Region: Eurasia

April 2019, Volume 30, Issue 2

Armenia’s Velvet Revolution

In 2018, a peaceful protest movement brought down Armenia’s semiauthoritarian government and ushered in a new political era, the culmination of a long struggle for national pride, self-determination, and democracy.

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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…

July 2017, Volume 28, Issue 3

Turkmenistan: Grasping for Legitimacy

Turkmenistan’s authoritarian president Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov attempted to use sham democratic elections in February 2017 to bolster his legitimacy both at home and abroad. 

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July 2015, Volume 26, Issue 3

Europe and Azerbaijan: The End of Shame

A few years ago, Europe’s most important intergovernmental human-rights institution, the Council of Europe, crossed over to the dark side. Like Dorian Gray, the dandy in Oscar Wilde’s story of moral decay, it sold its soul. And as with Dorian Gray, who retained his good looks, the inner decay of the Council of Europe remains hidden from view.

January 2014, Volume 25, Issue 1

What Can Constitutions Do? The Afghan Case

January 2014 marks the tenth anniversary of Afghanistan’s constitution. In what areas has it succeeded or failed? Judging by its achievements with respect to four midrange goals, the document has a record that is decidedly mixed.

January 2014, Volume 25, Issue 1

Georgian Democracy: Seizing or Losing the Chance?

A year after the election that ended the rule of president Mikheil Saakashvili’s National Movement, Georgia has seen further remarkable developments that raise key questions for struggling postcommunist democracies and, indeed, democracies everywhere. 

July 2011, Volume 22, Issue 3

Belarus: A Tale of Two Elections

Strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s suspiciously lopsided 2010 electoral victory—and subsequent crackdown on dissent—may seem like a repeat of the events of 2006, but much has changed in the interval, and his regime is much more precarious today.

July 2011, Volume 22, Issue 3

Kyrgyzstan’s Latest Revolution

Having thrown out a corrupt, authoritarian president for the second time, this Central Asian republic has gained a new chance at securing a real democratic transition.

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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.

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July 2010, Volume 21, Issue 3

Lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq

After almost ten years of complex and costly efforts to build democracy in these two countries, where do things stand? What lay behind the critical choices that shaped events in these places, and what are their current prospects for success?

July 2010, Volume 21, Issue 3

In Praise of Václav Havel

A tribute to Václav Havel, Czech playwright and former dissident, who became not only president but the symbol of the “velvet revolutions.”

January 2010, Volume 21, Issue 1

Twenty Years of Postcommunism: Freedom and the State

This is a central problem—perhaps the central problem—for classical liberal theory and its crucial distinction between the state of nature and the civil state. Which is better for liberty: nature or the state?

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…

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October 2008, Volume 19, Issue 4

Georgia’s Year of Turmoil

A domestic political crisis began brewing in Georgia long before the current conflict with Russia. Since the Rose Revolution, the country has been troubled by flawed elections, a “superpresidency,” and a malleable constitution.

October 2008, Volume 19, Issue 4

Documents on Democracy, October 2008

Excerpts from a statement issued by a leading group of Russian democrats on the conflict over South Ossetia, published on August 19 in the Yezhednevny Zhurnal online newspaper.   Excerpts from a joint declaration condemning Russian military actions against Georgia signed by the presidents of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland on August 9.   Portions…

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July 2008, Volume 19, Issue 3

The Real Causes of the Color Revolutions

The “color revolutions” in the postcommunist countries cannot be attributed to diffusion alone. Structural factors offer a better explanation of why such revolutions have succeeded in some countries and not in others.