Reading Russia: Forms Without Substance

Issue Date April 2009
Volume 20
Issue 2
Page Numbers 47-51
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Twenty years ago, there was a more thoroughgoing political pluralism in Russia than there is today. In some respects, the forms of democracy-including party consolidation-have been enhanced, but they have been so manipulated as to deprive them of substance. Either "electoral authoritarianism" of "multiparty authoritarianism" (Juan Linz's terms) may reasonably be applied to contemporary Russia, although "façade democracy" is no less apt. Now that performance is declining, the value of legitimacy based on real political choice and genuinely democratic elections may become clearer. It is critically important that Western countries engage with Russia-and with far more political imagination than they showed in the immediate post-Soviet period.