4

State and society

I believe that one of the main purposes of the state is to create rules - universalrules - in the form of laws, instructions, and regulations. And secondly, to comply with these rules, and guarantee their compliance.

(Vladimir Putin 1)

In the post-communist period the hypertrophy of Soviet power gave way to the atrophy of the Russian state. In every sphere the ability of government to impose its will on society, to extract adequate resources and to sustain the symbols of legitimate power weakened. Putin's immediate and intense concern to revive the Russian state emerged directly from his own backgroundas witness to the dissolution of the ideological structures that had sustainedauthority for so long and to the disintegration of the muscle power of government. The overriding theme of much of Putin's writings and speeches, as we have seen, was the need to restore the ability of the state to act as an independent political force, no longer at the mercy of oligarchs, regional bosses or foreign interests. However, a newly energised executive authority, even if its aims were benign, entailed the danger of recreating the traditional system of mono-centric power.


State and regime

François Mitterrand referred to the post of president, as created by De Gaulle in 1958, as a 'permanent coup d'état', and shortly before his death he warned that French political institutions 'were dangerous before me and could become so after me'. 2 Many felt that this warning was no less appropriatefor Russia. 3 The presidency there overshadowed all other political institutions, to the degree that Klyamkin and Shevtsova called it an 'elected monarchy'. 4 The paradox under Yeltsin, however, was the emergence of a strong presidency in a weak state, something that created a whole range of power asymmetries and distortions. This was not a problem unique to Russia. As Stephen Holmes has argued, the 'universal problem of post-communismis the crisis of governability produced by the diminution of state capacity

-83-

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