Putin and His Enemies

By Pushkov, Alexey K. | The National Interest, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

Putin and His Enemies


Pushkov, Alexey K., The National Interest


WILL RUSSIA remain a democracy or will it slowly evolve into authoritarianism, or even dictatorship? This is the question most often asked in the West. But let us put forward an alternate question: Was Russia a democracy before Putin?

At best, Russia under Boris Yeltsin was a manipulative democracy; at worst, it was a pseudo-democracy, cloaking Yeltsin's personal rule and the free reign given to oligarchs and big bankers. Indeed, by the end of his administration, only the oligarchs and liberal reformers closely connected to the Kremlin remained as Yeltsin's base of domestic support. Yeltsin-type "democracy" was applauded in the United States and Europe, but had weak support among most Russians. Many in the West have chosen to ignore how the electoral process under Yeltsin was repeatedly manipulated in ways that negated the essence of democracy. The elections of 1996 were a fiesta of manipulation, outward falsifications, use of dirty money and the servility of the so-called free media--in fact mainly controlled by oligarchs and financial groups. The majority of Russians believed that democracy "Yeltsin-style" meant freedom--to loot, commit crimes and be corrupt. The financial default of 1998 was a clear verdict on Yeltsin's economic and social policies.

Most Russians believe that Yeltsin's pseudo-democracy has brought only turmoil, decay and corruption to Russia. And while opinion polls indicate that most Russians value basic political freedoms, they do not want to live under a faux-liberal regime dominated by big money. For the majority of Russians, what is most important is for Russia to become an economically developed, rich and powerful country.

Therefore, the only democracy Russia had known--Yeltsin's manipulative pseudo-democracy--appeared as an obstacle to, rather than an instrument of, Russia's national revival. This is why most Russians have not shed a tear for the defunct Yeltsin regime. In contrast, Vladimir Putin has identified his main task as raising the living standards of the Russian people and doubling the country's GDP in a decade--goals enthusiastically endorsed by most Russian citizens.

But how does Putin plan to bring this about? If we can describe the Yeltsin system as a pseudo-democracy, what is the Putin system of rule and what are its guiding principles? In the most general terms one can speak of an authoritarian model aimed at economic modernization. But Putin is far from being a Russian version of Pinochet, who came to power through a bloody coup and remained a dictatorial ruler for most of his time in power. No, Putin seems to be inspired by a different type of leader--such as Peter the Great or Charles de Gaulle.

Certainly, there is a more pronounced penchant for liberal economic and social reforms in this system of rule than for the development of democratic institutions. Predictably, economic modernization in Russia will precede the next round of political democratization, as it happened in a number of societies throughout the world (including those where a much stronger authoritarian model had been in place for many years, like South Korea).

What are the main features of Putin's authoritarian model? The Duma and the Federation Council have been devoid of the influence they had previously. Often the Duma nowadays looks like an extension of the executive branch. The upper chamber, composed of appointed senators, appears to be another rubber stamp. The separation of powers in these conditions becomes more of a slogan rather than a reality.

The Duma and presidential elections of 2003-04 were marked by excessive use of so-called "administrative resources", whereby the center influences the outcome of the vote by exercising pressure on the regional governors and local mayors all over the country. They, in turn, used their own abilities (patronage, control of financial flows and the like) to "turn out the vote." However, it is important to note that Russian "electoral postmodernism", defined by use of administrative resources and control of the mass media, was first introduced by the Yeltsin team in 1996. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Putin and His Enemies
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.