Russian Politics

Published by Brill Deutschland GmbH
Print ISSN: 2451-8913
United Russia ( ur ), which has served as one of the pillars of Russian authoritarianism, experienced a radical decline in its support around the time of Putin’s return to Presidency. In this study, I examine the regime’s responses to the declining support for ur by focusing on the nuanced relationship between the regime and ur . Especially important in this context is that ur can be characterized as a “party of power” that is embedded in the political system; this allows the regime to be opportunistic toward the party, but there is also a limitation in the extent that the regime can distance itself from the party. I demonstrate that the regime took various measures, including the creation of the All-Russia People’s Front ( onf ) to escape the ire of voters; however, the range of responses adopted did not lead to the replacement of ur .
Russia’s use of force in Ukraine has been described as a challenge to the rule of international law and an event of unilateral intervention. This paper provides a reinterpretation of this standard history of Russian revisionism. Our new history places this practice in a global governance context through an analysis of the politics concerning the international legal norm of ‘non-intervention’ and its legitimate/illegitimate exceptions for collective intervention. This analysis discloses a practice of Russian diplomacy that emerges out of resistance to humanitarian interventions advocated for by Western states. This practice justifies its own state-bound humanitarian intervention as the legitimate exception to the foundation of international order, which Russian diplomacy had previously sought to restore. We argue the political discourse of the worldview of ‘state civilization’ explains these events of Russian revisionism. We conclude with an analysis of the international paradoxes of peace and conflict contingent on this Russian worldview.
The COVID -19 pandemic has caused significant transformations of electoral institutions, and provoked changes in the politics of electoral reforms in some polities. The paper claims that Russia has used a special model of electoral reform during the pandemic that differs from both its previous experience and recommendations of international organizations. The comparative historical method is applied to bridge internal and external explanations that may offer an understanding of the current reform of electoral rule in the Russian political context. The pandemic has become a reason for changing traditional electoral procedures and for implementing this reform. Empirical evidence suggests that the reform has been implemented by a depoliticized technocratic procedure ignoring the principles of political consensus. The reform process implies a shift of the government’s main efforts from decision-making to increasing dependence on propaganda, and informational confrontation with opponents in the subsequent reform cycle. The approach to the implementation of the electoral reform casts doubt on the level of public support for the new procedures and exacerbates political risks.
This article examines the outcomes of renewal of personnel in the Russian regional authorities during different stages of their development: 1991–1995 (primarily assigned based on elections in individual regions), 1995–2005 (the period of mass direct elections), 2005–2012 (a system of appointment based on the president’s nomination), and 2012–2018 (elections via a municipal filter). It attempts to aggregate and analyse the instances where the heads of regional authorities were elected (or appointed) despite having no previous relationship to those regions (outsider politicians). It offers a classification system for these outsiders, distinguishing “pure outsiders”, “returnees”, “adapted outsiders”, “naturalised outsiders” and “federalised locals”.
Representation ratios in russian elections: 1993-2021
Representation ratios for majority women, minor men, and minority women in eight countries
Ethnic federalism and the election of minority men in SMD elections: 1993-2021a
Electoral system and party of power effects on the election of majority women in Russian State Duma elections: 1993-2021
Elections to the Russian State Duma provide a unique context to study the representation of women and ethnic minorities in a national legislature. Russian elections have witnessed dramatic institutional variation, including a shift from semi-democratic contestation to competitive authoritarianism and the use of different electoral systems. Moreover, ethnic federalism has produced political and demographic conditions that promote the representation of titular ethnic groups in ethnic republics. Finally, the transition from a fragmented party system to one controlled by a single dominant party potentially has important potential ramifications for women and minority representation. We use a unique dataset that codes the ethnicity and sex of individual legislators for each election from 1993 to 2021 to examine how regime type, electoral rules, demographic conditions, and party affiliation have affected descriptive representation in Russia. Using similar data on selected states from Eastern Europe, we compare Russia’s experience with that of other postcommunist states as well as the United States.
This article explores the role of the term “tolerance” in Russian presidential discourse, 2000-2020. The word became de-politicized (used equally in liberal and in conservative contexts), functioning as a buzzword and as a symbol. As a buzzword, it stood “for all good things” and denoted the positive dynamics in Russia’s nationalities and foreign policies; as a symbol, it served as a building block in constructing national identity. The use of “tolerance” also indicated the Kremlin’s firm belief in the normative power of words and ideas: that “tolerance” can change public attitudes and shape institutional design. However, the word’s conflicting semantics prompted the Kremlin to remove the term abruptly in 2013 against the background of the unfolding conservative turn. This study examines the zigzags of ideational governance in Putin’s Russia.
Protests in today’s Russia are still influenced by trends emerged in the 2000s. According to Graeme B. Robertson, in the second half of the 2000s, the repertoire of the Russian protest changed and direct actions were replaced by symbolic actions. The article argues that protest trends and changes in the repertoire of actions were accompanied by the formation of widespread political perceptions among protesters. These perceptions reflected and influenced transformations of Russian protest movements. The article analyzes political discourses of three lifestyle media outlets, namely Afisha, Bol’shoi Gorod, Esquire, GQ and Epic Hero . All of them drew attention to protests and elaborated their own vision of preferable protest methods. This vision denounced direct actions and advocated constructive and non-antagonistic relations between protesters and the authorities.
This paper argues that between 2012 and 2019, the Kremlin recalibrated preventive counter-revolutionary practices due to fears that an event like the Arab Spring or Euromaidan could occur in Moscow or that the 2011–2012 winter of discontent could return. While the Kremlin returned to practices of the preventive counter-revolution used after 2004, the tactics increased creating a “politics of fear.” The preventive counter-revolution post-2012 implemented new tactics, incorporating an external element of countering the involvement of Western states in destabilizing authoritarian regimes, specifically in the post-Soviet space, thereby attempting to weaken Western states. The tactics of the preventive counter-revolution after 2012 have the potential to coup-proof the Kremlin and serve as a model for other authoritarian regimes to devise methods to counter Western states and democratization, thereby allowing the Kremlin to become a model and black knight for other authoritarian regimes.
This study investigates the institutional influence on Russia's regional voter turnout and establishes differences between federal and regional voter participation. Given the regional turnout in the 2011-2016 national and regional elections, the authors test the hypothesis that Russia's turnout largely hinges on institutional rather than socio-economic factors. For a deeper analysis of electoral behavior, the researchers consider a range of institutional aspects applicable to the country's regional peculiarities. Such an empirical approach demonstrates that different types of elections are conditioned by different indicators and metrics. Consequently, the analysis proves the relevance of institutional factors to voter turnout.
This paper analyzes changing political processes in contemporary Russia that encompass both machine politics and populism. By considering some of the relational trade-offs between machine politics and populism, this paper argues that the former, which has been a prominent feature since the 1990s, is now weakening, as is demonstrated by the recent regional policy recently adopted by the Kremlin. On the other hand, some populist elements became obvious after the Ukrainian crisis. The 2016 Duma election can be viewed in this political context. The Kremlin's attempts to make a 'clean' image, and to distinguish Putin from a United Russia party reflect these underlying changes in Russia's political processes.
Under communism, official election returns suggested that around 99 percent of the electorate voted. Since then, election turnout in Russia has declined dramatically, with the 2016 Duma election recording the lowest level of turnout since democratization. This paper uses national survey data collected just after the 2016 election to test four hypotheses to explain this low turnout, and to evaluate its consequences for party support. The results show that a voter's resources, the degree of mobilization and his or her sense of efficacy all influence the probability of voting. A belief in electoral integrity also matters, but only insofar as it is related to support for the Putin regime. The level of differential turnout across the regions in the 2016 election was exceptional. Both aggregate and individual level analyses confirm that United Russia gained considerably from the higher turnout that occurred in the remoter regions, and from lower turnout in the urban regions. United Russia has pursued a strategy of voter demobilization in areas of low support, and this explains its continuing electoral success.
Turnout in Russian Elections, 1991-2018
Turnout compared with vote share for Putin, 2018 presidential election
Perceptions of Electoral Integrity, 2001-2018
shows the predictors of support for the
Because of the predicable outcomes of recent Russian elections, voters are often characterized as passive actors in the electoral process. However, as we show in this article, political and social factors still underpin the motivations for people's voting behavior. The article analyzes voting behavior in the 2016 State Duma election, using a post-election, nationally representative survey to assess the differences between the four parliamentary parties' support bases. It finds that voting decisions in the 2016 election were strongly related to voters' attitudes to the national president, Vladimir Putin, as well as to their attitudes to corruption and the economic situation. Voters who were more positive to the president and viewed the economic crisis more benignly were more likely to vote for the 'party of power', United Russia. Moreover, the four parties' electorates had distinctive social profiles that were consistent with long-term patterns established in previous State Duma elections.
Through a focus on the 2016 Russian parliamentary election, this article seeks to assess the strength of the Putin regime and the nature of the system itself. In contrast to those who have heralded its imminent decline, it is argued that the regime continues to display great resilience, the election providing evidence of the regime's adaptability and its ability to cope with challenges. The nature of the regime is also questioned. It has become commonplace for scholars to refer to Russia's political system under the presidency of Vladimir Putin as "electoral authoritarian". The article examines the function of elections in such systems, with a particular emphasis on the way in which elections provide the regime with legitimacy. The conduct and outcome of the elections not only points to the confidence and resilience of the Putin regime but might also suggest that a declining reliance on elections to sustain the regime may lead to a re-appraisal of the electoral authoritarian model as a compelling conceptualization of the Russian political system.
Indexed real Russian GDP 1991-2016, rubles (1 January 1991 = 100)
Turnout and UR vote percentages, 2016 State Duma Election
Evaluations of 2016 election campaigning activity (percentage respondents)
An overview is given of the 2016 Russian State Duma election, and its significance for the current Russian regime. As the first in a series of five articles in this edition of Russian Politics, it sets the 2016 State Duma election into context. It begins by discussing the role of the Duma in Russian politics, and reviews political developments between the protests that followed the 2011 parliamentary election, and the successful conclusion of the 2016 one. It then examines how institutional and political changes came together in the 2016 campaign. The resultant supermajority for the pro-Kremlin United Russia party is analyzed, before the remaining articles in this issue - which examine the issues of turnout, voting behavior, electoral manipulation and the future of the regime - are introduced.
The article analyses how the electoral policy of the Russian state predetermined the results of the 2016 State Duma elections. The factors leading to this predictability are described in detail. These were a combination of the introduction of a mixed electoral system, with the party of power winning in more than 90% of majoritarian districts in regional elections; gerrymandering during the establishment of electoral districts; changes to the system by which voters outside the borders of the Russian Federation were allocated to electoral districts; the change of election date (moving it to September) and the consequent reduced turnout in the cities more prone to protest votes; "rigged campaigns" and the systemic opposition's unreadiness for serious disputation; new bans and restrictions on political competition, resulting parties and candidates capable of genuinely opposing the regime being denied access to the elections; a push among protest voters to boycott the election, de facto supported by the regime's campaign managers; and weak campaigns by the democratic parties.
Turnout in Russian Elections, 1991-2018
Turnout compared with vote share for Putin, 2018 presidential election
Perceptions of Electoral Integrity, 2001-2018
shows the predictors of support for the
The 2018 Russian presidential election was effectively a contest not between Vladimir Putin and the other seven candidates on the ballot paper, but between Putin and the level of election turnout. Anything less than a large majority based on a respectable level of turnout would have undermined Putin's legitimacy to serve for a further six-year term. In the event, Putin achieved his goal. In this paper we examine the background to the election and the conduct of the campaign, and analyse the result. Putin's success can be traced to, first, long-standing patterns of differential turnout across the regions and, second, administrative initiatives by the election authorities which created a renewed confidence in the integrity of the election process. While there is evidence that those wishing to protest against Putin spoiled their votes, the impact of this was minor.
The articles in this issue explore the longer-term implications of Russia’s 2020 Constitutional Reform process. Assessing constitutional change from different theoretical and empirical approaches, these authors find that the constitution largely codified the status-quo as it had evolved over the past decade. The resulting institutional changes solidified the personalist political system that concentrates power in one leader. These reforms also created new mechanisms to preclude elite defection and generate societal quiescence. At the same time, the three-staged reform process that included formal adoption, national vote, and legal reconciliation, introduced new political risk by raising societal expectations, reinforcing cleavages through patriotic legitimization strategies, introducing new rigid structures, and relying on personalism and networks over institutional governance. These risks do not predict state failure but they suggest new challenges that will continue to shape Russian political development.
In this paper, we investigate the endorsement strategies of municipal council members in Russia. Since 2012, the candidates for chief executive office are required to collect the signatures at the local level. Filtering had been an important political toll before the return of direct gubernatorial elections, however, for the latter there are specific requirements in terms of territorial quotas and coverage that can be used against the independent candidates. We theorize that partisanship, gender, and employment sector on individual level and political competition, population size, and budget autonomy on the municipality level are important in shaping the councilmembers’ decision. We test this theory against the data on 2020 Perm krai gubernatorial elections and find out that while the general pattern is largely in line with our expectations, there are nuances when it comes to supporting particular opposition candidates. This study contributes to the literature on electoral authoritarianism and subnational elections in Russia and to the general scholarship on the means of authoritarian control.
In January 2020, Russian President Putin proposed a number of potentially very significant amendments to the constitution of the Russian Federation. In March 2020, these were formally approved by parliament and signed by the president. In a nationwide vote held on 25 June – 1 July, just under 78 percent of those who voted did so in favour of the amendments, 21 percent voted against, while turnout was just under 68 percent. The amendments, which entered into force on 4 July, strengthened the powers of the Russian president, increased the powers of the center over regional and local governments, and reduced the independence of the courts. They asserted that the Russian constitution should take precedence over decisions reached by international institutions. Not least, they opened the possibility for Putin to remain in office following the expiry of his current presidential term in 2024. To be more precise, they enabled Putin to avoid becoming a lame duck and to keep the elite in suspense over what he would eventually decide to do in 2024. They also provided him with security should he decide to leave office.
Perceptions of Putin and government popularity The questions were: 'Overall, do you approve or disapprove of Vladimir Putin's actions as President of Russia?' and 'Overall, is the country moving in the right direction or going down the wrong path?' . The estimates for early 2020 are the average of January, February and March. Source: Levada Center, "Odobrenie deyatel'nosti Vladimira Putina", (accessed 9 July 2020).
Predicting the 'yes' vote in the 2020 referendum
In July 2020, Russian voters gave strong support to a package of constitutional reforms that reconfigured the Russian political system and enshrined social guarantees and conservative identity values, consolidating the regime that has been built over a 20-year period. This was achieved through an alteration that ‘zeroed’ presidential terms that commenced before the constitutional change, potentially allowing President Vladimir Putin to overcome term limits and continue in office beyond 2024. The article explains how such a far-reaching and important change was successfully endorsed by the Russian electorate. The analysis shows that the main explanation rests with variations in voting patterns across the regions, a pattern that has been evident in previous Russian elections and resulted in strong pro-Putin support. The article also evaluates questions raised about the legitimacy of the result, and its long-term significance for the Russian political system.
Although 4 July 2020 saw the coming into force of constitutional changes in Russia, this was far from the end of the story. Most clearly, these changes to the 1993 constitution required implementation, including through amendments to, and the writing of new pieces of, federal legislation. In part, this process was the mundane work of legal bureaucrats, tweaking and creating many pieces of legislation to reflect the new constitutional text. But the implementation process also reveals much more about the broader constitutional reform project. This article reviews the implementation process, discussing its complexity, the improvisation shown when fleshing out certain new constitutional details, its relationship with other political developments, and the chasm laid bare between Putin’s promise of the rebalancing of power in his 15 January 2020 Address to the Federal Assembly versus the reality of reform in practice.
Constitutional reform dominated Russia’s legal and political agenda in 2020. Starting with Putin’s January 15, 2020 state-of-the-nation address, the 1993 Yeltsin constitution was amended and substantially transformed to meet Putin’s immediate and more long-term political objectives. In the process a flawed but forward-looking document has been stripped of much of its liberal potential and instead been converted into a more traditional top-down system of governance. Putin did not just overturn the term limits on his presidency. He created a new power vertical (the unified system of public power), a stronger presidency, and a more subservient judiciary. Moreover, Putin’s amendments undermine the constitution’s internal consistency by introducing numerous contradictions into Russia’s founding law. In particular, while technically observing the constitution’s procedural requirements, he managed to downgrade Russia’s civil liberties—the highest value under the 1993 constitution—while elevating and expanding Russia’s social rights.
After the 2021 State Duma elections, the Communist Party of Russia Federation ( KPRF ) re-appeared on the Russian political landscape as a new political force with new faces and creative local campaigns. How and why were the communists being treated by most of the analysts and voters as systemic and rather passive opposition successfully accumulated political resistance and grievances at the polls in September 2021? In this study, we argue that mobilization against the pension reform in 2018 proved to be the crucial determinant of the electoral outcomes three years later. The latter provides evidence that protests bring about long-term consequences on voting behavior not only in democracies, but also in autocratic states. We rely on the original dataset on protests in 381 large Russian cities (more than 20,000 residents) that took place in Summer-Fall 2018 merged with the electoral data of the Duma elections in 2016 and 2021.
This article examines the main stages in the development of relations between Russia and Latin America from 2000 to 2022. The research covers the entire set of bilateral cooperation between Russia and Latin American countries, and the internal and external factors influencing their evolution. The article presents the author’s view of interstate interactions from two perspectives – the foreign policy of Russia, and the national and international objectives of leading Latin American countries. The author concludes that for Russian foreign policy in the 21st century, all the countries of this region can be divided into four conditional groups: traditional partners, ideological allies, trade partners, and low priority states. This mapping of the region can explain the peculiarities of the formation of dialogue between Moscow and Latin American countries, and the possibilities and limits of interstate and interregional cooperation.
Local executives in electoral authoritarian regimes can perform important regime-sustaining functions, including by delivering votes to the ruling party at election-time. Furthermore, when local executives are themselves elected, regimes can benefit from improved legitimacy and efficiency in local government. Yet elected local executives can create principal-agent problems and increase the risk that opposition groups gain office. How do authoritarian governments manage this tension? Prior research on Russia shows that elections are used to co-opt strong local mayors, while weak mayors are replaced with appointed managers. This paper argues that strong mayors are more likely to see elections canceled if their local machine is not delivering manufactured electoral support to the national party, while weak mayors are unlikely to be targeted. This hypothesis is supported using data from 207 Russian cities, including election-forensic estimates of election manipulation. The findings improve our understanding of cooptation of local leaders in electoral authoritarian regimes.
The rise of the Far Right has been a steady global phenomenon, illustrated by political leaders such as Narendra Modi, Geert Wilders and Jair Bolsonaro. One of the main facilitators of this rise is Russia, supporting Far Right campaigns and movements in various regions of the world. Moreover, the Far Right parties around the world look to Russia as a beacon of hope, enticed by the messaging of Russia Today , Russia’s state-run international news network, and other curated social media platforms. While some argue that Russia’s support of the Far Right is an extension of its domestic values, we posit that this support is mainly to serve Russia’s strategic foreign policy and that the Far Right ideology has little to do with Russia’s domestic values and policy. In fact, Russia’s domestic stability depends on values that are contrary to classic understandings of the Far Right. Given the multi-ethnic and multi-religious composition of the Russian Federation, the classic parameters of Far Right discourse would undermine the stability so dear to Putin. To support our propositions, we use comparative case studies of Russia’s messaging abroad in Germany and the U.S. We then contrast this messaging and support with Russia’s domestic rhetoric. In all cases, we engage in a systematic analysis of relevant documents, transcripts of elite speeches and media.
Euromaidan events represented a major political issue for discussion among Russian political analysts. While from a distance the perception in Russian society might seem monolithic, a closer look suggests that Euromaidan events spurred multiple reactions within the population. To demonstrate this, the article describes the different perceptions of Euromaidan in 108 texts published by Russian academics between 2013 and 2018. While analyzing the argumentation of these texts, it is possible to identify two main differences—terminology in the use of either coup or revolution to describe the happenings, and the importance of the local context for the course of events. Significant differences among texts allow us to conclude that there have been various interpretations of Euromaidan among Russian academics. This conclusion not only sheds new light on the state of public debate in the Russian Federation but can be also seen as a contribution to the debate about how so-called modern authoritarian regimes operate.
Attention is given to Russian public assessments of President Vladimir Putin, important political actors of the Putin period, and major policy areas that are at the heart of the governing Putin team’s programmatic agenda (as of the second Putin presidency, 2012–18). The intention is (1) to assess the level of support for President Putin, key political actors comprising the Putin team, other governmental institutions and a leading rival, (2) to determine the level of congruence between the preferences of the Putin team and the Russian public regarding major policies intended to strengthen the Russian state and to modernize the Russian society, and (3) to evaluate Russian public assessments of the work of the Putin team in actually addressing these overriding goals. It is found that Russians’ positive assessment of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s paramount leader, is juxtaposed with more middling assessments of all other actors, excepting opposition figure Aleksei Navalny, who is poorly viewed. A strong congruence is found between the Putin team’s policy priorities and those of the Russian public, but public assessments of the Putin team’s performance across specific policies are mixed and reveal areas where that team has been both successful and come up short. Results of the October 2014 ROMIR public opinion survey indicate that Putin and his team are well-positioned and that their overall policy performance is acceptable, but policy soft spots and points of concern are revealed: this suggests continuing challenges for the Putin team in delivering a program accommodating the preferences of an aware domestic public. It is argued that Putin’s position as a paramount leader redounds to his governing team’s advantage, but this position also represents a profound dilemma for the Russian political system.
Social protection is an important strategy to protect people from livelihood risks, develop human capital and promote economic growth. Decent work is a core element of social protection and a critical condition for eradicating poverty. Despite high labor force participation and low unemployment, Russia’s labor market shows several negative trends, including working poverty and growing informality. Both are exacerbated by gender disparities and unfavorable demographic shifts. Over the past decade the Russian government has implemented active labor market interventions, and enhanced targeted social protection aimed at promoting employment and reducing poverty. Based on the analysis of key data and programs, the article finds that the country achieved stability in the labor market, but at the cost of deteriorating living standards caused by low levels of productivity and wages.
Human rights defenders (hrds) in hybrid regimes face numerous challenges on the domestic arena. They struggle against complex and non-transparent regulations and hindrances, are obstructed by an intrusive state that seeks not only to regulate human rights activism but also to bar professional and independent human rights ngos; and they also risk being subjected to violence. This article analyses how Russian hrds have succeeded in gaining inspection rights in places of permanent detention in Russia through the system of Public Observer Commissions (Obshchestvennye nablyudatel'nye komissii/ onk), and how state structures seek to co-opt, screen and contain professional and continuous hrd work in these commissions. Although the hrds have succeeded in forming a legal structure that enables them to conduct inspections, since 2013 the Public Chamber has understaffed the onks, excluded prominent hrds from the committees, and used pro-regime organizations in order to gain control over the system of public monitoring.
This article addresses the political effects which the multidirectional activity of both the state and civil society institutions have on the voluntary movement. The state seeks to provide support with the purpose of indoctrination, whereas the aim of public organizations is civic activism. The authors of this paper confirm the hypothesis about the direct political impact of these efforts using the evidence of an empirical study of voluntary movements that was conducted in 2019 in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug—Yugra. The authors conclude that just as state support provided to voluntary organizations does not incite the ‘pro-government’ discourse of their actions, so their ‘civil’ origin does not stir up oppositionist attitudes. Moreover, the state’s efforts to indoctrinate or block political socialization can trigger the opposite response, where volunteers start to act opportunistically and non-profit public organizations, designed to be the mainstay of civil society, can easily be transformed into agents of state policy.
Conventional wisdom holds that civil society is a sphere of activity separate from the state and the private realm. Due to a combination of historical, developmental and institutional factors, Russian civil society today is dominated by the state. While not all interactions with the state are seen as harmful, scholars acknowledge that most politically oriented or oppositional non-governmental organizations today face difficult conditions in Russia. In response to the restrictions on civil society and the unresponsive nature of Russia’s hybrid authoritarian regime, some civil society actors in Moscow have made the transition into organized politics at the local level. This transition was motivated by their desire to solve local problems and was facilitated by independent electoral initiatives which provided timely training and support for opposition political candidates running in municipal elections. Once elected, these activists turned municipal deputies are able to perform some of the functions traditionally ascribed to civil society, including enforcing greater accountability and transparency from the state and defending the interest of citizens.
The occurrence of manipulation in Russian elections is highly uneven not just across regions, but also across precincts. Why do some precinct election commissions take part in manipulation while other commissions stay “clean”? Drawing on a new dataset, this study assesses the impact of the party affiliation of precinct election commission members on electoral manipulation in relation to the 2016 State Duma election. The data reveal that, while the composition of most precinct election commission is diverse, United Russia nominees are vastly overrepresented among commission chairs. The study then finds that commissions with a chairperson nominated by United Russia significantly more often reported anomalously high turnout and United Russia vote share than commissions without a United Russia chair. Surprisingly, this is also true for nominees of the other State Duma parties, especially if nominees from these parties jointly with nominees from United Russia occupy the leading positions in the commission. This suggests that nominees from United Russia and other State Duma parties collude to deliver election results that are favorable to the regime.
Europe is once again subject to an epidemic of wall and barrier building. The war in Ukraine is accompanied by the fortification of its border with Russia, while the Baltic republics are creating the foundations for what is an embryonic new ‘iron curtain’ dividing the Atlantic community from Eurasia. Elsewhere fences are being built to halt the flow of refugees and migrants. These new barriers symbolize the failure to build a Europe ‘whole and free’ in the post-Cold War era, and the failure of the era of globalization to create the conditions for security and development in Europe’s neighborhood. The spate of ‘walling’ reflects not the strength of national sovereignty but its weakness, and not the power of the Atlantic community to spread prosperity, peace and security but the opposite. The era of globalization is accompanied by deepening disjuncture and contradictions, and European leaders have no coherent response. The roots of the crisis lie in the patterns established at the close of the original Cold War in the late perestroika years, with a power shift rather than the transcending politics espoused by Mikhail Gorbachev. The Malta summit of 1989 only partially repudiated the politics of Yalta. The asymmetrical end of the Cold War and the 25 years’ crisis represented by the subsequent cold peace contained within itself the violence and the new divisions that now predominate. The myths and mistakes of the cold peace era need to be challenged and a new transformative politics envisaged.
This paper views the regional political opposition in Post-Soviet Russia as a specific phenomenon that contradicts the practices of the existing political regime and differs from the opposition at the national level. The Russian regional opposition is considered in the context of the heterogeneity of the political process at the federal and sub-national levels: it is a phenomenon that is more relevant to a democratic regime than a hybrid authoritarian polity. The article analyzes the methods used by the authorities to limit the abilities of the regional opposition. Due to institutional factors, the opportunities of the provincial opposition are restricted at all levels. Federal political parties are used as a means of suppressing the regional opposition. Nevertheless, the Russian regional opposition remains intact and it has the potential to disrupt the power vertical and the orderly system of the hybrid regime.
One of the most critical foreign policy issues of middle – power states is how to mold attitudes towards major powers. Since 1979, Iran has changed the nature of its relations with major powers. Although the Iranian Revolution adopted the ‘Neither East, Nor West’ motto as a macro guide to its foreign policy, since the late 1980s Iran and the Soviet Union – now Russia, have advanced their bilateral relations. Despite Iran and Russia sharing convergent views on many international issues, they have not promoted their ties to a strategic alliance. The present paper addresses the question of what conceptual model represents Iran-Russia relations and what challenges the two countries face in expanding their strategic partnership in the 2020s. This research addresses these problems at three levels: inter-state, regional, and global, and was conducted through a descriptive-analytical method. It is hypothesized that current Iran-Russia relations could be referred to as a ‘strategic alignment’.
Since Heydar Aliyev, the father of the incumbent president Ilham Aliyev, became the country’s president in 1993, Azerbaijan has been known for its staunch pursuit of a so-called “balanced” policy in its relations with the outside world, particularly Russia and the West. Whereas in the past this policy tended to be “balanced” more in favor of the West as far as Azerbaijan’s strategic interests were concerned, Baku’s political disposition has shifted decidedly towards Russia in recent years. Over the past decade, several developments on the national, regional, and global levels have worked to gradually alter the long-established regional dynamic and alignment patterns, bringing Azerbaijan back into the Russian fold. This article’s objective is to critically examine those developments to shed more light on the nature of Azerbaijani-Russian relations today and their prospects for the future.
The legitimacy-building process in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of Crimea is investigated in this paper. A comprehensive dataset of President Putin’s speeches was analyzed using qualitative text analysis in order to reveal the basic legitimizing arguments within the narrative. Four basic subject areas were identified in the dataset – history, identity, Ukrainian context, and the international context. These subjects are further analyzed in order to present the logic and development of the legitimacy building process presented by the Russian President to domestic and international audiences.
An array of qualitative and quantitative information on 2016–2020 Russian governors’ replacements is used to analyze decision-making and the patterns of governors’ appointments as well as their evolution in conjunction with regime transformation and regional variation. Regression analysis is used to establish what factors influence replacements, based on regional monitoring data from the Committee of Civic Initiatives. Ethnic republics in the North Caucasus are taken as a special case.
This paper explores the impact of vote mobilization and economic performance on gubernatorial appointments in Russia. Previous research has demonstrated that governors are more likely to be reappointed when the regime is performing well at the polls in the region. By contrast, there is inconsistent evidence that regional economic performance affects a governor’s reappointment chances. We revisit this topic by updating and extending quantitative analyses of these key questions. We find consistent evidence that governors are more likely to be reappointed when regime vote shares are high in the region, a finding that extends from 2005 through 2020 and is robust to various model specifications and measurement approaches. In an update to existing research, we also show that this finding holds for multiple types of elections – regional legislative, State Duma and presidential – and we also find that high turnout is positively associated with governor reappointment. With respect to economic indicators, we find some suggestive evidence that governors are more likely to be reappointed when regional unemployment is decreasing, and investment and tax revenue are increasing, but these results are not robust. By evaluating governors on the basis of their ability to mobilize votes the center risks disincentivizing good governance. It may also give governors additional incentive to engage in electoral manipulation.
The paper investigates the link between the sub-national variation of political regimes in a (at the federal level) non-democratic country and the appointments of federal officials in the sub-national provinces. In particular, we look at the appointment of the chief federal inspectors to the regions in Putin's Russia in 2000-2012. Our main research question is whether appointment patterns can be explained by top-down concerns of the central government willing to keep control over the most unruly regions or by bottom-up self-selection of bureaucrats belonging to influential groups into more attractive positions more suitable for rent-seeking. The advantage of our case is that data we have at hand allow us to distinguish these two logics. Our results indicate that for the Russian chief federal inspectors in 2000-2012 bottom-up self-selection appears to be the more plausible explanation of the link between sub-national political regimes and appointment patterns.
International interest in the Arctic is heating up along with the planet’s atmosphere and the region is increasingly presented as a new potential hotspot for inter-state competition and discord. Inevitably, Russia is often at the centre of this implicitly ‘realist’ narrative. This study provides an evaluation of Moscow’s Arctic policy between 2000 and 2019 from an international relation theory perspective by building upon the burgeoning literature on the Arctic and sources on Russian foreign policy in general. This study postulates that several elements of Russian regional policy in the High North do indeed follow realist readings of the international politics yet it also demonstrates how structural realism fails to adequately account for the institutionalization of regional relations and, most notably, neglects the importance of domestic factors, specifically historical memory, towards understanding Moscow’s contemporary Arctic policy.
This collection of articles deals with the history and the current state of Russia's media elite. It defines three groups of media elites; owners of media outlets, media managers and prominent journalists. All those groups are under pressure of being agreeable to the Kremlin and pleasing their audiences with their products and output. The Kremlin's tightened control over the media forced some media professionals out, losing their jobs or emigrating. The majority, however, have kept their positions. They are reasonably well networked and integrated into the political system and successfully employ strategies partly inherited from Soviet times. The collection of articles provides insights into the inner working of Russian media, delivering a nuanced understanding of media control, censorship and self-censorship.
While repressions are seen to be a backbone of authoritarian rule, there is a lack of case studies of repressions and repressive policies in different kinds of authoritarian regimes and their interaction with other mechanisms of authoritarian sustainability. As Russia has demonstrated a transition from 'soft' electoral authoritarianism to its more 'hard' version during Putin's third term in office, the role of repressions has increased. What are their scope and functions in Russia during this reverse transition? This article offers an analysis of the causes, types and mechanisms of repressions, and presents various ways of measuring their scale as well as the sources and means of their legitimation within the framework of an electoral regime. It shows that the regime prefers to demonstrate its high repressiveness - its willingness and propensity to repress - but in a limited number of cases; it also describes the role of repressive populism, namely presenting repressions as a necessary response to multiplying threats, as well as the scope and function of counter-elite repressions. The latter are seen as no less important than political repressions in the regime's reverse transition, and as the main leverage of redistribution of power and institutional rearrangement in its course.
The Russian leadership envisages Russia as a bridge connecting East and West via Asiatic Russia. Nevertheless, this self-image seemingly does not fully correspond to the current trends; moreover, it is unclear what the Russian Government tries to ‘bridge’ as it has been unable to construct a bridge across the Lena River connecting Yakutsk, the capital of its largest Republic, to Russian mainland. This work attempts to examine both the external and internal dimension for the Russian Far East of Russia’s ‘turn’ to Asia, and the way Sakha Republic experiences the tension between the domestic and international dimensions of this ‘turn’ to the East.
In the light of the turbulence in the post-Soviet space, consolidation of the regime, and prevention of possible dangers to it have always been among the main goals of domestic politics for Moscow. While lessons can be drawn from external revolutions, the regional context is as important because it allows testing what works in the Russian context. What may work in Cairo may not be effective in Kazan. Existing analyses focused on Russia primarily look at a general picture, or occasionally Moscow and/or St. Petersburg. Therefore, this paper tests the hypothesis that during the third Putin presidency, the Kremlin developed practices at both regional and federal levels to ensure regime survival when faced with protests. I believe that the nature of a protest influences governmental response. I divide the protests by the type of demonstration, their length, and demands. I find that regardless of the type of protest, regional governments are more concerned with cracking down, whereas, at the federal level, crackdowns are primarily on political protests.
This article examines the state and prospects of Russia’s policy toward China. We look at recent trends in the evolution of the world order, the history of Moscow-Beijing relations, and the changes in the balance of power between Russia and China to offer a forecast of Russia’s China policy in the near term. Special attention is paid to the role of the 2001 Treaty of Good-Neighborliness, Friendship, and Cooperation. The authors conclude that, despite the Treaty’s significance, the international situation – and indeed the relative strengths of the two countries – have significantly changed over the past 20 years. The new conditions will inevitably compel Russia to adjust its policy toward China. Moscow, as always, will seek to develop its political and economic partnership with Beijing. However, it will likely move toward hedging against risks that excessive dependence on China could bring about.
The 2018 Russian presidential election was effectively a contest not between Vladimir Putin and the other seven candidates on the ballot paper, but between Putin and the level of election turnout. Anything less than a large majority based on a respectable level of turnout would have undermined Putin’s legitimacy to serve for a further six-year term. In the event, Putin achieved his goal. Through the analysis of public opinion polls conducted by the Levada Center, we examine the background to the election. Putin’s success can be traced, first to long-standing patterns of differential turnout across the regions and, second, administrative initiatives by the election authorities which created a renewed confidence in the integrity of the election process.
The contemporary electoral system of Russia, once adopted to foster the country's transition to democracy, has been transformed into a crucial pillar of electoral authoritarianism. This study investigates how the principal elements of Russia's electoral system contributed to the consolidation of the authoritarian political order. While certainly not undemocratic in themselves and often borrowed from well-established democracies, the electoral institutions of Russia were assembled into a combination that effectively prevents alternation in power. The study shows that central role in this process was played by learning from error. At each of the stages of transition to authoritarianism, electoral reforms were implemented in order to minimize the risks that were revealed by the previous electoral experiences of the authoritarian leadership.
This paper explores the legacy of the For Fair Elections (ffe) protest movement in 2011-2012 for electoral competition in Russia. We argue that through strategic innovation, oppositions in authoritarian countries can challenge the autocratic state on multiple fronts by transferring resources from street protests to the electoral arena. Our empirical focus is on Alexei Navalny's campaign for Moscow mayor in late summer 2013. The successful mass mobilization in the movement enabled the campaign to implement a model of electoral innovation based on ideational frames, resources, and tactics drawn from the protest movement. Voter response was stronger than expected, demonstrating the persistence of voter opposition in the face of genuine electoral choice. Relying on press reports, blogs, campaign materials and interviews with activists, we investigate the campaign's strategy and show why it presented a particular challenge to the regime. Our conclusion underscores the state's advantage in countering elite opposition innovation, but also highlights how effective opposition innovation can lead to significant changes in strategies to maintain regime stability.
Top-cited authors
Sarah Oates
  • University of Maryland, College Park
Vladimir Gelman
  • University of Helsinki
Paul Goode
  • Carleton University
Ian Mcallister
  • Australian National University
Derek S. Hutcheson
  • Malmö University