Thinking About Russia
The Basics
– Diversity
• Russia and 14 other former Soviet states
• The Russian Federation is the world’s largest country,
sixth most populous
• Most groups were forced into the Russian empire prior to
the Communist revolution
• By 1991 each republic had declared some form of
sovereignty or independence from central rule
– Poverty
– The Environment
• Chernobyl
• Dumped nuclear reactors from subs into the ocean
• Poor air quality
• Water pollution
Thinking Russia
Key Questions
How and why did the USSR collapse?
How has the legacy of the USSR affected
Will Putin be able to strengthen the state?
Will Russia become more democratic and
Can leaders strengthen institutions if the
economy falters?
How will Russia adapt to new global
The Evolution of the Russian State
The Broad Sweep of Russian History
Prelude to Revolution: Russia was not
what Marx predicted because of
– Backwardness
– Failed reform
– The weak state
– Lenin and revolution
The Evolution of the Russian State
Lenin and the (Wrong?) Revolution
Stalin, Terror, and the Modernization of
the Soviet Union
– Industrialization
– Foreign Policy
– The Purges
The Evolution of the Russian State
Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and the politics of decline
The collapse of the Soviet state: The Gorbachev
– The Party state
– Reform
Foreign policy
Crisis and collapse
Between Dictatorship and
• Birth pangs
– Not a clean break from the old order
– Very poor economic conditions
– Ethnic conflict
– Loss of power
– Communist Party of the Russian Federation
– Shock therapy called for by the opposing end of
the spectrum
– New constitution
– Yeltsin in political deadlock
Between Dictatorship and
• Putin and Stability
– Yeltsin’s surprise resignation
– Popular
– Effective politician
– Has strengthened institutions despite lingering
social, economic, and political problems
– In building up the power of the Kremlin and
other parts of the central government, Putin has
undermined important aspects of democracy,
albeit without removing basic freedoms or
eliminating competitive elections.
Political Culture and
Political Culture
Political Parties and Elections
• elections
• parties today
• United Russia
• Yaboloko
• Union of Right Forces
• Fatherland-All Russia
• Liberal Democrats
• Balance Sheet
The Russian State
The presidency
The Oligarchs
The bureaucracy
The judiciary
The federation
The military
Public Policy
The Economy
– How would they shift from a centrally planned
economy in which the state owned virtually everything
to one based on private ownership and a freer market?
– How could they ensure that the fruits on these changes
would be shared by all Russians?
Foreign Policy
– Has been largely pragmatic: adapted to status of middlelevel power, developed reasonable relations with
neighbors, began putting as much emphasis on
economic as on geopolitical issues in foreign policy.
– Relations with the U.S.
• After 1991, major media in private hands,
mostly of the oligarchs; biased media
• Today, it’s television that counts;
newspaper circulation has plummeted
• Putin has reasserted state control over the
central organs of the mass media after the
oligarchs turned on him