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The Russian Federation. Russia. Eurasia (10 time zones) 1.8 times the territory of the US Secular tradition of authoritarianism, police state, and violence against the poor, minorities, and peasants. Multiple ethnic groups Rich in natural resources (oil & minerals) in Siberia.

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  • Eurasia (10 time zones) 1.8 times the territory of the US
  • Secular tradition of authoritarianism, police state, and violence against the poor, minorities, and peasants.
  • Multiple ethnic groups
  • Rich in natural resources (oil & minerals) in Siberia.
historical overview
Historical Overview

≠ Western Europe (Late Absolutism: serfdom and slavery)

Markets glued ≠Despotic power glued Russia

Western Europe nomads and free peasants

Roots in the Muscovite state (12th century)

Tsars (“Ivan the Terrible”…Absolutist monarchs)

18th century Russian Enlightenment: Saint Petersburg (thousands die in building the city in a swamp)

Precursors in matters of political & secret police

19th century s failed liberalization
19th Century’s Failed Liberalization

Alexander I’s attempt of reform stopped by Napoleonic wars. Alexander’s death in 1825 (problems of succession) Liberal reform crushed.

Nicholas I (anti-modern, anti- Enlightenment), dies in the Crimean war (1853-56). Russian defeat. Nicholas I dies in the war

Alexander II: Time of (Limited) Reform

Liberation of serfs (1871), allows regional assemblies, encourages industrialization (but opposes a constitutional regime). Assassinated in 1881

(Russian traditions: political police, political repression, and anarchism)

the last absolutist state
The Last Absolutist State

Alexander III: renewed political repression (15 years)

Nicholas II: Bloody Sunday (father Gapon) 1905 Revolution

Sergei Eisenstein’s October

The tsar promises civil liberties and a legislature (the Duma)

1914 Russia enters WWI

1917 riots lead to the Revolution in February (Lenin’s April Theses). Moderate government (Liberal/Socialist) led by Kerensky. Brief experience with Liberal democracy

1917 (October) revolution. Radicalization of the revolution (Bolsheviks). Lenin’s leadership

  • Communist Party of Soviet 60 Union (CPSU), also known as the Bolschevik Party. Centralized and authoritarian party organized by Lenin (Vanguard).

Lenin's New Economic Policy: mixed system controlled by the govt. with participation of small private companies. Economic growth.

stalinism totalitarianism

1924 Lenin's death  Stalin (Central planning) Major and fast industrialization of the country  Collectivization (state farms) (20,000,000 die) and Purges (1937)

  • Totalitarian regime. The Bolschevik Party dominated all aspects of society and the economy.
  • Party’s ties with the government and KGB (security police, an essential instrument of party’s domination)
  • Police State
  • Chronology of the Soviet Period
main political institutions
Main (Political?) Institutions
  • For traditional Marxism, politics is a tool of class domination, and parliamentary arrangements and political parties represent different class alliances
    • No need for politics, parties (or the state) in a classless society.
  • Soviets (“All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers', Peasants, Cossacks' and Red Army Soldiers' Deputies”) and the Congress of Soviets within a Federation.
  • Age of suffrage: 18. Vote for representatives of the local soviet (every 2½ years). Representatives choose the highest authorities (Central Committee)
    • Politburo (policy authority)
  • “Partocracy”: absolute overlap between party and state
    • 300,000 officials (Top leadership: Individuals or oligarchies)
  • De facto authority of the General Secretary of the Communist Party after Stalin (elected by the Central Committee).
culture or institutions
Culture or Institutions?
  • Soviets on paper
  • Soviets (?) in reality

How far can we go in transforming patterns of political culture?

from stalin to gorbachev
From Stalin to Gorbachev
  • 1953 Stalin’s death.
  • Krushnev’s 1954 speech denouncing Stalin’s crimes
  • Khrushchev/Brezhnev/Andropov/Chernenko/Gorbachev
  • Attempts of reform
  • Mid-1980s Glasnost (openness) and perestroika. Party secretary-general Gorbachev followed Krushnev’s attempts. Goal: to make Soviet socialism more modern and efficient and to give a voice to Soviet citizens. Steps:

1-Traditional Soviet Methods

2-Glasnost and democratization

3-Programs of Reform

4-Multiple demands of reform…Crisis

  • Pandora’s box
  • Gorbachev creates a presidential system and becomes President (March 1990)

1989-91 Yeltsin gains support in Moscow

June 1991, Yeltsin becomes President of the Russian Republic (and begins disputing power to Gorbachev)

Five republics claim independence

  • Gorbachev intends to (re)create a Union
  • August 1991 (Russian) Attempt of military coup leads to Gorbachev’s abandoning government and a collapse of the Soviet Union  chaotic transition
  • Birth of the Russian Federation (December 1991)
russian reforms
Russian Reforms

"Shock Therapy" (opposed by parliament and the vice-president)

Modern markets or "economic genocide“?

1992 yeltsin vs the parliament
1992: Yeltsin Vs. the Parliament

A new type of government?

  • Yeltsin: a strong presidency (≈ France’s Fifth Republic)
  • Parliament: parliamentary system
    • Stalemate: Yeltsin’s rule by decree
      • April 1993: Referendum (Yeltsin or the Parliament? Yeltsin won for 59% with a turnout of only 39%, a result deemed illegal by the Constitutional Court)
    • Yeltsin ordered the dissolution of the Congress and the Supreme Soviet (declared illegal by the Constitutional Court), suspended the Constitution and called for elections for a new parliament, the State Duma, and a referendum to vote for his own project of Constitution
    • The Parliament asked the military for support against Yeltsin & designated “President” Rutskoi (vice president)
    • Yeltsin sent troops against the Parliament (150 deaths, 1,000 wounded, 2,000 jailed)
yeltsin s hegemony
Yeltsin’s Hegemony
  • Authoritarian rule
  • Banned opposition
  • Removal of members of the Constitutional Court and provincial leaders who opposed dissolving the Parliament
  • Call for parliamentary elections on December 1993 (triumph of Yeltsin’s opposition—Zhirinovsky’s nationalist Liberal Democratic party, the Agrarian and the Communist parties)
boris yeltsin 1991 1999
Boris Yeltsin 1991-1999.

Yeltsin’s government: inept, corrupt and too closely tied to the economic oligarchs who had become very wealthy with the privatization of Soviet-era assets.

  • Not so glorious departure
  • Yeltsin picked Vladmir Putin, a former KGB officer, to replace him (appointed prime minister and then elected as president)
1993 constitution
1993 Constitution

Federal System (Government centered in Moscow/ 89 different subnational units).

Bilateral agreements between each region and the federal government

1993 constitution16
1993 Constitution

Executive power: Strong Presidency (rule by decree—decrees must cohere with the legal framework, veto power).

Chief of State: President (no vice-president)

Head of government: Premier (appointed by the President)

Cabinet (appointed by the President)

Presidential Administration (huge bureaucratic apparatus)

Security Council

Legislative Power

Russian Federal Assembly (Bicameral Legislature)

State Duma (Lower Chamber ): 450 members, 225 are elected through PR and 225 are elected through SMD. 5% threshold. The Duma has power to impeach the President and dissolve the government.

Federation Council (Upper Chamber: ) (178 members, chosen by the 89 regions). Must approve (major) presidential appointments in the judiciary.


Constitutional Court: (19 judges-cannot be fired)

multi party system
(Multi?) Party System

-Passage from one-party system to many (changing) parties

-Strong nationalism

-Survival of communism (electoral potential varies)

  • 1999 Yeltsin’s resignation
  • April 2000 election: Putin wins over 11 candidates with 53% of votes
  • Weak State, paralyzed economy
  • Economic collapse, organized crime, corruption, disintegration of public health and public education, generalized destitution, Chechnyan separatism, terrorism…
  • “Strong state” policy & struggle against regional governors and their political and economic leadership… Human rights?
roger e kanet john s reshetar s conclusion
Roger E. Kanet & John S. Reshetar’s Conclusion
  • By 1996, Russia had made substantial progress in establishing the bases for a functioning democratic system
  • Challenges: strengthening the rule of law, respect for human rights, improving economic performance
failed crusade
Failed Crusade?
  • 1998 Default
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn (2000): “As a result of the Yeltsin era, all the fundamental sectors of our state, economic, cultural, and moral life have been destroyed or looted. We live literally amid ruins, but we pretend to have a normal life… We heard that great reforms were being carried out in the country. They were false reforms, because they left more than half of our country’s people in poverty… What does it mean to continue these reforms? Will we continue looting and destroying Russia until nothing is left?... God fobid these reforms should continue.”
failed crusade cohen
Failed Crusade? (Cohen)
  • Stephen Cohen: reforms during the 1990s “has contributed to a human tragedy on a massive scale and, for the first time in history, the destabilization of a fully nuclearized country.” (xii)
  • Flourishing of two cities, Moscow & Saint Petersburg, amidst poverty (70-75% population)
  • More new orphans appeared in the 1990s than those resulting from 30,000,000 Russian casualties during WWII
  • Robber Barons
mancur olson power prosperity
Mancur Olson: Power & Prosperity

Rational Choice tradition (Individuals = Maximizers)

State ≈ Bandits (maximizer individuals) (Public Goods)

Different GAMES

Predatory Bandits: to take as much as possible from a place and then leave (Short Term)

Stationary Bandits: have incentives to stay and make a smaller but permanent profit (Long Term)… Rulers

Humanity has made progress to the extent that has provided “incentive for roving banding leaders to settle down and become rulers.” (Olson)

The only way of replacing banditry for rule arises from democratic arrangements, which emerge from “a balance of power among a small number of leaders, groups, or families—that is, by a broadly equal dispersion of power that makes it imprudent for any leader or group to attempt to overpower the others.”

Develop “games” (coercion and incentives) to lead self-interested individuals to act in ways that are compatible with the general good.