Russia: Authoritarianism Without Authority

Issue Date January 2006
Volume 17
Issue 1
Page Numbers 104-118
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Do autocracies tend to govern better than democracies? Will a plainly authoritarian recasting of Russia’s political system necessarily lead to a more capable state? Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin would have us believe so, but recent events—not to mention the long arc of Russian and Soviet history—suggest a different answer. Putin’s claims about what ails Russia are wrong. The culprit behind Russia’s ungovernability is not the country’s halting democracy but rather its weak, poorly institutionalized state. The best cure, moreover, is not authoritarianism— hard or soft —but rather an enhanced democracy, more deeply institutionalized than it ever was under Putin or his predecessor Boris Yeltsin.