Country: Russia

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October 2018, Volume 29, Issue 4

Understanding Authoritarian Regionalism

Taking advantage of broad global respect for regionalism, authoritarian regimes are using their own regional organizations to bolster fellow autocracies. These groupings offer a mechanism for lending legitimacy, redistributing resources, and insulating members from democratic influences.

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October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

The Kremlin Emboldened: What Is Putinism?

Under Vladimir Putin, Russia’s ruling class again claims to represent a superior alternative to liberal democracy. How can we theorize this regime? Putinism is a form of autocracy that is conservative, populist, and personalistic. Its conservatism means that Putinism prioritizes maintaining the status quo and avoiding instability. Conservatism also overlaps with Putinism’s populism in crowd-pleasing broadsides against gay rights and feminism, but gives…

October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

The Kremlin Emboldened: Putinism After Crimea

“The pursuit of national glory,” which M. Steven Fish counts among the features of Vladimir Putin’s “populism,” is emerging as central to the regime’s legitimation. Unlike previous instances of patriotic mobilization (around the Second Chechen War and the 2008 Georgia war), the current one appears to have evolved into a permanent structure sustaining Putin’s regime.…

October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

The Kremlin Emboldened: Why Putinism Arose

This essay argues that the sources of the current revival of Russian authoritarianism lie in the country’s economic and political history. Among the major factors behind President Putin’s rise and consolidation of power, it cites an ideological overemphasis on the state that fosters hostility toward human rights and liberties; deeply rooted attitudes that cast the…

October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

The Kremlin Emboldened: How Putin Wins Support

The Kremlin’s ability to maintain power and popularity despite an aging leader, an ailing economy, a rallying opposition, and many other domestic and international challenges is puzzling given current theories of authoritarianism. These theories focus on some combination of material interests, institutional engineering, and the charisma and skill of the dictator himself. A close examination…

October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

The Kremlin Emboldened: Paradoxes of Decline

The Russian system of personalized power is growing ever more dependent on the same strategies that proved useless in sustaining the USSR. While the system still has the potential to limp along, its survival tactics render the it progressively more dysfunctional. Among the circumstances weighing against the system’s survival are the unintended yet logical consequences…

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October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

The Kremlin Emboldened: Putin Is Not Russia

This essay chronicles Vladimir Putin’s successful efforts to transform Russia from the flawed democracy of the 1990s to the fully fledged authoritarian regime it is today, with falsified elections; censorship of the major media outlets; and repression of the opposition. Yet there are growing numbers of Russians—especially among the young generation—who are prepared to stand…

January 2016, Volume 27, Issue 1

The Authoritarian Threat: Weaknesses of Autocracy Promotion

While “autocracy promotion” presents a real danger, its influence so far has been limited. Because authoritarian regimes are concerned first with furthering their own interests, their interventions often have contradictory effects, sometimes even inadvertently fostering greater pluralism.

April 2015, Volume 26, Issue 2

Documents on Democracy

Excerpts from: newly elected Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena’s campaign manifesto, “A Compassionate Maithri Governance: A Stable Country,” Newsweek Polska's interview with Boris Nemtsov just hours before he was gunned down in Moscow on February 27, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's statement of innocence issued after the Federal Court of Malaysia upheld his sodomy conviction and 5-year sentence on February 10, and a…

October 2013, Volume 24, Issue 4

Documents on Democracy

Excerpts from Russian anticorruption crusader and recent Moscow mayoral candidate Alexei Navalny's September 9 speech on Bolotnaya Square. Portions of presidential contender Nana Akufo-Addo's August 29 statement conceding Ghana's disputed 2012 presidential election to John Dramani Mahama, as well as excerpts from Mahama's televised address that same night.  Remarks by jailed Chinese human-rights activist Xu Zhiyong

July 2012, Volume 23, Issue 3

Putinism Under Siege: Can There Be a Color Revolution?

The recent protests in Russia raise the question of whether the Putin regime could fall to a “color” or electoral revolution like those that have ousted other autocratic regimes in postcommunist Europe and Eurasia over the past decade and a half. 

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April 2011, Volume 22, Issue 2

Paradoxes of the New Authoritarianism

Why are the unfree regimes of the former Soviet world proving so durable? A lack of ideology and—perhaps surprisingly—a degree of openness are proving to be not so much problems for authoritarianism as bulwarks of it.

April 2009, Volume 20, Issue 2

Reading Russia: The Wounds of Lost Empire

There is no consensus about the nature of the political system in Moscow today. Yet how one understands the motivations propelling Russian policy abroad depends on how one understands its regime at home.

April 2009, Volume 20, Issue 2

Reading Russia: It’s No Mystery

The idea that the Russian government is a mystery-let alone a Churchill-evoking riddle or enigma-is absurd. The real issue has been the willful, even enthusiastic, blindness of political leaders and commentators regarding the true nature of Putin's regime which-with its insistence on strict hierarchy, unquestioning clan loyalty, and a stern code of secrecy-is essentially a…

April 2009, Volume 20, Issue 2

Reading Russia: Tools of Autocracy

Arguably a flawed democracy in the 1990s, Russia took a distinctly authoritarian turn under President Vladimir Putin from 2000 to 2008. The country now lives under a façade democracy that barely conceals the political and administrative dominance of a self-interested bureaucratic corporation. The regime manufactures consent by means of three tools: information and propaganda campaigns…

April 2009, Volume 20, Issue 2

Reading Russia: Forms Without Substance

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,…

April 2009, Volume 20, Issue 2

Reading Russia: The Dying Mutant

The corporatist kleptocracy being erected by Russian President Vladimir Putin is profoundly misunderstood in the West. This model dooms Russia to economic degradation and margin-alization. The current global crisis has made this truth painfully clear. The artificially created image of a threatening West (and U.S. in particular) is now becoming the sole ideological justification for…

April 2009, Volume 20, Issue 2

Reading Russia: Is There a Key?

Of all of the national republics that emerged out of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia has had the most profound difficulties in determining its national identity. What is the essence of being Russian, and where are the boundaries of the "Russian World"? There has never been a Russian national identity that was anything…

April 2009, Volume 20, Issue 2

Reading Russia: The Return of Personalized Power

In contrast to authoritarian power structures, which rest on a form of bureaucratic corporatism that makes the leader its hostage, the regime in Moscow rests on personalized power, something that signals a return to the traditional Russian political matrix. The regime has fused power and property in a manner that makes the oligarchs utterly dependent…

April 2009, Volume 20, Issue 2

Reading Russia: The Merger of Power and Property

The regime in Moscow mixes key features of a capitalist economy with a political system wherein power is monopolized by a close-knit professional and age cohort whose members often have a background in the secret police. Instead of seeking to base its legitimacy on broad-based, transpersonal institutions with character and integrity of their own, the…

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April 2009, Volume 20, Issue 2

Reading Russia: The Siloviki in Charge

The holders of political power in Russia today are the siloviki (sometimes called "securocrats" by political scientists). These are the people who work for, or who used to work for, the silovye ministerstva-literally "the ministries of force"-charged with wielding coercion and violence in the name of the state. Since Vladimir Putin's rise to power at…

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April 2009, Volume 20, Issue 2

Reading Russia: The Rules of Survival

The image of Putin’s Russia as an authoritarian oil state attracts many Western analysts because it seems to carry a promise that falling oil prices will bring regime change. Thus, many were convinced that a major economic crisis would force the Kremlin either to open up the system and allow more pluralism and competition, or…

January 2008, Volume 19, Issue 1

Taming Extremist Parties: Lessons from Europe

The history of twentieth-century European communist parties shows that extremists can be moderated by robust democratic institutions. Without them, however, the inclusion of extremist parties may undermine democracy.

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April 2007, Volume 18, Issue 2

Another Russia? After the Leviathan

There is a future for democracy in Russia, but it may have to wait until the people begin to feel the problems created by the current system.

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January 2007, Volume 18, Issue 1

Revolution Reconsidered

The recent "color revolutions" in the former Soviet Union should lead us to reassess the idea of revolution and also to consider the weaknesses of the concept of "democratic transition.

July 2006, Volume 17, Issue 3

Reforming Intelligence: Russia’s Failure

Much like other institutions in post-Soviet Russia, the intelligence and security services have yet to make a transition to real democratic control, and remain infused with the authoritarian tendencies of their Soviet predecessors.

January 2006, Volume 17, Issue 1

Russia: Authoritarianism Without Authority

Vladimir Putin has pulled the plug on democracy in Russia in an effort to strengthen the authority of the central state. But a look at Russian federal relations shows that the state is growing weaker rather than stronger.

July 2004, Volume 15, Issue 3

Russian Democracy in Eclipse: What the Polls Tell Us

The first flush of democratic hopes has faded, as the recent elections have emphasized. But the democratic idea has a foothold, and the presidential machine that swept those elections will not have an easy time retaining its sway.

January 2004, Volume 15, Issue 1

Books in Review: Putin’s Deep Freeze

A review of Popular Choice and Managed Democracy: The Russian Elections of 1999 and 2000 by Timothy J. Colton and Michael McFaul; Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State by David Satter; and Putin's Russia by Lilia Shevtsova.

July 2000, Volume 11, Issue 3

Russia Under Putin: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Does the election of Vladimir Putin as Russia’s president represent a fundamental turn away from democracy or merely a temporary setback? Although Putin’s apparent indifference to democracy is worrisome, it would be premature to conclude that democracy is lost in Russia.

Democracy after Communism

Is the challenge of building and consolidating democracy under postcommunist conditions unique, or can one apply lessons learned from other new democracies? The essays collected in this volume explore these questions, while tracing how the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union have fared in the decade following the fall of communism.