Russian Politics and Society

By Richard Sakwa | Go to book overview

Preface to the third edition

Over a decade has passed since the fall of the Soviet communist system in 1991. In that time, Russia has been balanced between consolidating the democratic aspirations that accompanied the fall of the old regime and reproducing in new forms the authoritarianism that was overthrown at that time. There are undoubtedly major achievements recorded in these years. The basic framework of a democratic law-governed state has been established, enshrined in the constitution adopted in December 1993. Some of the fundamental institutions of such a state have also been established, together with a market-oriented economy. Relations with the former members of the Soviet Union have been strained, but no Yugoslav-style inter-state wars involving Russia have broken out, while Russia's relations with the rest of the world are now probably more balanced and stable than at any time in the past. There are, however, many aspects of Russia's post-communist evolution that give cause for concern. Although the framework and institutions of a democratic society have been established, political practices of leaders at all levels often undermine the spirit of democracy. This is most in evidence during elections, where the weakness of an independent media and civil society allows executive authorities considerable leeway. Above all, the wars in Chechnya (1994-6, 1999-) entailed untold suffering and abuse of human rights.

This book will try to provide a balanced analysis of post-communist Russian institutional, political and social development. The structure of this edition has changed considerably from earlier editions. Chapter 1, for example, now contains a brief summary of Soviet politics, a change made in response to comments from lecturers and others requesting some more historical context as background to contemporary developments. This edition has cut some of the material presented in the first two editions. For example, much of the detailed analysis of the events leading up to the violent confrontation of October 1993, and details of the evolution of the current constitution, has been removed. In addition to restructuring, the material has been updated to reflect events up to the early mid-term of Vladimir Putin's first presidency. Plenty of echoes of the earlier versions remain, but this edition focuses on the challenges facing Russia in the twenty-first century.

The restructuring and updating have been the relatively easy part. Far harder has been the attempt to make sense of it all. Already in the Preface to the second edition in 1996, I noted that the glad days of the early post-communist years (reflected to a degree in the tone of the first edition of 1993) had given way to foreboding about the erosion of Russia's tenuous democratic gains. I argued in 1996 that between the people

-xi-

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Russian Politics and Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures ix
  • Tables x
  • Preface to the Third Edition xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Note on Style, Spelling and Transliteration xiv
  • Glossary of Acronyms, Acrostics and Terms xv
  • Part I - The Fall of Communism and the Rebirth of Russia 1
  • 1: Soviet Communism and Its Dissolution 3
  • 2: The Disintegration of the Ussr 27
  • Part II - Political Institutions and Processes 43
  • 3: The New Constitutional Order 45
  • 4: Law and Society 72
  • 5: The Executive 98
  • 6: The Legislature 125
  • 7: Electoral Politics 140
  • 8: Party Development 172
  • Part III - Federalism, Regionalism and Nationalism 201
  • 9: Federalism and the State 203
  • 10: Regional and Local Politics 224
  • 11: National Identity and State-Building 254
  • Part IV - Economy and Society 277
  • 12: Marketising the Economy 279
  • 13: Society and Social Movements 305
  • 14: Cultural Transformation 331
  • Part V - Foreign Policies 347
  • 15: Foreign Policy 349
  • 16: Commonwealth, Community and Fragmentation 375
  • 17: Defence and Security Policy 396
  • Part VI - Dilemmas of Democratisation 423
  • 18: Problems of Transition 425
  • 19: Pluralism, Elites, Regime and Leadership 445
  • 20: Democracy in Russia 463
  • Notes 475
  • Select Bibliography 524
  • Index 527
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