Russian Politics and Society

By Richard Sakwa | Go to book overview

13Society and social movements

No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.

(Adam Smith) 1

Democracy is as much a social and cultural project as a political one: it cannot be built in the air, in the minds of intellectuals and politicians, but needs to be rooted in society itself. As Solzhenitsyn put it: 'Stolypin believed that it is impossible to create a state governed by laws without first having an independent citizen: social structure precedes any political programme and is a more fundamental entity.' 2 After seventy-four years of the Soviet regime, the social basis for democracy in Russia was at best ambiguous. As Shakhrai, the state legal adviser at the time, put it:

We have no middle class of property owners upon which to build a stable government. If I have something to lose: my work, my apartment, my family, my dacha, my car, my savings, then I will be a support for the state and of a stable social stratum. Unfortunately, our society has not progressed to that stage yet. 3

The basic principle of the reformers was, to quote Solzhenitsyn again, that 'there can be no independent citizen without private property'. 4 As we saw in the previous chapter, private property has been established in Russia, however tenuous its legal guarantees, but the citizen of democratic Russia (whose views we shall examine in the next chapter) has had a decidedly tough time since 1991.


Social structure and dynamics

In Russia democracy came before the development of a bourgeoisie, and as Barrington Moore long ago observed, 'No bourgeois, no democracy.' 5 The existence of a substantial middle class is no guarantee of democracy, as Germany discovered in the inter-war years, but to date there has been no liberal democracy without a capitalist social structure. A traumatised and unequal society jeopardised the building of democracy in Russia, while the weakness of social organisations, like trade unions and professional bodies, undermined political pluralism. While the concept of transition refers properly to political change, Russia entered a period

-305-

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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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