko’s “Inertia in Russian Politics” discusses the extent to which reform of the Russian political system is hampered by institutional inertia. He argues that in the 1990s Russian reformers failed to import the institutional innovations that would have been necessary to turn Russia into a functioning democratic state. Neither the party system nor federalism worked as intended, creating instead what Ilchenko calls a decentralized version of the old Soviet nomenklatura. Despite extensive changes in the formal rules of the game, the mechanisms through which power is produced and through which leaders relate to society remain essentially unchanged. What many analysts consider to be traditional Russian values, such as paternalism, strict hierarchy, and clientelism, are in fact merely the representations of Russian political institutions. Putin’s reforms have ensconced these mechanisms more firmly in Russian politics, closing off alternative paths of development and foreclosing the possibility of gradual reform from within.
Ivan Bolshakov’s article on “The Nonsystemic Opposition” addresses the functioning of political opponents of Russia’s current political leadership. Bolshakov argues that the terms “extrasystemic opposition,” “antisystemic opposition,” and “nonsystemic opposition” all fall short as descriptions of what separates opposition parties from those in power, calling instead for a new vocabulary that would more accurately describe the role of such parties in the Russian political system. Bolshakov argues that none of the opposition parties existing in Russia today have a positive evaluation of the Russian political system. Their goals vary between seeking to change the existing system and wanting to destroy it entirely and start over.
The six articles in this issue show that the rules of the political game in Russia depend very little on the formal institutions of the political system. Instead, informal practices, interpersonal relations, and inertia determine power relations. This makes reform both highly necessary and very difficult to implement. The recent protests against fraudulent elections petered out largely because the majority of people who supported them quickly realized that they were not going to be able to affect the system, which would survive this brief scare. The comfortable reelection of Vladimir Putin showed that the system of power had weathered the storm and could endure with minimal modifications until the next crisis. As a result, the chances for real political reform declined further; the system appears likely to survive essentially unchanged until it is brought down completely by a future crisis that it cannot handle.
Posted in Russian Politics and Law, tagged Aleksandr Belousov, Dmitry Medvedev, Grigorii Golosov, Ivan Bolshakov, Mikhail Ilchenko, Olga Kryshtanovskaia, Russian politics, Russian Politics and Law, Sergei Sytin, Vladimir Putin on June 10, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
Volume 50 Number 3 / May-June 2012 of Russian Politics and Law is now available on the mesharpe.metapress.com web site.
This issue contains:
|The Rules of the Political Game in Russia: Editor’s Introduction||p. 3|
|Formats of Russian State Power||p. 7|
|Ol’ga V. Kryshtanovskaia|
|Problems of the Russian Electoral System||p. 18|
|Grigorii V. Golosov|
|The Russian Bureaucracy and State Policy||p. 40|
|Political Propaganda in Contemporary Russia||p. 56|
|Inertia in Russian Politics||p. 70|
|The Nonsystemic Opposition||p. 82|