Article

Russia’s Regime-on-the-Move

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Abstract

Russia’s political system must be understood as inherently dynamic, with constant regime change being essential to how the regime operates and survives. This regime change does not proceed monotonically toward ever tighter authoritarianism, but can move in both liberal and repressive directions at different times. While on aggregate the trend has been to greater authoritarianism under Putin, certain liberalizing moves have also been important that are meaningful for how ordinary Russians and elites experience their own regime, and greater repressiveness is not foreordained. We document two forms of endemic regime dynamism in Russia, each involving contingent, improvisational efforts at short-term recalibration in response to crises that are both endogenous and exogenous to the regime: structural improvisation and ideational improvisation.

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... Figures 1 and 2 show the geographic distribution of the cities in our dataset, with darker Figure 3 shows how the number of mayoral arrests in Russia has changed over time. In 2015, there was significant discussion among political commentators about an uptick in repression against regional elites (Hale et al., 2019). This pattern is borne out by our data and arrests have remained elevated since then. ...
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