Konstantin E. Sorokin
The place and role of the army in Soviet and, later, Russian society has always been an enigma for Western analysts. In the Soviet era, "official" information was scarce and imprecise, while occasional and unintended leakages were fragmented and not enough to support conclusively any theory. Besides purely propagandistic pamphlets to the effect that "the army and the people are united," no reliable studies by Soviet scientists about the army as a state institution in USSR were available.
In this situation Western experts had to rely heavily on circumstantial evidence, which helped them to come up with some true conclusions about certain aspects of civil-military relations in the top echelons of power. But these were still to be put into a wider context of power distribution in the Soviet hierarchy.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been much conflicting information about the newly created Russian armed forces' political posture for both Russian and Western researchers. The volume of information is such that it sometimes is difficult to interpret and put into the right context. Still an effort should be made, as in the prevailing volatile situation in that country (which may be expected to last for many more years) the armed forces are potentially well placed to have a weighty say in the political process and to define its eventual results.
But first it is reasonable to clarify what in the Soviet and Russian conditions should be called "a political role" for the military. In this chapter the term means the armed forces' autonomous or independent involvement in purely political decisions and/or their capability to sway the political decision-making bodies; adherence to certain ideological and political doctrines rather than to the Constitution and the legal processes; open support for this or that political force or movement; internal division along political lines; and the combination of professional duties and political activities by serviceme.