The Russian Federation: Past, Present, and Future

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Timeline of Soviet Russia

Tsarist Russia(till 1917)
  • Tsar- Emperor, abolitionism, global isolation
    • Serfdom-feudal system= virtually no middle class
  • 1905s Russo-Japanese War
    • Czar Nicholas II to give up superficial parliamentary powers to upper class
  • 1914 WW1
    • Czar Nicholas II gets 11 million peasants into battle
    • Mass defections from the military become the core of the Bolshevik Party
    • Peasants become discouraged due to loss of life and destruction caused by WWI

1917 - Bolshevik Revolution: Czar Nicholas abdicates
-Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, take control of Russia
-Russian Soviet Socialist Republic established
-Capital moves to Moscow
1918-1921 - Red Terror: Lenin purges Communist Party, socializes economy; 5 million die of famine
1921 - Lenin inaugurates New Economic Policy, allows limited free-market measures

  • General Secretary of the CPSU
  • Radicalizes Soviet Communism under toltarianism
  • Gospalan: centralizes control of labor, wages, distribution, and prices
    • 5 year plan to force production of heavy industry, NOT consumer goods

1936-1953 - Millions die in Stalin's Great Purge
1945 - 1924-1929 - World War II ends; Russia occupies Eastern Europe, establishes puppet governments, Cold War takes shape
1953 - Stalin dies; Nikita Khrushchev becomes first secretary of Communist Party
1956 - Khrushchev denounces Stalin and is a Pragmatist
1962 - Cuban Missile Crisis, Khrushchev withdraws missiles from Cuba
1964 - Leonid Brezhnev helps engineer Khrushchev's fall from power, becomes first secretary of Communist Party

Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-1991)
  • Gorbachev aims to restructure and improve the Soviet system without building a new one
  • Rose through bureaucracy
  • Implemented element of democratization- demokratizatsiya
    • real elections within the Party system take place with alternative candidate
    • The dramatic change in Soviet politics is marked by the lack of military response and the Party's impotence in the face of Poland's free elections and the fall of the Berlin Wall
  • Openness; more rights and freedoms given to people- Glasnost
  • Economic restructuring/ decentralization- Perestroika
    • Attempt to move economic decision making from central Gosplan control of state industries to more regional/factory managers
    • Decentralization comes too little, too late in such a heavily industrializes and centralized economy
    • Demonopolization, end price controls
    • Goal: create a semi-free market system
    • the freedom of economy, not nearly as successful as China because it worked through shock therapy rather than gradual processes
  • Real federalism- Union treaty to allow devolution to 15 republics
    • Hard liner CPSU leader plot coup to oust Goby but fails in due part of Yeltsin’s popular support
      • "In Soviet Russia, CPSU plot to make coup against you!" --Goodluck Jonathan


Timeline of Modern Russia

With perestroika (the freedom of economy, not nearly as sucessful as China because it worked through shock therapy rather then gradual processes) , Gorbachev aims to restructure and improve the Soviet system without building a new one. Article 6 of the constitution, enshrining the Party's leading force in society, is removed. Gorbachev seeks to identify and end corruption endemic in political ranks. Internationally, he begins the retreat from the USSR's imperial ambitions as well as a policy of warm relations with the West.
Gorbachev's push to democratize the Soviet system leads to the creation of a Congress of People's Deputies. For the first time, real elections within the Party system take place with alternative candidates. The dramatic change in Soviet politics is marked by the lack of military response, and the Party's impotence in the face of Poland's free elections and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Boris Yeltsin becomes president of the Russian Republic in the first-ever election for a Russian leader. After a political struggle, Gorbachev resigns as general secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR (CPSU), and the CPSU is subsequently made illegal. A loose Commonwealth of Independent States replaced the USSR, which is fragmenting along nationalist and ethnic lines.
Yeltsin's battle with a Communist-dominated Congress over a referendum for a new constitution ends with his dissolution of parliament. Communist hard-liners occupy the "White House" (parliament), but Yeltsin reasserts his position in a military clash, and the new constitution gives him sweeping powers. As Yeltsin's popularity wanes in the face of economic problems, that of the Communist Party grows.
Backed by Russia's increasingly powerful business tycoons, Yeltsin defeats Communist Gennadii Zyuganov and is reelected president of Russia in 1996. But Kremlin politics remain turbulent and unstable, especially when Yeltsin becomes seriously ill. His regime struggles to build an effective political administration and maintain control over local government.

2002 - 2003: Putin's consolidated power brings some political stability to Russia, but new anti-terror laws and measures to control the media raise fears of authoritarianism. Communists splintered among several parties and attempt to reorganize to provide stronger opposition.

2004: Putin re-elected by landslide in February; a year of Chechen attacks on civilian targets culminates in Beslan

2007: Putin names Dmitri Medvedev his successor. Although Medvedev holds the power of President of Russia, much of his policy/advice seems to be that reflecting Putin's views, making the Prime Minister role in Russia seem more powerful (Medvedev is a puppet president as Putin seems to have more influence in politics. Russia's constitution says that a president cannot serve three consecutive terms. Rather than pushing the Duma into changing the constitution, Putin is instead the "Prime Minister" for Medvedev.

2009: It's announced that beginning in 2012, one presidential term will last 6 years. Presidents can serve TWO consecutive terms.

2012: Putin runs for his 3rd presidential term and wins. If he wins a 4th term in the 2018. Putin will also be making the presidential term change from four years in length to 6 years in length.

Political Institutions
A Strong Executive - Russia has a history of strong executives, beginning with Ivan the Terrible. His brutal and murderous rule set the standard for future leaders. Russians tolerate and even admire autocratic leaders because they feel society will fall apart without a strong hand guiding the country. The Russian Orthodox Church also instilled the value of autocracy through deification of the tsars as the "little father" guiding all Russians. This insistence on a strong executive is currently reflected through the broad strength of the Russian presidency; the Russian president is able to set policy, appoints officials (including the Prime Minister), veto bills, and dissolve the Duma.

Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin

Legislative: Legislative branch consists of a 628-member parliament called the Federal Assembly. The Assembly consists of two chambers: State Duma (lower house with 450 members), and the Federation Council (upper house with 166 members). At the beginning the Duma was half proportional, half first past the post. The entire Duma is now elected through proportional elections, with a minimum threshold of 7%, meaning a party needs at least 7% of the vote to earn a seat (only 4 parties got that). The Duma is elected with party - list votes, and the Federation Counicl has two members per region, each chosen by the regional government leaders, which are in turn chosen by the president. The Federation Council approves the Duma's bills, Presidential appointments, and Presidential martial law decrees. There is a fine imposed if your party doesn't win any seats in the Duma. United Russia, Putin's party, has current control over the Duma, the first political party in Russia to do so. Putin states that fewer parties equal stronger parties. In 2015, the threshold will be lowered to 5%. In 2019, it will go back to half first past the post, half proportional.

Judiciary: The Russian judiciary has judicial appeal and judicial review at the level of the Supreme Court. Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, and Supreme Court of Arbitration judges are appointed by the Federation Council of Russia on the recommendation of the president of Russia, whereas other judges for all federal courts are appointed simply by the president.

Bureaucracy: Administration of a government chiefly through bureaus or departments staffed with non-elected officials. Vladimir Putin, when he was president, stacked the bureaucracy with his former colleagues of the KGB to ensure compliance. Putin tends to be more pragmatic with his decisions, when necessary, in order to keep Russia under control.

Parties: Three biggest political parties include United Russia, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (supported by the poor and old), and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. Previously, parties needed only 5% of the total votes to receive seats in the Duma, but this was amended under Vladimir Putin to 7%, (consolidating power within Putin's party) reducing the competition for United Russia and lowering the number of parties represented in the Duma to 4. The Communist Party still remains the most unified party, getting enough votes to be represented in Duma. Many Russian parties were not based on ideologies but rather around the election of a candidate and his supporters.

Constitution: Adopted by national referendum on December 12, 1993. It replaced the previous Soviet-era Constitution of April 12, 1978 of Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic following the Russian constitutional crisis of 1993. The constitution provides for a strong presidency.

Electoral Systems: Russian elections operate under the same two-ballot system as France. That is, all candidates run on a first ballot, and assuming that no one wins a majority (51%), the top two vote-getters go on to face each other on the second ballot. The winner of the second ballot wins the election. Putin's reelection, did not go to the second ballot, a disappointing sign for the health of Russian democracy and the political culture needed to foster it. In addition the most recent election, that of Dmitri Medvedev did not go to a second ballot either. Only one past president had a secondary ballot, Boris Yeltsin, 1996. The Duma is chosen through a proportional representation electoral system.

Mass Organizations: Mass organizations consist of regular workers, such as the Nomenklatura or the Apparatchik, that gain rewards with their loyalty. Examples of mass organizations would be the Consumo or Trade Unions.

Relevant Revolutions: 1917 Communist Revolution led by Lenin created a dictatorship; After almost 70 years of Communism, Gorbachev began instituting democratic and economic reforms such as glasnost and perestroika in the late 1980's. Glastnost refers to loosening of government censorship; perestrokia refers to reforming the soviet command economy. In 1991 Communist hardliners attempted a coup but failed as Yeltsin rallied the Russian people. Yeltsin emerged with power and became the first directly elected Russian president. At the same time, as democracy was being implemented, the Soviet Union was dissolved.

Ideology: The current ideology of the Russian citizens in the perspective of participation is that of usually low political efficacy. Although the elections seem to be that of high political turnout, the elections in themselves are corrupt (people in Chechnya who were abused and pushed around by the Russian army had a 99% turnout rate for the guy that bombed their homes, this is an example of an illiberal democracy), and therefore do not allow for the people's thoughts to be heard. Also, many citizens have experienced the repressive nature of the Communist government, and therefore do not really care about the current elections, as they believe that their input does not matter.

Status of Suffrage: Currently, all citizens aged 18 and over have the right to vote. The first several elections were generally fair and competitive, but many suspect that this trend is being reversed with Vladimir Putin. For example, in 1993, Putin had Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a rich businessman who was funding the opposition to Putin and considered running against him, arrested on charges of fraud. Although this claim was probably true, Putin's selective crackdown on only those oligarchs who go against him is very suspicious. Nonetheless, Putin has a 70% approval rating, which indicates that most Russian people care most about stability than democracy.

Significant Social Cleavages:
Role of Media: They had a role..until they all disappeared. Berezovsky (an oligarch under Yeltsin) owned a media outlet that became critical of Putin. Then Berezovsky was forced into exile. Putin directed the state to control all broadcast (TV/Radio) outlets. These are highly censored and only reveal things that make the government and those involved look good. Private newspapers are widely available and tend to be more critical of the government but when journalists publicize information criticizing the government, they have been silenced through harassment and/or assassination. Journalists in Russia have some degree of free speech, but once they irk the government enough, their life is in danger. Such was the case of Anya Politkovskaya, a well known journalist who attempted to draw human rights concerns into the Chechen conflict several years ago. She was later killed by government forces.

Status of Efficacy: not very high right now as a result of Putin's powerful influence and centralization of government. In the past, a recurring pattern in Russian efficacy is that it is much lower in comparison to other post-communist countries. The reason for this is that Russian political efficacy has been impaired by the repressive nature of Tsarist and communist regimes. However, Russians do have some sense of internal efficacy that is dependent on their attitudes towards government incumbents and the current economic condition. Efficacy is also low because citizens can no longer even protest, without being opposed by the Nashi youth, a group recruited from Siberia to counter protestors and show support for Putin.

Role of Interest Groups: The interest groups in Russia tend to be weaker and less independent of the State. If anything, the regime has mounted many obstacles that make it harder for interest groups to mobilize and attempt to exert some form of influence. A perfect example is the tedious registration process that prevent many environmental, regional, and religious organizations from forming. Also, low rates of involvement in interest groups hint that there is a sense of alienation for many of these groups. Prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the government would create pro-communist interest groups as a part of patron-client relationships; after the Union's fall, as more interest groups opposed to the government attempted to be formed, the regime constricted their formation and their influence.

Role of Women / minority groups: their role is like that of the men despite low percentages in the legislative chambers; they did reach their goal when they called for a stop to military abuses (i.e. abuses of new members that had just been drafted)

Development of political elites: The oligarchs, class of elite, in Russian developed after the Soviet Union broke up and Russian began to privatize various industries (such as oil). The men that essentially gained this land, resources, and oil became billionaires over night and also the elite in Russian. Elites in Russia such as the oligarchs were subject to scrutiny by Putin if they were to try and interfere with the government. This led to less involvement of the oligarchs and more involvement by other elites such as friends of Putin. Putin has been applauded for his apparent attempt to eliminate oligarchs in power, but his motive is mainly to remove political threats and not to encourage economic competition. He maintains that as long as oligarchs do not attempt to interfere politically, they have nothing to fear.

Where does Sovereignty rest: Sovereignty rests in the president, since he can dissolve the Duma and call a new election, should it reject a presidential nominee three times. What this means is that it's in the Duma's best interest to approve who the president wants than risk losing seats and power, even if this clearly benefits the current president. Since the Duma can be dissolved by the President and is currently ruled by a strong majority of Putin's United Russia party, it is very weak and has little independence over legislation - it for the most part acts as a rubber-stamp legislature that approves the policies that Putin wants. Furthermore, with Putin's recent changes in the way people come into certain positions, such as the governor of Russia who is now appointed rather than elected, giving the president that much more power to decide who is in other positions of power. This takes away the powers given to the localities and regions during the time of devolution (1990's) and creates a stronger more centralized government led by the duel executives. The president can also issue decrees that have the force of law, appoint acting ministers when the legislature will not approve formal appointments, ignore resolutions opposed to his policies and actions, and be confident that he will not be impeached. We don't really know who is actually in control of the goverment right now as Putin still wields much more influence than any previous prime minister. It is likely he is still "Running the Show" but we may never now.

Impact of International organizations: Putin has reduced the amount of NGOs operating in Russia, most recently Amnesty International, and returned to the old Soviet mistrust of westerners. The reason that the government gives while removing any NGOs trying to operate in Russia, especially if they're American-based, is that the NGOs are engaging in espionage and threatening national security. In addition, NGOs are thought to delegitimize government since the function of NGOs are to fill in areas in which the government lacks in.

Impact of Globalization: Under Yeltsin's presidency, many foreign investors invested in Russia's oil industry. This created an oil oligarchy in Russia, where a small group of extremely wealthy people controlled the country's main natural resources as well as the government. However, when Putin took up the presidency, he gave these oligarchs an ultimatum: step down from power and keep their wealth, or stay and be annihilated. Thus, the oligarchy has been all but eliminated through the oligarchs choosing to step down (with some exceptions who thought Putin wasn't a threat), and now the government is much less oligarchic.

Examples of Fragmentation:A good example of fragmentation have been the Chechen rebellions. This predominantly Muslim state has long contained rebels fighting against the power of the Russian government, often targeting civilians in terrorist campaigns. In response, both Yeltsin and Putin have launched military strikes on the region, but they have also had a high civilian casualty cost, because the military had to essentially raze Chechnya to the ground, in order to prevent any counterstrikes. There is also some theories that say the government under Putin falsified some of the Chechen terrorist attacks in order to outrage the Russian public and gather support for the war against Chechnya.

Trends toward Federal or Unitary: Yeltsin decentralized the country, giving each region as much power as they could take. However after the Beslan disaster, Putin took the opportunity to withdraw power from the regions, by having "presidential representatives" rule instead of governors
Rule of law (people can hold government accountable) doesn't exist. Instead..Rule of Putin. Russia operates using Rule BY Law, in which the government has control over all decisions such as contracts matter at the expense of the people's civil liberties.

Chechen Wars/Conflict - In '94, Yeltsin sends troops to quell a rebellion in Chechnya (1st Chechen War), which turns out to be a failure. Episode II occurs in '99, when Putin reinvades during the 2nd Chechen War and level the Chechen capital of Grozny by carpet bombing. In 2004, Putin passes a law to centrally appt. regional governors in Chechnya. The forces of "Jihad" are destroyed by central planning - in 2007, 99% of Chechens' votes appear to go to United Russia. Putin uses this conflict to get a law passed which allows the President to appoint regional governors, rather than have them democratically elected. This can be characterized as a drift away from Democratization. In 2012, the voter turnout in Chechnya was 104% with 98% of the vote going towards United Russia and Putin.

"No need for opposition if we're popular" - The rationale behind United Russia's "legitimacy" w/o challenge.

Democratization: Processes done by the government of giving people more power through elections and more civil rights + liberties.

Democratization took two important steps. First, Article 6 was removed from the Soviet Constitution, which stated that the party was "the leading and guiding force of Soviet society and the nucleus of its political system, of all state organizations and political organizations". The second step had Gorbachev creating a new parliament, the Congress of People's Deputies. This new parliament would be chosen through partially free elections. These changes did make the regime a little more democratic but many claimed that Gorbachev was moving too fast.
Democratization has been halted under Putin's rule, as he has made power more centralized.

Role of government in economy: Under Communism, the government had total control of the economy (command economy). Yeltsin initiated the process of “shock therapy”, the rapid change from a command economy to a free trade economy that was an economic disaster for Russia. Massive privatization led to greatly decreased government influence in the economy. This decrease in government influence was replaced with the rise of the Oligarchs and wicked corruption. However, under Putin, the government has taken some steps to exert more influence in the economy, such as by nationalizing the oil industry.

Examples of Nationalism: Nationalism has increased greatly among Russian youth. Youth movements such as Walking Together (est. 2000) and Nashi (est. 2005) have shown a rise in political participation. Also, the youth had generally expressed great support for then-president Putin, which demonstrates that Putin's personality unified Russians.
The youth group, Nashi, claim to oppose fascism in Russia. Their goals include education the youth in Russian history and values as well as forming volunteer groups to help maintain law and order. Their support of Putin has led them to avoid political consequences that other groups might not be able to evade. Recently (2007), there was a nationalist march supported by the Bolshevik Party that was against illegal immigration. Many Russians now consider themselves "conditional nationalists." They don't want to reject their own ethnicity, but at the same time they don't have the radical attitudes of the outspoken nationalists.

Status of Civil Liberties: Not very high by American standards. The media is completely controlled by the president, but the people do have the right to insult the president in the press, as long as there is no investigative reporting involved. Since Russia offers relatively competitive elections along, but also restrains civil liberties, Russia is characterized as an illiberal democracy.

Civil Society/Social Capital: "civil society's ability to influence political outcomes on a national scale seems to have been greater during the last years of the Soviet era than it is today. Russian civil society is weak, atomized, apolitical, and heavily dependent on Western assistance for support" - Michael McFaul and Elina Treyger

Civil Society in Russia has been growing more recently. The key to success for these groups is to be pragmatic. As long as they fight against specific local policies and not the ideology of the President, they are generally allowed to continue protesting.

Putin utilizes a youth group known as the Nashi to act as his own civil society of sorts and influence citizens from the ground up. While the Nashi may seem like a true civil society, its link to Putin and therefore the Russian Government makes them merely resemble civil society.

Under 2% of the population are involved in civil society groups.

Recent policy developments: ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in February 2004, wouldn't have been possible without persuasion of the EU
Status of political legitimacy: As of now, the popularity of Putin is increasing political legitimacy throughout Russia. Traditionally, Russia has always appreciated powerful leaders with strong opinions. Putin's character alone is giving the Russian people faith in their government, regardless of some of the policies he passes.

Soviet Vocabulary
Bolsheviks-This was Lenin's faction of the Russian Social Democratic Party, which later came to mean anyone who subscribed to his views and/or his organization. Lenin's vision and model called "democratic centralism" was to create a highly disciplined, hierarchical organization of professional revolutionaries, however after the Bolsheviks took power, to some degree, authoritarianism became an side effect of Lenin's democratic centralism. This growth of authoritarianism eventually brought about the the dictatorial control of Joseph Stalin over the international communist movement from the 1920's to his death.

Collectivization - Agricultural land is stripped of private ownership, reformed into large state farms, otherwise called collectives

-The CPSU is the Communist Part of the Soviet Union
-It came about in 1912 and lasted until it was dissolved in 1991 with the break up of the Soviet Union
-It was the result of a Bolshevik faction that broke off from the RSDLP (Russian Social-Democrat Labor Party)
-The leading policy making body in the CPSU was the Politburo.
-The leading administrative body in the CPSU was the Secreteriat.
-Now operates under the name of CPRF

Democratic centralism - a philosophy used by Lenin which mandated that a hierarchical party structure be created where leaders were elected from below, but where strict discipline is required in implementing party policy once a decision has been made. This democratic centralism transformed into a more centralist approach as the party isolated itself from tsarist informants and then real/imagine threats from the regime

Glasnost - Coined by Gorbachev, this term referred to the openness, or transparency, of the government. The goal of promoting glasnost in Russia was to allow more freedom for Russians in terms of expressing their thoughts and ideas. As such, people used this opportunity to rally and protest against the Soviet government through workers going on strike. Nationalist movements also began, which challenged the legitimacy of the Soviet State, and in the end, caused the failure and discontinuance of government support for glasnost.

Gosplan- Also known as The Central State Planning Commission, during the era of Stalin set the goals for the entire economy.

KGB- Served as a security agency, secret police, and intelligence agency for the Soviet Union. The aims of the KGB were to provide national defense and defend the National Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Especially during Cold War times, the KGB was chiefly preoccupied with the supression of unorthodox beliefs, persecution of Soviet dissidents, and the containment of their opinions. Boris Yeltsin signed a decree which disbanded the KGB, henceforth it was replaced by the FSB. Putin was a member of the KGB.

Proletariat- A Marxist term that refers to the working class. In Marxism, capitalism is seen as based on the bourgeoisie exploiting the proletariat; therefore, it is the goal of the proletariat to displace the capitalist system with socialism. In doing so, changing the underpinning class system and developing a communist society.

Perestroika - the Russian term for the economic reforms Gorbachev put into place in 1985 to restructure the economy. While the attempt at decentralizing the economy had some small effects, it didn't do anything about the major problems in the Soviet economy. Government price controls, 5 year plans, and other government control remained in place, making any smaller changes essentially insignificant. Similar to China's move from State-Owned Enterprises to Township Village Enterprises, the goal was to decentralize the market by allowing local factory managers to make market-based decisions rather than centralized (Gosplan) bureaucrats. However, many of the reforms of perestroika were never implemented effectively as much of the centralized bureaucracy did not wish to relinquish their power.

Satellite- A countries in eastern and central Europe that came under communist rule after World War II, and became part of the Soviet Union.

Tacit social contract - much like the Iron Rice Bowl, a philosophy developed by Brezhnev which guaranteed job security; a lax work environment; low prices for basic goods, housing, and transport; free social services; and minimal interference in personal life, provided that the people stay compliant; similar to the Iron Rice Bowl (see China)

Vanguard party - a concept and strategy where a party claim they understand the interests of the working people better than the people, rationalizing decisions made by the Communist Party to dominate actions in the USSR

Leaders of the Soviet Union

Vladimir Lenin - Vladimir Lenin was the first leader of the Soviet Union after it was created during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Though influenced by Karl Marx, Lenin disagreed with Marxist thoughts on the peasantry; Lenin believed that in the right circumstances, they could be revolutionary. After coming to power, Lenin initiated the New Economic Policy, which relaxed state controls on agriculture but tightened them on heavy industry. His death in 1924 led to Joseph Stalin's rise to power.
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Joseph Stalin - Joseph Stalin led the Soviet Union as the General Secretary of the CPSU from 1922 to 1953. Stalin replaced Lenin's NEP with his Five Year Plans that accelerated industrialization and collectivization. Agricultural collectivization led to decreased output, which in turn led to famines that killed millions of Russians. Stalin was ruthlessly determined to stay in power, purging suspected opponents from the Communist Party and sending ordinary citizens to forced-labor camps (gulags).

Nikita Khrushchev - Successor of Stalin as head of the CPSU and Soviet Union from 1953 until he was ousted in 1964. He was "ousted" because he embarrassed the Americans by building missile sites in Cuba. His reforms in the 1950s were ineffectually largely because the Party elite feared the reforms would threaten their power. His attempted reforms were echoed in the 1980s because they inspired the younger Gorbachev-Yeltsin generation.

Leonid Brezhnev - He was the general secretary of the CPSU from 1964-1982 and was largely responsible for the stagnation of the Soviet Union. Because of his rule, reforms ended and the leadership took as few risks as possible in domestic and foreign affairs. Although he made small, piecemeal economic reforms to attempt to help the ailing Soviet economy, little progress was made so as not to threaten the basic fundamentals of the Soviet system (the Communist party's grasp on power along with a centrally controlled economy).
Mikhail Gorbachev - He was the head of the CPSU and the last president of the Soviet Union. The first of his many reforms was glasnost, mentioned earlier, however it did not create the tolerant and western style political culture that Gorbachev desired for. As the president of the Soviet Union he has helped in having a role in ending the cold war, where he reached various agreements with the presidents of the new republics giving them considerable autonomy for domestic policy making. The Union Treaty tried to accomplish this however due to the coup held by the hard-liners in seizing the government as well as party offices in Moscow, the Soviet Union disintegrated. Gorbachev was a failure. He was not trying to end the Soviet Union, but did. Now he is seen as a good guy in western society when he was really just bad at doing what he was trying to.
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Russia Vocabulary
Michael Khodorkovsky- A prominent Russian oligarch in the oil industry that profited after Yeltsin sold off Russia's resources to a select few. Khodorkovsky was jailed recently during Putin's regime because he presented a legitimate threat to Putin's political power. Khodorkovsky's trial is questionable in terms of being run democratically.

Berezovsky- A very rich man in Russia. He was a very honored person in Russia's Academy of Sciences. He is well known for him advising Yeltsin during his presidency and what's interesting about this is that he is Jewish. He owned a major broadcast media outlet that became critical of Putin early into Putin's regime. Berezovsky was quickly forced into exile and his media company was nationalized by the state. He continues to live in Britain where he has recently encouraged (financed?) Russian protests against Putin's authoritarian moves. He also owns the British soccer team in Chelsea.

CP of Russian Federation- Was not outlawed after the fall of the Soviet Union, which can be seen as a possible reason for the unsuccessful attempts to modernize Russia in the post-Communist era.

Default: In 1998, Russia defaulted on an $18 billion loan from the IMF, sending the international market into a temporary crisis but saving Russia from an even worse economic fate.

Duma- The lower house of the Russian Parliament. Under Russia's 1993 constitution, there are 450 deputies of the State Duma, each elected to a term of four years; this was changed to a five-year term in late 2008. In previous elections of 1993, 1995, 1999 and 2003 one half of the deputies were elected by a system of proportional representation and one half were elected by plurality in single member districts. However, the 2007 Duma elections were carried out in a new format: all 450 deputies were elected by a system of proportional representation. Russian citizens at least 21 years old are eligible to run for the Duma

United Russia: the biggest party of Russia, Putin's party

Federation Council- The largely powerless upper house of the Russian Parliament; approves treaties and troop deployments.

Floating Party System:
-parties are organized for campaigns and then disbanded

Gaidar- Reformist politician and acting Prime Minister of Russia in 1993.

Liberal Democrats (Russia) - Vladimir Zhirinovsky's party. There is nothing liberal or democratic about the party; it was voted unconstitutional for the 1999 election.

Managed Democracy/Hybrid Regime - process of increasing authoritarian rule in a democratic system that holds elections.

Oligarch- Business and political leaders with what some think is undue influence in Russia. The oligarchs are extremely rich men, who came to wealth by stealing during the collapse of USSR and the ensuing chaos. They often deal in commodities (oil, precious metals). If they seek public office, Putin will convict them of crimes and sentence them to lengthy prison terms to avoid competition.

Our Home is Russia - Viktor Chernomyrdin's party. Didn't really have an ideological basis. It was created just to support the candidate Chernomyrdin

Sovereign Democracy- Putin's phrase to describe the increasing Kremlin control of Russia's democracy

Vladimir Putin – Law student turned KGB agent during the Soviet Union years, Putin’s climb through the Russian government led him to the head of the Committee for External Relations under Mayor Sobchak. From 2000 to 2008, he was elected President, turning a once weak role into the most powerful office in Russia. After serving the maximum amount of Presidential terms, Putin began his reign over the office of Prime Minister. In 2012, Putin ran for the presidency again and won a third term as Russia's president. We’ll wait to see what he has in store.

Unity: Political party created in 1999, supported by former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, current President Vladimir Putin (not officially), and other Russian governors. Unofficially named “Medved” (the Bear), or "MeDvEd" acronym of its full name (Mezhregonalnoye Dvizhenie "Edinstvo"; Interregional movement "Unity"). The party later took the brown bear as their symbol.
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Yabloko- One of the leading reformist parties in Russia led by Grigory Yavlinsky. The party Russian elite vote for, to make sure people like Zhirinovsky don't get into office, not because they want Yabloko to win. Very Utopian, leaders constantly refuse to ally themselves with any other party. Thus it isn't very surprising that they fell below the 5 percent in elections needed to remain an active party.

Zhirinovsky- Leader of the right-wing and racist Liberal Democratic Party in Russia. Recently, he is becoming very popular because of the grassroots campaigning. He is also the Russian Clown of politics.

Zyuganov- Head of the Russian Communist Party. In October 2005, Zyuganov indicated that he would run for president in 2008, making him the second person to step into the race for the Kremlin following former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. In January 2008 Zyuganov challenged Dmitry Medvedev, Putin's chosen successor, to an open, televised debate, however, Medvedev's team has refused to take part, citing lack of time. He ended up losing the election.

Union of Right Forces - Created by Yegor Gaidar and Anatoly Chubais. Committed to pro market policies.

Shock Therapy - This policy changed a centrally-planned economy to a market economy almost overnight. It allowed the previously artificially-valued currency (the Soviet Ruble) to gain a true market value, which depreciated it. To control inflation, the government was supposed to drastically cut spending AND collect more taxes. While Yeltsin allowed the currency to float (price hikes) he chose to limit the spending cuts and tax collections. The result was hyperinflation that created massive poverty amongst Russians. In fact, Russia' GDP per capita fell drastically back to 1960's numbers. It was far more effective when used in Poland than it was in Russia, mainly because Poland wanted and welcomed the change to a more democratic economy and government, where on the other hand Russia was more against. Poland also was not a Communistic country for as long as Russia. Russians like the status quo and some still do. Some may even argue that their glory days were once that of the Soviet Union's.

Politburo- "Political bureau" small, top governing body of most communist parties.

Nomenklatura- citizens are appointed to important offices in politics, economics, or social life, usually personally to maintain loyalty to the party that is in charge; a tactic used in the USSR as well as in China

Leaders of the Russian Federation

Boris Yeltsin (1991-1999) was the first President of Russia, serving through the dissolution of the USSR. Under Yeltsin, Russia underwent economic shock therapy. A byproduct of these reforms was the corrupt privatization of state owned businesses, resulting in the rise of "oligarchs". Yeltsin abruptly announced his resignation at the end of 1999, resulting in Vladimir Putin coming to power.
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Vladimir Putin (2000-2008, 2012-) was the second President of Russia and the current Prime Minister under Dmitry Medvedev. Putin initially rose to the presidency via the resignation of Boris Yeltsin, and later won the presidential elections held within three months of the resignation. Putin's tenure as President was marked by increased economic stability, a decrease in civil liberties, and concentration of power within the office of the President. Notably, Putin cracked down on Russian "oligarchs", especially Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his oil firm Yukos. Reaching the constitutionally enforced two consecutive terms limit, Putin selected Dmitry Medvedev as his successor, and was later appointed as Prime Minister. In 2012, Putin was re-elected into office 63.6% of the vote, although the strength of his popularity may be diminishing due to the protests of election fraud being raised by citizens of Russia. I wish my boyfriend was like Putin.
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Dmitry Medvedev (2008-2012) won the 2008 Russian presidential election with an overwhelming majority of votes, receiving 71% of the popular vote; by comparison, the next leading candidate won 18% of the popular vote. Soon after his election, Medvedev appointed former president Vladimir Putin as Russia's Prime Minister. Despite their close relationship and questions regarding who holds true power in the Russian government, Medvedev has shown himself to disagree with Putin's policies, rejecting a "Stalinist" treason bill for being too broad. He has been reappointed as Prime Minister under Putin.


Who said politicians had to be scrawny?

"We shall fight against them, throw them in prisons and destroy them."

"Russia doesn't negotiate with terrorists. It destroys them."

"You must obey the law, always, not only when they grab you by your special place."

"We don't need a weakened government but a strong government that would take responsibility for the rights of the individual and care for the society as a whole."

"The strengthening of our statehood is, at times, deliberately interpreted as authoritarianism."

"Comrade wolf knows who to eat. He eats without listening to anybody and it seems he is not ever going to listen."

"If you want to become an Islamic radical and have yourself circumcised, I invite you to come to Moscow. I would recommend that he who does the surgery does it so you'll have nothing growing back, afterward."

"You will be beaten upside the head with a truncheon. And that's it."

Important Putin Video:

Interesting Photos:

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Russian Geography and Resources
- Russia is the largest country in the world; its total area is 17,075,400 square kilometers (6,592,800 sq mi).

- Russia has a wide natural resource base, including major deposits of timber, petroleum, natural gas, coal, ores and other mineral resources.

- Most of Russia consists of vast stretches of plains that are predominantly steppe, to the south and heavily forested to the north, with tundra along the northern coast. Russia possesses 10% of the world's arable land.

Russian Economy

- Russia has a market economy with enormous natural resources, particularly oil and natural gas. It has the 10th largest economy in the world by nominal GDP and the 6th largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). Since the turn of the 21st century, higher domestic consumption and greater political stability have bolstered economic growth in Russia.

- Oil, natural gas, metals, and timber account for more than 80% of Russian exports abroad. Since 2003, however, exports of natural resources started decreasing in economic importance as the internal market strengthened considerably.

- The economic development of the country has been uneven geographically with the Moscow region contributing a very large share of the country's GDP. Another problem is modernization of infrastructure, aging and inadequate after years of being neglected in 1990s; the government has said $1 trillion will be invested in development of infrastructure by 2020.